Tips for writing a Ph.D. thesis

Organizational Communication
July 30, 2021
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
July 30, 2021

Ph.D. thesis contributes to obtaining the degree of sciences. The dissertation research is the result of an independent work of a scientist, confirming a deep knowledge of the studied disciplines and is of practical value for modern science.

thesisStages of writing a Ph.D. thesis

To write a PhD thesis that is valuable for the development of science, you must:

  • Choose a topical research topic with scientific novelty;
  • Make sure that the topic is sufficiently developed;
  • Evaluate the works of scientists who have already covered this scientific problem;
  • Draw up a plan of work on a dissertation;
  • Save all drafts and copies of the work in order to be able to correct the text of the thesis;
  • Use graphs, charts, tables, diagrams in the text to graphically reflect the quantitative values ​​of the study;
  • Spend enough time writing the introduction and conclusion to the work.

The work on the Ph.D. thesis takes place under the scientific supervision of a scientist with a Doctor of Science degree. It is good if the topic of the dissertation research of a graduate student corresponds to the circle of scientific interests of his supervisor.

Writing a PhD dissertation begins with the definition and approval of the topic of the dissertation research. In the process of working on a dissertation, the topic may change or be clarified.

Choosing an actual topic for a Ph.D. thesis

What to write about

It is recommended that the topic of the candidate’s dissertation be a continuation of the topic of the master’s study, if the candidate has previously studied in the master’s program in the same training profile. The process of working on a dissertation lasts several years, but materials for research should be collected in advance.

The title of the thesis should fully reflect the subject of the research. The supervisor will help to formulate the title of the work, after which you can start writing a plan-project of the dissertation research.

Criteria’s of choice

Before starting work, a scientific problem is formulated – a situation that requires resolution. Normative documents contain a list of criteria that the topic of a Ph.D. dissertation must meet:

  • Novelty. It is understood that the proposed theoretical positions or practical solutions are a new word in science;
  • Relevance, that is, the need, the need for research on this topic. It is necessary to find white spots in science, insufficiently studied areas, which, however, are of interest to the scientific community or solve important pressing problems. Relevance can also mean looking at already known issues from a different perspective;
  • The significance of the work is determined by the value of developments for science or practical application.

Approximate algorithm of actions

Since the defining signs of the correct topic of the dissertation research are relevance and novelty, it is important for the applicant to navigate in the specialty in which the research will be carried out. A responsible approach to writing a Ph.D. dissertation involves the following actions:

  1. Analyze your own experience in science.
  2. Listen to the opinion of the supervisor.
  3. To study the passport of the specialty and the profile of the department.
  4. Get acquainted with publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, monographs and conference materials on topics of interest.
  5. Analyze the base of abstracts and dissertations in the chosen specialty in recent years.
  6. Decide on the subject, the object of the dissertation, choose the area and period of research.

How the Ph.D. thesis is written, what to look for

The candidate dissertation is written in stages, in strict accordance with the plan and deadlines for the provision of interim reports on the progress of work. Writing begins with working with literature: it is necessary to select a pool of authoritative publications that publish materials relevant to the research topic, to identify key researchers working on similar issues.

thesisSince the content of the thesis should have scientific novelty, it is recommended to turn to scientific journals to find the necessary information – it is there that the most relevant materials are published. It is recommended to include data from articles published no later than five years before the dissertation was written – the use of outdated sources may become a reason for criticism of the work on its defense.


The preparation of a Ph.D. thesis should go in parallel with the scientific and pedagogical work of the dissertation candidate – writing and publishing scientific articles, teaching practice and passing intermediate attestations.

Published scientific works of an applicant for a scientific degree can become part of his dissertation research. The presence of a certain number of published articles is also a prerequisite for postgraduate studies.

The text of the candidate dissertation must be drawn up in accordance with the requirements of GOST:

  • The necessary spacing and indents are observed;
  • The title page and the content of the work are completed;
  • All illustrative material is numbered and signed;
  • A list of used literature has been formed;
  • Quoting of the borrowed fragments is correct;
  • Compiled applications with pictures, diagrams, tables;
  • Used reference apparatus.

The requirements of GOST also apply to the dissertation abstract, which is a mandatory supplement to the work. Requirements for writing the text for the abstract are indicated in the guidelines for graduate students of each department of a higher educational institution.

Motivation for writing a Ph.D.

  • Understand the purpose

Before you start collecting information for your future dissertation, you need to answer the question – why exactly do you need this? In order to do this, you need serious motivation. Writing a dissertation is a hard long-term work, which, to a greater extent, consists in studying literature and scientific works of scientists. As practice shows, 2-3 people out of 10 are suitable for protection.

  •  Science and dissertation are unequal quantities

Obtaining an academic degree does not guarantee mandatory achievements in science in the future, the opposite is true – the absence does not put an end to the prospects for successful development. History knows hundreds of examples when scientific discoveries were made by talented scientists without scientific degrees. Figures possessing all possible titles and regalia often have nothing to do with science.

  •  Striking a balance between effort and result

In order not to be disappointed at the end of the road, it is necessary to measure the efforts that are invested in the work and the result that is planned to be obtained. If a graduate student writes a work “carelessly”, not getting satisfaction from the process, then the dissertation will turn out to be “insipid” and uninteresting. The opposite option – a person lives by work, makes incredible efforts in writing, at the end he may be disappointed. When he realizes that the enormous work that was done was prepared only for the defense procedure.

  •  Spend more time on what will be read

As sad as it may sound – only you and, possibly, the scientific advisor will read the entire dissertation. The bulk of researchers are interested in: an introduction, the novelty that is in the work, the positions being defended, a list of your published works. It is these elements of work that should be given the most attention.

15 Tips to Make Your Ph.D. Thesis Writing Faster

We recommend listening to the following life hacks:

  1. Write the title of the dissertation so that the purpose of the research is revealed and it is easy to reformulate it into a question;
  2. When posing the main question, it becomes clear into which parts it should be divided. These will be the chapters of the dissertation;
  3. When trying to reveal a topic, choose one that you can present in an intelligible and structured way;
  4. Use a heuristic. In the area where your own accumulated knowledge is deep, you will understand best;
  5. When contacting your supervisor, ask as many questions as possible. This is the only chance to gain deep knowledge and finish work on a scientific work in a timely manner;
  6. Do not forget about the established rules, standards and requirements for registration. Their observance is dogma;
  7. Any plagiarism will result in the direst consequences. In order to prevent the unconscious use of other people’s sources, try to study in detail the work of other authors on the material in question and carefully check what you wrote in different anti-plagiarism systems;
  8. Do not overuse direct quotes. This is not well received by the members of the commission. Extensive quotations are allowed only in exceptional cases and must be justified. In all other cases, it should be avoided by paraphrasing the material in your own words, while still citing the source of the information;
  9. Working on the text, write sentences so that it is clear: this is your own thought, an outside opinion or interpretation of any research;
  10. Try to avoid personal pronouns, but if there is a reference to personal experience, then traditionally you should use “we”;
  11. Sit down to work at night only if you are sure that everything will be over by morning. Otherwise, it is better to get enough sleep and start working productively in the morning;
  12. Extreme feelings about the genius or worthlessness of your own text should be ignored. The truth lies somewhere in between;
  13. Time management is the key to success. Plan your efforts evenly, then the result will be achieved on time.
  14. In order to successfully defend the work, it is also necessary to prepare a speech before the commission. By the time of the defense, reviews and reviews of the dissertation will be ready – criticisms of opponents will help to compose a welcome speech in such a way as to highlight the strengths of the work and explain the shortcomings, if any.
  15. It is advisable to learn speech for defense, and rehearse your speech – this will help you feel more confident and freer in front of a large audience.
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