Lærd Dissertation was written to help you complete your dissertation from start to finish, whether you're an undergraduate, master's or doctoral student. We help you with four things: (a) choosing the type of dissertation and route to follow; (b) understanding the steps involved to get you through your choice of dissertation; (c) learning about the theoretical and practical things you'll come across when doing a dissertation; and (d) understanding how you can write up your dissertation. We briefly explain each of these four aspects of doing a dissertation, before pointing you in the right direction to start the dissertation process.
Very broadly speaking, there are three types of dissertation that you can take on: qualitative dissertations, quantitative dissertations or mixed methods dissertations. Each of these broad types of dissertation has a number of characteristics. We provide an overview of these characteristics, as well as help you to choose between them in our article: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods dissertations: What are they and which one should I choose?
In addition to choosing a particular type of dissertation to take on (i.e., a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods dissertation), you will also end up pursuing a particular route. There are many routes that you can follow, but it is important to understand the differences between them because your choice of route will influence the entire dissertation process. Classic routes when following quantitative dissertations include replication-based studies, theory-driven research and data-driven dissertations. Alternately, classic routes when taking on a qualitative dissertation include case study research, ethnographies and phenomenological research. We call them routes because it avoids confusion, but you may have heard them being referred to as strategies of inquiry, research methodologies, or simply, types of research. We avoid referring to them in this way because these terms have been described in many different ways by academics.
In the Lærd Dissertation site, we explain what these three types of dissertation are, together with the different routes you could choose to follow under each type. By the time you've read these introductions to dissertation types and routes, you should know what type of dissertation you plan to carry out, and which route you are going to follow. This will guide you through the rest of the dissertation process.
When it comes to actually doing your dissertation, it is the route you have taken on that really matters. Your chosen route is so important because the steps that you have to go through to get from topic idea to finished dissertation can differ significantly from route-to-route.
For example, an ethnographic route (i.e., a type of qualitative dissertation) would not involve the setting of hypotheses, an experimental research design, a preference for the random sampling of research participants, or the collection and analysis of quantitative data, whereas many of the routes within quantitative dissertations would.
Therefore, when you have decided the type of dissertation you plan to carry out, and the particular route you are going to follow, we have guides to help you, step-by-step, through the dissertation process. Think of these guides as a map that you can keep referring back to over the months that you are carrying out your dissertation, explaining what to think about at each stage of the dissertation process, as well as sending you off to the various sections within Lærd Dissertation where you can find out more, whether its theoretical or practical guidance that you need.
A lot of time is wasted during the dissertation process when you are uncertain about the fundamentals of doing research. By the fundamentals of research, we mean knowing the theory that influences the practical choices you make. For example, when taking on a quantitative dissertation, you need to know about hypotheses, constructs and variables, theory building, types of research design (i.e., descriptive, experimental, quasi-experimental and relationship-based designs), sampling, the statistical analysis of data, and so on. You need to know (a) what these different terms mean, (b) how they influence the choices you make (e.g., whether to choose an experimental or relationship-based design), and (c) how to implement these choices on the ground (e.g., how to randomly sample the population you are interested in studying, how to set up a pre-test and post-test experimental research design, etc.). You can access all of these articles in the Fundamentals section of Lærd Dissertation.
Whilst there is no magic formula for writing up a dissertation, or any piece of research, for that matter, there are certain characteristics that you see when reading different types of research. For example, ethnographies have a very different style and presentation when compared with case study research or other types of qualitative dissertations. The same is so for quantitative dissertations and mixed methods dissertations. When you're ready to write up your dissertation, whether you do this step-by-step, which we would recommend, or all at once after you have collected and analysed your findings, we show you, chapter-by-chapter, different ways that you can do this.
Your first step is to get a sense of the three types of dissertation you can take on (i.e., a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods dissertation), which will help you to narrow down your options to a small group of possible routes, one of which you will end up following. Therefore, we recommend that you start by learning about these three types of dissertation: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods dissertations: What are they and which one should I choose?