I am a first-year psychology doctoral student (PsyD) and am forming my dissertation topic. I am having trouble finding a really good book or article that outlines the guts of what makes a good dissertation. Really understanding the core purpose of this requirement for my degree is important to me (instead of just ping-ponging through the process until it's done) because I am creative and have some unorthodox ideas that I'd like to fit into the dissertation framework. So knowing the limits will help me be creative within them. The faculty in my program are great but I am a bit of an anomaly with my goals and need to gather all the resources I can.

FWIW, right now I am looking at an integral lit review between Murray Bowen's "emotional system" in Family Systems Theory and the core Buddhist teachings of Vipassana. The goal will be to show that they were "proposing" the same core construct of human functioning. Should be very challenging.

Thank you!

  • Hi patrickkidd, for future reference: if your question is off topic on the first SE site you try, you should either delete it before posting it on another SE site, or flag for a moderator to migrate it for you. Cross-posting is generally against the rules.
    – ff524
    May 19, 2016 at 9:49
  • Ah, I wasn't aware of that, thank you. Does that mean I should delete this one now? May 22, 2016 at 6:17
  • No, the version on Cog Sci was deleted, so now there's just one copy, here.
    – ff524
    May 22, 2016 at 6:18

3 Answers 3


I can easily suggest you some articles, which enlighten me a lot about puuting my ideas into theoretical framework which is one of the most important part to create outline for dissertation.

  • Cynthia Grant, Azadeh Osanloo (2014). Understanding, Selecting, And Integrating a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the Bluepring for your "House".
  • Mariltn K. Simon, Jim Goes (2011). Developing a Theoretical Framework

If you wish to dig in more, those articles will be great startpoint for you, "Research Methodology" is one of the most important issue you have to understand deeply, in order to develop your research perfectly from beginning. So for this point, I can suggest you "reverse engineering" minded approach, do critique for your own research, here is an amazint article guideline for critiquing research in both quantitative and qualitative research approaches:

  • Michael Coughlan, Patricia Cronin, Frances Ryan (2007). Step-by-step quife to critiquing research. Part 1: quantitative research.
  • Michael Coughlan, Patricia Cronin, Frances Ryan (2007). Step-by-step quife to critiquing research. Part 2: qualitative research.

I'm sure they'll give you a lot idea about how to develop your framework and what details you should consider. Additionally, try to look for a Research Methodology course from your university or over internet!

  • Thanks for the focus about methodology. When I asked the question I assumed I could think more in general about doctoral dissertations, but your information helps narrow it down a little more. May 19, 2016 at 7:24

The goal will be to show that they were "proposing" the same core construct of human functioning.

You should consider starting with a question, rather than a preselected answer. For example, consider the goal of

Analyze the similarities and differences between the constructs of human functioning proposed by Murray Bowen's "emotional system" in Family Systems Theory and the core Buddhist teachings of Vipassana.

The difference lies in how you will view anything that suggests differences. With your current goal you could be tempted to ignore or downplay differences. With a more open-minded goal you will be more able to give balanced treatment to everything you find out during your research.

  • The two approaches seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum; the first is an ungrounded answer, while the second amounts to "let's collect some data". The best middle ground is, IMO, to ask a more or less specific question (form a hypothesis), then decide what kind of data will prove or disprove the hypothesis, then go ahead with collecting the data. Of course, things quickly get more complicated along the line.
    – LLlAMnYP
    May 18, 2016 at 8:05
  • So long as we are being anally retentive, the question was about sources describing dissertation rather than helping to form a question. But I suppose it's a good practice to always be wording things correctly regardless of formality. At any rate I am marking the other response the correct answer as it suggests information as asked for in the question. May 19, 2016 at 7:22

If on a first year you know what your thesis' title would be, you could either be hallucinating or you are genius and a postgraduate degree is pretty easy for you. Kidding aside couple of things:

Put a Title On a Work That is Done: Ok, I have a thesis with the title: "Internet 4.0, Where Digital Horses are Running Wild". Does this mean, I did any of that? Absolutely not! So you see put a title that it represents your work; the one that you already achieved. This brings me to the second point.

Writing is Challenging: Writing of a thesis is a challenging process, and not everything will come full circle, so sometimes you will need drop things, which means your thesis' title needs to be modified. More than that, you might start in one domain and you realize you were wrong for the last N months. Yes I know the supervisor need to monitor you through your path, but not all the time they come through.

Narrow Things Down Over Time: You choose a domain, and as you go along, you should narrow things down. Don't be so sure at first, keep working at it and see where your contribution will be. Then when you are done, put a title on it. The whole idea is flexibility and not pinning yourself down from the start.

  • We'll find out! I've been rolling this one around in my mind for about 6 years so I already have some momentum. May 19, 2016 at 7:25

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