Your thesis/dissertation project
The goal of your doctoral research will be to contribute new and original findings to the field. As you will think about your thesis/dissertation project, you would identify the scientific questions and then identify the experimental approaches, including possible alternatives, you will use to answer the questions. This process will be guided by your theses advisor. You will do a comprehensive review of the literature and write a draft research proposal to discuss with your mentor and advisors.
Managing your time and staying on track during your dissertation research will help to manage your time-to-degree. Creating a reasonable timeline, in consultation with your mentor and advisors, regular analysis of the timeline and your progress, and consistently working to stay on the timeline will be invaluable in helping you to stay on track. You should expect continuous feedback from your peers, mentor, and advisors throughout your dissertation research.
Writing and defending the thesis/dissertation
Earning a PhD is marked by your intellectual development as an independent scientist, including the ability to employ critical thinking skills to address important unanswered questions in biology, human health, or disease. Monitoring your intellectual development is the responsibility of your thesis committee, which usually consists of your thesis advisor and other faculty members. Your thesis committee appraises your development employing a variety of measures, including progress on your dissertation project. When your committee determines that your intellectual development and your research has reached an appropriate level you will be given permission to write and defend your dissertation. Of course you should not wait until your Committee tells you to begin writing; you should begin writing drafts of some sections as early as possible. Some programs may allow you to use your publications as the backbone of your dissertation.
After many drafts, your Committee will approve the written document for the oral defense of your dissertation. The precise format for this will vary from program to program, but most will include a public seminar. Look for opportunities to give presentations of your research throughout your graduate studies. If your program requires an oral examination/defense of your proposal before advancement to candidacy, you will have had a taste of the dissertation defense and you should use that experience as you prepare for the defense.
In preparation for both the writing and oral defense, you should talk with senior students about their experiences, check if your institution offers writing and presentation/communication workshops, and browse the web for resources such as these listed below: