Creating a Dissertation: Grammar And Logic

A dissertation is a long piece of writing completed by a graduate student in a PhD program, explaining the results of a large body of research and theoretical work, and usually marks the completion of the degree. As such, it comes with a very high set of expectations, and can be highly difficult to complete.

When writing your dissertation, you must pay the utmost attention to the structure and the content. You must have a well organized introductory chapter, for example, which recaps the existing literature on your topic of interest, and expands upon that background by proposing a series of additional enlightening studies. You must also explain your results in a coherent, well written manner, with a number of tables and appendices.

When focusing on all these structural and textual elements, it can become easier to forget other important factors, such as the grammar and the logic of your work. But do not let these elements slip your mind, as a good dissertation must be perfectly written and highly logical. As you finish your paper, therefore, consider the following:

Go Back To The Theory

Many PhD students forget about theory as their dissertation project winds down. This is easy to do. After years of collecting data, cleaning it, and analyzing it, most students have become highly focused on discrete activities and direct empirical experience. Even the process of writing the dissertation is focused intently on communicating the empirical results and presenting them in a direct way.

Take a break from all this and re-read the introduction to your paper. Go back and read some of the work you cited heavily, and think about how your own results fit into this template. Imagine you are sharing your results with a famous researcher in your area. What would he or she have to say about your results, theoretically speaking? Would they expect this pattern of results, or would they be surprised? Weave the results of this hypothetical conversation into your own papers’ discussion chapter.

Read Your Work Like A Novice

Every dissertation should pass the “grandma test”. Imagine giving your dissertation to your grandmother and asking her to read it and respond to it. Could she understand any of what you were saying or trying to do? Or would the jargon and dry, winding academic sentences make it impossible for her to follow? Be honest with yourself here.

A good dissertation should be comprehensible and interesting to literally anyone with a basic education and the ability to read. If your paper is too dull or complex to pass the grandma test, you must go back and revise the grammar and logic.