Writing a dissertation will unquestionably be one of the most important and significant pieces of work that you will undertake no matter what stage of your educational journey.
Dissertations are an educational feature of college and university although some people will not complete one at all stages. However, it is unlikely that everyone won’t write at least one. The process of writing and researching a dissertation for PhD. or Master’s degree can have a huge impact, beyond your primary educational days.
Indeed, it will most likely affect the way that you write and think in the future. Dissertation writing is a centrally important part of education. It instils a sense of self discipline, logic and self-worth in terms of academia.
They are certainly not simple to write, but completion of a good dissertation can set you apart from your peers and offer a sense of self confidence in your writing that can encourage you to go on to bigger and better things.
What exactly is a dissertation?
In short, a dissertation is a structured piece of writing, usually in response to a thesis question, or set of questions, that engages with a problem. It tends to be longer than regular essays and is usually divided into chapters.
Dissertations rely on undertaking original first hand, independent research and following an established methodology which is made clear within the final document.
They can be based on primary data (data that you have collected yourself or based on first hand documents) or secondary analysis (work that has already been undertaken on the topic).
It is usual for a dissertation to have an element of both but there will be a significant amount of first hand primary research undertaken. The secondary studies will usually be referred to and analyzed within a defined literature review.
Why is it so important?
A dissertation is used as a marker for your abilities as a researcher and is taken seriously by both the academic community and those outside. It can give clues into your sense of originality, self-discipline and attitude. On a practical short term basis, it also has a significant role, usually, in shaping your final grade at university.
At high school it is usually a formative process, encouraging you to learn about the process and instil the core skills of research. However, it can also count towards qualifications. Generally, a high school research paper will be shorter than a university dissertation but the process will be similar.
A dissertation is a sign that you can actually ‘do’ your discipline, as opposed to just write about it. It involves active research, coming up with a question, following a defined methodology and engaging with the work of other researchers. It is a rite of passage within education and shows that you can ‘do’ what you have been studying.
Some high schools and universities choose to run an alternative exercise to a dissertation, such as an extended essay or practical research project. However, in general, a dissertation is seen as the usual format for completing a research thesis.
At university, once the dissertation is complete, you have the option of pushing for publication. Some institutions, depending on the level of the dissertation, will publish the work themselves, or encourage the student researcher to approach publishers so that the work can reach a broader audience.
A dissertation also sends a message to future employers that you are able to undertake independent work and, depending on the final result, to a high standard in terms of quality. It is very usual in the workplace to have to carry out independent work, often following the structure of creating reports and a lot of skills exhibited in the dissertation can be transferred to these more practical environments.
As you can see, dissertation writing is important in education for many reasons and it is often surprising when an institution chooses not to run one, especially universities.
It largely depends what you are looking for as part of your education but it is clear that a dissertation exercise can only progress your intellectual ability and self-motivation, putting you in a better place for approaching life in the future.
For college students a dissertation can make such an impact that it encourages them to pursue further education. It can be the making of them.