May 22, 2018

The quick start guide on how to write a dissertation

The dissertation. Your tutors, and even family and friends, will tell you it’s the thing you have been preparing for your entire academic life. Now that is a lot of pressure on a single piece of work, even if it is 10,000 words long. And while the dissertation is important to both your personal and academic development, it is also something to be enjoyed – and no, we’re not kidding.

The dissertation doesn’t have to be feared as much as it is by some students when it rolls around in their final year. It takes up a considerable portion of your life for nine months of the year and, much like bringing life into the world, it can feel like a long process but with a huge reward at the end.

Dissertation topics

So, when it comes to choosing your dissertation topic, the main piece of advice is to make sure you’re interested in it. After all, you wouldn’t have chosen your degree if you weren’t interested in it – hopefully. Students spend around a year researching and writing their dissertation, and that is a long time to dedicate to one topic when you consider that most of the modules taken at university only cover one subject for the length of a term at most. Not only will ensuring you are interested in your dissertation topic keep you from tiring of your work or becoming bored of the research, but it is also a sure-fire way of making it is as good as it can be, as students who are interested and passionate about what they are writing are more likely to produce something of substance and merit.

Once you have come up with a few dissertation topics, as in most subjects ranging from economics degrees to computer science, your university will ask for several topic ideas to start with – be sure to talk them over with anyone who will listen. Whilst your dissertation tutor, who may or may not have been designated to you at this time, will probably be the most helpful in aiding your final topic decision, friends and family will provide fresh insights and are most likely to know you and your interests best.

Dissertation structure

The dissertation structure typically follows a fairly standard pattern consisting of the following elements:

The title page or front cover, which should look a little like this:

 

“Title of dissertation”

Name

Student number

Name of degree

Academic year

University

 

The abstract, which is a small page of text that acts as summary of blurb of your dissertation.

The contents page, which should look a little like this dissertation structure, with the relevant page numbers for ease of reading.

Then your three chapters, which are easier to write than you may have thought, as you can tackle them as three separate essays addressing different aspects that you wish to examine through your dissertation.

The conclusion should then draw an answer to your dissertation title to some degree and sum up your findings, research and the innovative ideas you have formulated around the subject.

Lastly, by this point in your higher education you will hopefully be accustomed to writing a bibliography (although, if you are not overly confident with this, your college or university should be able to help). The main piece of advice is to keep a record of all your sources along the way so you don’t have to stress about finding them again later.

Writing

WritingOnce you have planned your work you will want to start thinking about how to write a dissertation and the further research required. The research which goes into a dissertation is seemingly endless, and you may find yourself still researching in the days leading up to the deadline so try to find the way of study that works best for you. Some students work well in complete silence, others to the soundtrack of heavy rock, whilst some students work better with friends in the room, and others can’t work with any distractions whatsoever. No one way of study is right or wrong but you will hopefully have found what works best for you by this point.

The best piece of advice if you are stuck in writing your dissertation is just to write. It doesn’t have to be perfect but the act of just writing can help spur on ideas and you can always go back and edit what it is you have written then find somewhere quiet to polish it up. There are plenty of peaceful places to study in London, from coffee shops to libraries, and from your room to a park bench – just putting yourself in the right study area that feels comfortable for you can help with ideas.

Top tips

At the end of the day, the main thing you will want to get out of a dissertation is a product that is useful to both yourself – as a way to impress and demonstrate to future employers what you are capable of – and to the academic world in that you have come up with something completely original that is of benefit to your subject of study. Achieve these two things and your dissertation is a success.

The main things to help reduce stress when producing a dissertation are:

  • Start early
  • Plan thoroughly
  • Make sure you’re interested in it
  • Aim to finish a week before in order to give enough time for final edits and printing

If you have any other top dissertation tips, share them with others on the GSM London Facebook page.

 

Image Credit: meghan dougherty, Hash Milhan (flickr.com)

 

This content was written by Rachel Smith. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.

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