What is a Dissertation? A Quick and Simple Guide

The majority of degrees will culminate in a large assignment called a dissertation. But exactly what is a dissertation? And what does it involve?

The word dissertation is often used interchangeably with thesis. However, there are some important differences between dissertations and theses depending on where you are studying. In some areas of the world, the term thesis is reserved for a major assignment that marks the end of a PhD degree. However, in others, a dissertation and thesis are essentially the same.

For now, we’ll put the term thesis to one side and take a look at what dissertations are and what work they involve.

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a research paper that is submitted as part of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program. The underlying purpose of the dissertation is to enable students to showcase their knowledge and research skills by answering a research question or exploring a proposal of their choosing.

Educational institutions set dissertations to put students’ independent research abilities and curriculum knowledge to the test. In the majority of cases, the dissertation will play a major role in deciding a student’s final grade.

Although your instructors will normally provide some assistance, the dissertation assignment is mostly a self-managed, independent exercise.

The dissertation will likely be the most time-consuming, challenging, and essential task you will complete at university. It can be a stressful experience that involves months of preparation and hard effort. Hint: If you’re putting in the right amount of effort Google Scholar will become your best friend (see our guide to essay tips for more useful tools).

However, if you allow yourself to look beyond the pain of long hours of study and research, you’ll recognize that you can gain a lot from writing a dissertation. It will enable you to explore a topic you are passionate about and, if you play your cards right, you may even be able to publish your research findings in a journal article. The best approach is to choose a research topic that really piques your curiosity.

Link to dissertation proofreading sales page

Different Types of Dissertation

Depending on your degree of study and the topic you are studying, the type of dissertation you write will differ.

Studies typically conform to one of two potential types:

Empirical Dissertations (Typically Sciences)

This form of dissertation entails conducting a small-scale piece of original research. It comprises designing a research project, gathering and analysing primary data, and presenting the findings in a logical and systematic manner.

Non-Empirical Dissertations (Typically Arts and Humanities)

The simplest way to distinguish a non-empirical dissertation from empirical research is to think of it as a piece of scholarship in which the work of others is scrutinised rather than the collection of new, primary data directly through a practical research study. Basically, when you complete a non-empirical study, you are concerned with the work that has already been conducted by others. So, what’s the point? Non-empirical studies play an important role because they help to assimilate existing understanding and research findings.  Furthermore, by studying the work of others, you can significantly increase your knowledge in your area of specialism.

Non-empirical studies extend beyond merely describing the work that has been done in a certain field. In fact, research questions for library-based studies must be as carefully planned for non-empirical studies as they are for any other type of study. The work may then be placed in a specified context, and a critical assessment of its importance, quality, and contribution to theory and application can be made. You must also analyse and assess the research methodologies utilised by the original researchers, make judgements regarding the validity of the studies, and recommend areas for further study.

The form your dissertation takes will depend on your focus and method of study. The table below presents a broad overview of basic differences you can expect between different types of dissertations.

Different Types of Dissertations

Empirical versus non-empirical dissertations. Different types of dissertations.

The Skills You Will Need to Write a Dissertation

Regardless of what form your dissertation takes, you’ll need to demonstrate a set of basic skills.

  • Defining and defining a study topic
  • Developing a research question to guide your study
  • Identifying the most important problems
  • Obtaining essential data and evaluating its credibility and legality
  • Considering both sides of the evidence
  • Arriving at a well-thought-out conclusion
  • Organizing and presenting the results of your study in a critical, compelling, and eloquent manner while adhering to all formatting rules (see our guide to APA formatting for more assistance).

How long should a dissertation be?

The word count for a dissertation depends on the level at which you are studying, the academic institution you are attending, and the subject you are studying. However, you can typically expect a dissertation to be around 10,000-12,000 words for undergraduates, 15,000-25,000 words for master’s students, and up to 50,000 words or more for PhD students. According to Harvard’s dissertation guidelines, when writing longer dissertations, it can be useful to organize your work in the form of chapters.

Link to dissertation proofreading sales page

The Dissertation and the Viva

In some countries, you may need to complete an oral examination on your dissertation findings. This is known as a viva (short for viva voca, which translates as “live voice” from Latin). However, generally speaking, only PhD candidates are required to complete a viva.

The viva normally begins with you making a brief presentation of your work to two or three professors, followed by a question-and-answer session that can run up to two hours.

Don’t take shortcuts!

Finally, it should go without saying that paying someone to write your dissertation for you or cheating in any other manner is not a good idea. It’s not worth the risk because the dissertation is intended as a practical activity to show off your abilities. However, it is acceptable to ask for a friend or qualified proofreading service to review your dissertation for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.

New Vappingo Platform Launching Soon

Let’s start afresh!

When Vappingo first launched back in 2009, things were a little different.

Blackberries were all the rage, NetFlix was primarily a DVD delivery company, MySpace was still popular, and sixteen-year-old Miley Cyrus was better known for playing Hannah Montana than she was for twerking.

Yep, the world has moved on somewhat since Vappingo’s launch, and it’s time for a fresh new look.

We’re delighted to announce that we will shortly be going live with a completely new underlying application (that’s the software that drives the sections of the website you use to place an order, get in touch with your editor, request revisions, etc.).

You’ll still be able to access our services and Your Vappingo via the main website (www.vappingo.com); however, once you sign in, things will look a bit different. Hopefully, you will find the user experience intuitive, user-friendly, and an overall upgrade on the Vappingo of old.

Some of the improvements you will benefit from are as follows:

  • Invoices will now be sent instantly upon receipt of your order
  • You will have the ability to delete old orders from the system
  • You will be able to pay using different options, including PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, and offline payment options (including bank transfer)
  • You will have the capability to maintain a wallet balance to make placing orders quicker and easier
  • You will have access to an improved dashboard on which you can place new orders, track order history, get in touch with your editor, download files, view transaction history, and top-up your wallet balance

Due to GDPR requirements and to protect your data, we have opted not to migrate customer accounts from the old platform to the new platform. As such, to access our new system, you will need to create a new account with Vappingo, which typically takes less than 30 seconds.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why can’t I access my old account? My existing username and password are not working.

You will need to create a new account to access the new Vappingo application. The Vappingo website may look very similar to the old site; however, the underlying functionality has been completely updated. You can use your old username and password to create a new account if you wish.

Why did you not just migrate my account to the new system?

Due to a change in our technology requirements, we have moved on from the fantastic developers who have worked with us over the past 10+ years to access a new set of skills. To operate in accordance with GDPR requirements and our privacy policy, we have not provided the new developers with access to your data. As such, you will need to register a new account to access the site.

How can I track or manage my existing order?

Simply drop us a message at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to help you with any queries about your order.

What if I want to access my old orders?

Simply drop us a message at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to help you dig out any of your previous orders.

If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the usual methods (click here). Or if you’re ready to start a fresh new journey with us right away…

Register a new account now!

APA Checklist: A Definitive Guide to APA Rules

A super simple APA checklist that covers all the APA rules you need to know for your essays and dissertations.

APA checklist guide to APA rules

The news that an essay or dissertation has to be formatted in APA can come as a big blow to a sleep-deprived student.

It’s not enough that you have to research a paper, try and put it all together in a format that makes sense, and proofread the dastardly thing… now you are being asked to apply some cultish APA formatting rules that seem so complicated they make Steven Hawking look simple.

With so many APA rules to follow, it can be extremely challenging to make sure you have covered them all in your essay.

Seriously, just how can your professor expect you to read all these standards and apply them to format your essay correctly?

It gets worse: The official guide is updated on a regular basis, which only adds to the confusion.

Here’s some good news:

When you’re asked to write an APA essay or edit a dissertation, all you need is our handy APA checklist. Yup, for real!

We’ve trawled through all the APA rules for you and extracted the most important requirements to create this handy APA checklist.

The cherry on the cake:

It’s completely free for you to print out and keep!

Here’s a breakdown of what our APA checklist contains. You can go right ahead and jump to the section that is most relevant to you.

APA Checklist: A Really Simple Guide to APA Rules
APA style guide joke

APA Rules: Title Page

Checklist of APA rules for title page and general formatting

  • Running head: SHORT ALL CAPS TITLE. This is flush left, 1/2 inch from the top. Title should match the title of the paper. However, it can be shortened if required (recommended length is less than 50 characters including spaces).
  • Page number, flush right on the same line as running head.
  • Full title in title case. Double spaced, centered, upper half of the page. Times New Roman 12 pt. font. No other formatting (bold, italics, or underlining).
  • Name. Double spaced, centered under title. Times New Roman 12 pt. font. No other formatting (bold, italics, or underlining).
  • Name of university. Double spaced, centered under name. Times New Roman 12 pt. font. No other formatting (bold, italics, or underlining).
  • Plagiarism statement (where applicable).

APA Rules: General Requirements

  • The header on each page after the title page contains the title in all caps, starting from the left margin. The Header matches that provided on the title page. However, the words “Running head” only appear on the title page.
  • Page number, flush right on the same line as running head.
  • Entire document double spaced.
  • Spacing between sentences is two spaces.
  • Margins are 1 inch on all sides, top, bottom.
  • Paragraphs in the body of the paper are indented 5-7 spaces or one tab stop.

APA Rules: Headings

Checklist of APA rules for headings, abstract, and lists

  • Level 1: Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings.
  • Level 2: Left-aligned, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading.
  • Level 3: Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period.
  • Level 4: Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.
  • Level 5: Indented, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.

APA Rules: Abstract Page

  • Not all academic papers require an abstract.
  • The abstract appears on Page 2 of the paper, after the title page.
  • The title, Abstract, is centered, 1 inch from the top of the page. It is not in bold. Times New Roman standard 12 pt. font. The abstract is 150-250 words and is block style aligned to the left.

APA Rules: Lists

  • Lists can be enumerated or bulleted.
  • For short lists, use the format, (a), (b), etc., in a single sentence. For a list of longer sentences, use a list format:
    • a.
    • b.
    • c.
  • Bullets can be used if they better represent the contents of the list.

APA Rules: In-text Citations

Checklist of APA rules for citations

  • All sources cited in the paper text are also in the “References” list with the exception of classical works and personal communications.
  • Direct quotations are followed the name of the author (or title if no author), date of publication, and specific page or paragraph number of source (Moore, 2019, p.6).
  • All quotations < 40 words are enclosed in quotation marks. The parenthetical phrase comes before the closing punctuation.
  • All quotations > 40 words are shown as an indented block quote with no additional beginning paragraph indenting or punctuation marks. The parenthetical phrase comes after the closing punctuation.
  • Paraphrased in-text citations include the author name (or reference title if no author), the date of publication and, preferably, the specific page, paragraph, or section of the source that was paraphrased.
  • The names of those that contributed to multi-author sources with > 3 and < 6 authors are all provided on the first instance. Thereafter, the first author is noted followed by “et al.” (Moore et al., 1998).
  • When more than six authors contributed to the source, the first author is noted followed by the Latin phrase et al.
  • If the in-text citation is included in the body of text and covers multiple authors, the word “and” is spelled out: Moore, James, and Holmes (2018). When an author name is repeated within a paragraph, with no other sources used in between, the date can be omitted from the in-text citation.

APA Rules: References

Checklist of APA rules for references

Checklist of APA rules for references and figures

  • The page title, References, is centered, 1 inch from the top of the page on a new page. Times New Roman 12 pt. font. No other formatting (bold, italics, or underlining).
  • All sources listed in the References section have at least one corresponding in-text citation.
  • References are listed in alphabetical order.
  • All lines are double spaced.
  • Each entry commences with a hanging indent. For digital articles, a DOI is provided at the end, if available. This takes the form of either doi:10.xxx/xxx.xxxx OR http://dx.doi.org/10.xxx/xxx.xxxx. If there is no DOI for digital articles, the publisher’s home web site is provided.
  • Initials are only provided for first and/or second names of authors. There is a space between initials, e.g., Moore, S. E. If there are multiple authors, they are listed in the order in which they appear in the original source.
  • Author names are separated by commas (even for two authors) and an ampersand is used before the last name. Titles of books, journals, and technical reports are given in italics, as are journal titles and volume numbers.
  • Titles of books, journal articles, websites are in lower case except for the first word after a colon and any proper nouns.
  • The title of article that is extracted from a webpage on a larger website is not italicized. Likewise, journal article titles and book article titles are not italicized.
  • If a citation ends with a URL, all hyperlinking (blue, underline) is removed and there is no period at the end of the hyperlink.
  • Issue numbers are enclosed in parenthesis and not formatted with italics.
  • Pages numbers are given as a range (e.g., 45-56) without using p. or pp. except for newspapers or magazines without a volume and issue number.
  • Publication information (books) includes the state two-letter code with the city and country written out in full for all international cities. All other sources, e.g., media, books, etc., are referenced according to the APA 6e Guide.

APA Rules: Figures

  • Figures are numbered with Arabic numerals (Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3) below the figure, flush left and in italics.
  • Captions that describe the content of the figure are placed next to the figure number immediately below the figure and are not italicized.
  • The figure is referenced within the text; e.g., “As shown in Table 1.”

APA Rules: Tables

Checklist of APA rules for tables and proofreading

  • Tables are numbered with Arabic numerals (Table 1, Table 2, Table 3) at the top, flush left.
  • The table title is below the table label (e.g., Table 1) and is in italics.
  • The table is referenced within the text; e.g., “As shown in Table 1.”
  • Horizontal rules (lines) are limited. There is always a rule under the heads and before any notes.
  • Any explanatory notes should be proceeded by the word “Note.” in italics, flush left.
  • Reference to the source should be included in the note.

APA Rules: Proofreading

Of course, it isn’t enough to just follow all the rules. You need to make sure your essay or dissertation doesn’t contain any minor spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors. If proofreading really isn’t your thing. Leave it to a professional! Check out our dissertation proofreading services. Our native-English experts will meticulously check your dissertation to make sure it doesn’t contain any errors that detract from the quality of your research.

If you do insist on proofreading your essay or dissertation for yourself. Take a look out for the following:

  • Personal pronouns and rhetorical questions only appear when absolutely necessary.
  • Sequence of paper is Title Page > Abstract (where required), Body of Paper, References > Tables > Figures > Appendices.
  • Contractions and slang are not used.
  • Numbers below ten are spelled out in full.
  • Numbers above ten are in Arabic numerals.
  • Paper has been proofread by a professional proofreader.

And there we have it. A complete guide to all the APA rules you need to take into consideration within academic documents in one handy little checklist. You can download a free printable PDF version of the APA checklist by clicking on the image below.

Free Printable APA Checklist PDF

APA checklist free PDF download

7 Grammar Mistakes you Should Give the Boot in 2015

Happy New Year 2015As you wave goodbye to 2014 and look forward to the excitement that 2015 promises, you’ve no doubt already signed up for a Zumba class and sworn to ditch the ice cream fueled movie nights, but have you taken a look at your written English recently?

Let’s welcome 2015 by looking at how a misplaced comma can make you look like a turkey, how an actor wearing a dress can cause some confusion and why ending a sentence with a proposition could lose you the woman of your dreams.

Happy New Year!

Seven Common Grammar Mistakes to Ditch in 2015

1. Using ‘literally’ figuratively

Literal versus figurative funny

If there’s one quick and easy way to look uneducated, this is the one. Let’s get one thing straight: literally means the literal use of a word (of course it does). When you use the word literally, you are not being figurative, symbolic, or in any way metaphorical. Why then, do people use this word to describe situations that are figurative, symbolic, or in some way metaphorical?

“He literally exploded with rage.” Did he? Really? Wow! I would not like to have been around in the grisly aftermath of that.

“The band literally raised the roof.” That’s quite a feat. Hopefully, it wasn’t raining.

“She literally went on an emotional rollercoaster.” Can we ride on this one at Disney?

When you write, “literally…” in an important document, make sure you are describing something exactly as it happened; be literal. When it comes to writing essays, personal statements, business documents or any other important document, you do not want to be accidentally entertaining; it will literally damage your credibility. To avoid embarrassing mistakes, make sure you have your text proofread by a professional proofreading service.

2. Dangling the participle

A dangling participle is a verb that has been incorrectly attached to the beginning or end of a sentence. The great thing about dangling participles is that they can be extremely funny. Here are a few examples of the use of dangling participles to humorous effect:

The family lawyer will read the will tomorrow at the residence of Mr. Hannon, who died June 19 to accommodate his relatives. (How very considerate of him.)

Decked out in a stunning vintage Versace gown, the man couldn’t take his eyes off his Academy Awards date. (Each to their own.)

The problem with these examples is that the participle phrase that commences the sentence is not intended to modify what follows. To avoid errors like this, you should always ensure you keep your modifiers next to your modifiees and that the opening phrase does belong with the sentence that follows.

3. The dreaded comma splice

The comma splice is a very common mistake in which a comma is used to join two independent clauses.

Incorrect: The brontosaurus fell into the toilet, the stegosaurus followed.

There are three quick methods you can use to fix a comma splice:

  1. Replace the comma with a semi-colon: The brontosaurus fell into the toilet; the stegosaurus followed.
  2. Separate the two clauses into two individual sentences: The brontosaurus fell into the toilet. The stegosaurus followed.
  3. Use a coordinating conjunction (so, but, are, and, etc.) to connect the two independent phrases: The brontosaurus fell into the toilet, and the stegosaurus followed.

The option that is most suitable may depend on the nature of the independent clauses. But whatever you do, don’t even consider using the comma splice or your reader will think you’re a turkey—and not a smart one at that.

Read more: When to use a comma: 15 comma rules

4. Using “alot”

“A lot” is acceptable English. “Alot” is not even a word. Lesson over.

5. Ending a sentence with a proposition

This one is best described with a joke:

Preposition joke

…and that is why you should never end a sentence with a preposition. Not sure what a preposition is? Take a look at our guide to how to identify prepositions. If that doesn’t float your boat, you could try these preposition games.

6. Incorrectly placement of the word “only”

Now, before this post attracts some strongly worded comments, I recognize that this is technically not a grammatical error. However, it crops up so often that it’s worth looking at.

One of the quickest methods of changing the entire meaning of a sentence is to change the position of the word “only.” 

  • Only the new flying machine operating manual confused the gremlin. (He was completely at ease with the old one?)
  • The new flying machine operating manual only confused the gremlin. (He had no other feelings?)
  • The new flying machine operating manual confused only the gremlin. (Everyone else thought it was straightforward?)
  • The new flying machine operating manual confused the only gremlin. (There were no other gremlins?)

While none of these sentences are grammatically incorrect, the incorrect positioning of the word only can be a source of great confusion and can cause your reader to completely misunderstand your intended message. Trust me; this happens A LOT (not alot). If you have even a tiny doubt about where the word only should be placed, do not use it at all.

7. Confusing “accept” and “except”

Accept versus accept grammar tip

It’s amazing how many people can’t tell the difference between the words accept and except. Here’s a simple way to differentiate. The “x” in except excludes things. Once you accept this, you’ll have it covered.

Need a little help with your written English? Check out our online editing and proofreading services now. New year, new start.

When to Hyphenate Numbers

Why we need hyphens in numbersKnowing when to hyphenate numbers is important because the correct use of the hyphen helps your reader to understand which numbers are part of a given adjective and avoids any ambiguity.

Let’s look at the example on the left.

Is the guy working twenty shifts that are each four hours long, twenty-four shifts that are each an hour long? Or shifts that last twenty-four hours in total?

As you can see, where you place the hyphen in the number can make a significant difference to the meaning of the sentence.

Read moreWhen to Hyphenate Numbers

101 Words That are Both Plural and Singular

Plural of moose?


The majority of nouns have distinct plural and singular forms. However, there are a number of special words that are spelled and pronounced exactly the same way in both their singular and plural forms. Here are 101 words that are both singular and plural.

If you are not sure how to convert a singular noun into a plural noun, check out our guide to how to convert a singular noun to a plural noun.

Read more101 Words That are Both Plural and Singular

The Difference Between Eg and Ie

Do you know when to use e.g. or i.e.?

E.g. and i.e. mistakes are spotted on a regular basis by our proofreading team. In this article we take a look at the differences between the two latin abbreviations and explore how they can be used correctly in written English.

Have you ever seen a sentence that looks like this?

The Loch Ness Monster had the most amazing dreams, i.e. last night he dreamt he was an award-winning tightrope walker.


I.e. is actually an abbreviation of the Latin term id est, which means that is. I.e. should be used to clarify a fact or make something clearer.

If we were to replace the abbreviation i.e. in the above sentence with the Latin term it would look like this: The Loch Ness Monster had the most amazing dreams, that is, last night he dreamt he was an award-winning tightrope walker.

This implies that the Loch Ness Monster only ever dreamt of being a tightrope walker; this is not true. The abbreviation that should have been used is e.g., which means for example:

The Loch Ness Monster had the most amazing dreams; e.g., last night he dreamt he was an award-winning tightrope walker.


When to use i.e.

You should use i.e. when you want to explain something you have written by adding more information:

Swimming with a crocodile is like driving a dodgem car with your eyes closed; i.e., it’s not the most inspired idea.

The hobbit had attempted to jump the fence but missed and looked like a total buffoon; i.e., he made a bit of a fool of himself.


When to use e.g.

Use e.g. when you want to provide examples of something. E.g.:

The gremlin’s foul stench entailed that he was not allowed in many public places; e.g., Starbucks, Taco Bell and Walmart have all asked him never to visit their premises again.

The troll had a long shopping list that consisted mostly of out-of-stock items; e.g., Snail hair, essence of unicorn and salt and vinegar toenails.

So there we have it, you now have absolutely NO excuse for not knowing when to use e.g. or i.e.

86 Great Examples of Portmanteau

Portmanteau Frankenfood

A portmanteau is a word that is formed by combining two different terms to create a new entity. Through blending the sounds and meanings of two existing words, a portmanteau creates a new expression that is a linguistic blend of the two individual terms.

For example breathalyzer is the portmanteau word formed from combining breath and analyzer, while blog is derived from the source words web and log.

Read more86 Great Examples of Portmanteau

54 Great Examples of Modern-Day Neologisms

Sign reads: "they haven't invented words yet for what I will do to you"
Neologisms are newly coined terms, words, or phrases, that may be commonly used in everyday life but have yet to be formally accepted as constituting mainstream language. Neologisms represent the evolving nature of the English language. Over time people create new words that express concepts or ideas that were previously expressed using other words or use words that may not have existed at all. Neologisms can be completely new words, new meanings for existing words or new semes in existing words. Here are some examples of neologisms that are finding their way into modern-day English language.

Read more54 Great Examples of Modern-Day Neologisms

64 Examples of Oxymorons in Sentences

Oxymoron signs placed side by side

Oxymorons are figures of speech in which two contradictory terms are combined in order to create a rhetorical effect by paradoxical means. The word oxymoron is derived from the Greek for pointedly foolish (oxys = sharp/keen and moros = foolish). Oxymorons are extremely useful in written English because they can make effective titles, add dramatic effect, add flavor to speech, and can sometimes be used to achieve a comedic effect. Here is a comprehensive list of 64 examples of oxymorons in sentences. In each example, the oxymoron is underlined.

Read more64 Examples of Oxymorons in Sentences