A dissertation is independent, original research. Good dissertations:
- Are highly interesting to and motivating to the student
- Can be completed in two years or less
- Have theoretical and policy relevance
- Make a substantive contribution to the field
- Serve to promote the student in their job market
The PhD dissertation is an original empirical work that demonstrates the student’s ability to conduct research. This work is completed with frequent discussions with faculty and graduate students and participation in research seminars and presentations. Note that data collection can significantly delay projects. The collection of original field data is unlikely to be feasible without the additional funding support.
A common format for the PhD dissertation is “three papers”, consisting of three separate, stand-alone papers, on related topics, each with their own introduction, literature review, model, methods, results, conclusion, and references. This latter format is designed to make any subsequent publication process easier. The three-paper dissertation normally includes an introductory chapter to provide an overview or context for the three papers and a concluding chapter tying the findings together. Students need to plan carefully of their projects include field work or data collection.