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How do I Choose the Best Dissertation Software?

A.F. Heath
A.F. Heath

Before choosing dissertation software, first consider what you need to use it for. There are software programs that can assist you with storing a bibliography of citations for your dissertation’s literature review, programs for analyzing data for quantitative or qualitative research and programs for writing the actual dissertation itself. There are also Internet-based applications that can allow you to work remotely and access your dissertation research from any computer. When deciding on bibliography software, consider pricing discounts and the capabilities of the software. For analyzing data, statistical software for quantitative studies typically can handle large amounts of data from surveys or from existing data sets, while software for qualitative studies are usually text analysis programs for interpreting data from interview transcripts. Dissertation software used for writing the actual dissertation is often word-processing programs with built-in guides for writing in a proper style, such as American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA). Also, Internet-based applications are online software programs that can allow you to store your dissertation information remotely, making it accessible from any computer.

When looking for bibliography software, be aware that such software is oftentimes pretty expensive. Also, keep in mind that you may only use this software during the dissertation process and never again. For this reason, educational or limited versions of the software may be more suitable. Many companies offer discounts for students who can verify their attendance through a registration receipt or some other form of proof. Normally, educational and limited versions of many software programs will restrict the functions or the number of data entries that can be stored.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

In considering the capabilities of bibliography software, look for programs that allow you to sort and search data entries by keyword and description. Programs that can automatically format your citations into multiple writing styles, such as APA and MLA, may be particularly helpful. Make sure that the software has an easy interface to use and that the learning curve is not too high. The purpose of using bibliographic software is to assist you with organizing the large number of citations for the literature review; it is not to make life more difficult.

The two types of dissertation software for analyzing research data typically include statistical programs for quantitative data and text analysis programs for working with interview transcripts. Many times, both types of software programs can be quite costly, so you might want to look for software versions specifically made for students. Also, these programs usually take a long time to learn, so choosing a popular program that has plenty of customer support, books and tutorials to help overcome the learning curve may be the way to go. Some colleges even offer courses in using dissertation software to conduct quantitative and qualitative research; this can be helpful for doctoral students who are in the process of completing their dissertation research.

When deciding on dissertation software to use for writing the actual dissertation, consider word-processing programs that have an interface that is easy to learn. Oftentimes, many of these programs have too many unnecessary functions. Also, writing programs that have automated functions for checking spelling and grammar along with support for preset writing styles such APA or MLA can be extremely beneficial. Many writing programs have function buttons that can be customized to format the entire dissertation, including time consuming areas such as the table of contents. In addition, some programs allow for frequently used commands to be performed at the click of one button.

You might also want to consider using Internet-based applications. They can be very helpful and are useful for storing research in online hard drives, analyzing data and sharing research with others. By using online word-processors and statistical programs, you can work on your dissertation research from any computer. Online hard drives can also allow drafts of your research to be shared with your dissertation committee and others who are interested. Also, Internet-based applications are often free and just require registering on a website.

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