Home General Articles General What is a Dissertation?

What is a Dissertation?


University days are fun. A complete blend of fun, thrill, excitement and of course academic work. Assignments, group works and presentation takes up a chunk of the number of years we spend on a program.

Either a 4-year or 6-year undergraduate program has but one converging point. The final hit of a hammer that is academic work to the nail of the wooden structure (furniture) that is one’s life: DISSERTATION.

Dissertation is not a word that is well known in our part of the world, as we coin our own words to everything, as is the norm. We are more familiar with the terms “thesis” and “final year project work”.

The final year project is the nerve ending crack for most students. It frustrates and disposes of most and as such, undergrads need to know its entire scope before the final year.

While some projects are done for each person, others are done in groups. But whether it’s a solo-op or a group work, each has its merits or demerits.

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is academic writing that allows students to present their findings in response to a question or proposition that they choose themselves as their final project for a university degree.

Personal Projects 


• Easy to get on with a little self-motivation and drive. DEMERITS
• Finding resources, especially when the project demands some physical presence, can be destabilizing.

Group Projects 

• Easier to share costs and resources involved in doing the project.
• Provides a pool of diverse ideas. DEMERITS
• Having partners who have a laissez-faire approach to academic work can impede progress.

NB: But in some cases when students have been grouped, one can opt out for a personal project or vice-versa.

Before a project begins, a student is assisted and assessed by a lecturer as a supervisor. However, the entire project, however, independent, will go through three (3) distinct phases.

Phase 1

Choosing a topic

This phase can prove to be very unsettling and difficult. It takes you back and forth like a pendulum swing. A topic to be chosen should be new or gives a new perspective to an old topic.

The complexity of it all heightens its difficulty, as profoundly we know “there’s nothing new under the sun”. As daunting as that may seem, it is very achievable.

Phase 2


Researching and drawing conclusions is the body of the journey. This is where I’d advise students to take their courses or take courses of ‘RESEARCH METHODS’ serious. This will prove handy and blow the superficial away.

Phase 3


Students through means of presentation stand before a panel to answer questions and defend their stand on the research they did.

This presentation is weighed down and scored by the panel, this adds up to the students’ GPA or CWA and maybe their last official academic work as an undergraduate student.


Below are some frequently asked questions about the dissertation.

How long is a dissertation?

The length of a dissertation varies between study level and country but is generally around 10,000-12,000 words at the undergraduate level, 15,000-25,000 words at the master’s level and up to 50,000 words or more at the PhD level.

What is a dissertation vs thesis?

The main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the level at which you complete them. A thesis is for a master’s degree, and a dissertation is for a doctoral degree. Don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of having to research and write so much.

How do you write a dissertation?

Steps to writing a dissertation
  1. Choose your research topic carefully.
  2. Check what’s required of you.
  3. Have a clear goal and structure.
  4. Write as you go.
  5. Continue to question.
  6. Don’t underestimate the editing stage.
  7. Enjoy the achievement.

Can you get a PhD without doing a dissertation?

In the past, a dissertation was required for a PhD, but a growing number of institutions have started to offer online doctoral programs a dissertation. Instead, students may complete a capstone project to demonstrate their knowledge and provide new contributions to the field.


Dissertations take months of hard work, dedication and determination to finish up. Although it may carry some stress along with it, it is definitive and certainly rewarding.

And on graduation day, students barely remember the stress, difficulty and ardour exhibited in getting the job done. So if you are yet to do your dissertation or project work, then gird up your loins.

Share Your Thoughts