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Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

How to Write Your Best Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

❶This is a useful check on whether amalgamation of sections, or creation of further sections or sub-sections is needed.

Why Do so Many People Have Trouble with the Dissertation?

Step 1: Write a winning dissertation proposal
To The Candidate:

I remember first encountering the Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook, feeling my heart sink at how long the massive file took to download, and began to think about possible but in hindsight, wildly over-ambitious topics. Here's what I've learned since, and wish I'd known back then…. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else — providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it.

In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email.

They are your lifeline and your best chance of success. So prepare for looks of confusion and disappointment. People anticipate grandeur in history dissertation topics — war, genocide, the formation of modern society. They don't think much of researching an obscure piece of s disability legislation.

But they're not the ones marking it. You'll end up paranoid — or they will. To do this you need to:. This can lead logically into a clear statement of the research question s or problem s you will be addressing. In addition to the research context, there may be other relevant contexts to present for example:.

It can be difficult to identify the best order for sections in this chapter because the rationale for your choice of specific research question can be complicated, and there may be several inter-linked reasons why the research is needed. It is worth taking time to develop a logical structure as this will help to convince examiners of the relevance of your research, and that you understand its relevance.

It will also provide you with a framework to refer back to in your discussion chapter, when you reflect on the extent to which your research has achieved what it set out to do. In these chapters a straightforward description is required of how you conducted the research. If you used particular equipment, processes, or materials, you will need to be clear and precise in how you describe them. You must give enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study.

You will need to check which style of reporting is preferred in your field. For example a scientific dissertation would probably have very clear separation between the results and the discussion of those results; whereas a social science dissertation might have an overall chapter called Findings, bringing the results and their discussion together.

This is where you review your own research in relation to the wider context in which it is located. You can refer back to the rationale that you gave for your research in the literature review, and discuss what your own research has added in this context. It is important to show that you appreciate the limitations of your research, and how these may affect the validity or usefulness of your findings. Given the acknowledged limitations, you can report on the implications of your findings for theory, research, and practice.

This chapter tends to be much shorter than the Discussion. This section needs to be highly structured, and needs to include all of your references in the required referencing style. As you edit and rewrite your dissertation you will probably gain and lose references that you had in earlier versions.

It is important therefore to check that all the references in your reference list are actually referenced within the text; and that all the references that appear in the text appear also in the reference list. You need to check whether or not the appendices count within the word limit for your dissertation. Items that can usefully go in the appendices are those that a reader would want to see, but which would take up too much space and disrupt the flow if placed within the main text.

Again, make sure you reference the Appendices within the main text where necessary. If your dissertation is well-structured, easy to follow, logical, and coherent, your examiners will probably enjoy reading it, and will be able to listen to your argument without the distraction of trying to make all the links themselves. The only way to achieve a consistent argument throughout a piece of writing is by creating some kind of plan or map of what you want to say.

It can be useful to think of the research question or topic going like a strong thread throughout the dissertation: Moving from doing the research to writing a comprehensive account of it is not necessarily easy. It can be helpful to break the task down into smaller, more easily accomplished elements. The process of producing your writing plan could go as follows.

It can be a good idea to put the word limit to the back of your mind at this point, and concentrate on getting everything recorded in a document. You can always edit upwards or downwards later as necessary. It is likely, and advisable, that you will not wait until the end of your research before starting to write it up.

You may be required to produce one or more chapters for assessment part way through your research. The process described above can be used for any individual chapter you are working on. It is important to be prepared to critique and revise your own work several times. A thesis, on the other hand, is crafted for the completion of a Master's degree.

However, the term dissertation is also used for the final project that PhD candidates present before gaining their doctoral degree. It doesn't matter whether we are talking about an undergraduate or PhD dissertation; the form of the assignment is very similar, although the PhD project is much more serious.

This guide will be useful both for undergraduate and PhD students, who are working on their dissertation projects, as well as for students developing theses for MA programs. Most candidates usually start with great enthusiasm, but this intimidating project can throw them to despair.

The process of planning, research, and writing will be the longest and most complex challenge you've ever committed to. The end result will be very rewarding, but you might go through several obstacles to get to that point. These are some of the most common problems students have when writing their dissertations:. Although the challenge seems overwhelming, the important thing is to start from the beginning and complete each stage step by step.

We have a guide that will show you the right direction. As the term itself suggests, this is a proposal for the final dissertation project, which should persuade the committee members that you're going to commit to a valuable, interesting, and complex questions. This is a shorter paper than the final dissertation, but it's equally as important because this is the point when you'll think of a significant question and you'll set up a plan for assembling information and writing the paper.

Even if the proposal is not mandatory in your university, you should still write it and discuss the points with your mentor. These are the main points to pay attention to when wondering how to write a dissertation proposal:. Do you want to find out more about choosing your dissertation topic? Check out our article. All these questions are important for making the final commitment.

Make sure to brainstorm and choose a theme that will be valuable, unique, and reasonable. You don't want to end up with a too complex question that would trick you in a dead end. The question you choose should lead you to a testable hypothesis that you can prove with strong arguments.

Discuss few alternatives of the dissertation title with your mentor before you start writing the proposal. If you want to make the proposal convincing, its format has to be clean and easy to follow.

Here are the points you should include in the proposal:. The dissertation research stage is going to determine the overall development of your project.

It has to be methodical and effective, since you don't want to waste your time reading and analyzing irrelevant resources. Here are a few tips that will help you go through it:. It's important to find enough resources to fully understand the phenomenon you're focused on, but you'll need to stop researching at one point or another.

Many students fall into a trap: How much time do you plan to spend in the research stage? Make a timeline and stay committed to it. The point of the research stage is to show you have read around the topic and you understand the previous research that has been conducted, but you've also understood its limitations. The Internet is a good starting place during the research stage.

However, you have to realize that not everything you read on the Internet is absolutely true. Double-check the information you find and make sure it comes from a trustworthy resource.

Getting on with the writing

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Writing a dissertation requires a student to think deeply, to organize technical discussion, to muster arguments that will convince other scientists, and to follow rules for rigorous, formal presentation of the arguments and discussion.

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Writing a dissertation, no matter what comes before or what comes after, is an intellectual adventure that very few people have the good fortune to embark upon and complete. Will it be tough? You betcha.

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How to Write Your Best Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide When you get to the point of writing a dissertation, you're clearly near the end . When you’re writing a dissertation, one of the most difficult intellectual tasks a person can do, commitment to the writing process is far more important than genius. If the smartest person in the world cannot learn to write, then she won’t be a successful academic.

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The aim of the dissertation or thesis is to produce an original piece of research work on a clearly defined topic. Usually a dissertation is the most substantial piece of independent work in the undergraduate programme, while a thesis is usually associated with master's degrees, although these terms. Writing a dissertation can be one of the hardest tasks a university student has to accomplish – but it will come to an end. Photograph: Randy Faris/Corbis The sun is shining but many students won't see the daylight.