What is a dissertation?
A dissertation is the culminating writing project of many doctoral degree programs.
It represents the apex of independent and original research on a topic.
The dissertation is produced by a doctoral student as the final requirement for conferral of his or her degree (normally a PhD = Doctor of Philosophy degree).
It is produced for the University in which the degree is conferred.
As such, despite the fact that most are book-length manuscripts, the dissertation is produced as an unpublished manuscript, with copies lodged in the following repositories:
• The library of the institution from which the degree was earned,
• The archives of the institution from which the degree was earned,
• (Sometimes) the department of the university in which the degree was earned.
Dissertations vary in length from discipline to discipline. But the range runs anywhere from 80-100 pages at the low end, to 400 pages or more at the high end.
Normally, the topic focus of a dissertation is very narrow and highly specialized.
Dissertations usually provide the most fine-grained, detailed analysis of the research topic possible.
They can be profitably mined by other researchers for a variety of resources, such as:
• Their findings and conclusions - they may have data that supports other research projects,
• Bibliographies - all dissertations include some type of bibliography section. Other researchers may find good 'leads' perusing these references.
• Behavioral instruments - dissertations reporting the results of human subjects research will usually include copies of any measuring instruments used to collect data on their populations.