The term dissertation refers to an in-depth paper written by a graduate student that adds to the subject area's collective body of knowledge. Dissertations are written by students seeking a doctoral degree from a university.
Graduate-level students seeking a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree are typically required to complete coursework, maintain a minimum grade point average, conduct research, and contribute to a body of knowledge through a written dissertation. The document will then go through a review by university professors. Finally, the candidate will usually participate in an oral examination, during which university professors will challenge the conclusions drawn in the dissertation.
The dissertation will usually involve a research project or extensive analysis of a very specific topic. Universities oftentimes are very prescriptive with respect to the content and style of the dissertation. Generally, the document will include the following sections:
When a student completes all of their Ph.D. requirements except for a dissertation, the student may indicate on their resume or curriculum vitae the name of the degree followed by ABD (All But Dissertation). Statistics indicate that as many as 50% of Ph.D. students do not complete their dissertation.