PhD dissertation writing guide: what you should avoid


A dissertation is a major requirement for your PhD and it’s very important to get started on the right foot. The following point should assist you on what you should avoid:

Avoid too much information

Remember that your dissertation is in support of your thesis. Although you are required to have sufficient proof supplied throughout your experiments, you are not required to write a textbook on the subject. However, ensure that you do write enough to complete the paper leaving your reader with that sense of understanding and a solid view of your perspective on the subject.

Avoid basic laymen’s language

Your dissertation is intended for educated academic lecturers and other students like yourself. As a PhD student you will already be speaking the ‘jargon’, so stick to it. Use the necessary technical language to explain your subject as best you can, showing that you understand the technical elements of what you are studying.

Support, don’t propose

Always avoid repeating what you proposed in your thesis. A dissertation is done to support your thoughts and theories already discussed in your thesis – it is also not the place to start proposing new ideas. A dissertation therefore requires detailed evidence in support and explanation of how you have proved your already proposed theory.

Don’t get sloppy

This is not the time to slack off and write like you are back in grade school. A dissertation is a formal document required to prove your passion and understanding for the subject. Keep things in a logical format and stick to the requirements of the task. It is highly recommended that you write a draft version of your paper first, so that you can scribble on it as you go. This way you can gather all your thoughts together before you sit down to write that final version.

Try not to underestimate


Inexperienced students underestimate the time it takes to write a dissertation. Work at this level is no longer a 2 page essay on the book you read over the weekend. It’s far more technical and requires months of work. Depending on your subject you will most likely need to do your own experiments which in itself will take time to document.


Although your PhD will naturally become your life, it’s important to take a break so that you can re-group and gather your thoughts. It’s natural that a passionate subject can become all-consuming, but pushing yourself past the max will just burn you out and you may miss out on the most important elements of what you are trying to achieve. Remember to look after yourself.


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