How To Write Dissertations: Simple And Efficient Steps For Beginners

Your dissertation is often the culmination of your years of study at University. It is usually a big piece of work, longer than the majority of your essays (sometimes 3-4 times as long). It is to show that you’re capable of carrying out an extended piece of research. Dissertations can seem daunting, often because they’re a lengthy piece of work, and they can count towards a high proportion of your final year marks. Also they’re often something that you have control over selecting the title, rather than a set essay question. I think it’s fair to say that many students end up really enjoying their dissertation; it is fun to be able to investigate, research, and explore a topic in such depth, and to create a substantial piece of work with chapters following a theme. Here are some simple and efficient steps for beginners:

  1. Select a topic that interests you. You will spend a long time researching this, so pick something you enjoy and have interest in. Your natural enthusiasm for the topic will shine through in your writing and in any presentations you may have to give about your dissertation; these could be seminar presentations to fellow students, or a more formal viva.
  2. Write & reference as you do your research. Your dissertation obviously requires a great deal of research on your part. You’ll need to read a lot of books, and journal articles, and academic websites. If you simply read these without taking notes, you may forget what you’ve read and need to re-read it. If you take masses of notes but do nothing more with them, you’ll end up with an overwhelming amount of notes, which can seem a difficult task to pull together into a coherent piece of work. My advice would be to each time you read an article or a book, make notes, and then form this into proper paragraphs as part of your essay. You can always cut this down, and re-order it later. It’s equally important to reference as you go along too, it genuinely will save you heaps of time in the long run, so that you’re not searching for that page reference for a quote. Fully reference, and put the book straight into your bibliography.
  3. Make good use of specialists in your field. People who love their subject will be passionate about it, and willing to share their vast knowledge and experience with eager students. Use subject librarians who can show you how to access databases and find relevant research to you. Talk with your tutor and meet with them regularly to discuss your progress, they’ll often give you valuable pointers as to theorists, books and articles that would be relevant to you. If appropriate contact other academics and authors.
  4. Follow all guidelines – whatever guidelines you’ve been given regarding layout, presentation, formatting, referencing style, word-length and the various sections that your content should contain – ensure you follow these to the letter (title page, plagiarism declaration, abstract, contents, introduction, methodology, literature review, discussion, conclusion, works-cited, annotated bibliography and index) etc.
  5. Plan ahead – give yourself way more time than you need to complete every aspect of your dissertation. Things always take longer than you anticipate, and this factors in that sometimes things go wrong. By getting your work completed before deadline, this will allow you to have plenty of time to improve upon drafts and polish your work to perfection.

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