The final year project or dissertation is one of the toughest challenges of your degree. This piece of writing should detail research in the field of your choice of study. It should also represent your skills as a researcher, thinker and communicator. It’s your opportunity to flex your intellectual muscles…
So why do many of us feel overwhelmed when faced with a large writing task? This is a comprehensive guide from our buddies over at Ryman to creating your dissertation from beginning to end! Follow these steps and you'll be fine.
1. Research strategy
When conducting your initial research, start by pulling together an outline and mapping out the topics you want to address. Answer these following questions:
What are you going to be investigating? What do you want to explore, prove or disprove? What are your limits? Give yourself boundaries of what you will and won’t be investigating to ensure that you don’t go off on a tangent. Once you have the answers to these you can start researching.
Consider conducting your own primary research, it’s not as daunting as you might think. It can be as simple as holding your own focus groups, asking friends and family or even people on the street. You can even easily create your own survey with online tools. Start your research as early as possible - hopefully, you've already started!
2. Work on your structure
Where to start? It may be a tempting prospect to start at the beginning, but introductions are often a lot easier to write at the end when you know how your argument has developed.
Use a structure such as the example detailed below. Adding sub-headings gives the reader clear breaks and direction in your content.
Your first opportunity to let the reader know what your dissertation is about.
A summary of the whole thesis in a condensed form.
List the contents of your dissertation
A brief introduction to your topic from your point of view in one sentence, a summary of the argument you make in the rest of your paper.
This is the core of your work and research.
Findings and discussion
Discuss the results that you obtained and set out what happened in your investigations.
Draw out results from the literature you have studied and conclude your findings including your personal opinion.
Indicate whether the results from your conclusion confirm, totally, or in part, your original expectations or predictions.
References / Bibliography
List and reference your reading material referenced and not referenced in the dissertation
3. Acknowledging ideas
Use the work of others as evidence to back up your own argument. Evaluate the ideas presented, and identify what problems remain in your chosen area of research. The professor reading your dissertation will be on the lookout for plagiarism so make sure your referencing is clear and accurate to gain those top grades. Use a plagiarism checker such as Turnitin.com to ensure there are no areas that would be flagged for imitation!
4. Perfecting your bibliography and references
Is a comprehensive list of all the reading detail cited in your work and all the articles and books you have used.
Is list of background reading material that you have read as part of your research. These are not cited in your dissertation or thesis. Your academic department will be sure to tell you which referencing style guide to use, and you will need to follow instructions to the letter. It’s also important to make sure that the majority of your references and cited works identify as either primary or secondary sources.
Includes original works, academic material such as peer-reviewed journals or publications relevant to the field.
Will include items such as newspaper articles and blog posts. A good way to think of secondary sources is that they are sources which analyse or provide a statistical analysis for your primary sources.
5. Great presentation = easy marks
Once finished your dissertation should be professionally printed and bound. Check out Ryman's super useful binding guide for some more help on this. Don't forget to save 10% on your supplies using your UNiDAYS discount. Plus, you can save 20% on your dissertation binding at Ryman by quoting their offer code 2974 until the 30th May!
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