Dissertation is a very specific way to write what we call a “paper.” In France, this style is used in academics and the professional world alike.

The Necessities

  • Personal reaction: Be sincere, though not informal.
  • Use examples to affirm your point. Using examples limits verbiage, generalities, and banalities.
  • Be clear and coherent : A good paper should resemble a mathematical proof more than a lyrical flood of words. Be understandable and operate by the Law of Occam’s Razor (the simplest explanation tends to be the best one.)
  • Outline : Getting your ideas on paper is harder than coming up with them in the first place. In order to convey your ideas effectively to the reader, outline!

The Schema of a Dissertation

In order to write a dissertation, you need a problem or problématique. Situate that problem within your topic or subject. Do not begin to write without these ideas in mind.


  • The introduction must rapidly situate and introduce the problem. Cite briefly.
  • Give an idea of the movement of the paper, but do not announce each step of your work.
  • Define key words.
  • Attract the reader!  

The Body 

Separated into parts and paragraphs, where each part is a main point in the problem and each paragraph is one idea or one aspect of an idea.

  • The Dialectical Plan
    • Thesis – often the predominant point of view (the most common analysis)
    • Antithesis
    • Synthesis: Establish some nuanced truth in between the two arguments or overcome of the initial contradiction by bringing in additional information.
  • “Problem-Cause-Solution” Plan: Introduce and define a problem, pinpoint its causes, and propose a solution.
  • The Inventory Plan: For a rare case when a paper does not present a solution to a problem. Example prompt: What benefits and what pleasures can be taken from reading a good novel? Use precise examples from your personal life.
    • Separate your argument into parts (in this case, two: benefits and pleasures)
    • Order your arguments within each part
  • The Comparative Plan, in which reflection is born of the comparison of different facts or concepts. There are two rules for this type of paper: (1) Each element of comparison constitutes a section or “part” of the paper (2) the opposition posed at the beginning of the paper should follow until the end of the piece.
    • first element of comparison (one point of view on an issue, for example)
    • second element of comparison (an opposing point of view)
    • Meditation on the facts presented in the first two parts
  • Explication-Illustration or Formula/commentary Plan
    • Explanation of the formula (definition, par ex.)
    • Commentary on the formula, for example, expansion of a definition, comments on appropriateness

The Conclusion

A conclusion must be written in the spirit of synthesis and with logical rigor. Coming to the end of an argument, a conclusion must be concise and strong. If desired, it can situate the results or thesis a more general sense.

(Desalmand, Paul and Tort, Patrick. Du plan à la dissertation. Paris : 1977)