How to write a dissertation? – Dissertation writing tips for postgraduate students

How to write a dissertation? - Dissertation writing tips for postgraduate students

You’ve barely survived exam season as you approach your next academic hurdle: the infamous Master’s dissertation. However, if you work in a structured and focused manner, we’re sure that you will ace it. So, read and share our top Masters dissertation tips because they will lead to dissertation success.

1. Choose your topic carefully and research it well

Choose a topic you genuinely care about because it will keep you going through the hard times. Then, research it thoroughly because the topic you thought was interesting at first might not be so great after further research. Indeed, you might find that you need to tweak it a little or even go back to the drawing board. And even if your topic turns out to be the perfect fit, it’s better you know this early on. This way, you won’t have to worry about it halfway through your dissertation.

2. Answer the ‘so what?’ question

When it comes to your dissertation, it’s important that your topic ties into a larger purpose. Think of the answer you would give someone who knows your dissertation topic and asks you what the point of it all is. Knowing this will tie together various strands of thinking and focus you from the very start.

3. Break your dissertation down

Break your dissertation down into manageable goals and set individual deadlines for them. This will help you feel accomplished along the way and make the overall task seem less daunting. Stick to your deadlines and celebrate your achievements — no matter how small they are.

4. Structure your dissertation properly

Preliminary pages

These include everything up to the main body or introduction, and consist of the following: title page, abstract or summary, acknowledgement, author’s declaration, contents, and possibly definitions or lists of figures, tables or other accompanying material like software on a CD. Make sure to always double check submission guidelines with your department to ensure you’ve included everything you need to.

Introduction

A crucial part of your dissertation structure is, of course, your introduction. Remember that examiners often read the introduction and conclusion first, so don’t waste these opportunities. They are your chance to show a clear understanding of your research topic and question, and why it’s important and interesting. Your introduction should capture the reader’s attention and introduce (surprise!) everything you explain later. Furthermore, it provides a broad overview of the general research area and why it’s important, explains where your research is situated and its contribution, and includes your research questions and objectives — usually grouped under a separate subheading. Your introduction will also guide to following chapters but remember: Don’t just reiterate the contents page but explain the chapters’ purpose and your reasoning.

Top tip: We usually recommend writing your introduction first even if it’s only a rough draft. This is because it logically gets the ball moving, reduces anxiety and shows you that you are headed towards a structure. You’ll see that you’re less muddled in your thoughts than you think!

Literature review

After stating your research objectives, you have to satisfy them and ‘review’ existing scholarly literature on your research area. In essence, you’re writing what these scholars have said on your topic. This is not just a summary of the sources you have read but a critical and analytical integration of them. One question, for example, that can guide this writing stage is how a particular source relates to your objectives and how they inform your theories. Additionally, ask yourself how that source relates to what you already know and how it compares to other authors.

Remember: Combine, compare and contrast ideas from different authors and theories. Make connections between them and engage the reader in connections they may have not thought of. Also, importantly, highlight the gaps these theories leave behind in answering your research question! Tell the reader how your research will hopefully amend this gap in a small way.

Research methods

Your methodology could be part of your introduction or separately based in the literature review section. In essence, it explains why you conducted your research in the way you did. Furthermore, it answers why a particular research paradigm or method was used, and how you gathered and analysed data. It is the most basic and important section for the reader to learn the logistics of your paper. For interviews or questionnaires, this is the time to justify individual questions and your choice of respondents.

Results and discussions

In the following chapters, you write the overall results and patterns of findings in your interviews and then critically analyse and discuss your results. Throughout, don’t forget to remind the reader of the research purpose and objectives. Remember also to showcase your intellectual and critical analysis skills, and connect all the dots between literature review and any interviews, surveys or case studies. Really importantly, be critical of how reliable and valid your findings are: What could have been different to show better truth?

Keep in mind, you are writing a ‘masters’ level paper, and a master of a particular knowledge always ask yourself: How could this knowledge I’m sharing have been more accurate? What can other researchers do in the future to best analyse this topic and research question? Additionally, you can write about your own reflections on what you have learned and what you would do differently if you could repeat your study.

Conclusion

As mentioned previously, this chapter is über important because the examiner will often read this first together with your introduction. So, refer to your objectives and explain how (or not) they were achieved. Remember to also repeat key words and phrases to show consistency, and strike a balance between summarising without too much repetition. You could, for example, use bullet points to make this more effective. Additionally, discuss your research’s implications and answer the “so what?” question as to the effect your findings might have. It’s also okay to identify weaknesses and limitations in your research and suggest what the future may hold. Then round it all off with a few convincing concluding sentences. Remember: Don’t introduce new opinions in this section as these should have all been introduced beforehand.

5. Start writing as early as possible

We’ve all been there. We begin writing an essay and find ourselves buried in a load of notes we are no longer able to make sense of. If this is you with a 3,000 word essay, imagine the chaos of a 10,000 word project. Work your way through your dissertation in sections and, if possible, read and write them simultaneously. This way, you will be able to see and deal with any holes at an early stage. Additionally, remember that even if you feel like your writing isn’t the best this way, dissertation writing is like chipping away at a huge block of granite — you’ll refine it as you go along!

6. Discuss with others

Discuss your dissertation out loud. This will help you think about what you’re writing and where you’re going, and you’ll receive valuable feedback and advice. Who knows, someone might provide a groundbreaking perspective you’ve never even considered before…

7. Submit a first draft

If your supervisor has offered to read a draft, use this opportunity! Ideally, you’ll submit your draft two months before the deadline to benefit fully from the feedback. And if there’s anything seriously wrong, it gives you enough time to fix it!

8. Give yourself time to relax

When you start your dissertation well in advance, there will be time to relax and refuel. Don’t feel guilty when you do but just enjoy the time off and remember to start writing again!

9. Don’t neglect presentation

First impressions really do matter. Therefore, give yourself a week to do a final proofread for any grammatical or spelling mistakes, and include all your university’s requirements. Additionally, don’t forget that some forms of binding can take longer too, so make sure to check on this well in advance.

10. Expect it to be difficult sometimes

Be prepared to have setbacks. Prepare for the fact that you will make mistakes and it might sometimes feel like you’re hitting a wall. Therefore, the key is to be kind to yourself and give yourself enough time to work through a bad spell. Whatever happens, keep going and keep up your momentum — we promise that you’ll get there eventually.

11. Book a dissertation tutor

We know that our top dissertation tips will prove invaluable for your dissertation. However, nothing can replace one-on-one tuition by an academic tutor in your discipline. Our university tutors provide tailored dissertation guidance, teaching academic writing fundamentals once and for all, and providing detailed feedback editorial. They are available for the long and short term and ca. 98% of our university students receive top grades in their dissertation. So, get in touch now at 02030867311 or info@ubertutors.co.uk because your dissertation grade really matters. We look forward to hearing from you!

Interested in finding out more about our Private Tutoring process?

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