The Thesis/Dissertation Defense

33. It's important that you have the feeling when entering your defensethat you aren't doing it alone. As was mentioned earlier, your major professorshould be seen as an ally to you and "in your corner" at thedefense. Don't forget, if you embarrass yourself at the defense you willalso be embarrassing your dissertation director. So, give both of you achance to guarantee there is no embarrassment. Meet together ahead of timeand discuss the strategy you should use at the defense. Identify any possibleproblems that may occur and discuss ways that they should be dealt with.Try and make the defense more of a team effort.

If you can make predictions about what will be found if X is true, then do so.

Now this is the part we've been waiting for. I must assume that youhave come up with a good idea for research, had your proposal approved,collected the data, conducted your analyses and now you're about to startwriting the dissertation. If you've done the first steps well this partshouldn't be too bad. In fact it might even be enjoyable!

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22. Dissertation-style writing is not designed to be entertaining. Dissertationwriting should be clear and unambiguous. To do this well you should preparea list of key words that are important to your research and then your writingshould use this set of key words throughout. There is nothing so frustratingto a reader as a manuscript that keeps using alternate words to mean thesame thing. If you've decided that a key phrase for your research is "educationalworkshop", then do not try substituting other phrases like "in-serviceprogram", "learning workshop", "educational institute",or "educational program." Always stay with the same phrase -"educational workshop." It will be very clear to the reader exactlywhat you are referring to.

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12. Focus your research very specifically. Don't try to haveyour research cover too broad an area. Now you may think that this willdistort what you want to do. This may be the case, but you will be ableto do the project if it is narrowly defined. Usually a broadly definedproject is not do-able. By defining too broadly it may sound better toyou, but there is a great chance that it will be unmanageable as a researchproject. When you complete your research project it is important that youhave something specific and definitive to say. This can be accommodatedand enhanced by narrowly defining your project. Otherwise you may haveonly broadly based things to say about large areas that really providelittle guidance to others that may follow you. Often the researcher findsthat what he/she originally thought to be a good research project turnsout to really be a of research projects. Do one project for yourdissertation and save the other projects for later in your career. Don'ttry to solve all of the problems in this one research project.

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e. What if you have the opportunity for conducting your researchin conjunction with another agency or project that is workingin related areas. Should you do it? Sometimes this works well, but mostoften the dissertation researcher gives up valuable freedom to conductthe research project in conjunction with something else. Make sure thetrade-offs are in your favor. It can be very disastrous to havethe other project suddenly get off schedule and to find your own research projecttemporarily delayed. Or, you had tripled the size of your sample sincethe agency was willing to pay the cost of postage. They paid for the postagefor the pre-questionnaire. Now they are unable to assist with postage forthe post-questionnaire. What happens to your research? I usually findthat the cost of conducting dissertation research is not prohibitive andthe trade-offs to work in conjunction with another agency are not in favorof the researcher. Think twice before altering your project to accommodatesomeone else. Enjoy the power and the freedom to make your own decisions(and mistakes!) -- this is the way we learn!

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11. What is a proposal anyway? A good proposal should consist of thefirst three chapters of the dissertation. It should begin with a statementof the problem/background information (typically Chapter I of the dissertation),then move on to a review of the literature (Chapter 2), and conclude witha defining of the research methodology (Chapter 3). Of course, it shouldbe written in a future tense since it is a proposal. To turn a good proposalinto the first three chapters of the dissertation consists of changingthe tense from future tense to past tense (from "This is what I wouldlike to do" to "This is what I did") and making any changesbased on the way you actually carried out the research when compared tohow you proposed to do it. Often the intentions we state in our proposalturn out different in reality and we then have to make appropriate editorialchanges to move it from proposal to dissertation.