- By Jason Bacot
- Published 01/26/2011
In many cases, a dissertation can be completed in about a year, give or take a few months. Of course there are exceptions to this. If your program of study requires data collection over a long period of time, you’ll have to factor that into your time estimate. And, of course, if you take summers off, or don’t work consistently, writing your dissertation will take longer. Besides focused effort, the other key to getting your dissertation done in about a year is having a clearly defined plan. You need to know what things to do and in what order so you can progress logically and quickly. Remember that time invested is not necessarily equal to quality of effort invested. Look at your PhD dissertation as an opportunity to make your first (or second) mark in the world of research rather than as a monolithic memorial to your career as a graduate student. Your dissertation is (usually) lengthy formal piece of writing that defends a particular hypothesis. It has to be original and substantial, and it should highlight original contributions to research.
The scientific method dictates that you start with a hypothesis and collect evidence to support or deny it. That means that if you’re going to write a dissertation defending a particular hypothesis, before you write it you should collect evidence supporting your hypothesis. The most important and difficult tasks of writing your dissertation will be organizing the evidence, the analysis of the evidence, and discussion of the evidence into a coherent form. It is your critical thinking a
nd analysis that will make your dissertation successful. Approach your dissertation assuming that every sentence in it has to be supported by a reference to published scientific literature or by original work that you have done. You don’t want to repeat details of the analysis found in published sources. You use those results as facts and provide references to those sources for further details. Because your dissertation is a formal document, it has to be grammatically perfect and must avoid contractions, jargon, slang, and colloquialisms. With research on the doctoral level, shades of meaning are very important, so you have to choose your words carefully. Your discussion of results has to satisfy very strict rules of logic, whether your field of study is in the humanities, arts, or sciences. Can you do this in about a year? Yes, as long as you have laid the foundations for your dissertation by taking the relevant course work and doing the necessary research. Persistence and determination are huge factors in how long it takes you to get your dissertation done. Also important is that you regularly communicate with your dissertation committee members. You don’t want to hand them a 200 page work only for one or more professors to find a fundamental error on page 3. Regular communication can help keep such disasters from happening.
Good writing quality is absolutely necessary for the creation of a successful dissertation. However, it is not by itself sufficient. Your research must be flawless as well. When you combine excellent writing with excellent research, you’ll have a dissertation that will help you make your mark in your field of study.