How To Defend Your Thesis? Top 10 Tips For Success
How to Follow Dissertation Regulations
Completing a doctoral degree is a long and rigorous process that culminates in a dissertation. In addition to simply writing your manuscript, there are numerous regulations you must abide by in order to pass. You can accomplish this with grace by familiarizing yourself with all the general requirements, understanding and executing proper formatting, and meeting important deadlines. It will take focus and perseverance, but if you work steadily, you will successfully complete your dissertation.
Understanding the General Requirements
Contribute something new.The baseline for a successful dissertation project is whether or not it contributes something new to the field. Generally speaking, a master’s thesis should indicate mastery over the subject matter; a doctoral dissertation should do this, as well as cover new ground. Begin by trying to display your mastery of a given subject area, and see what new discoveries you can contribute.
- Scan the literature in your field (and related fields) to determine whether your ideas are truly new.
- Run your ideas past your advisor to get feedback. He or she should be able to tell you if your concepts are novel enough, or if you need to push further.
Meet all length and content requirements.Depending on your field, your university, and your department, there may be certain requirements you need to meet. These might include a minimum length, and/or a certain number of chapters. You may also be required to format your chapters in a specific way (e.g., Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Findings, and Conclusion). Speak to your advisor to determine what requirements you must meet.
Adhere to all copyright laws.In order for your dissertation to pass, it must be completely original material. This means that any time you quote someone directly, the text must appear in quotes with a proper citation. Likewise, whenever you paraphrase or use the concept of someone else, you also need to provide citation. It is a good idea to review the plagiarism guidelines at your school, as well as the copyright laws in your state.
Request IRB approval.If you will be using human subjects in your work, you will need to apply to the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects. To gain approval, you must submit an application that details the specifics of your study. Submit these materials at least one month (through the IRB website) before you begin your use of human subjects.
Follow an approved style guide.Depending on both your field of study and the unique preferences of your university, a certain style guide will be preferred over others. Popular style guides include MLA, APA, and Chicago styles, although there are many others. These dictate specific grammar and punctuation rules that you will need to follow. Find out which style guide or guides are accepted at your school, obtain the current manual, and use it to check your grammar and punctuation.
Formatting Your Dissertation
Research the specific formatting guidelines for your dissertation.Your university will have created very specific (and unbreakable) guidelines for formatting your dissertation. This will include specifics about margin size, font size, acceptable font, the way figures or images are titled, numbering and pagination, order of front matter (approval page, table of contents, acknowledgements, etc.), and other specifics. You must first determine all of these specific requirements. Search on your university’s website or speak to your dissertation advisor to obtain this information.
Follow the formatting guidelines.Once you are aware of the specific guidelines for formatting your manuscript, begin moving down them one by one. It is a really good idea to familiarize yourself with these requirements before you even begin writing, and to start your document with the right dimensions, font, etc. from the beginning. If you have not done this, that’s OK. Simply move down your list of formatting rules and make changes where you need to.
Meet with a dissertation reviewer.Most schools will have individuals who work as “thesis or dissertation reviewers.” You can make an appointment with one of these people and they will sit down with you to make sure that your dissertation is formatted in the proper way. Some of the guidelines can be confusing (especially in regard to pagination), so it is a great idea to seek out this resource and take advantage of it at your school.
- Be sure to bring in a formatted version of your dissertation!
- Do your best on your own, and then head to your appointment with questions.
- It is not this person’s job to format your dissertation for you. They are merely a guide.
Meeting Your Deadline
Determine when you hope to graduate.Once you have completed your course work, passed any preliminary exams, and defended a dissertation proposal, it is time to determine when you will try to graduate. Only you know how quickly you can write, or how well defined your idea is. If you must do interviews, fieldwork, or lab work in order to write, this process will take longer for you. Create a realistic writing schedule for yourself, and use this to determine when you will be able to complete your doctoral work.
Find out your submission deadline and work backwards.There are a number of deadlines that you will need to meet in order to satisfy the requirements of your dissertation. First, find out when you will need to have the approved document submitted to your university. This is usually almost a month prior to graduation. Once you know this date, you can work backwards to create other milestones and due dates.
- Let’s say you must have your document submitted by April 12 (for a May graduation).
- Your defense can be no later than April 5. (You will need at least a week for final edits and last minute formatting.)
- You must have your dissertation submitted to your committee by March 5. (They need four weeks to read it.)
- You will need at least two weeks for final revisions, and your advisor will need at least three weeks to do a final read-through. So you need your finished draft to your advisor no later than January 30.
Create a timetable.Once you have determined when you think you can graduate and thus, when you must have a finished draft, continue to work backwards to create a more specific timetable. This is a process best done with the help of your advisor.
- You may consider giving yourself four weeks of writing time per chapter. If you will have 5 chapters, this means you will need 20 weeks to write. You will also need additional time for reading and research.
- Set down due dates for each chapter.
- Remember to account for the time it will take for your advisor to return your pages and for you to complete revisions on each chapter.
- Also, remember to continue writing while your advisor has your pages. Do not wait for revisions to resume your work.
Make a schedule.Now that you have a timetable, you will need to make a more specific schedule. A good rule is to try to produce 2-pages of solid writing per day and/or to write in 3-4 hour chunks. If possible, it is also a good idea to write at the same time each day.
- Pencil in writing times for yourself into your schedule.
- You will need to protect this time for yourself. Do not use this time to schedule meetings, prep your classes, or do other errands or work.
Celebrate milestones.Writing a dissertation is a very long process. Because of this, many people become disheartened at times. You can keep the dissertations blues away by celebrating each milestone. Every time you turn in a chapter, take a day off to celebrate. Every time your advisor approves a chapter (meaning it no longer needs any revisions), treat yourself to something nice.
Finish writing the semester prior.A good rule of thumb is to have a full, finished draft of your complete dissertation one full semester prior to your intended graduation date. For example, if you plan to walk across the stage in May, you should have a complete draft by the end of the fall semester (usually mid-December).
Video: Writing a dissertation
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