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Five common mistakes to avoid when writing your doctoral dissertation

Business student Farn Sritrairatana shares five common slip-ups to avoid when writing your doctoral dissertation

    Farn Sritrairatana's avatar

    Farn Sritrairatana

    Doctor of business administration (DBA) candidate at the Sasin School of Management
    May 7 2024
    Young female student reading or studying in Library/iStock


    Writing a doctoral dissertation is a significant milestone in your academic journey and it’s essential to do it right. Many students, including myself, make these common mistakes that can hinder progress and affect the quality of your work.  

    So, from my experience, here are five common mistakes to avoid when writing your doctoral dissertation.  

    1. Lack of planning and structure 

    At the beginning of my dissertation journey, I didn’t have a clear plan. I was eager to start as soon as possible, and this led to disorganised writing and a lack of focus.   

    To avoid this mistake, create a detailed outline of your dissertation, including chapter titles and subheadings. This will help you stay on track and ensure that your dissertation is coherent and well organised. 

    1. Ignoring feedback 

    Throughout your coursework, you’ll have several opportunities to present your progress and receive feedback from your cohort, professors and advisers. This feedback is valuable in helping you stay on track and develop your research. 

    Keep track of the feedback you receive as it could lead to identifying a valuable research gap. Be open to receiving critical feedback and be willing to make revisions.  

    This will help you improve the quality of your dissertation and ensure that it meets the requirements of your programme. 

    1. Poor time management 

    Writing a doctoral dissertation requires a significant amount of time and effort. Many students may also have jobs, family commitments and other social responsibilities. Although doctoral programmes are often completed over a few years it’s vital to maintain your momentum throughout. 

    Create a realistic structure to work on your dissertation on a weekly basis, as well as setting goals and milestones. Break down your writing into manageable chunks and set deadlines for each section. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you allocate enough time during your busy schedule to complete your dissertation to the best of your ability. 

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    1. Lack of impact 

    A doctoral dissertation should make a significant contribution to the academic community. At the beginning of my journey, I found it difficult to find a unique perspective and research gap. However, talking to my adviser, professors and peers from industry about my research provided fresh perspectives on my topic.  

    If you already have a topic in mind for your research, considering it from various angles can enhance the impact of your publication. By examining your work from different perspectives, you can uncover new insights and connections that enrich your findings. This broader approach can make your research more meaningful and influential within your field, contributing to its overall significance. 

    1. Ignoring the importance of style and formatting 

    A doctoral dissertation is a formal academic document, and the style and formatting are just as important as the content, especially if you’re planning to submit your research to an academic journal.  

    Throughout your literature review, you’ll come across many writing styles, content structures and document formats. Use the style and format that meets the requirements of your programme and the academic journal that you’re planning to submit.   

    Familiarise yourself with the style and formatting guidelines provided by your discipline to ensure that your dissertation meets these standards.  This will save you time and prevent the need to rewrite your document in the future. 


    Writing a doctoral dissertation is about communicating your research findings and the insights that you’ve gained through your discovery. You’ll experience many highs and lows throughout this long and challenging journey. However, by avoiding some of these common mistakes, you can ensure that your dissertation will be well organised, well researched and provides a new insight to your discipline.  


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