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Ultimate Guide to PhD Thesis Writing  

What is a thesis and how it differs from a dissertation?

If you’re a candidate in a university planning to write a comprehensive paper and stumbled upon under which category to post the paper – A Dissertation or A Thesis, then you’re not alone. Both dissertation writing and thesis writing are more often than not used interchangeably in various countries. According to Brian Allison, the terms dissertation and thesis are used synonymously; however, the differentiating elements are the guidelines by respective universities providing the course.

Similarities

In order to understand the differences, you must comprehend the similarities first. Both forms are structured in a similar manner including an introduction, literature review, body text, conclusions and recommendations, limitations, bibliography and appendix. Despite the similarities, there are various subtle differences between a dissertation writing and thesis writing.

Differences

The key difference is the prefixes for thesis writing and dissertation writing. For instance, usually dissertation is prefix with Masters or a respective post graduate degree. On the other hand, a thesis is usually prefixed with PhD/MPhil/DPhil. It is vital to understand that a dissertation and thesis have differentiated statements. A PhD thesis requires a candidate to build a hypothesis, define anticipated results, delineate expectations, conduct a primary research, and utilize an existing theory whereas a Master’s/Post Graduate dissertation requires a candidate to explain an argument or statement based on existing research.

Another major difference is in the structure of research incorporated in the writings. For a thesis, a candidate has to conduct an original research whereas for a dissertation, she/he can use an existing research dataset. Moreover, a thesis research is conducted under the guidance of a University guide or supervisors, for PhD thesis help. The degree of engagement of a supervisor in case of a thesis is relatively more than that of a dissertation.

According to the Royal Literary Fund, any research writing comprising of around 20,000 words is called a dissertation whereas around 80,000 is called a thesis. Similarly, some universities also considered number of pages to differentiate between a dissertation and thesis writing.

phd writing routine

How to create a PhD thesis

Although the differences between the dissertation and the thesis terms are quite subtle, for this article, let’s assume that a thesis writing is considered for an authentic research work in order to attain a PhD whereas a dissertation writing is considered for a research work to complete a Post graduate degree or a Master’s degree. So, what does it take to write a PhD thesis? There is no simple answer to this question because thesis writing involves so many tasks and requires so much time, dedication, commitment, and engagement from a student. In this article, we will not provide a step-by-step PhD thesis writing guide. Instead, we will cover some of the most important aspects and details of this process, as well as some external factors you should consider, to get a better understanding of what a doctoral thesis is and how to approach it.

1. Keep it concise

A PhD thesis consists of many structural elements and each element is a task within itself because it has its own goal and requires a particular approach to writing. Take a dissertation abstract, for example. This brief section summarises the key ideas and findings of your study. Frequently, it is also the only part of it read by other academic practitioners. The key problem with PhD abstracts is the need to condense hundreds of pages in one or two paragraphs of text.

When your word count is limited, you may want to focus on your key findings rather than the theories explored at the literature review level. Preferably, you should also mention your aims and research questions and how they were answered by your analysis results. Try to select 4-5 main points throughout your abstract to not diffuse the attention of your readers. Every university may have its own requirements regarding the word count and contents of your dissertation abstract. In order not to lose precious time, consult with your tutor and study all available information to make sure that you do not violate any of them.

Being clear and concise is also a key to a successful PhD thesis as a whole since you are not the only person who will read your work. You should avoid unnecessary words and sentences to help your reader get a better understanding of what you are trying to say in your PhD thesis. Waffling on about your topic would not help in reaching your audience, which could have a strong negative impact on your final mark. So, here are some tips for being concise in writing a PhD thesis.

Be aware of long sentences

A useful rule of thumb is that you should not write long sentences because they make it more difficult for the reader to understand your argument. While there is no rule on how long a sentence in a PhD thesis should be, it is helpful to mix shorter sentences and longer ones. Just remember that if your sentence is too long, your points are likely to get lost. Be aware of sentences that use too many clauses, as well as fragments that do not have a subject.

Make sure your structure is easy to follow

The structure is what helps you communicate your argument to the reader. When writing a PhD thesis, sticking to the ‘rule of three’ structure would significantly benefit the quality of your writing. This structure implies that each paragraph should have a clear introduction, main body, and conclusion. In the opening sentence, introduce the reader to the subject and focus of your paragraph. The ‘main body’ sentences provide the core argument and set out reasoning, develop implications, or elaborate thematic points. Finally, the concluding sentence pulls the paragraph argument together, adding value to the whole thesis.

Avoid redundancies and repetitions

Redundancies occur when you express the same idea twice so make sure you avoid redundant sentences and phrases when writing your PhD thesis. Many phrases in PhD writing are commonplace but in most cases, they are redundant either partially or entirely. Adverbs and adjectives are part of this problem and are often used in the place of evidence, so make sure you get rid of them when writing your PhD thesis as well. Replace as many of these words as you can with data, quotes, quantities, or dates to achieve concise writing.

Do not use low-value phrases

Some writers have the temptation to use wordy phrases as a means of making their writing sound more formal. However, experienced PhD writers know that there is no place for low-value phrases in a thesis as they can make sentences sound heavy. You should also avoid unnecessary prepositional phrases, which add a description to a noun by using a preposition.

Proofread and check for errors

You would be surprised how much proofreading can add to the clarity of your writing, making it concise and crisp. Not only proofreading allows for detecting grammatical mistakes and errors. It also helps in finding and dealing with all the issues mentioned above. Are there any sentences that are hard to follow? Are there irrelevant words and repetition? Are these adjectives and adverbs necessary? Draw up a checklist of these issues to make sure you are concise in your writing.

phd thesis writing

2. Always be to the point

As previously noted, every section and chapter of a PhD thesis is unique and requires a particular approach to its writing, content-wise. For instance, the introduction chapter is one of the most important parts of your thesis after choosing the right topic. This chapter introduces the topic to the readers in a manner that they are able to get an idea of what is to come. The introduction chapter is also important in terms of justifying your research and formulating your research questions.

When it comes to writing a thesis introduction chapter, you need to build the background to the topic in an appropriate manner. The best strategy is to begin with information regarding the topic and then build up towards the main statement. This helps the readers in getting a grip on the topic and also allows them to understand the context in which the study is being conducted. You also need to describe the reasons behind undertaking the research. If you are able to provide a compelling rationale, you will be able to engage your readers in a better manner. Further, you should also formulate a set of aims and objectives for your study.

If the introduction chapter creates a base for you to build upon, the conclusion chapter summarises the outcomes of your thesis and provides major theoretical and practical implications. In its most basic form, the conclusion section is a rehash of the ideas that you have gradually introduced throughout your thesis. There’s no single answer to the question of how to compose a decent concluding chapter. However, one suggestion is to avoid anything new. Go through your thesis and search for any instances in which your PhD refers to notable research gaps or a lack of empirical knowledge. A good conclusion for a dissertation should re-visit these major arguments and detail how each of these gaps has been addressed by the findings.

3. Establish your PhD writing routine

Having a writing routine is perhaps the most important thing you must have to become a productive PhD writer. Since all students are different in how they approach the writing process, there are no hard and fast rules of how to arrange an effective PhD writing routine that would fit all. Luckily, you can always ask for a piece of advice from professional PhD writing services. Their highly experienced writers know exactly how to write a PhD thesis. The good news is that you can use their experience in creating your own routine to make the writing process easier and more fun. To create a successful PhD thesis, you will need to:

Determine the most effective time of day

First things first. To make sure you can achieve your writing goals, you need to select the most creative and productive time of day. Some students prefer to work in the morning whereas others are more productive at night, so it is up to you to decide on the best period of the day to allocate time to your writing sessions.

Set achievable writing objectives

When writing a PhD thesis, it is important to set a daily target and stick to this amount of work. It should be noted, however, that setting achievable goals is key to your sanity and emotional wellbeing. For example, if you set a goal of writing 2,000 words per day but end up producing only around 1,000 words, it is most likely that you will feel bad about it. Try to keep your expectations as realistic as possible to make sure the writing process is fun and engaging.

Create a writing space

Creating a dedicated, comfortable writing space is crucial when it comes to establishing a PhD writing routine. This can be anything from a comfortable desk and chair to a full home office. Whatever your writing space is, you must feel comfortable in it and isolated from other people in a good way.

Eliminate all the noise

Once you have established your writing time and writing space, it is time to make sure you are not distracted by anything while writing your PhD thesis and achieving your daily writing goals. Put aside your smartphone (or even turn it off) and do not access social media while writing your text. Sometimes it is worth turning off the internet to avoid the temptation to spend some time checking news headlines or watching YouTube videos. Remember that during your most effective time of day, you should concentrate and dedicate your attention exclusively to writing.

Avoid writer’s fatigue

Working to exhaustion could be beneficial but only in the short term. Remember that wiring a PhD thesis is a long run so you do not want to find yourself in a situation where you face an impasse and just keep procrastinating. Make frequent breaks while writing, complete a guided meditation, exercise, read books – do whatever it takes to give yourself some rest. Taking a short nap can also eliminate brain fog and provide you with the energy needed to accomplish your daily writing goals.

Once your PhD writing routine is established, you should stick to it, though some changes to your schedule are totally possible and are likely to occur at some point. Thesis writing is not easy by any means but by sticking to your routine, you can become an effective writer and achieve your writing goals.

tables and figures

4. Use technology to your advantage

From managing a number of activities to researching and compiling your entire research with thorough analysis can at times make you feel miserable. With so much to achieve in a short period of time, any help with PhD thesis can come as a blessing for PhD students. If you feel pushing yourself towards keeping up with everything, go through the below list of top 6 apps that can actually help you with your PhD thesis and make your life easier.

Researcher

A free journal finding mobile app, Researcher helps students to read new journal papers each day. Being one of the most popular research apps, Researcher is used by approximately 3 million researchers and scientists around the world. It offers research journals in 10 major research areas such as Business and Management, Economics and Finance, Engineering and Computer Science, etc.

Mendeley

Another free app exclusively crafted for researchers, Mendeley can be used as a PDF reader and reference manager. This app will help you to organise your research and writings in an appropriate manner which you can further use for your PhD dissertation writing. Additionally, you can use this app for generating references, bibliographies and citations in different journal formats.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a great app to store all your files in one place. It can be safely synced to all your devices and just by signing in you can access your entire work from any place. It also allows PhD researchers to make a creative collaboration space from where you can easily share a big file with anyone.

Google Keep

As a PhD scholar, you might have to deal with a number of things. This might make it difficult for you to remember things or recall any important thing later. To make this simple you can use Google Keep which can help you to quickly capture your thoughts and get a reminder for it later. Apart from taking quick notes, you can even use this app to record a voice memo, take handwritten notes or capture important results using the camera.

Trello

An efficient project management app, Trello helps PhD students to create different projects and assign various stages within the project. For example, for PhD proposal writing, you can make different chapters for your PhD dissertation and assign an individual card to each section. You can add your comments, due dates and even attachments to these Trello cards to see your progress at a glance. By doing this, you can easily track the progress of each section and even share your progress with your PhD supervisor.

Plagiarism Checker

As you cannot risk your PhD thesis for any sort of duplicity, it is better to run your entire PhD thesis writing through a plagiarism checker. This app works in conjunction with different search engine apps and can detect any kind of duplicate content in your paper. Thus, it will save you from losing any marks and modifying any duplicate content before submitting your final PhD dissertation.

5. Have a backup plan

Unexpected family complications, caring responsibilities, career changes or sickness can easily put you off the track. The main idea behind ‘Plan B’ scenario analysis is not to prevent the possibility of such risks. A good backup plan should simply help you mitigate their impact and get you back on track as soon as possible no matter what. Let us consider the 5 best tips for creating a Plan B scenario when writing your thesis.

Build up a financial cushion

As trite as it may sound, an emergency fund is still one of the best risk mitigation instruments ever. If possible, reserve the sum that will keep you going without external income for at least 6 months prior to starting your thesis. Double this sum if you have a family and/or children. Keep in mind that your PhD project is very similar to a small child. It will be demanding most of your personal time for the following 3 years and you will not be able to ‘put it on pause’ for long.

Learn all the rules

Any survivor knows that survival powers come from seeing the outcomes of your plans as a spectrum rather than 1-2 convenient options. Have you ever wondered what happens when you skip one of your mortgage payments? How about failing a semester exam in high school? If the mere thought of these outcomes makes you shiver inside, now is the right time to overcome your fears and start learning more about these Plan B options. Before you start writing your PhD proposal, you need to find information about all extensions, counselling support, remote learning options, emergency funding, and other instruments that can help you survive any hindrance associated with PhD thesis writing.

Put on your stoic face

The ancient Greek practice of stoicism means staying calm under stress, accepting any life scenario, and stopping one’s desires through the frugal practices of Voluntary Discomfort. Stoics would voluntarily expose themselves to various forms of discomfort just to see that a hard life is not something worth fearing. This also teaches you to better appreciate the things you already have. Facing temporary problems will inevitably put you through some hardships such as extra work, poor living conditions or tight budgeting. Approaching these challenges with a stoic face may be a good way to not let them ruin your life and sense of self-worth.

Have an emergency team ready

If your car loses control on a wet road, the best time to act is right away. Proper emergency response will only help if you apply it while you are still in your lane rather than lying wheels up in a roadside ditch after getting hit by an oncoming truck. Even if you are not planning to use PhD services for your thesis writing needs, have a contact of a reliable PhD writing services agency you can trust. In most situations, it only takes several failed submissions combined with the lack of proper university support to transform a perfectly controlled PhD project eligible for academic extensions into a highly problematic PhD project requiring extensive salvage work to proceed with. A good agency offering PhD writing services will keep you safe from harm by helping you to avoid missed deadlines in the first place.

Plan for contingencies

Finally, the best way to implement the earlier suggested recommendations is to balance your PhD expenses right from the start. Many students make the mistake of overestimating their academic capabilities and personal resources. While working 24/7 may seem like a fantastic idea to write your PhD thesis faster during the first months, a PhD is a marathon rather than a sprint. You will inevitably face various challenges and disappointments as well as long-term periods of frustration. These unexpected costs and hindrances should be planned from the onset if you want to ‘get there’ no matter what. Try to take the minimal possible workload during your first PhD year, save a lot of money and work on creating multiple ‘backup options’ to survive any contingency. This way, you will naturally build up your strength as an ‘academic athlete’ and will speed up afterwards in a much safer way without straining yourself.

writing in a notepad

Thesis writing can be really daunting as doctoral students need to have certain things, including dedication, inspiration, and creativity to accomplish such a challenging task. Sometimes, due to the pressure of completing a PhD, students may feel overwhelmed or face so-called writer’s block. If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t be hesitant to seek for PhD thesis writing help. Original PhD provides a wide range of PhD writing services, starting from PhD application assistance to editing and correction services. We have a team of professional PhD-educated researchers and writers who will help you overcome the challenges you are facing and help you create a winning PhD thesis.