Thursday, January 01, 2009





I wrote a dissertation to earn my Masters Degree in Technology [M.Tech.] from IIT Delhi in 1983, and one more for my Post Graduation in Management in 1985. Since then I have supervised and guided dissertations, more than 40, maybe 50, chiefly for Masters Degrees in Engineering and Technology [ME / M. Tech.]. Some students of mine, who I am guiding at the moment, thought it apt than I pen down a few tips on the art of dissertation, so here are I am, writing a few lines, on The Art of Dissertation.

In a nutshell, the Art of Dissertation comprises the following simple steps:

1. Select a dissertation topic in a subject that you are knowledgeable about.

2. Compose a thesis statement that only asks a single question.

3. Employ a research methodology process that is compatible with your dissertation study.

4. Present your data evaluation, analysis and interpretation in an accurate, succinct, logical, well-reasoned and lucid manner and write your dissertation report in a simple, coherent manner conforming to the prescribed style.

5. Conclude your dissertation by answering the thesis statement and, if pertinent, mention corollaries and consequences and possibilities and scope for future research work on the subject.

6. Impart the finishing touches to your dissertation report – definitions, references, bibliography, abstract, summary, acknowledgement, certificate, contents and title pages.


A thesis is a hypothesis or conjecture. The word "thesis" is coined from the Greek derivative of the word meaning "position", and refers to an intellectual proposition. A thesis may be an unproved statement, a hypothetical proposition, put forward as a premise.

A dissertation is a lengthy, formal document that argues in defence of a particular thesis. The term "Dissertation" is derived from the Latin word dissertātiō, meaning "discourse" and is a document that presents the author's research and findings and, in most cases, is submitted in support of candidature for a degree or professional qualification. The research performed to support a thesis must be original and substantial. The dissertation must illustrate this aspect and highlight original contributions.

Your dissertation is your research which demonstrates your understanding of the subject in a clear manner. Therefore, it is imperative you find a topic that gives a clear picture of what you should write. Always ignore ambiguous and vague ideas. And, most importantly, choose an apt title – in fact, the title of your dissertation must fascinate you and entice your audience.


Dissertations are of two types - Empirical and Analytical.

Empirical dissertations make propositions resulting from experiments, involving laboratory or field research.

Analytical dissertations reflect propositions resulting from meticulous, pioneering and innovative analysis of previously published work.


A dissertation report may comprise the following main chapters:

1. Introduction- An overview of the problem; why it is important; a summary of extant work and, most important, the thesis statement.

2. Literature Review-the chapter that summarizes another work related to your topic.

3. Methodology-the part of the paper that introduces the procedures utilized for the research study and the conceptual model.

4. Data Presentation, Evaluation, Analysis and Interpretation -the chapter involves the presentation of computation values using statistical tools to support the claim.

5. Conclusion-the complete summary of the research findings.

Of course, you must include suitable pages for definitions, illustrations and graphs, footnotes and references, bibliography, abstract, summary, acknowledgement, certificates, contents and title pages.


Dissertation writing chiefly involves the introduction, literature review, methodology and analysis chapters, and the others mentioned above. Having selected your dissertation topic, before you begin your dissertation you need to establish your thesis statement first.

A thesis statement is simply a single sentence that provides the main intention of the research. The thesis statement will epitomize the scope of your study, give you an idea of what you want to prove and will pilot your research.

A good thesis statement must satisfy the following four criteria:

1. The thesis statement must state your position.

2. The thesis statement must be able to support a discussion.

3. The thesis statement must be specific about its position.

4. The thesis statement should only have one single idea of discussion.

You must ponder over the following points while writing the introduction to your dissertation:

Is there any need to this dissertation study?
Why do it now? Why here? Why me?
Is the dissertation topic in my “comfort zone” and am I thirsty for knowledge and passionate about it?
Is there a problem? What is it? Why does it need to be solved? Should I approach it empirically or analytically?
What is my hypothesis? Is it original, novel, new, innovative?
Who will benefit from my dissertation work? In what sense will they benefit?
How will my contribution add to “commons”?
What is going to be my methodology? [modalities of data collection, evaluation, analysis, interpretation]
Are there any constraints or limitations in conduct of my proposed dissertation studies and research?

Dear Reader, I am feeling tired now, and will end this first part of my article here, but before I sign off, here is an interesting quote I read somewhere:

“The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but the transference of bones from one graveyard to another.” – Frank J. Dobie.

[to be continued]


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

1 comment:

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