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How to write a rationale for your dissertation

Updated February 21, 2017

Students completing a masters or Ph.D. degree must complete a research dissertation. These theses are expected to contribute new information to the body of knowledge in the studied field. The student's dissertation is expected to include a clear statement of the research problem, and the student's reasons for choosing this particular topic. The dissertation should include a concise description of how the student expects to find a solution, and a review of existing literature on the subject. Finally, before discussing the research data, the dissertation should include a rationale, or formal description, of why the student is studying a particular problem, and why the problem is important.

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  1. Write a complete outline for the dissertation. Compose a concise thesis statement which reviews and identifies the problem studied by the research. Students completing an 80 to 100 page formal research dissertation should build a comprehensive outline of the project as their first step.

  2. Describe the problem the dissertation will investigate. After writing a complete outline, refine the research objectives by describing the study problem in detail. This description can be in rough draft form. The final language will be worked into the final draft of the dissertation at a later time.

  3. Compose a rationale, or justification for pursuing the particular research. The rationale section of the dissertation describes why a particular problem is important to the profession, and explains in detail how the research will be conducted. A well constructed rationale demonstrates to the student's advisers that he thoroughly understands his own field of study, problems facing his profession, and that as a professional in the field, the student can make a positive contribution which will improve the entire profession.

  4. Review the dissertation's thesis statement, the project outline, the rationale, and the proposed research. These topics should build successively upon one another. The ideas contained in these individual pieces should all point in the same direction. A cohesive outline, the thesis statement, rationale, and proposed research indicates the student's preparedness and professionalism to a dissertation committee.

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Things You'll Need

  • Dissertation outline
  • Dissertation topic

About the Author

Since 2003, Timothy Burns' writing has appeared in magazines, management and leadership papers. He has contributed to nationally published books and he leads the Word Weavers of West Michigan writers' group. Burns wrote "Forged in the Fire" in 2004, and has published numerous articles online. As a trained conference speaker, Burns speaks nationally on the art, science and inspiration of freelance writing.

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