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Doctoral Thesis


A doctoral thesis, often called a dissertation, is the most important project of one's doctoral coursework. In fact, it is the crowning achievement of one's education, and in most degree programs it is a prerequisite to receiving the distinction of "doctor."

The goal of any dissertation is to say something new and worthwhile on a topic within the candidate's field of study. The chosen topic should interest the candidate greatly, because doctoral theses often create a professional trajectory for their writers that only a complete career change will alter. By selecting a doctoral thesis topic, the candidate decides to become an expert on that topic and agrees to defend his or her thoughts against the thoughts of any other scholar in the field.

Whereas the student takes one term to write a term paper and perhaps one year to write a master's thesis, the doctoral candidate may spend several years writing a doctoral thesis. These years must be highly productive and efficient in both research and writing; one must not procrastinate at all. The candidate who does not proceed efficiently may have difficulty completing the doctoral thesis before its statute of limitations runs out.

In most universities, candidates must defend their doctoral theses in front of a panel of experts. Therefore, although the candidate should choose an original, manageably narrow topic, he or she must learn everything available about that topic's general area. Moreover, the candidate must be able to recall that information. The student should make careful notes of all research and review those notes from time to time, lest he or she forget the material during the writing process. The candidate should be aware that a writing project that takes several years and fills several hundred pages can overwhelm the brain at the last minute before defense; therefore, the candidate should review the information steadily throughout the years of the development of the thesis.


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