Exploring Different Dissertation Writing Styles and Approaches


Embarking on a dissertation journey is a significant milestone in any academic pursuit. As the culmination of years of research and study, a dissertation is a testament to a student’s mastery of a subject. One crucial aspect that separates dissertations is the diverse array of writing styles and approaches scholars adopt.

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In this exploration, we will explore the various dissertation writing styles and approaches, highlighting their differences and the unique characteristics that define them.

Understanding Dissertation Writing Styles

Dissertation writing styles can vary based on the institution’s discipline, academic level, and specific requirements. Students must navigate these styles to ensure their work aligns with scholarly norms. ere, we will discuss some common styles:

  1. APA (American Psychological Association) Style:
    • The APA style is widely used in the social sciences and emphasizes clarity and conciseness.
    • In-text citations and references follow a specific format, ensuring proper attribution of sources.
    • Tables and figures are integrated seamlessly into the text for a cohesive presentation.
  2. MLA (Modern Language Association) Style:
    • Predominantly used in the humanities, the MLA style strongly emphasizes proper citation of sources.
    • It includes a works cited page that lists all sources used in the dissertation.
    • MLA style encourages a standardized approach to formatting and citation.
  3. Chicago/Turabian Style:
    • This approach, divided into two sub-styles (Chicago and Turabian), is common in history, literature, and some social sciences.
    • Chicago style uses footnotes or endnotes for citations, while Turabian is a simplified version suitable for student research.
  4. Harvard Style:
    • Commonly employed in the social and natural sciences, the Harvard style utilizes an author-date citation system.
    • References are listed alphabetically at the end of the dissertation.
    • It encourages a clear and concise writing style emphasizing critical analysis.

Approaches to Dissertation Writing

Beyond styles, the approach to crafting a dissertation can vary significantly. Different disciplines and academic traditions may influence the structure and methodology employed. Let’s explore a few key approaches:

  1. Empirical Research Approach:
    • This approach involves collecting and analyzing primary data.
    • Quantitative methods, such as surveys or experiments, are often employed.
    • A detailed methodology section outlines the research design and data collection procedures.
  2. Literature-Based Approach:
    • Also known as a desk-based approach, this method relies on a comprehensive literature review.
    • Scholars critically analyze and synthesize existing research to draw meaningful conclusions.
    • The emphasis is on theoretical contributions and synthesizing diverse perspectives.
  3. Case Study Approach:
    • The case study approach involves an in-depth analysis of one or more cases, ideal for exploring a specific phenomenon.
    • Qualitative methods, including interviews and observations, are commonly used.
    • Findings are often presented through detailed narratives.
  4. Mixed-Methods Approach:
    • This approach combines qualitative and quantitative research methods.
    • Researchers seek to benefit from the strengths of both methodologies to provide a comprehensive understanding of the research problem.
    • A well-structured design integrates both data types for a holistic view.


Differences between writing style and approach

Aspect Writing Style Approach
Definition Refers to the conventions and rules for presenting information, including formatting, citation, and language use. Encompass the overall strategy or methodology employed to conduct research and develop the dissertation.
Examples APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard Empirical Research, Literature-Based, Case Study, Mixed-Methods
Focus Dictates how information is presented, cited, and organized in the dissertation. Guides the overall research design and methodology, influencing data collection and analysis.
Disciplinary Variations Varies based on the academic discipline and institutional requirements. Varies based on the nature of the research problem, the researcher’s preferences, and the academic field.
Application Applied consistently throughout the entire dissertation. Applied predominantly in the methodology section and the overall research design.
Citation Style Determines how sources are cited within the text and listed in the bibliography or references section. Does not involve citation but shapes the research process, influencing the choice of research methods and data analysis.
Reader Engagement Affects the readability and coherence of the dissertation, enhancing or detracting from the overall impact. Shapes how readers engage with the research content, influencing their understanding of the research problem and findings.
Flexibility May be specified by institutions or disciplines, allowing for little flexibility. Offers greater flexibility, allowing researchers to adapt their approach based on the unique requirements of their study.


Understanding the nuances of different styles and approaches is crucial in the vast landscape of dissertation writing. Whether you’re conducting empirical research, diving into existing literature, or employing a mixed-methods approach, aligning your writing style and methodology is very important. By navigating these diverse approaches and mastering the associated writing styles, you can confidently embark on your dissertation journey. You can produce scholarly work that reflects your expertise and your chosen field’s unique characteristics.