Guide to undergraduate dissertations in the social sciences
Writing the Dissertation1
By the time you start to write the first draft of your dissertation, you will probably already have accumulated a wealth of notes, scribbles and ideas. Planning is essential, but do not be hesitate to draw up new plans whether it is a brief abstract of your dissertation as a whole, or a detailed breakdown of a particular chapter. This section looks at effective planning, which should be a continuous process that intensifies during the writing of your dissertation and not something that fades into the background.
Do all dissertations look the same?
At one level, yes. They will have to:
- Formulate a clear question that your dissertation seeks to answer.
- Review the literature in the field relating to your question.
- Engage in independent research in addressing this question.
- Justify whatever methods you choose to undertake your research.
- Present and discuss your findings, whilst demonstrating how they relate to your original question.
Watch Different types of dissertations video (.wmv)
Do all dissertations look the same? This video clip contains comments from the following academics:
Producing a ‘working title’
Insofar as the preparation of the dissertation is a process of investigation and discovery, the precise scope of your study may well only emerge as you become closely involved in a detailed review of the literature. At this early stage, your title may be a provisional one that you will revise later. Your dissertation supervisor may advise on the title in order to help you find and define the focus of the dissertation.
You should examine articles in scholarly journals for examples of appropriate titles for a study of this length.
Starting to write the dissertation
Supervisors have different ways of working and you will, to some degree, need to negotiate your approach to supervision style. For example, your supervisor may advise you to write a short proposal or abstract, say of about 300 words, in which you set out as clearly as possible what you intend to do in the dissertation. The value of this exercise is that it requires you to focus and articulate your thinking. It may be that you will be able to summarise the exact nature and scope of your study, in which case the proposal can serve as guide to refer to as you write the main chapters of the work. Alternatively, it may make you aware of gaps in your knowledge and understanding, and show you the areas that need further thought and research.
It is useful, therefore, to write the proposal and to retain it for reference and revision. It helps to attempt such an abstract even if your supervisor has not suggested that you write one. However, practice varies, and your supervisor will advise you on how to proceed. As you continue to write the main chapters of the work, you may find that your initial plan has changed. This means that when you have completed the chapters that form the main body of your dissertation you can return to the proposal and revise it as much as you need, to form the introduction.
It is highly advisable to draft a plan of the dissertation. There is a lot in common between different dissertations regarding the structure and although you do not need to stick slavishly to a standard plan, such a plan is very helpful as a template to impose some order on what may seem an unmanageable task. Here is an indicative structure that might help you with your initial plan.
The field of study, the research question, the hypothesis (if any) or, more generally, the research question that is to be investigated. It should also include a summary of the contents and main arguments in the dissertation.
Usually, this comes immediately after the introductory chapter. This may be more than one chapter, but should certainly be written in sections. This should include previous work done on the field of study and anything that you consider to be relevant to the hypothesis or research question and to its investigation. It will include a large number of references to the literature in your chosen area.
This section should include an account of the research questions and/or hypotheses to be investigated, relevant methods of investigation and an argument for why you think these methods are the most appropriate ones for the question and for your circumstances. You should consider the benefits of your chosen method as well as identifying any disadvantages and how you overcame them. Ethical issues and the ways in which you dealt with them should be noted. This section should also discuss any variations from the original fieldwork plan, and should conclude with a reflection on the experience of doing fieldwork.
This section should present the main findings of your research together with an account of the strengths and weaknesses of your data relative to your research question/hypothesis. You may also wish to include an evaluation of any difficulties you encountered in collecting and analysing data, together with an assessment of how this affected your plan of research.
Here you can provide an assessment of whether and how well you were able to answer your research question and/or confirm/reject your hypotheses.
This chapter must relate the findings to the theoretical/policy discussion in your literature review. You should NOT introduce any new literature at this stage.
Conclusions and recommendations
An overall assessment of what you found out, how successful you were and suggestions for future research.
Beginning work on the main body of the dissertation
Once you have produced the proposal and discussed it with your supervisor, you may want to write the first draft of a chapter of the dissertation. When you hand in this draft, you should arrange a tutorial to receive your supervisor’s verbal or written comments and suggestions on how it may be improved. You may, for example, produce a draft introduction setting out the issue, together with a literature review which covers what, if any, treatment of the topic has gone beforehand. You may also wish to draft those sections of the methodology chapter that cover the methods that you wish to use, together with a justification for why you think those methods are best.
Revising sections after receiving the supervisor’s comments
When you have received your supervisor’s comments on the draft of any chapter, you should revise that particular chapter immediately. Prompt revision is easier than letting things drift, and you should do it while the advice of your supervisor is fresh in your mind. This will also avoid building up a backlog of work that needs to be revised, which can be discouraging. Having the material on a computer disk will enable you to do revisions efficiently and with a minimum of fuss. Be sure to back up all your work on a floppy disk, CD, or memory stick.
Organising your time
Depending on the credit rating of the dissertation, the amount of time you devote to it should be equivalent to the time you would devote to a taught course with the same credit rating; that is, seminar and lecture time plus time for private study.
Findings from our Research
In our research we found that students often did not think about the credit rating of their dissertation and actually spent more time working on it than they should have! They saw it as such an important part of their degree that they wanted to put more into it:
It [the dissertation] took up more of my time . Once you get into it, you have to out in the effort. It’s 8000 words, plus there’s so much to do. When you’re doing it, it seems so much more that the rest of your work (Todd, Bannister and Clegg, 2004, p341).
However, this can have a detrimental effect on your other modules – one student said ‘I did the dissertation and left the other work’ – don’t make his mistake. All the modules in the final year are important.
You will find that once the final year begins, the weeks go by very quickly, and you will need to organise your time well from the start so that the ongoing preparation of your dissertation continues alongside work for the taught units you are studying. Once you have a workable plan it is much easier to plan the work in sequence and to set yourself targets for the completion of the separate parts (see the section on Getting started with the Dissertation). Allow plenty of time for final revisions after your tutor has seen a complete draft.
If you are taking a dissertation over two semesters, you should aim to spend the equivalent of one full half-day per week working on your dissertation during each semester of your final year if it is worth 20 credits – nearer twice that amount of time if it is a 40-credit dissertation.
Deadlines for producing drafts
You will decide with your supervisor precisely when to produce drafts, but if you are taking a dissertation module over one academic year then by the end of the first semester you would normally expect to produce a proposal or abstract and a first draft of one or two chapters. You would then produce the drafts of the remaining chapters and complete the process of revision and writing-up during the second semester.
In the second semester, when drafting the remaining main chapters of the dissertation, you will follow the practice established in the first semester of submitting the drafts to your supervisor for comments and advice. You should take advantage of the period between the first semester and the start of the second semester to write a draft of a chapter, and you should plan to have produced first drafts of all the main chapters by at least four weeks before the submission date (also allowing for any vacation periods when staff may not be available).
If, however, you are taking the dissertation module over one semester, you will need to adjust this time frame accordingly.
Writing the introduction
The introduction to your dissertation should explain to the reader what you are going to investigate. It should describe the dissertation’s topic and scope. You should explain your reasons for investigating your chosen topic by referring to the appropriate literature. Having completed the work on the main substance of your dissertation, you should have a much clearer idea of its nature and scope than you did when you wrote your preliminary abstract or proposal. The introduction to your dissertation should explain to the reader what you are going to investigate. It should describe the dissertation’s topic and scope. You should explain your reasons for investigating your chosen topic by referring to the appropriate literature.
It is important, however, to write the introduction as though you are setting out on a process of investigation. You need to emphasise the exploratory nature of your work. You should also avoid anticipating the discoveries and conclusions that you have made in the course of your investigations. So, you might simply say that you have identified certain common features in the relevant literature, or a particular issue that it deals with, and that your dissertation will examine the literature closely in order to demonstrate the relationships between treatments of the issue in the sample texts. When you have completed the main body of the work and your tutor has commented on your complete draft, you may well wish to revisit the introduction to take into account your findings and your tutor’s comments on their significance.
Writing a literature review
Your dissertation is a substantial piece of written work that ideally should conform to a number of academic conventions. One of the most important of these academic conventions is the literature review. In short, the literature review is a discussion or ‘review’ of secondary literature that is of general and central relevance to the particular area under investigation.
Often students ask how long a literature review should be. This is a difficult question given that the total length of your dissertation might be anything from five to twelve thousand words. Obviously your supervisor may be able to give some indication of the approximate length of your literature review. However, don’t become pre-occupied with word length, the main thing is that your literature review should capture the general and specific aspects of the literature of your subject.
Why is a literature review necessary?
The literature review is an important device in your dissertation as it performs a number of related functions:
- It demonstrates to whoever reads the dissertation that the author of the work has read widely and is aware of the range of debates that have taken place within the given field. It provides the proof that you have more than a good grasp of the breadth and depth of the topic of the dissertation – your dissertation gives you the opportunity to show off how clever you are! The literature review is a great place to start, because it should demonstrate that you know what you are talking about because you have read everything that is relevant to your dissertation.
- It can provide the rationale for the research question in the study. This can be done by highlighting specific gaps in the literature вЂ“ questions that have not been answered (or even asked), and areas of research that have not been conducted within your chosen field. In this way the literature review can provide a justification of your own research.
- It can allow you to build on work that has already been conducted. For example you might adopt a similar methodological or theoretical approach in your work to one that exists within the literature, yet place your actual emphasis elsewhere. In this way you are building on work that has already been conducted by adopting similar strategies and concepts, yet focusing the question on something that interests you.
- It helps to define the broad context of your study, placing your work within a well defined academic tradition. Poor dissertations often fail to relate to broader debates within the academic community. They may have a well defined research question, yet without placing this question in the appropriate context, it can lose its significance. The literature review therefore can add weight to your question by framing it within broader debates within the academic community.
How do I ‘do’ a literature review?
Writing a literature review is not as simple as at first it may seem. What follows is a step by step guide on how to go about conducting and presenting your literature review.
1. Generate a list of references
The first stage of your literature review is to collect a list of literature that is relevant to your study. You have already seen in the section Help with Finding Literature and Research В how you can get a list of useful references.
2. Make sense of your reading
Once you have a list of references for your dissertation, you now have to access and read this material. This is time consuming because you will be reading a large amount of material. Once you start you might find that some literature is of little relevance to your study. This is something that many researchers and dissertation students go through and is often a necessary part of the process. It is better to read something that is not central to your dissertation than miss something that might be an important and relevant contribution to the field.
Make notes about the central themes and arguments of the book, chapter or article. These notes can then be incorporated into the finished version of your literature review. Try and get a sense of the theoretical perspective of the author, this will be of use when you organise and present your literature review. Also, emphasise the way in which the piece of literature you are reading seeks to set itself apart from other literature. Importantly, start to think critically about the piece you are reading; ask: what is this person trying to say and why? How is it different from the way others have dealt with this issue? This critical component is very important as it demonstrates that you are engaging with relevant literature in an appropriate manner and that you can discriminate between different perspectives and approaches that exist within your chosen field.
3. Organisation and presentation
Once you have generated a large number of notes around your reading you might start to feel overwhelmed by the literature. In terms of the organisation and presentation of your literature review, it is worth dividing your review into two main areas: general reading and literature that is of central importance. You will also need to further divide the literature into specific areas relevant to your study for e.g. theories and concepts; policy analysis; empirical studies and so-on. What follows are some general guidelines on how you might do this.
It will be clear that some of the reading you have done is of more relevance than others. It is important, however, that you do not discard the less relevant work; instead this can form the broad background of your discussion of the more relevant literature within your field. For example you may mention different authors that have dealt with a question related to your field but may not be central to it. Highlight these in broad terms, state how these works have impacted on your particular area. You need not go into great detail about these more general works, but by highlighting these works you are demonstrating your awareness of the scope and limits of your study and how it touches upon other areas of study.
Once you have discussed the range of literature that is only of general interest to your study, you can then go into more detail on the literature that more sharply focuses on the questions that are of interest to you. Devote more detail to these particular works as they are more important to your topic. Indeed they may highlight the gap in the literature that exists that you seek to fill; they may provide the basis on which you seek to build, or they might be works which require some critique from your particular perspective.
When you have divided your literature review into general works and works of central importance, you should also further divide the literature into sub-categories. By further dividing your literature in this way, you are adding more organisation into your literature review by providing specific sub-categories of relevant literature.
For example in the general works section of your literature review, you might want one sub-heading on the main theoretical debates, one on empirical studies and maybe one on policy. With reference to the more central literature, you could organise this more important reading in a similar way. For example, if relevant, you could have a section on competing theoretical perspectives; a section on the main findings of important empirical studies; a section on policy implementation and its impacts. See the table below.
A dissertation is a rigorous research and writing process. It is very common that some doctoral students feel lost and unsure about the appropriate approaches they should take during the course of this long-term scholarly project. The resources presented on this page provide some strategies and practical help.
- Brause, R. S. (2000). Writing your doctoral dissertation: Invisible rules for success. London; New York: Falmer Press. [LB 2369 B72 2000]
“Preparation of the proposal” pp. 97-142.
- Literature Reviews (by The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Articles and Books
- Boote, D. N. & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars Before Researchers: On the Centrality of the Dissertation Literature Review in Research Preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6), 3-15.
“Key features of a literature review” pp. 22-30.
“The literature review: an additional feature – hypotheses and research questions” pp. 30-34.
- Brause, R. S. (2000). Writing your doctoral dissertation: Invisible rules for success. London; New York: Falmer Press. [LB 2369 B72 2000]
Distinguished Doctoral Dissertations Awards
Marta Albert, Reading
Cristina Muсiz de la Peсa, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Ancell Scheker-Mendoza, Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Kimberly Anderson, Reading
Janice Harewood, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Prachayani Praphamontripong, Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Yi-jung Wu, Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Marcelo A. Rabossi, Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Melissa J. Sheehy Carmel, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Thomas L. Tarantelli, Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Jozef Bastiaens, Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Felix Fernandez, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Kari Kay Taylor, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Ronald F. Dugan, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Carrie Eunyoung Hong, Reading
John J. Kowal, Educational Administration and Policy Studies
Elizabeth J. Zhe, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Christina A. Cruz, Educational Theory and Practice
Erin McCloskey, Reading
Sarah E. Torok, Educational and Counseling Psychology
Terry L. Murray, Educational Theory and Practice
Kristen Campbell Wilcox, Educational Theory and Practice
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How to write a dissertation introduction
Date published September 8, 2014 by Bas Swaen. Date updated: September 17, 2017
The introduction is the first chapter of your dissertation and thus is the starting point of your dissertation. You describe the topic of your dissertation, formulate the problem statement and write an overview of your dissertation.
Table of contents
Purpose of the dissertation introduction:
- Introduce the topic. What is the purpose of the study and what is the topic?
- Gain the reader’s interest. Make sure that you get the reader’s attention by using clear examples from recent news items or everyday life.
- Demonstrate the relevance of the study. Convince the reader of the scientific and practical relevance.
Parts of the introduction
A clear introduction often consists of the following parts:
Motivation (Problem indication)
What is the motive for your research? This can be a recent news item or something that has always interested you. By choosing an interesting example, the reader is immediately encouraged to read the rest of your introduction.
Based on the motivation or problem indication, you describe the topic of your dissertation. Make sure that you directly define the topic of your research. Don’t fall into the trap of wanting to research too much, but rather always look for a niche.
Theoretical and practical relevance of the research
Using arguments, state the scientific relevance of your research. You can do this by citing scientific articles and combining them. Also, highlight here the discussion chapters of studies that you are going to use for your own research.
Next, explain the practical use of your research. If you find this difficult to do, then try to pose the question of your research’s use to friends or acquaintances. They often have a completely different view of your topic.
When you are writing a dissertation for a company, you will find that the scientific relevance is much more difficult to demonstrate. On the other hand, it should be easier to show the practical benefit. Don’t think just of the company at which you are doing an internship, but think of, for example, practical applications for the entire industry.
Scientific situation related to the theme of your research
In this element of the introduction, you specify the most important scientific articles that relate to your topic and you briefly explain them. Thus, you show that many studies have been conducted around the topic, and that you won’t get stuck due to finding too little information on your topic.
Objective, problem statement and research questions
In this part, you describe the objective of your study and the problem statement that you have formulated. Pay attention: there is a difference between the objective and the problem statement. To answer the problem statement, you can use research questions. These are sometimes also called sub-questions. If you use hypotheses instead of research questions, you can also note them here.
The basis of the hypotheses is the conceptual framework. However, sometimes you are not yet able to formulate hypotheses, because you are first going to conduct a literature review. In this case you develop the hypotheses and the conceptual framework later, after the literature review.
Brief description of the research design
Later in your research, you develop the research design in detail. However, in the introduction you also provide a brief summary of your research design. How, where, when and with whom are you going to conduct your research?
Here, you briefly describe how your dissertation is constructed. Summarize each chapter briefly in one paragraph at the most, but preferably in one sentence. Make sure your dissertation outline is not repetitively phrased because it does not vary its word choice.
Begin with your research proposal
Often, the research proposal or the action plan is a good start for writing your introduction. You will notice that you already have written many parts of the introduction in your research proposal.
Although the introduction is at the beginning of your dissertation, this placement doesn’t mean that you must finish the introduction before you can start the rest of your research. The further you get in your research, the easier it will be to write a good introduction that is to the point. Thus, it’s no disaster if you can’t write a perfect introduction right away. Take up the introduction again at a later time and keep writing and editing until you arrive at a nice whole.
To introduce your subject and indicate what you wish to discuss, you should use the simple present tense. Background information is written in the simple past tense or present perfect tense.
Length of the dissertation introduction
There are no specific requirements with regard to the length of your introduction. Thus, there’s no need to squeeze everything together on just one page, like with the abstract.
But you do need to write to the point. Don’t repeat yourself and only write down what’s actually important to introduce your topic and research.
The introduction of the research is written with a stimulating topic.
The topic is limited.
The scientific relevance is demonstrated (not applicable to all theses).
The practical relevance is demonstrated.
The most important scientific articles about the topic are summarized (not applicable to all theses).
The objective is formulated.
The problem statement is formulated.
The conceptual framework is determined.*
The research questions or hypotheses are formulated.**
The research design is described briefly.
The dissertation overview is added.
Your introduction should be perfect now! Use the other checklist to further improve your thesis.
* It is possible that you are first going to conduct the literature review before you formulate the conceptual framework.
** It is possible that you are not yet able to formulate the hypotheses because you are first going to conduct a literature review.
How to Write a First Class Dissertation?
There are two principal goals of dissertations: the first is to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the selected topics and the second is to reveal a solid grasp of the pertinent research methods. A well-written dissertation will ensure individuals possess high-level independent learning, written communication and information retrieval skills. This knowledge and training will help them in their future academic, personal and professional pursuits. A first-class dissertation must include a well-chosen, original topic and present both the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.
First-class dissertation criteria
There are four categories for this type of academic document: first class, second class, third class and fail. To clarify what is meant by a” first-class dissertation “, a final grade of 70 percent or higher is generally required. If you want to write a first-class dissertation, the highest class possible, it is imperative that you understand exactly what the markers are looking for.
Communicate with your supervisors
Your supervisors play a vital role in getting a first grade for your dissertation. Ask them to thoroughly review your work before final submission. Ask for positive feedback, as well as constructive criticism, emphasising that your ultimate goal is to achieve a first-class mark in your dissertation. Make sure to keep your supervisors well informed throughout the process, and advise them if you encounter any problems while writing your dissertation. Some students even opt to prepare a weekly or monthly progress report so they maintain constant communication.
Many students fail to complete this crucial step; unfortunately, this mistake often costs them valuable marks, which may result in receiving a second or third-class grade. Obtaining feedback from your supervisors will not only reduce the amount of time required to revise your thesis or dissertation, but it will also greatly increase your chances of obtaining your desired grade.
In addition to ensuring all of the established criteria are met to a very high standard, the written research must also be at a very high level. This includes properly structured sentences and paragraphs with correct syntax and grammar, as well as factual, interesting content. It will be very difficult to achieve a first-class grade if you present a dissertation that contains a poorly chosen topic or a thesis that is hard to defend.
Content of a first-class thesis or dissertation
There is a specific dissertation structure to use when writing this type of dissertation or thesis, and it begins with an introduction and literature review, followed by a methodology, conclusion, recommendations, and finally references. Each of these sections will be explained in further detail.
The writer must convey a clear and thorough knowledge of the practical and theoretical materials. Any theses or dissertations written in support of management or business studies must include clearly developed management and business practice strategies. The author must convey a balance of creative and critical thinking, as well as the ability to reflect any of the theory’s limitations and research methodologies. A first-class thesis or dissertation will also include alternative options recommended by the author.
This initial section of a first-class dissertation should include a background of the particular study, and it is often one of the hardest sections to write. The introduction prepares the reader for the content to follow and provides a proper context for the relevant research. The introduction must also convey the study’s objectives and goals. It is often easier to edit this section of the dissertation after you have completed the remaining sections of the document.
A captivating thesis
A well-written introduction will motivate and interest the reader, whilst a poorly worded introduction will have the exact opposite effect. Hence, be sure you don’t choose an opening that is too trite, general or vague. The introduction will also lay out the thesis for your academic paper, which is the issue your paper will discuss and analyse. Don’t make the common mistake of choosing a topic, rather than a thesis in this section. A solid, well-written thesis will be clearly expressed, specific and arguable.
The second part of a first-class thesis, called a literature review, must centre on current issues that pertain to your particular research area or topic, practice and theory. The author must also present a solid statement highlighting the problems that will be researched. Students need to ensure they are utilising current evidence to support the paper’s research topic. This means choosing relevant journal articles that are current. For example, if the dissertation is written in 2013, the news and journal articles should be no older than 2011, unless they are key texts and papers which have shaped the issue in question.
Reliable Data Sources
Writing a solid thesis or dissertation also involves analysing relevant models and theories related to a thorough literature search. Some recommended sources for the literature review include newspapers, the news, textbooks and journal articles. It is also crucial that students verify the accuracy and reliability of any secondary data sources. Many reliable sources can be found online on sites such as www.statistics.gov.uk, www.bbc.co.uk and www.emeraldinsight.com.
This section includes:
- Primary/Secondary research design
- Information sources – list all secondary data sources such as textbooks, journal articles, websites, etc.
- Timetable – detail the specific number of days or weeks theauthor spent performing relevant tasks such as typing up the dissertation or distributing questionnaires.
- Data analysis – describe all the methods of analysis used in the thesis and remember to review other student theses or dissertations,which are normally available from the library
Students must adopt a critical survey approach when they write a first-class thesis. This includes using SPSS for data analysis if the research involves questionnaires. Business research books are are commended source to investigate the various research methods that can be used.
The author of a thesis can choose to adopt qualitative, rather than quantitative research methods. This will depend on your personal preference, and your affinity for statistics and numbers. If you are unsure which method you should use, it is best to discuss the issue with your supervisor.
In addition, the research methodology will determine the analysis of the primary data. For example, questionnaires will involve the use of the SPSS program, whereas descriptive patterns can be used for any interviews conducted with focus groups.
It’s important to note that the content of a dissertation or thesismust be written with a critical eye. Rather than implying that thecontent must be negative, the author must simply adopt a questioningapproach and attempt to explain the findings of the research. Studentsmust clearly demonstrate the validity of their argument and interpret,demonstrate and explain it as thoroughly as possible.
If a thesis or dissertation includes elements such as additional statistics, tables, calculations or figures, the author must include a complete and critical explanation or comment for each. If you fail to include any comments or you provide an insufficient explanation, you may end up losing valuable marks.
The final chapter of a first-class dissertation is called the conclusion, and it should include recommendations and conclusions that incite additional investigation or action. Any current issues relating to the research topic should be presented and arguments both for and against the topic should be included.
When you reference your thesis or dissertation, you need to ensure all of your references are correctly cited and consistent. You should use the Harvard system for this type of academic document. Details about this particular referencing system can be found on any of the major online search engines such as MSN, Yahoo! or Google, as well as websites such as http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm.
If you want to earn a high mark for your thesis or dissertation, you must pay proper attention to your writing style. The writing style of this type of academic paper is very different from other informal documents such as personal letters. Make sure you take note of the following guidelines, which reflect proper writing style for dissertations:
Avoid all conversational, colloquial or informal expressions used in general conversation such as “kind of” or “just about”. A first-class thesis or dissertation should also not include an excessive use of technical language. A clear, concise writing style is recommended for writing such an academic document.
Rather than using first-person terms such as “me” or “I”, you should choose nouns such as “researcher” when you are writing your thesis. Whenever possible, you should also use plural subjects, rather than“he/she” or “her/his”. This is the recommended format for academic documents such as theses.
You should also avoid words such as “bad”, “good”, “perfect”,“ideal,” etc, that make qualitative judgments. Instead, refer to anyerrors or facts by choosing terms such as “correct” or “incorrect”. The goal of a dissertation or thesis is not to make a judgment, but topresent a valid, well-researched argument regarding a certain topic.
Proper punctuation, spelling and grammar
Make sure all of your sentences are correctly punctuated and that there are no spelling mistakes. You should also develop each of your paragraphs properly and include appropriate linking phrases or words to guide the reader through the various sections of the thesis. Most paragraphs should include about five to six sentences, although some may be shorter.
Enlist the help of a native English speaker to proofread your thesis if English is not your first language. Non-native English speakers have a much greater probability of making grammatical or syntactical errors in their academic paper. Hence, you should ensure your dissertation does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors before submitting the document to your supervisor. You will lose marks for submitting a paper that contains numerous errors and has not been proofread and corrected. An error-free thesis or dissertation will also convey a more professional appearance and be much easier for the marker to read.
During the initial planning of your thesis, you do not need to focus on issues such as verb agreement. However, you should allot sufficient time to correct any grammatical or spelling errors as you write your dissertation. Your writing skills will continue to improve as you rewrite your academic paper. This process will also enable you to convey your ideas more succinctly, rather than merely jotting down any last-minute ideas.
As soon as you have completed writing your thesis, ask anotherindividual to read your paper. Discuss any ideas or criticisms thisperson may have in terms of the ideas presented in your document, aswell as the language used to express them.
If you want to achieve your goal of writing a first-class dissertation, you must ensure your thesis includes all of the necessary elements, is written concisely, is free of grammatical or spelling errors and presents a valid argument with solid research to support it. If you have any concerns or questions, be sure to discuss them with your supervisor. You can also consult the Internet or library for relevant guidelines and advice on writing academic documents.
BOLKER, J (1998) Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: AGuide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis, HenryHolt and Company, LLC, New York
SKWIRE, D & SKWIRE, S (1990) Writing with a Thesis: A Rhetoric and Reader, 5th Ed., New York
MADSEN, D (1992) Successful Dissertations and Theses, Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, San Francisco
NEWTON, RAE R & RUDESTAM, K (2001) Surviving YourDissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process, SagePublications, Inc, California
OGDEN, E ( 2007) Complete Your Dissertation or Thesis in TwoSemesters or Less, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., BlueRidge Summit
SWETNAM, D (2004) Writing Your Dissertation: The Bestselling Guideto Planning, Preparing and Presenting First-Class Work, How to Books Ltd., Oxford
GILMORE, A, CARSON, D and PERRY, C (2006) ‘Academic publishing: Best practices for editors, guest editors, authors and reviewers’, European Business Review, 18:6, 468–478
STEVENS, C and CAMPBELL, P 2006, ‘Collaborating to connect globalcitizenship, information literacy and lifelong learning in the globalstudies classroom’, Reference Services Review, 34:4, 536–556
World Wide Web
Online Dissertation Help 2008, viewed November 10 2008,http://onlinedissertationhelp.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/how-to-write-a-first-class-thesis-or-dissertation/
WILSON, K & Articlesbase 2007, How to Write a First Class Thesis or Dissertation, viewed November 10 2008 http://www.articlesbase.com/article-writing-articles/how-to-write-a-first-class-thesis-or-dissertation-256512.html
Dartmouth Writing Program 2005, Writing a Thesis, viewed November 10 2008 http://www.dartmouth.edu/
FLEMING, G & About.com 2008: Homework/Study Tips, The Thesis Sentence, viewed November 10, 2008 http://homeworktips.about.com/od/thesissentence/a/fuss.htm
Monash University Education 2008, Writing a Research Thesis, viewed November 10, 2008 http://www.education.monash.edu.au/students/current/study-resources/thesiswriting.html
Birmingham City University 2007, How to Write a Dissertation, viewed November 10, 2008& http://www.ssdd.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.03.htm
University of Newcastle upon Tyne 2001, Writing Research Theses or Dissertations (Guidelines and tips), viewed November 10, 2008http://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/dec/essay.dissertation.htm
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