How to Write a Dissertation Outline
When you apply for a PhD program you need to present a particular plan for work, i.e. you have to know what will be the topic, main goals, methods of research, hypothesis, and theoretical framework of your dissertation. In this sense, a dissertation outline should be written right after you have been enrolled into the PhD program. Then you should elaborate your ideas and conception, to make them more coherent logically, and to plan your work in more detail. Hence, writing a dissertation outline is the first thing you need to do during your PhD program.
You cannot allow yourself to start your research without having any clue or clear idea what you are going to do. If you have such an idea, then it will be easy to write it down on paper. In what follows you will become acquainted with some useful instructions regarding how to write a dissertation outline.
Writing a dissertation outline - 6 Key Steps
Step 1: Talk to a supervisor about your dissertation
It is true that a researcher should be independent, i.e. he/she can choose the topic of his/her dissertation alone. However, most scientific institutions usually prepare a work plan prior to enrolling a PhD student at their department. In this sense, your supervisor is obliged to direct your efforts to a particular topic, and he/she can even formulate the topic for you.
If you personally prefer to have the dissertation topic formulated in another way, or you know you can extend the scope of your work, you should talk to your supervisor. In all cases, without the permission of the supervisor you cannot start writing a dissertation.
Step 2: Elucidate your conception
Usually, the methods, goals and hypothesis go hand in hand with the formulation of the topic of your dissertation. It is possible, though, to know your topic, but to have the freedom to set forth a hypothesis on your own. The best way is to write your main idea on paper and then to elaborate it by extending its scope and making it more precise.
Step 3: Read more about your dissertation topic
This is the preliminary stage of your research. You need to gather some information on the dissertation topic in order to get familiar with the subject matter. This process can last a few months. This fact should not make you worried: your dissertation outline will be ready when you know all important things related to your topic.
Step 4: Organize the structure of your dissertation
You have to know how many pages your dissertation will contain. If you are not certain, you can take a look at other dissertations in your field that have been recently defended. By rule, dissertations in Natural sciences contain more pages and take more time for writing.
DISSERTATION STRUCTURE EXAMPLE
A sample structure of your dissertation can be the following:
Glossary of the specific terms used
All you need to do is to divide the material into several chapters and sub-chapters.
Step 5: Formulate a (hypo)thesis for your dissertation
An inevitable part of your dissertation outline is your hypothesis (usually in Natural sciences), or thesis (usually in Humanities and Social sciences). It should be formulated in the beginning of your outline. The formulation can be subjected to many modifications, but remember: when you start writing your dissertation, the thesis cannot be changed anymore (otherwise you should start writing the dissertation again).
Step 6: Format your bibliography
You can start formatting your list of references as early as possible in order to have a pattern to be used later. Make sure you know the formatting requirements in the particular academic field (for example, by using APA or Chicago style).
Writing a dissertation outline is a necessary step of the whole process of writing your dissertation, so do not underestimate it!
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