Writing a dissertation is a major part of getting your degree. And whether this is your first undergraduate dissertation, or you are working towards a more advanced degree such as a PhD, it is important to understand how to make the most of it. Here we take a look at what you need to know while you are preparing for your dissertation – it’s smart to understand as much of the process as early as possible.
Choose your topic carefully
Your dissertation is useful by far the largest project you will undertake as a part of your degree. This isn’t a small module with an essay that won’t have a huge impact if you don’t get on too well with the material. This means that you really need to ensure that you find the topic of your dissertation engaging and interesting.
It is a great idea to talk through your ideas with your dissertation supervisor. They will be able to provide you with advice and guidance on whether the topic can be fleshed out into a high-quality dissertation or whether you need to re-think certain aspects of it.
Check what is required by your institution
Different colleges and universities (as well as different courses) will have their own requirements as to what is expected from the dissertation. It is very important to understand very clearly what those requirements are as early in the process as possible. Imagine reaching your goal of 20,000 words and then discovering that the dissertation has a maximum of 12,000 words.
And it’s not just word count that can be an issue. There may be a specific structure you need, or sources that must be used. If you are writing a dissertation for a master’s degree, for example, you might think you can simply use the same techniques and structure you used in your undergraduate degree, but it may actually be extremely different.
Carry out extensive reading and research
Research and reading are absolutely key to your dissertation – even more so that other modules. The crucial thing to note here is that you won’t have a specific reading list, as the subject matter will be specifically personal to you. Once again it’s a great idea to discuss it with your supervisor and other lecturers, they will have excellent suggestions for you.
Don’t be resistant to the truth you discover
It can be easy to go into any assignment with a belief that you already know the answer, and that you are merely looking for justifications and proof for that answer. But this can actually be a very negative attitude towards your dissertation. Remember, that dissertations prioritise original thought and new learnings in the subject area – you don’t want to be bogged down by preconceived notions.
This is why it is so important to thoroughly read around the subject – not just looking at research and writings that support your ideas. If something doesn’t match up to what you thought (or how the rest of your dissertation has been going) don’t push it aside. Embrace it – this will ultimately make for a much richer and more interesting analysis.
Plan for printing
It may be the case that you need to print your dissertation. While some universities and colleges will be happy for you to send an electronic version, others still insist on a fully printed version – or in some cases, a number of copies. And it is essential that you don’t leave this to the last minute and try to print it on the old printer that you think still has ink in it… Get it professionally printed and save yourself the hassle.
There are plenty of options available from standard ring binding to loop binding – if you can give lecturers a good feeling about your work and show that you have genuinely taken the time to get it right, this can make a big difference.
It’s not always a good idea to think about the dissertation in stages of research and writing. It can be actually far more effective to get writing done as you work on the project. As much as you think you might fully remember that points that you are making from notes, it can be more effective to get it all down as soon as possible. This gives you a head start in your dissertation. Good luck!
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