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5 Hallmarks of an Excellent Doctoral Thesis

5 Hallmarks of a Solid Doctoral Thesis

  • High-Quality Student Research
  • A Qualified Advisor
  • A Strong Proposal
  • Correct Formatting
  • Well-written

A doctoral thesis is the paramount expression of your readiness to enter the field of your choice as a recognized professional. With the acceptance of your doctoral thesis, you will be awarded the title of Ph.D. and be accepted as a peer by those in your discipline. You won’t be excepted as an academic peer unless you can prove your ability to contribute to the field with due diligence. This can make the dissertation process can feel long and daunting. It is important to keep the end in mind from the beginning and focus on the five elements that will help you produce an excellent doctoral thesis.

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1. High-Quality Student Research

The primary purpose of academic research is to advance the knowledge of a particular discipline. Your research should be clearly linked to previous knowledge within your field of study and demonstrate how your research advances an existing theory or body of knowledge. Finally, research should be conducted in accordance with the accepted methodologies within your field. The research methodology is what gives your research credibility.

2. A Qualified Advisor

A successful dissertation marks the transition from student to learned scholar. With the presentation of a dissertation, you are asking your committee to accept you as their peer. Successfully navigating this transition requires a qualified advisor who can help you see your dissertation through the eyes of professionals within your discipline. Each discipline is different, so feedback from an advisor who is qualified within your discipline is essential.

3. A Strong Proposal

Every dissertation begins with a proposal. With your proposal, you will present the problem that you will be researching, review the literature on the topic, and investigate procedures that you could use in your own research. The proposal is an important step because it establishes background knowledge on the topic and presents the hypotheses, theories, and research questions that will be the foundation of your dissertation. A proposal will help your advisor determine if your topic is worthy of study and if your procedures are valid.

4. Correct Formatting

Every genre has its own format. Dissertations are no different. Genres set up an expectation in the reader. When you read a sci-fi novel, you do not expect dragons and elves. In literature and entertainment, going against genre expectations can sometimes be fresh and exciting. In academic writing, it is usually confusing and frustrating. Correct formatting helps your committee, and other professionals within your discipline, follow the logic of your research and findings.

5. Well-written

All of the above steps will be for nothing if your dissertation is not well-written. All of the brilliant research in the world will not further the discipline if it is not clearly conveyed to others within your field. Dissertations in the United States should follow the rules of Standard American English, the language of formal academics. Language should be specific and concrete, and sentences should be clear and concise. It is important to not only transition between paragraphs but also between ideas as well. Help your reader see the connection between your evidence and your thesis by providing strong analysis connecting them.

For more detailed information on creating an excellent dissertation, PennState University provides a free Guide to Successful Thesis and Dissertation.

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