Purpose of your dissertation

Writing a thesis or dissertation is perhaps the most daunting part of graduate education. A thesis
or dissertation marks the culmination of thousands of hours of training, research, and writing, and it
represents you for years after graduation.

Some of the stress related to writing your thesis or dissertation, however, is unwarranted.
Dissertation writing is not unrelated to the rest of the academic writing you’ve done throughout your
graduate career. Many of the skills you already possess can be applied to the dissertation writing
process. Identifying the purpose of your project, expressing originality and significance, setting
appropriate goals, and maintaining strong organisation will help you as you develop a high quality
dissertation or thesis.

1. Identifying the Purpose of your Dissertation

What is the purpose of your dissertation? It is but one part of your overall degree fulfillment.
While it should reflect the standards and goals of other dissertations in your field, it should also prepare
you for whatever career you decide to pursue.

The Purpose of the Dissertation: Descriptions from Faculty in the Social Sciences

The purpose of the dissertation is to prepare the student to be a professional in the discipline. Through this
preparation the student learns and demonstrates the ability to conduct independent, original, and significant
research. The dissertation thus shows that the student is able to

• identify/define problems,
• generate questions and hypotheses,
• review and summarise the literature,
• apply appropriate methods,
• collect data properly,
• analyse and judge evidence,
• discuss findings,
• produce publishable results,
• engage in a sustained piece of research or argument,
• think and write critically and coherently.

It is important to maintain an ongoing conversation with your advisors about their expectations
for these goals. For example, how can you best demonstrate competency in your field? What parts of
the dissertation are most important in your field? Take a moment to step back and look at the
dissertation writing process as an outside observer. How would you expect a student to succeed?

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