Pursuing a doctoral program in science and technology requires at least 3-4 years of rigorous work in a laboratory. A dissertation summarizes the research project that was carried out for three to four years.
Defending the dissertation is the important aspect of receiving a Ph.D. A researcher is entitled Ph.D. only after successfully defending the dissertation. It is an important landmark in the career of a researcher who can now be called an independent researcher or scientist.
Having said that, not all scientists are great wordsmith and a poorly written dissertation may be a death knell to one’s career. In fact, a researcher may not be able to receive Ph.D. if the dissertation is poorly written.
In this article, we explain steps that must be followed to write a dissertation effectively.
1. Start writing the dissertation right from the beginning of the research program: Most doctoral students tend to think that dissertation must be written at the final stage of their doctoral program.
They consider dissertation as just a scholarly paper that can be “written up” once the experimental study of their doctoral program is completed. They consider research experiments as the “real work” and scholarly communication as completely secondary.
Most doctoral students of science and technology are engrossed with work in the laboratory. They have to design the experimental study, perform complex experimental procedures, perform statistical analysis, derive results and finally present conclusion. With this rigorous work in the laboratory, most doctorate students procrastinate “dissertation writing.”
Although writing and defending thesis is the last component of a Ph.D program, science students should start writing their thesis/dissertation right from the start of their doctoral program. This is because the doctoral program extends for uptill three years and thesis must a cumulative reflection of their entire period. It is not something that can be “written up” at the fag end of the doctorate program.
Dissertation writing rightly reflects the “art of science” as it is a skill that requires scientists to hone their skills as wordsmiths in science communications. Every paper and presentation written from the first day of the doctoral program is important; doctorate students should start preparing their thesis from the very first day of their graduate careers.
2) Spend some time each on writing dissertation: It is essential that all doctorate students hone their skills in science writing. Therefore, science writing must be a part of your routine. There are many resources and style guides of science writing. Each doctoral student must spend some time daily reading these resources in order to get a grasp of science writing.
3) Consult your advisor throughout the process of dissertation writing: To pursue Ph.D. program successfully, it is very essential to have a rapport with the supervisor. It is essential to have an effective communication with your supervisor while pursuing your Ph.D.. This will certainly help a doctoral student in completing their dissertation in a timely manner. Most doctorate students feel afraid to show the rough draft of their thesis to the supervisor. Such an attitude can prove to be “fatal” in dissertation writing.
It is very important to communicate with the supervisor on a daily basis. Always seek advice on the progress of your work while pursuing your doctoral program. Professors and mentors would always help in different aspects of thesis writing, not just in terms of English language but also in refining the scientific aspect of this study.
If the student has a poor rapport with the supervisor, then it becomes very difficult for the student to defend their thesis at the fag end of their doctoral programs. Quite a few times, their dissertation is rejected as the supervisor is not just aware of the student’s research work right from the beginning. Following the rejection of dissertation, the student is crest-fallen as it is back to square one or ground zero for the student.
4) Students must maintain an annotated bibliography: This is a very important strategy for writing an effective dissertation. This strategy must be followed by a researcher throughout their career. Apart from compiling a conventional reference list of different papers, students must prepare an annotated bibliography that includes personal reading notes on each paper that they have read.
While writing a formal paper, a researcher must compile annotated bibliographies relevant to the topic. These may be personal reading notes obtained from several projects that serve as an interactive background for the current work in progress. Commentary, updates, and references are some of the kinds of additional writing that must be incorporated into a formal paper meant for publication in scholarly journals.
5) Students must consider “stepping stone” assignments:
Most PhD thesis of scientific disciplines contain “Introduction” and “Discussion” sections in which previously published papers are referenced and quoted for arguments and evidences. Published papers are the resources on which the dissertation of the current study has to be based. Therefore, science students must write evaluative reports of all experiments periodically. It is important to write about failures and obstacles as they can be then included in the discussion section of the formal paper.
Apart from published papers, students may also refer to meta-analyses, literature reviews for referencing. A book review may also prove to a good resource in rare cases. New methodologies and techniques should also be evaluated periodically. All these types of scientific literature are very useful in writing a dissertation paper.
6) Attend workshops, conferences, and seminars: Students must present their research work at any relevant academic workshop, be it conference or less formal meetings of graduate students. When students make presentations at these events, they receive constructive feedback in improving the quality of the final draft of the dissertation.
Many universities hold formal meetings of students who are in similar stages of their doctoral programs. At these meetings, students discuss and review each other’s work to improve the quality of their work. It is highly recommended that students join such writing groups and workshops, wherein fellow students offer feedback and proofreading services.