Dissertations offer you a great opportunity to investigate a topic of particular interest to you with a view to discovering new knowledge or new practice.
TIP - Firstly, there are different types of dissertation so ensure you read your dissertation assignment brief carefully to see what you are expected to do.
Dissertations usually fall into one of two main types;
- Research based i.e. you carry out a piece of original research as part of your study.
- Review or audit. This could be a detailed literature review perhaps combined with reflective practice and asking for recommendations to develop a new idea, procedure or policy
- Is the topic of academic significance?
- Is the topic manageable in the time available?
- Is it a suitably narrow focus?
- What is your own standpoint on the topic? How do your values and beliefs affect your research?
- Have you created a balanced and objective approach to your research?
A fairly typical structure is as follows:
• title page
• contents page
• literature review
• recommendations (where appropriate)
• appendices (if necessary)
• reference list/bibliography (using Cite them Right)
An sample structure could be:
• contents page
• main body – search methodology, lit review, critical discussion divided into themes or issues
• Proposal (if required)
• appendices (if necessary)
• references / bibliography (using Cite them Right)
Many of the skills you use in completing your essays will be vital when writing your dissertation. Why not take a little time to refresh these skills by clicking on the following links:
Each section has specific requirements. Throughout you are expected to maintain a critical stance to ensure you create a deep understanding of the topic.
Abstracts – allows you to ‘capture the essence” – what did you research and why, how did you do it, what did you find, what do the results mean. Check out abstracts in journal articles to give you an idea of content. Usually about 200-250 words long.
Introductions – similar to other introductions you’ve written. Include a motivation for your research, the key research question you are to explore and a brief overview of each chapter.
Literature Reviews – are an opportunity to analysis how your idea fits into the established knowledge. They allow you to find gaps in the knowledge or identify where knowledge can be extended. More information on Literature Reviews.
In a research dissertation this is where you outline the design of your research and the justification for using that type of study - usually either qualitative or quantitative. It is also important to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen method.
In a review dissertation the methodology will show:
how you undertook your study
which search engines you used, and why,
how and why you chose and then refined your search terms
how you selected the most appropriate articles
Books and journals in the library (via OneSearch) are useful sources of information for the various methods and the analysis.
Findings/Results – this is a summary of your results, highlighting key discoveries but also any unusual findings. Consider using clear and relevant graphs and charts to highlight these discoveries
Critical evaluation of your results
Do they answer your claims/idea?
Were there any unexpected results?
Evaluate suitability, reliability and validity of the methods. Relate back to your literature review.
Conclusion – Draw realistic conclusions from your study. Ask yourself:
What are the most significant findings?
What are the implications and significance of the findings for practice and/or policy?
What are the limitations of the study?
What are the recommendations for further work or for a policy or procedural change?
Enlist the support of your dissertation supervisor. They will be able to help you with defining your proposal, selecting your methodology and check you are on track to answer your topic.
This resource from Leeds University gives you a very good overview of a research dissertation library.
There is a useful checklist within the Leeds resource.
Academic Phrasebank – a fabulous resource showing you phrases and words in introduce your dissertation, critically analyse your findings or use evidence in your discussions. There is a section specifically on dissertations (which is bit hard to find!).