For undergraduates, your dissertation will be the most important piece of writing you will complete. It is certainly the longest and most demanding. Many students find the prospect of an extended piece of academic research daunting; but there is no need to feel intimidated. Your dissertation is an opportunity to spend a good amount of time exploring a topic you feel passionate about.
It is vitally important to carefully decide upon the right dissertation question. Pick a question that:
A carefully considered dissertation question should ultimately enable you to get top marks.
Avoid dissertation questions that:
You need to tread a delicate balance. Something too well covered will make it very difficult to offer anything new to the topic. Conversely, an obscure topic will make it difficult to find adequate research materials. This is where your dissertation supervisor comes in.
As an academic professional with in depth knowledge of the relevant discipline, your supervisor will be able to steer you toward a suitable question. In addition, tell your supervisor you are aiming for a first-class grade. They will be impressed by your ambition and will be able to guide you in the right direction for that extra level of achievement.
Once you've chosen your question , it is time to get seriously acquainted with your chosen topic. Attaining a first class dissertation means achieving a grade of 70% or higher and this equates to knowing your subject thoroughly, to the extent that you can meaningfully add new insight to the body of existing scholarship.
The easiest way to do this is to read as much relevant literature as possible. You will almost certainly benefit from reading journal articles because this is where the most current research is located. As you read, keep a notebook to hand at all times and try to identify consistent critical approaches across the literature.
Attempt to deduce why certain perspectives seem to recur. Is there an overall ideological position evident in the scholarship? If there is, why do you think this is so? If unsure, ask your supervisor. On the other hand, you can look to discover if observations that you consider important appear to be omitted in the literature.
It might even be useful to ask your supervisor if there are any particular areas of your research question that they feel are generally neglected by the academy; this will give a good indication of a topic that is of scholarly significance but which bears further investigation.
At the end of every week, try to type up your notes into broadly cogent prose, arranging them by order of specific relevance ("Introduction", "Literature Review", "Case Study", etc.). This need not be anything too rigorous; rather, see these notes as scaffolding for the final product.
Having a body of writing already composed will make it physically and psychologically easier to finally get started with the first draft.
Armed with ample and well organised notes, half the battle to write a first class dissertation is already won. Arrange your notes into a sensible chronology and begin to expand upon them, fleshing out the details piece by piece. It is important not to rush this process. Give yourself a good deal of time, so that you can think through your analyses carefully.
For example, if you give yourself at least four months of writing time, you can work your way at a manageable speed through one paragraph per day. This is a very agreeable working pace and will allow you to deliberate on the things you say. Insight comes from consideration and consideration requires time. Do not expect necessarily to have a "Eureka!" moment. Instead, expect your dissertation to come together gradually, building to an integral whole.
Talk to the Experts
Confer with your dissertation supervisor as much as possible. In fact, speak with as many experts as you can find. Attend academic conferences, email specialists in the field, and make your presence known to the relevant people. Time permitting, academics are usually keen to discuss their subject with passionate students.
Most people will only write one dissertation in their lifetime. It is worthwhile giving one hundred percent and achieving the best result you can. A first class dissertation is as much a product of passion as it is of planning.
Here is a very basic outline for writing a first class academic dissertation:
Your dissertation introduction includes a background of the problem and a statement of the issue. Next, clarify the purpose of your study, as well as your dissertation question. Make sure you clearly articulate your definitions to ensure a consistent voice. Finally, highlight your assumptions and expectations of the final results. Many students find it easier to write their introduction after they have written the rest of their dissertation. So, if you are struggling, consider returning to your introduction at the end.
In this chapter of the dissertation, outline the research process and the most important acknowledgements you've identified for your work.
This part of the dissertation is focused on explaining how you located the resources and the methods of implementation of the results. This will vary depending on the types of dissertation you are writing.
If you're writing a qualitative dissertation, you will identify the research questions, setting, participants, data collection, and data analysis processes.
For a quantitative dissertation, the focus of this chapter will be the research questions and hypotheses. Then you need to discuss the population and sample, instrumentation, collection of data, and analysis of data.
This is where you get to showcase your intellectual prowess. Here, you will restate the research questions and discuss the results you found. You get to explain the direction they led you to and how you came to the conclusions that will follow.
Here you summarise your findings and the conclusions found therein. Take this opportunity to explain how your findings make a difference in the academic community and the measure of their practical relevance.
At the end of this chapter, add a section for recommendations for future research. Here you can propose future research that will clarify the issue further, or examine any anomalies your research unearthed.
Using the standard citation style for your field, make a record of every single source you used during the research and writing stages.
Before you hand in your dissertation, make sure you've taken the time to make the finishing touches:
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