What is a PhD Dissertation and How to Write It?

The moment has finally arrived. After eight to ten years of college and graduate study, you're finally ready to start writing for your doctorate. This is the culmination of all those hours in class, all those notes taken, all those term papers written and all those many thousands of dollars' worth of student loans that you'll have taken out by this point. As such, you want to do this right.

You're so close to your doctorate, but the question remains - what is a dissertation, really, and how do you go about writing it? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you make this last step towards your doctorate a triumphant one!

Pick a Topic You Can Really, Really Write About

This might seem to go without saying, but it really does need to be covered. Getting a doctorate's no easy task, and your dissertation is going to be scrutinized and dissected every which way. It's going to involve months - more likely years - of research and writing, and as such, it's going to have to be something that you really and truly care about and, indeed, something for which you have a great aptitude.

For example, say you're going for an English doctorate.

Are you going to write your dissertation on Shakespeare, or Jane Austen?

You'd better believe that your review board committee will have seen dozens if not hundreds of similar dissertation topics before, so you're going to want to make sure that you not only really and truly love the Bard or Ms. Austen enough to put years' worth of work into it, but that you likewise have the ability to make yourself stand out.

One Paragraph at a Time

PhD dissertations are generally book-length. That may seem like a lot and, in truth, it is. This is no mere term paper, after all.

As such, you're going to want to pace yourself as you write. One great strategy for keeping yourself on track is by just focusing on writing one paragraph at a time. Don't worry about the whole of your project at once; that's just asking to be overwhelmed. Instead, take it step by step, one paragraph, one page, one section at a time.

After you've done this, you'll then be able to go back later and view the project as a whole. It's then that you'll be able to make all the changes you need to transform those paragraphs into a more cohesive and comprehensive whole.