What is a Dissertation? Meaning, Projects, Report Work

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What is a Dissertation (1)

A dissertation is a long academic piece of writing based on a student’s independent research. It is usually submitted in the final semester of UG, PG and PhD courses. It takes about 1-2 years to complete the dissertation as it requires a lot of research and written documentation. The aim of writing a dissertation is to test a student’s research skills. It allows students to develop their research, problem-solving, project management and numerical skills. During the course of writing a dissertation, students become able to present their research-based findings to the proposition they chose for themselves.

Types of Dissertation

The type of dissertation you may be doing completely depends upon the field of your study. However, there are 2 types of dissertation mentioned below in the table:

TypeEmpirical ResearchNon-Empirical Research
FocusCollecting Original DataAnalysing Sources
Research MethodsExperiments, Observations, Surveys, InterviewsNovels, Artworks, Historical Documents.
Credits: Southampton education school

Empirical Dissertation

If you are a student of sciences or social sciences, you’ll be required to write an empirical dissertation. Its focus is mainly on collecting original data and analysing every aspect of the data. Students can choose different research methods such as surveys, observation, laboratory experiments and interviews. Keeping in mind that the aim of an Empirical dissertation is to produce standardized scientific knowledge, students must consider the variables they will investigate, the reliability of their measurements, and choose the correct sampling method.

Non-Empirical Dissertation

Non-empirical research is generally done for subjects such as arts and humanities. Choosing a particular topic and collecting the data from primary and secondary sources is the first step of starting with this type of dissertation. While working on non-empirical research, a student does the work with existing research or other texts, presents original analysis, argumentation, but there is no original data. The aim is to analyse theoretical texts and interpret the sources with your own understanding.

Skills You Need to Show

Regardless of the type of dissertation you write or the topic you pick, you’ll need to demonstrate the following abilities:

Defining and defining a study topic with a specific queryIdentifying the most important problems
Obtaining the necessary informationConsidering its trustworthiness and validity
Considering both sides of a debate’s evidenceArriving at a well-thought-out conclusion
Organizing and presenting your study’s findings in a critical, captivating, and eloquent manner while following all formatting guidelines.

How long is a dissertation?

A dissertation’s length varies by study level and location, although it normally ranges from 10,000 to 12,000 words for undergraduates, 15,000 to 25,000 words for master’s students, and up to 50,000 words or more for PhD students.

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is basically divided into chapters and sections. Both empirical and non-empirical dissertations have different kinds of structures that are supposed to be followed while writing a dissertation. Empirical dissertations usually have a more standardized structure than that of a non-empirical dissertation which is more flexible.

Empirical Dissertation Structure

The structure may be slightly different but an empirical dissertation must include the following chapters:

  1.  Introduction: Explanation of your topic and research questions
  2.  Literature Review: Evaluation of your research topic
  3.  Methodology: Description of the research method 
  4. Results: Explanation of the found research
  5.  Discussions: Interpret what your results have revealed
  6. Conclusion: Final reflection of what you’ve found through the thesis

Non-Empirical Structure

The structure or outline of a non-empirical dissertation is quite flexible as it involves existing research and texts. The aim of non-empirical research is to present original and independent analysis based on theoretical research. It is basically an extended essay but while writing a non-empirical thesis, the text must be presented precisely to serve your arguments in a logical manner. However, mentioned below is a general outline that must be followed while writing a non-empirical dissertation:

  1.  Introduction: Explanation of your topic and Research Questions
  2.  Main Body: Development of your analysis of the text or source
  3.  Conclusion: Summarisation of what the analysis has contributed so far

*The main body is divided into 2-4 chapters.

Non-Empirical Dissertation Structure Example

Depending on the topic you’ve chosen, the main body can be divided into different types.  One of the most common topics of non-empirical research is history-based. The following mentioned is an example of a renaissance based topic:


  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Origins of the Renaissance in the Classical World
  • Chapter 2: Artists of the Renaissance
  • Chapter 3: The Spread of the Renaissance
  • Chapter 4: The Renaissance and the Reformation
  • Conclusion

Dissertation Project Example

Checklist for Dissertation

Mentioned below is a checklist to make sure you’ve included all the required information:

  • Title page includes all the information
  • Acknowledgements
  • Concise summary of the dissertation 
  • Table of contents
  • Clear and precise introduction
  • Literature review that includes patterns, themes, and debates
  • Theoretical framework of the research
  • Description of the used methodology
  • Clear mention of the questions answered
  • Relevant recommendations for further research
  • Citations and bibliography
  • Reference list at the end of the thesis
  • Format provided by the university is followed

Helpful Tips for Writing a Dissertation

  1. Start with time management. Make a proper daily schedule and set your deadlines Decide how much time you need to write a section or chapter. Choose the hours and start working on the it. In this way, you’ll be able to complete the this in the given time.
  2. Remember that the first writing draft is not the final dissertation. Make sure to proofread your writing several times. This will make you present your augmentations in a more precise way,
  3. Skip the introduction part and leave it for the end. Try to write the main body first, so that you get time to gather your thoughts. This way you will be able to present the introduction in a clear manner as you’ve been working on the this for a long period of time.
  4. Don’t wait for the end time to get feedback from your supervisor. Try to share the research work more often and a lot earlier than the submission time, so that you get time to improve your mistakes. It may save you from rewriting several chapters and sections.
  5. Use a reference manager to make it easier for you to mention the citations without taking much time.

Difference Between a Dissertation and Essay

Dissertation Essay
You get to choose the topicYou are provided with the topics
Research is done to add something new to a specific field of studyThe purpose is to inform others about a particular topic
The audience is an academic committee and scholars of the specific field of studyThe audience is the teacher and the professor who assigned the given topic
You are required to analyze and present your original thoughtsYou are not obliged to present your own opinions or present an analysis

Dissertation vs Thesis

Credits: ILovePhD
Credits: SlideShare


How long should a PhD dissertation be?

PhD must include over  60,000 words and should not exceed the limit of 80,000 words.

How much time does it take to complete a dissertation?

It takes around a year or two to complete a dissertation but if you manage time properly and catch up the speed you may be able to complete it in less than 8 months.

Hopefully, this blog assisted you in finding out what is Dissertation, its structure and more. If you require any assistance regarding your application process while enrolling for your further studies, our experts at Leverage Edu are just one click away. Call us anytime at 1800 572 000 for a free counselling session!

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