What is a dissertation? A dissertation is a long academic piece of writing that is aimed at answering a clearly defined topic or research question/s. A dissertation is in most cases the longest piece of independent work for students in undergraduate or graduate schools. The term ‘dissertation’ is at times used interchangeably with ‘thesis’ since their use varies between academic institutions and countries. It can, however, be agreed that a dissertation is an essential part of academic studies since it gauges a student’s ability to independently carry out research, collect data and analyze results so as to adequately answer the research question/s under study.
How to Make your Dissertation Writing Process Smooth
Writing a dissertation can be one of the most arduous tasks in a student’s academic life. However, there are a few tips that can be helpful in reducing the burden that is associated with dissertation writing in any topic of your choice.
Tip 1: Develop a strong working relationship with your supervisor: While some professors are quite willing to spend a lot of time with their students assisting them with the dissertation process right from the planning stage to the final presentation stage, others have very minimal contact and will only be available for reviewing the dissertation drafts. Having a good relationship with your supervisor is useful in ensuring that you get all the necessary support required in writing a dissertation including providing clarifications on areas that you find quite challenging. In particular, a supportive supervisor should be able to a) meet you regularly during your research to check on your progress, b) respond to your emails within the shortest time possible, and c) review your drafts and provide comments within the agreed timeframe.
Tip 2: Choose your topic of research wisely: It is good to be realistic when choosing your topic of research so as to ensure that is not only doable, but also attainable. Being realistic also requires you to carefully select your methodology, sample population and research instruments. For instance, when doing an empirical research, do not select a large sample population that would be difficult to study neither should you select a small sample population that would not be an adequate representation of the area under study. Furthermore, you should ensure that you have adequate resources to pursue the selected methodology.
Tip 3: Follow your University’s Guidelines on Dissertation Writing: Following the preferences of your institution will ensure that you do not have a hard time coming up with a well-structured dissertation.
TOP TIP: The best way to begin your dissertation is by carrying out a literature review and grouping references based on the themes that come up in these works. Read each source, then summarize it while at the same time noting its strengths and weaknesses so as to identify the gaps in literature. These gaps will help you in coming up with a dissertation that addresses them.
Structure of a Dissertation
Depending on your supervisor or the guidelines of your university, the structure of your dissertation may be different from that from other universities. The following sample provides the basic structure of a dissertation.
Title: This should be specific so as to ensure that your dissertation is coherent and adequately addresses the research question/s.
Abstract/Executive Summary: This section provides a brief summary of the entire dissertation. It is usually written last so as to ensure that it captures all major sections of the dissertation.
Introduction: This section introduces the context of the research and contains several items including research aims and objectives; research question/s/ (hypothesis/hypotheses); scope of the research; and a description of the dissertation structure.
Literature Review: This involves a review of previous research that is relevant to your dissertation topic. It is advisable to use current sources so as to make your work more reliable.
Methodology: This section explains the methods you will be utilizing to collect and analyze your data.
Findings and Discussion (Results): For an empirical study, you may be required to subdivide this part into two sections namely ‘Results’ and ‘Discussion’ parts.
Conclusion and Recommendations: This part should draw relevant conclusions from your dissertation process and further give recommendations based on collected evidence.
References: List all sources you have used in your dissertation using the appropriate citation style.
Appendices: This section captures all information or attachments that were omitted in the main text. Blank questionnaires, permits and consent letters are some of the common attachments included in this section.
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