A Step-By-Step Instruction For Creating a Ph.D. Dissertation

By: Henrique Bertulino

17 min



A Step-By-Step Instruction For Creating a Ph.D. Dissertation

The purpose of any doctoral dissertation is to identify new facts, conclusions, recommendations, and patterns. Each dissertation contains a theoretical part, where new facts are added into a system, and for them, certain principles appear that unite them. A scientist's activity is often to see some facts that seem familiar and commonplace to us from a new angle and, as a result, see what was hidden from others.

It is naive to think that working on a doctoral dissertation is a continuous and enjoyable process of discovering something new. It is stubborn, long-term, sometimes monotonous work associated with disappointments, unjustified hopes, and aspirations. To avoid this, we have prepared instructions for creating a doctoral dissertation.

These tips are your first attempt to comprehensively consider the entire process of preparing a dissertation for a Ph.D., from the choice of the topic of the qualifying work to its public defense. The manual covers the whole process of preparing a dissertation, gives the rules for formalizing, highlights the stages of writing, and provides requirements. Let's find out together how to write a dissertation.

Let's Start Simple: What Is a Ph.D. Dissertation?

Let's immediately find out what Ph.D. dissertation is and what the requirements are for it. The work assumes its own developed and completed research, a fundamentally new scientific discovery or achievement. To create a doctoral paper, you need to have research skills and a desire to discover something new for yourself.

A doctoral dissertation is an essential scientific achievement that requires patience, time, and hard work. Not surprisingly, many people who are dedicated to science have been going for this for years. A young doctor of sciences is a great rarity.

The doctoral dissertation is devoted to solving a significant problem. The results of this type of dissertation should have not only scientific but also socio-cultural significance, that is, be useful for humanity. After applying the proposed doctoral solution to the problem, qualitative changes in this area should follow. Now that you have an idea of Ph.D. meaning, we can proceed to the next step.

How to Start Writing a Ph.D. Dissertation?

To speed up the process of writing a doctoral dissertation, the author must strictly adhere to the following algorithm of actions:

  1. Choosing a clear, unambiguous title for the research.
  2. Development of new practical/theoretical methods required to create this document.
  3. Discussion of the results obtained, their fixation using a combination of the author's methods.
  4. A detailed description of the research's goals/objectives will simplify creating the final part of the doctoral research work.
  5. Strict consideration of the volume of the recommended number of sheets for even distribution of the text.
  6. A detailed description of unique research methods.
  7. The development of new achievements on the research topic is recommended to use only reliable statistical and informational data.
  8. Registration of advice/recommendations for further practical application of the proposed inventions.

Now that you have a little instruction, we suggest you jump over to learning some aspects.

Create a Compelling Dissertation Proposal

Are you wondering how to write a research proposal? Excellent. Without this proposal, you will not be able to write the perfect paper. A dissertation proposal is a short essay in which you explain what you want to do. A proposal is a plan. You tell someone, usually a professor, what you are trying to prove or disprove. For example, if you want to research how to treat cancer, write about it in your proposal.

In the sentence, you can write the following parts:

  1. What is the motivation for adopting a particular topic?
  2. What are the pitfalls associated with this topic, and how will your research overcome it?
  3. With this topic, what do you want to achieve?
  4. How does your research improve a significant area over existing ones?
  5. Finally, a rough description of how you plan to conduct this research? (For example, this is through research, modeling, and comparison, etc.)

Come Up With a Theme, Question, and Title

The topic's choice is a crucial stage in a doctoral student's work because it determines the future activities of a person for life and decisively predetermines the research result. Practice shows that choosing the right topic means half of ensuring its successful implementation. There are three types of topics:

  • topics as a result of the development of problems on which this research team is working;
  • initiative topics;
  • ordered themes.

Better to choose topics from the first group. Initiative topics can arise in two mutually exclusive situations: both a result of an excellent scientific training of the applicant and his insufficient qualifications and scientific outlook. The supervisor should understand the problem, if possible, support the applicant's initiative. Still, this support should be based on a real assessment of the situation and cannot jeopardize the work's successful performance.

The ordered topics are usually related to the main plans of research work in the field or association. In terms of relevance and economic significance, the ordered topics have several advantages over others. Therefore, they need to be analyzed from the standpoint of the reality of implementation and the possibility of creating a theoretical base.

When choosing a topic, the main criteria should be:

  • relevance, novelty, and perspective;
  • the presence of a theoretical base;
  • the possibility of performing the topic in this institution;
  • the possibility of obtaining technical, economic, and social effects from the implementation of research results.

Define a Dissertation Structure

From the beginning of the work, the doctoral student needs to think over the structure and draw up a plan. The author's scientific adviser assists the work plan for the research. Experience shows that plans of several types can be drawn up for the entire work period on research.

The work plan begins with the development of the theme, i.e., the design of scientific research. The basis of such an idea may be only a hypothesis, that is, an assumption set out both based on intuition and a previously developed version. Even such a formulation of the case will make it possible to systematize and streamline all subsequent work.

The work plan has an arbitrary shape. As a rule, the plan consists of a list of headings arranged in a column, united by the internal logic of researching a given topic. Such a plan is used in the first stages of work, making it possible to sketch the problem under study in different versions.

Spend Research Sources

Acquaintance with the scientific works published on the topic begins immediately after the development of the idea. This formulation makes it possible to purposefully search for literary sources on the chosen topic and better work out the material published in other scientists' works. The origins of the problem's central questions are almost always laid down in previous studies.

A literary aphorism says: "To study a phenomenon without books is to start sailing in an unknown sea without a map while studying books without practical work means not going to sea at all." Of course, to complete a thesis, you have to read about 1000 books and articles or dissertation examples, of which about 100-150 will be included in the work. That is, they will be studied in detail.

When reading the selected literature, you need to make notes, preferably on one side of a standard format sheet. This allows you to arrange the material in any order further. Reading the source is better to write down more because it is not always known about what of this material may be needed. Repeated search is an unnecessary waste of time.

Basic Elements of Any Ph.D. Dissertation

Since the dissertation is a qualifying work, it is assessed by its theoretical scientific value, the relevance of the topic, and the applied significance of the results obtained, and the explicitness of crucial elements. It cannot be any standard for the composition of a dissertation work.

Each author is free to choose the order of presentation of scientific materials, which, in his opinion, will better and more convincingly reveal his intention, and their placement will correspond to the internal logical connection of the research stages. Traditionally, a particular composition of dissertation work has developed with the following main elements.

Table of Contents

The content is submitted at the beginning of the thesis. Page numbering begins with the title page, but no number is put on the title page. The content should include the names of all structural elements, headings, and subheadings, indicating the numbering and number of their initial pages.

Someone else's work can become a model for the design of the content. We recommend that you analyze several pieces, correlate with the selected information, and write a plan containing chapters common to all works. Monographs are another source of inspiration when writing content. Of course, the titles of the sections there are quite complicated, but you can rephrase them by writing simple words.

You can put together all the selected material, add a description of your ideas, and then break it into two equal parts. Strive for harmony, that is, the same number of paragraphs by topic. Come up with a title for each part, and the content is ready! The subject is written in large letters and in bold. The titles of the main building blocks in the table of contents and chapters often need to be written in capital letters.


A word of thanks in the dissertation and its defense is not necessary today, but it is a rule of good form for the applicant. It is accepted to thank in writing, before introducing annotation, and orally - directly in the applicant's final word. Acknowledgments are usually given to key persons who took part in the creation of the dissertation. For example, the supervisor, each of the dissertation opponents, the chairman of the scientific council, and people who directly helped in the research. Often gratitude takes place as a safety net against someone's negative influence. For example, when at different times, a graduate student had different scientific advisors. Then gratitude is announced to everyone, and they lose the desire to somehow conflict with each other on defense.


After thanks, post the abstract. This part should be detailed, up to 2 pages of typewritten text, with information on the dissertation work's content and results.

The other two, up to 0.5 pages of typewritten text - of identical content, information on the dissertation's main ideas and conclusions.

The abstract is compiled according to the form and have the following content:

  • surname and initials of the applicant;
  • title and scientific degree;
  • major;
  • the institution where the defense will take place;
  • city, year;
  • main ideas, results, and conclusions.

The abstract material is laid out concisely and accurately using syntactic constructions inherent in business documents' language, avoiding complex grammatical phrases. Standardized terminology must be adopted, not obscure terms and symbols.

List of Figures And Tables

A list of illustrations is a list of links to elements of a document of the same type (figures, tables, formulas). To form a list of figures and tables, the elements' names must be present in the document. To create a list of figures and tables in the paper, you need to place it where you want to insert it.

Creating a list of figures and tables available in the document is necessary for quick orientation of the document's materials. The formation algorithm is somewhat similar to the table of contents formation algorithm. Titles for tables and figures should be created using the Title tool.

List of Abbreviations

A list of abbreviations is an explanation of the conventions and abbreviations used in scientific work. It is compiled if the author uses five or more uncommon abbreviations, author's abbreviations, or short words formed in any other way.

All abbreviations used in the text (conventions, symbols, units of physical quantities, and terms) are listed on a separate sheet.

Arrange them alphabetically in two columns. On the left is a list of abbreviations, then a dash, on the right - decoding the meaning. There is no full stop at the end. There are no strict requirements for the volume. The main thing is that it contains all the abbreviations used in the text.


A glossary is a dictionary of highly specialized terms in any field. It may include translations of specific words or expressions and their interpretations, notes, and even examples of use. It is a tool that improves the quality of the translation of unknown words in the dissertation, reducing inaccuracies to a minimum.

Compiling glossaries is detailed work that requires attention and analytical skills. To correctly determine the meaning of the term, it is necessary to study the relevant documentation, reference books, and other literature to the maximum. A glossary compilation is usually carried out at the very beginning of work to avoid further mistakes and inaccuracies.


The introduction reveals the essence and state of the scientific problem and its significance. Further in the introduction, a general description of the dissertation is given in the following sequence:

  1. The relevance of the topic. Using critical analysis and comparison with known solutions to the problem, they clearly and reasonably substantiate the relevance and practicality of work to develop the relevant branch of science.
  2. Communication of work with scientific programs, plans, themes. Briefly lay out the connection of the chosen research direction with the organization's plans where the work was done and state plans and programs.
  3. The purpose and objectives of the study. They formulate the goal of the work and the tasks that need to be solved to achieve it.
  4. Research methods. They provide a list of the research methods used or the achievement of the set goal.
  5. The scientific novelty of the results obtained. Laconically layout new scientific positions proposed by the applicant personally.
  6. The practical significance of the results obtained. A dissertation, which has a theoretical value, provides information on the scientific use of research results or recommendations for their use. A dissertation with applied value highlights the results of the practical application of the results obtained or recommendations for their use.
  7. The personal contribution of the applicant. When listing the scientific works published together with co-authors, the applicant must indicate a specific unique contribution to these works.

Literature Review

In a literature review, the applicant outlines the main stages in developing scientific thought on his problem. Briefly, critically highlighting predecessors' work, the applicant should name the issues that remained unresolved and determine their place in solving the problem.

It is advisable to end this section with a summary of the need for research in this area. The literature review's total volume should not exceed 20% of the central part of the dissertation's volume.

The main objectives of the literature review are:

  • familiarization with materials on the topic, their classification, selecting the most exciting studies, necessary fundamental works, and significant results. At the same time, it is necessary to study literature not only with the "narrow" topic but also for topics close to it;
  • identifying areas of research that arouse the most significant interest are not yet sufficiently researched and could become the topic;
  • formulation of directions of dissertation work, characteristics of the method, and the main sections of the theoretical and experimental parts;
  • obtaining source material for writing a part of the dissertation, compiling an annotated index of articles and books, and preparing to pass the candidate exam in a discipline.


The research methodology is a set of techniques or operations of practical or theoretical mastering of reality, subordinate to a specific problem's solution. In each scientific research, two types of methodology can be distinguished: empirical, on which the process of accumulating facts takes place; theoretical - achieving the synthesis of knowledge.

The most popular research methods for a dissertation:

  1. Observation is the systematic, purposeful study of an object.
  2. Comparison is the process of establishing the similarities or differences between objects and phenomena of reality and finding the common inherent in two or more objects.
  3. Measurement is the determination of the numerical value of a certain quantity using a unit of measure.
  4. An experiment is a method of studying an object. The researcher actively and purposefully influences it by creating artificial conditions or using natural conditions necessary to identify the corresponding property.
  5. Abstraction - mentally moving away from insignificant properties, connections, relations of objects, and highlighting several features that interest the researcher.

Whichever methods you have chosen, describe in detail its advantages. Prove that only the method you choose can be applied to the work. This can be done with the help of the experiment and the obtained data, or you can add quotes from authoritative sources that support your words.


This section of the work does not provide for rewriting the observation diary or the protocol of experiments. If the publication of these materials is necessary, then this should be done at the end of the work in the form of "Results." The work should contain already processed and meaningful material.

In experimental or environmental studies, it sometimes happens that a student seeks to summarize all the results in one or several tables, graphs, or diagrams and limit himself to topics. It is not right.

In addition to tables and other illustrative material, the results must be described verbally, with references to these illustrations. In the discussion of the results obtained, the scientific person, individuality, and the ability to generalize and draw conclusions are manifested.


The order of discussion of the results is as follows. First, most general patterns are presented, then more specific ones. Very often, the results obtained need to be compared with those already available in the literature. Simultaneously, in some moments, the author usually confirms the literary data, and in some, he can refute them.

The most important when discussing is convincing reasoning. To do this, sometimes it is necessary to set up additional experiments or conduct broader observations. If such additional research has not been carried out, it is necessary to stipulate their need specifically.

This chapter's main task is to convince the reader of the validity of the conclusions made at the end of the work. It would help if you did not overload the text with special terms, striving for pseudoscience. Never use words you don't understand the meaning of.


The specificity of writing a dissertation conclusion is the lack of clear regulations regarding its content on the part of the higher attestation commission. However, this does not mean complete anarchy and write essays on a general topic. There are universal requirements that apply to any piece:

  • uniqueness;
  • literacy;
  • brevity;
  • compliance with the scientific style;
  • argumentation;
  • structure;
  • utility.

A prerequisite is a reflection of the applicant's contribution to a specific field of science. A description of how the results obtained can be applied in practice, strengthen the theory, and make new developments. The conclusion necessarily affects why the results are significant and what exactly the author brought.

Reference List

Students usually underestimate the importance of this mandatory part of the work. The list of references contains a listing of all articles and books mentioned in the text. It is needed to find any book or article from the data in the list. The list is compiled according to a certain standard, which can be found in any scientific article.

Articles and books in the list are usually arranged in alphabetical order by the names of the authors.

If there are several authors, the place is determined by the surname of the first of them. Usually, the following entry order is used: surname, initials, book title, place of publication, publisher's name, year.

When the bibliography is extensive, it is usually numbered. To avoid embarrassment, the list should include only those works that the author has read himself.

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Henrique Bertulino

Head of Customer Success

I'm a medical doctor and brand manager. The process of getting into Med school and studying at it made me learn and apply many strategies to keep my productivity high while spending less time and effort. As a working student, I had to figure out how to study smarter, not harder. During this period, my interest in neurology and psychiatry, as well as my aspiration to help others, intensified. At Studybay, I use my knowledge, skills, and experience to develop helpful solutions for students and make their study paths more productive and fun.

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