If you are looking for some help with your dissertation, these 13 tips should help get you on track:
1. Make sure that you choose a topic that you are interested in – you will be spending a year or more researching the same area so you need to make sure that whatever you choose, will maintain your interest.
2. If you cannot think of a specific title or research questions, you may have not done enough reading around the subject. Scan through some related journal articles to get a clearer idea of what sub-topics you could focus on. It is also a good idea to look at what authors have recommended for future research – this should help you identify gaps in knowledge.
3. Don’t be afraid to keep asking your supervisor for help – that is their job – if they are not helpful or do not seem interested, ask if you can change.
4. Some people prefer to start with the literature review chapter and then do the introduction afterwards, or even at the end of the project. If that is how you work, that is fine as the introduction is essentially a summary of and brief synopsis of the literature review.
5. If you like to write the introduction first, it is helpful to think of it as being a “funnel” whereby your ideas become tighter and more focused. Start by discussing the very wide topic area and outline statistics (if needed) and then channel down into the more focused sub-topic.
6. Determine how many words you need to include in each chapter as this will help you to work out how much time you need to spend on each chapter.
7. Include as many references as possible to back up the points that you make.
8. A general rule of thumb when writing academic pieces is: point, quotation, discuss – in other words, make a point, back it up and then analyse it. Keeping to this method will ensure that you do not waffle and will help you to get your point across as succinctly a possible.
9. When writing the methodology chapter, ensure that you have a few good textbooks to hand to explain methodologies that appear confusing.
10. Send your work chapter by chapter to your supervisor to ensure that you are on the right track.
11. Fill in the reference list as you go along as this will save a lot of time at the end and avoid searching endlessly for references that you cannot remember where you found.
12. Cross-check all of the references within the text with the reference list – missing references will lose you marks.
13. When you have completed your dissertation, have a friend check it over, or even better, have it proofread by a professional academic proofreader. Having a fresh set of eyes look at your work can do the world of good by improving grammar, English, structure and references.