How to write a dissertation: planning your writing process

Dissertation writing can be a pleasant enough process one you know how to go about it. As with most types of academic writing, having a plan can go a long way towards simplifying things. The following steps are a vital part of your plan.

Topic Selection

A good plan needs a good topic. Although your topic should technically be chosen before the writing process begins, it is such an important action that it deserves to be included. Your dissertation will take quite some time to write so ensure that you select a topic that both you and your academic supervisor can agree on. It also helps if you feel passionately about the topic and would research it even if there were no marks at stake.

Research Sources

Once you have a topic well laid out you can get all the sources of information that you need together so that you can comfortably look through them. Some of your sources are just a few clicks away. Others may require you to dig through dusty, seldom used corners of libraries to find the only surviving copy of the relevant study. Be prepared for anything.

Compilation of information

At this stage you begin to put everything that you will be including in the study into some semblance of order. It won’t be pretty or neat but it will look more like a dissertation than it did at either of the previous stages.


A proper dissertation will be written according to the rules of one of the more popular formats for academic writing such as MLA or Chicago style. The style you will be expected to use will most likely be obvious to you or clearly stated by your academic supervisor. If this has not taken place, ask for clarification. It is better for you to get asked and endure brief humiliation than to submit in the wrong format and risk missing the deadline because you have to do the whole thing over.

Final checks

Any piece of writing that you complete requires a good review. Even masters and doctoral students can make spelling errors and they’re far more embarrassing the older you get. In addition, your citations need to be perfect and this is the best time to look them over just in case.

At the end of all of this, you will have written your dissertation.