Most degrees conclude with this assignment. What is a dissertation?

A thesis is sometimes called a “thesis” (in some countries this term is only used for final assignments of PhD degrees; in others, ‘thesis’ or ‘dissertation are interchangeable). A dissertation is a research project that is completed as part of an undergraduate degree or postgraduate degree. A dissertation is a way for students to present their findings as a response to a question, or proposition they have chosen. This project is designed to assess the research skills that students have developed during university. The assessment will be used to determine the final grade. The dissertation project is independent of your tutors.

This will be the most challenging and time-consuming assignment at university for most students. It requires months of preparation (the library may become your second home). It can be very rewarding, especially if you are passionate about the topic. It is a smart idea to choose a topic that interests you.

Types of dissertation

Depending on the course of your study, the type of dissertation that you write will differ. There are two types of dissertations: empirical and non-empirical.

Empirical dissertations are dissertations that involve data collection, such as in a psychology degree. This could mean following professional and ethical guidelines for collecting data from the public. In natural and life sciences subjects, empirical dissertations may be primarily or entirely based on laboratory work.

Non-empirical Dissertations are based upon existing data and arguments from the work of other people. This could mean that you spend a lot more time reading than your head. This type of dissertation requires that you not only describe what others say but also critically analyze and examine the work to find practical applications.

You need to demonstrate the skills you have

Whatever type of dissertation you write and whatever topic you choose to focus on, these skills will be required:

  • Define and outline a research area using a clear question
  • Identifying the top issues
  • Find the information you need
  • Its reliability and legitimacy are assessed
  • Evaluation of evidence from all sides in a debate
  • A well-argued conclusion
  • Following all guidelines for formatting your essay, organize and present the results of your work in a way that is convincing, clear, and concise.

What length is a dissertation?

A dissertation’s length varies depending on the country and study level. It is usually between 10,000-12,000 words for undergraduates, 15,000-250,000 words at masters level, and up to 50,000 words for PhD level.

Oral examinations (vivas)

Some advanced degrees, especially PhDs, may require you to take an oral exam. This is called a viva in certain countries. It is short for live voice, which is Latin for ‘live vocal’. The viva will usually start with you giving a short presentation of your work to two or three professors, which is then followed by a questioning/answering period that could last up to two hours.

Don’t cheat!

It’s obvious that it is not a good idea to hire someone to write your dissertation or to cheat you in any other way. The risk is not worth it, as the dissertation should be your chance to showcase your talents. It’s fine to ask a friend, supervisor or relative to look over your dissertation. You can always ask your supervisor for guidance.