Types of Dissertations Explained

Everyone knows that a dissertation is an inseparable part of any study or research program and an obligatory step to take for those who want to build a career in science and tie their lives with the academic setting. However, few people know that all decisions made by a student may influence the process of its writing to a great extent. These choices may predetermine a type and topic of a dissertation, which, as a result, affects person’s future. Not to be caught by surprise, check out this article and find extremely helpful information about dissertation types.

Subject Choices

The policies of modern universities are quite liberal and provide students with the freedom to create an own curriculum to a certain extent. It means that these days, people can select what to study from a variety of disciplines. Of course, these choices impact not only schedules and interests of students. They serve as a foundation for a potential dissertation. In fact, the nature of subjects fully predetermines the type and topic of a dissertation, which is to be written. Thus, just as there is a division into, for example, purely philosophical and technical or theoretical and practical subject, there exist the corresponding types of dissertations.

There are four major areas of research distinguished, namely social, natural, economic, and psychological. However, there is a bunch of options that combine the characteristics of these spheres and are, as a result, a blend. Therefore, another approach to the classification of research interests was created. It is based on an object of a study. Using it, a person may decide what subjects to choose and, of course, what dissertation to write. The possible objects for studying are:

  • Ideas. If you are excited about thoughts, mind, ideas, meanings, the essence of life or people’s role in the world, you should stick to studying political theories, philosophy, religion, linguistics, semantics, art, and other subjects that are connected with the results of human development and culture.
  • People. If a person and his/her interaction with others, as well as the environment, are the focal point of your interests, you should choose anthropocentric subjects, i.e., politics, medicine, psychology, communication, etc.
  • Environment. The disciplines that fall within this category concern everything that surrounds a human being, including one-celled creatures to planets in space. So, you can choose biology, geography, chemistry, geology, microbiology, etc.
  • Impacts. The category unites the subjects that are associated with the influences that affect people and their environment. The term “impacts” may refer to physical and social forces. The related subjects are physics, politics, pharmacology, sociology, industrial studies, etc.
  • Records. Any kind of written records and remnants, e.g., manuscripts, cave paintings, archeological findings, pieces of art, music sheets, reports, or articles, in newspapers, etc., are to be studied if this object is fascinating for someone.

If the system of choosing a type of dissertation based on objects did not work for you, you might try to rely on methods. Each kind of objects requires a certain way of approaching it. For example, some issues may be studied through reading literature while other demand field observation or experiments. The key features of methods suitable for specific research problems may be a criterion of picking up a dissertation type. The classification, which was created this way, is provided below. Still, mind that it rarely happens that a scientist may use only one method to examine a given issue. As a rule, a combination of methods is needed.

Methods-Based Types of Dissertations

Theory vs. practice. Beyond doubt, every single research that is worth something unites both practice and theory in an effective way andisclosely connected with the reality. Therefore, the division of dissertations into theoretical and practical is somewhat illusory. Still, one method definitely overweighs the other. Thus, taking into account own personality and research interests, you may easily select in which direction to move. Think of what you would rather do: read books and search for valuable pieces of information in old newspapers, spending a lot of time in a library, or engage in the process of communication and interaction with people?

If you are fond of the former type of activity, you should conduct research that is theory-related. The latter is more suitable for practical and active people. Then, both approaches to examining an issue may be associated with different branches of science, research methods, and thus, the types of dissertations. Those who prefer practical strategies should choose between an explored or constructed research. They are usually completed using evaluations, observations, surveys, developmental research as well as laboratory experiments, simulations, and fieldwork respectively. Theory lovers and scholars who are willing to work independently most of the time should select either abstract (mathematic, cultural, philosophical, religious, ethnical, aesthetic branches) or applied (technical, economic, social, political, managerial disciplines).

The point that should be emphasized one more time is that rarely research and, therefore, a dissertation, can be fully theoretical or practical. Usually, it is a sound combination of methods that mutually complement each other and improve the quality of findings. Hence, you should not try to write a paper that is isolated from other branches and methods. It will serve you no good. It, in fact, may harm your reputation and career since innovativeness, which is a basis of a dissertation, requires being open-minded.

Practical research. Practical research is always action driven. It means that a dissertation should not be all about philosophies and abstracts ideas. Nevertheless, thinking skills, especially those of critical thinking, are still needed. Practical research is highly dependent on circumstances under which it is conducted. This fact allows distinguishing two kinds of practical research, namely those conducted with no researcher’s intervention into conditions, e.g., a survey or fieldwork, and those that are carried out in conditions that are created by a researcher, e.g., an experiment. Practical research is used to prove that a theory is either true or false (quantitative research) or formulate own theory (qualitative research). The latter type of research design mostly concerns postgraduate students as creating something entirely new is a bit too complicated task for the undergraduates.

Fieldwork. The methodology of this kind requires going out and interacting with people and environment to a certain extent. You will have to conduct research regardless of weather, barriers, differences associated with cultures and ethnicities, prejudice, threats and risks, and other force majeures. You will not be able and should not try to change the situation in order to simplify the process of carrying out the study. In fact, it will be harmful for your dissertation. You, as a researcher, are supposed to find your place in the existing situation and collect data or observe people without influencing them.

Even though you have little control of what is going on, you should be prepared to conducting research and act according to a well-designed plan. You should use the methods that are tried and tested, proven to be effective, and fit for you object of study, be it people or some element of the environment. You should think few steps ahead and have all required permits and consents, make an informed decision about a location, take care of transport and equipment, if applicable, etc. In other words, you are supposed to plan everything but be ready that everything might go not the way you want it to be.

The main skills that are required to do fieldwork successfully are the ability to express ideas concisely and clearly as well as that to think logically and quickly. Moreover, you should be patient, consistent, open-minded, and polite to participants, if any are involved. Ability to record information fast, attention to details, organizational skills, and, of course, ability to resist pressure and bad weather are crucial.

Experiments. Experiments imply selecting variables and check the relations between them depending on the circumstances that you create by yourself. Variables, in this case, are factors. A scientist controls a degree to which one variable influences another and observes how the quality of the relations between them changes. To receive valid results, it is necessary to limit the impact of other forces on variables under the consideration. Therefore, many experiments are undertaken in a laboratory, which serves as a kind of vacuum and allows to control conditions. However, contrary to a popular belief, an experiment may be carried out outside a lab and concern not only physics, biology, genetics, chemistry or other nature-related disciplines. In addition, a scientist involved in an experiment should not mandatory wear a white coat and glasses. He/she should be organized, focused, meticulous, patient, and possess strong time management skills.

To write a dissertation on the basis of a successful experiment, one should conduct it following a predetermined pattern. An aspirant should be sure about what he/she tests and wants to achieve. In this type of research, only very specific goals are reached. Besides, an experiment requires having certain equipment in order to keep track of all the changes. A stage of analyzing the collected data is vital as a raw data is of no use. It should be done in a very careful manner with no rush. Yes, it might be time-consuming, and a student might be willing to accelerate the process, but he/she should get rid of this temptation.

Theoretical studies. Although it seems that theoretical research is only suitable for introverts and bookworms, it is wrong. Perhaps, they would enjoy it more than someone who is socially active and people oriented, but anyone interested in science may undertake such a study. Theoretical research is connected with real-life situations and activities other than thinking. Besides, one should remember that every research should have a strong theoretical framework. So, every scientist must be capable of conducting profound theoretical investigation. Here is what it is necessary to know about the types of this research.

Abstract. Every single discipline existing in this world has theories, concept, and abstract notions that it is based on. This is a feature that unites all subjects, be it practical engineering or theoretical aesthetics. Medicine, art, education, marketing, history, etc., are all equal in the eyes of a theorist since he/she knows about their common background. In all subjects, there are ethical concerns, theoretical guidelines and principles, models and patterns that a scholar should be familiar with before taking any practical steps in research. In addition, each discipline usually has a set of concepts that are extremely overused and have several hundreds of definitions. It happens because scholars cannot agree on their meaning, purpose, role, significance, etc. Such difference in people’s opinions is the ground for debates as well as an opportunity to conduct an exciting research to check what depth a human mind may reach.

Applied research. Each theory is one way or another connected with an action. For instance, the theories and concept of feminism become more and more important these days. They lead to the changes in media, workplace, literature, healthcare, and society, in general. The shift and innovations appear because people use the existing notions and theories to initiate an activity. Applied research is devoted to examining how the theories are used in the real life, how they function, what results they brings, how they affect the sphere in which they are applied, etc. Applied study is proof that the relation between the theory and practice is extremely strong and that every dissertation should have a well-developed literature review. It is the only way to write something that might be acknowledged by others.

Technique-Based Types of Dissertation

  • Description. Such research, as well as a dissertation, is focused on determining the way things work. Moreover, it might imply studying the properties and characteristics of an object, e.g., size, deformations, shapes, components, arrangement of and relations between components, etc. Research may concern organizations, theories, systems, people, and other living creatures.
  • Comparison. Such research is conducted in case two or more similar or resembling objects are compared. The aim of a scholar here is to find out what features they share and how they differ. The same objects might be looked at and, thus, compared from different points of view. For example, companies may be contrasted in terms of effectiveness, organization structure, methods, clients’ satisfaction, etc.
  • Evaluation. This type of investigation is about establishing certain criteria and assessing research object against it. It allows to estimate and degree of some phenomena and evaluate the quality of different processes, e.g., company functioning or the implementation of reforms.
  • Correlation. In such a dissertation, a researcher will describe connections between events, examine the impact different objects, be it things or people, make on each other, determine whether there exist cause-effect relationships between some elements in the environment, etc. During such research, the quality and strength of relationships are assessed. Moreover, a behavior of objects may be investigated.
  • Simulation. The research implies recreating a phenomenon under consideration in the artificial and simplified conditions. Simulation is an experiment. It has practical nature and allows a scientist to be in charge of a situation. An uncomplicated simulation is creating a model of DNA, for instance, or building a miniature plain.
  • Intervention. This investigation concerns systems. Having adopted this technique, a scientist will have to make both positive and negative alternations to a system and observe its reaction. The changes in terms of different aspects, e.g., effectiveness or productiveness, will be recorded. The repercussions of an intervention are usually difficult to predict; therefore, the scope of such research is limited.
  • Chronic research. Such study is about tracking the history of an object. The period, over which it is examined might vary from a decade to a million of years.The object might be non-existent as of today, e.g., dinosaurs, or a recent one, e.g., the presidency of Obama. In fact, everything depends on the research interest of an aspirant.

Beyond doubt, the techniques are combined, as it is quite difficult to write about the development of a wheel, for instance, without describing it, or determine the performance of a system, which was intervened in, without resorting to the evaluation and establishment of specific criteria. Hence, this division into techniques, as well as dissertation types, is rather vague but still helpful to those who just started their way in the world of academics.

In conclusion, before deciding what type of research to undertake, think carefully of whether you are ready to work on such a complicated but still rewarding piece of writing. If yes, proceed with choosing what to study. Mull over your interests and consider the activities that you like or dislike to do. If it helps, you might even do a personality test to determine whether you are a practical down-to-earth person or a theorist fond of philosophizing and thinking of ideas. Besides, decide what you want more: to change the future or to understand past, focus on a limited number of objects or look at a picture comprehensively, work in one specific field or try to unite your versatile interests in a cross-disciplinary dissertation. Remember that your paper will be prominent and well written only if you study something that is indeed close to you and suitable for your kind of personality. In the end, nobody knows you better than yourself. So, listen to your inner voice, be it a heart or intuition, and act as it says.