A PhD dissertation is a lengthy, formal document that argues in defense of a particular thesis. The research performed to support the thesis must be original and substantial, and the dissertation must show it to be so. In particular, a dissertation highlights original contributions. The scientific method means starting with a hypothesis and then collecting evidence to support or deny it. The most difficult aspect of writing a dissertation consists of organizing the evidence and associated discussions into a coherent form. The essence of a dissertation is critical thinking, not experimental data: analysis and concepts form the heart of the work. A dissertation concentrates on principles: it states the lessons learned, and not merely the facts behind them. In general, every statement in a dissertation must be supported either by a reference to published scientific literature or by original work. Moreover, a dissertation does not repeat the details of critical thinking and analysis found in published sources; it uses the results as fact and refers the reader to the source for further details. Each statement in a dissertation must be correct and defensible in a logical and scientific sense; the discussions in a dissertation must satisfy the most stringent rules of logic applied to mathematics and science.
A research proposal is another kind of a complicated academic writing you may be asked to complete pursuing a degree. It differs greatly from any other dissertation or thesis sample, as it is a practical proposal on some scientific investigation. It may even be of greater importance to your academia than any other paper you have submitted before. The tricky part in writing your research proposal paper is that it has to be 100% unique and original. No one will analyze a partially plagiarized research proposal, as it is supposed to promote a good start to your future career. Thus, you have to make sure you paper is grammatically flawless, well structured, and plagiarism free.
Like all writers, scholars depend upon words used as precisely as possible. In contemporary academic English, “thesis” and “dissertation” are almost interchangeable, and in this book I’ll use them that way merely to provide some variety. A thesis can, of course, be a master’s thesis or an undergraduate thesis, but a dissertation is always written for a doctoral degree. The dictionary’s succinct definition of a dissertation omits any mention of a proposition to be defended, and length seems to be the dissertation’s principal characteristic. A thesis might be very brief indeed. Martin Luther came up with ninety-five of them, and crammed them all onto a document correctly sized for a church door. For modern-day academics, a dissertation is expected to contain a thesis, that is, this lengthy exposition of evidence and analysis is supposed to contain a core argument. It might be said that the thesis inhabits and animates the dissertation. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems, at least to publishers, that the thesis—the heart of the dissertation—has stopped ticking. Argument gone, all that is left is length.