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Writing your Dissertation Writing your Dissertation

Description of this Guide


This guide focuses on the skills and strategies needed to plan, write and review a
dissertation.
Learning Outcomes
1. Recognise the purpose of a dissertation, the importance of working effectively with
your supervisor and the challenge of managing your study time effectively
2. Select and research a topic, with due attention to methodology and related theory
. Structure and write up the dissertation effectively, thinking critically and writing with
accuracy and style
!. "valuate own performance against a list of generic assessment criteria for
dissertations
Contents
1.# The Dissertation$ an %verview
1.1 What is a dissertation&
1.2 'ow to manage your supervisor
1. The importance of time management
2.# Selecting and Researching your Topic
2.1 (hoosing your topic$ the hunt for an idea
2.2 (onducting a literature search or review
2. Researching and e)ploring the topic$ methods and methodologies
2.! The importance of having a *thesis+ and evaluating it critically
2., -anaging your notes
.# Writing up your .indings
.1 /lanning and staging your deadlines
.2 (reating an appropriate structure for the dissertation
. -aintaining academic principles$ ethics, referencing and intellectual
honesty
.! Writing with accuracy and elegance
!.# 0eing your own (ritic 1efore Su1mitting your Work
!.1 2sing a self3evaluation checklist
!.2 Related approaches
,.# %ver to you
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The material in this guide is copyright 5 2## the 2niversity of Southampton. /ermission is given for it to 1e
copied for use within the 2niversity of Southampton. 6ll other rights are reserved.
Writing your Dissertation Writing your Dissertation
Dissertations have 1ecome an increasingly important component of 'igher "ducation
over the past few years, and are often included in third level undergraduate work, as well
as forming an important part of any -asters level programme. Dissertations provide you
with an opportunity to work independently, at length, on a topic that particularly interests
you. 7t is also an effective means of research training, which helps to develop advanced
intellectual skills such as evaluation, analysis and synthesis, as well as management
skills. This guide gives advice a1out how to approach, undertake and evaluate your own
dissertation, so that you can make the most of this challenge.
Using this guide
The following advice is made up of four parts$
2
1.
The
dissertation: an
overview
What is a
dissertation&
'ow to manage
your supervisor
The importance
of time
management
2.
Selecting and
researching your
topic
(hoosing a topic$
the hunt for an idea
(onducting a
literature search or
review
Researching and
e)ploring the topic$
methods and
methodologies
The importance of
having a *thesis+ and
evaluating it critically
-anaging your
notes
.
Writing up your
findings
/lanning and
staging your
deadlines
(reating an
appropriate structure
for the dissertation
-aintaining
academic principles$
ethics, referencing
and intellectual
honesty
Writing with
accuracy and
elegance
!.
eing your
own critic
2sing a
checklist to
evaluate your own
dissertation 1efore
you su1mit it$
using your tutor+s
assessment
criteria


Skills
Writing your dissertation
!"# The Dissertation: an Overview
6s preparation for a more detailed consideration of various aspects of dissertation
preparation, in this section we review what is meant 1y the term *dissertation+. We also
suggest how to *manage+ two key resources, your supervisor and your time.
!"! What is a dissertation$
0efore you 1egin to think a1out possi1le topics for investigation, make sure you are clear
in your own mind a1out what a dissertation is. 8ou will 1e familiar with the principles of
essay writing, the most common form of academic writing, 1ut it is worth reviewing
1riefly what an essay is really designed to do, and looking at how a dissertation may
echo 1ut also differ from a standard essay.
Different su19ect disciplines may emphasise different features, 1ut, 1roadly speaking, an
essay is a continuous piece of writing, arranged in clearly demarcated paragraphs, in
which an argument :a clear line of thought; is developed, in response to a central
<uestion or proposition :thesis;. The line of argument is supported 1y evidence you have
ac<uired through research, which you are re<uired to analyse, and which supports or
contradicts the various perspectives e)plored in the course of that argument. The essay
then reaches a conclusion in the final section, which pulls together the threads of your
argument, supporting, <ualifying or re9ecting the original thesis.
7t is worth 1earing in mind that an academic essay is not a piece of writing designed to
reproduce information availa1le elsewhere, 1ut something new and e)pressive of your
individual abilities to analyse and synthesise.
7n addition, the process of academic writing will, of itself, help you to learn, 1y ena1ling
you to work with concepts and information relevant to your su19ect, and there1y
developing your intellectual skills. .or a more detailed e)amination of this topic have a
look at the Writing Effectively =uide.
6 dissertation follows the fundamental principles of academic writing, 1ut 1ear in mind
the following key points.
7t is an e%tended piece of writing, usually divided into chapters.
-ake sure that you know the lower and upper word limits accepta1le for your
dissertation, and what that will look like in terms of word3processed pages.
0e sure to find out whether you should 1e following a particular se<uence of
chapter headings > for e)ample, introduction followed 1y literature search
followed 1y an e)periment or a survey and?or an analysis of your research 3 or
whether you are e)pected to devise your own se<uence and structure.
7t contains a detailed e)ploration of evidence. The evidence referred to may comprise
evidence from pu1lished te)ts, for e)ample if you are e)ploring the literary te)ts of a
particular writer, or it may consist of primary data gathered 1y your own, first3hand
research, for e)ample a sociological study of attitudes to gender roles 1ased on research
methods such as interviews and <uestionnaires.
8ou are re<uired to 1e clear a1out the nature of the methodology you will use for
gathering the evidence > why are you collecting data or analysing evidence in that way
rather than in another way& This can 1e a difficult area and there is a separate section on
it in 2.2 1elow.
7t must 1e underpinned throughout 1y awareness of theory > your argument should 1e
placed within the conte)t of e)isting theory relevant to the su19ect.

7t has to 1e presented in a professionally finished manner. 8our tutors should give you
precise details a1out the format, layout and stylistic re<uirements of your assignment.
-ake sure that you know e)actly what these are.
@%T"
&lease remem'er that the contents of this guide are generic and that it is
important to ensure that you adapt them to meet the particular re(uirements of
your discipline"
!") *ow to manage your supervisor
Since a dissertation is an individually devised piece of work, you will 1e allocated a
personal supervisor to support you while you are writing it. Do not delay in having your
first meeting with her or him, as it is vital to discuss not only what topic you will start 1y
e)ploring, 1ut also how you can 1est work on your dissertation. 7n order to help your
supervisor help you, have a go at the short self3analysis <uiA 1elow and take your
responses with you to your first meeting.
Which of the following statements apply to you&
Statement Yes/No
1
7 am good at managing my own work and don+t need any reminders from a
supervisor a1out where 7 should 1e up to, or how much time is left. Bust
leave me to it.
2
7 am <uite good at organising my own work, 1ut would still appreciate some
interim deadlines and reminders from time to time.

Time management can 1e a real pro1lem for me. 7 tend to leave work till
the last minute and can only get going when a deadline is looming fastC
!
7 do not find it easy to 1other my tutors > they are all so 1usy, 7 do not like
to cause a fuss.
,
7 need lots of reassurance and pro1a1ly contact my tutors more often than 7
really need to.
D
7 am clear a1out the re<uirements of the dissertation and can translate
these into a plan for ensuring that 7 meet the final deadline.
The above are just some of the things students say they feel: we are
all different we have different styles of learning and levels of
motivation. There are no right or wrong answers. However you have
responded, the challenge is to establish the best way of working with
your supervisor.
!


Skills
Writing your dissertation
To help you further with this aspect of your dissertation the ne)t activity is in the form of
a checklist. This consists of things that need to 1e considered in managing relations with
your supervisor, not 9ust initially 1ut throughout the period that you are working on your
dissertation.
2se the final column to note whether or not you have dealt with a particular aspect of the
dissertation process.
+spects of managing your tutor and the dissertation
process
,es-.o
1 Eet your supervisor know how much contact and support you
would like
2 6ccept that there are limits to the amount of help that can, and
should, 1e given with a dissertation studied at an advanced
level
6gree together at the outset on when you will meet and how
1est contact can 1e made :for e)ample, 1y phone or 1y email;
! /lan together some interim deadlines for the work, so that you
are a1le to manage your time effectively
, -ake sure that you know from the start how your dissertation
will 1e assessed > what assessment criteria will 1e applied to it
> and that you understand these, discussing them with your
supervisor if you need to
D 6sk for access, where possi1le, to past dissertations of the kind
you are 1eing asked to write, so that you can get a sense of
their scope, structure, tone and the methodology used
F (onsider contri1uting to the setting up of appropriate support
groups or pairings with fellow students, so that you can clarify
your own thinking 1y discussing it with others if this is
accepta1le to your tutor
G .ind an appropriate way of mapping and monitoring your own
progressH for e)ample, 1y using a checklist of tasks to 1e
completed. 2se this to help the discussions with your
supervisor to focus on areas where you need particular advice
I Eisten to, evaluate and respond to your supervisor+s feed1ack,
1y making notes and reflecting on what has 1een said or
written, then applying the feed1ack to the ne)t stage of your
research or writing up
spects 1 to ! relate to the setting of ground rules with your
supervisor and as such need to be agreed as early as possible. spects
" and # relate to the gathering of background information to help you
understand $the nature of the beast%. spects & to ' relate to the
support available as you work towards the completion of your
dissertation. ll are important and need to be closely monitored.
,
!"/ The importance of time management
Writing a dissertation can 1e very demanding in terms of managing your time and the
process itself. 7t is a ma9or piece of work and you are likely to have months 1efore it is
due for su1mission, so the dissertation sometimes causes pro1lems even for people who
are normally good at meeting deadlines. 7f you know that you have a pro1lem with
independent work, or if you think that such a ma9or undertaking will cause pro1lems,
make sure you read the Being and Independent Learner =uide, which is full of practical
advice a1out keeping on top of your work. 8ou might also want to look at Section .1 in
this guide, which is a1out organising your weekly schedule, and mapping out the weeks
availa1le to you.
)"# Selecting and 0esearching ,our Topic
When you have 1een used to having essay <uestions and assignment topics set for you,
it can 1e difficult to decide what to do when you have 1een given some freedom in this
respect. There is also a risk that the freedom might go to your head so that you take on
more than you can cope with in the time availa1le. When deciding on a su19ect for your
dissertation keep in mind the research re<uirements, and 1e guided 1y the adage *the
narrower and more specific the 1etter+. 7f you are unsure consult your supervisor.
)"! Choosing your topic: the hunt for an idea
So how do you choose a topic in the first place& 8ou will pro1a1ly already have an
inkling a1out the kind of topic that appeals to you, and it+s likely that you will have 1een
asked to engage in 1ackground reading 1efore the start of the term or semester in which
you 1egin your dissertation unit. This should narrow down the possi1ilities. .inding a
topic of particular interest is a 1it like a treasure hunt > you pick up an interesting idea,
perhaps from something you have read or discussed in class, and follow it up through
pu1lished te)ts such as 1ooks, 9ournals, and we1sites 1y following up references, until
you fi) on a particular aspect which you feel needs to 1e addressed. Eook at the
Developing an Effective Search Strategy =uide for practical advice a1out how to do this.
Jeep the following points in mind$
7s the topic of academic significance, and not trivial& 7t would 1e possi1le to find
out whether Shakespeare used the word *and+ more often in his comedies than in
his tragedies, 1ut would it 1e of genuine interest&&
7s the topic really managea1le in the time availa1le& 7t is a common mistake to
imagine that you can cover far more than is actually feasi1le, so keep a suita1ly
narrow focus. Do not ask too 1ig a <uestion. -ake sure that you take advice from
your supervisor on this.
0e aware of your own standpoint > your own take on the topic. 'ow do your own
attitudes, values and 1eliefs affect your research& @o one can 1e entirely
o19ective > 1e honest a1out your own interests and values.
6s early as possi1le, write down your thesis > the proposition that you are
investigating. Jeep this to hand whenever you are analysing evidence or writing
out your argument, so that you do not fall into the trap of simply collecting facts
rather than unfolding a clear argument relating to a narrowly defined issue. See
Section 2.! for more on this.
)") Conducting a literature search or review
7n order to write with confidence a1out your topic, you will need to read what mem1ers
of the academic community have already 1een said a1out it. Take advice from li1rary
staff on this, and read the Developing an Effective Search Strategy =uide to ensure that
you know how to access relevant material in a variety of formats. 6lways ask for
guidance from staff > do not avoid looking at a particular resource 1ecause you are not
sure how to access it. Ei1rary staff are there to help you do e)actly this.
D


Skills
Writing your dissertation
Remem1er to look for up3to3date references to the topic. There may well 1e classic
te)ts, particular relating to underpinning theories, 1ut you should also see what has 1een
said in recent years. The availa1ility of electronic 9ournals will help greatly with this, as
they are easily searcha1le. Eook at the li1rary we1site on www.li1rary.soton.ac.uk and
click on the *"lectronic resources+ 1utton > 1ut, if in dou1t, ask a mem1er of li1rary staff
to help you.
)"/ 0esearching and e%ploring your topic: methods and methodologies
Research is a form of learning, or finding out. When you find out anything, you do it in a
particular way, or using a particular methodology, even if you are not aware of it. 7f you
are a third year student, and particularly if you are a -asters level student, you should
1e aware of the methodology you are adopting in your search for evidence, and of where
that methodology fits in the spectrum of possi1le approaches. .or e)ample, it is common
to read a1out <uantitative research and <ualitative research.
Kuantitative research is 1ased on scientific method. 7t purports to 1e as o19ective as
possi1le, and is often 1ased on statistics or other measura1le, empirical data.
(onclusions will 1e drawn from the analysis of things clearly measured.
Kualitative research is often 1ased on su19ective data items, which cannot 1e given a
numeric value, for e)ample the attitudes and opinions of a range of individuals on an
issue. 6nthropological study, for e)ample, may 1e 1ased on small details of people+s
e)perience, collected through o1servation. These will 1e descri1ed in words rather than
num1ers, and statistical generalisations cannot 1e drawn from them.
7n practice, few dissertations involve only <ualitative or only <uantitative methods, 1ut
there is often a ma9or focus on one end of the spectrum or the other. Where will your
focus lie& The answer should depend upon the kind of en<uiry you are engaged in$
again, ask your supervisor for advice a1out this.
)"1 The importance of having a thesis and evaluating it critically
Remem1er that you are constructing an argument or defending a thesis, from the
1eginning to the end of your assignment. Jeep your thesis > the statement you are
defending or central argument you are asserting > in the forefront of your mind as you
write. Think of this central idea, and the logical development of your argument :train of
thought; around this, as 1eing the central path of your dissertation, and make sure that
you do not have sections or paragraphs which are somewhere in the shru11ery out of
sight of the main path. "very paragraph should further the central argument, 1y
providing another angle on it, additional evidence, and evaluation of that evidence in
relation to the central thesis.
)"2 3anaging your notes
With a long assignment of this nature it is essential that you manage your notes well
from the start of your research to the editing of the final version of the dissertation.
%rganise them using methods that suit your learning style :see Understanding Your
Learning Style =uide;, and make sure that you keep detailed notes of all of the
references you will want to use, including a detailed 1i1liography :see the eferencing
Your !ork =uide and Using Endnote Bibliographic Soft!are =uide for further help on
this;.
/"# Writing up ,our 4indings
6s you carry out your research it is important to remem1er that the time you have at
your disposal is limited, and that the effort you put into this aspect of your dissertation
F
needs to 1e reflected in the end product. To this end it is essential to plan your strategy
and think a1out the overall structure of your dissertation sooner rather than later. Try to
ensure that your research effort is aligned with the way in which your dissertation will 1e
structured.
/"! &lanning and staging your deadlines
.1.1 %R=6@7S7@= 8%2R W""JE8 S('"D2E"
Draw a typical week+s timeta1le on a large sheet of paper :there is a copy of a 1lank
timeta1le in the Being an Independent Learner =uide that you could use;. Show every
day, whether or not you have any lectures or classes, and write or draw in the *fi)tures+
for each week > your 2niversity timeta1le, and other regular commitments such as part3
time work and regular social events.
%nce you have marked in the essentials, as you see them, take a good look at where you
could commit time. Eook for slots of 1etween # minutes and 2 hours :your 1rain starts
to slow down when you have 1een working for more than 2 hours; > to spend on your
dissertation. Eook particularly for those odd hours which are easily frittered away doing
nothing much, and see if you can turn these into study time, so that some clear chunks
of time are left for you to rela), keep fit, go shopping, watch TL and so on.
@ow fill in your timeta1le with personal study periods. When are you going to work on
your dissertation, and when on your other commitments& Take account of when you are
at your 1est for studying > for e)ample, can you work early in the morning or late at
night& Think, too, a1out where you will study, and make sure that you know of a place
where you can actually get on with your own work, whether it is a study area at
2niversity, a li1rary or computer room, or a <uiet place where you live. 2se colours to
mark out on your weekly chart your free time and any other activities > it is easier to see
the pattern.
0e realistic > do not aim for the impossi1le. 0ut make sure you get a reasona1le num1er
of study sessions in each week in which you will only work on your dissertation.
%nce you have found a reasona1ly regular pattern of study that suits you, look for ways
of prioritising the work that needs to 1e done. Jeep a list of everything you have to do,
and everything that is not vital, 1ut would 1e good to do :like 1ackground reading,
additional research on the internet and so on;. 2se you first study session each week to
review the list, and make a note of what needs to 1e done that week, and anything
additional that you would like to do. 2se a diary to pencil in roughly how your study
times will 1e used.
2se every trick you can think of to persuade > or 1ri1e > yourself to stay committed to
your study times. :8ou will pro1a1ly want to review your study timeta1le every few
weeks, to see whether it is working for you.; Regular work throughout your dissertation
unit will mean less chance of any all3night, last3minute, nail31iting sessions during the
week 1efore it needs to 1e su1mitted.
.1.2 -6//7@= %2T T'" W""JS 6'"6D %. 8%2
Do not 9ust 1um1le along for the first few weeks, thinking you have months ahead of you
to spend on your dissertation > time passes <uickly.
6t the outset, and prefera1ly in colla1oration with your supervisor, map out a timeta1le of
su13tasks and interim deadlines on the following grid, or something like it adapted to
G


Skills
Writing your dissertation
your own needs. 2ndergraduate dissertations are likely to 1e shorter and have less time
for study and any primary research than postgraduate dissertations, so 1ear this in mind.
Eook at this e)ample of an action plan, and devise one for yourself, which is suita1le for
your own conte)t, su19ect discipline and length of time availa1le.
W5
no"
3ain tas5 to 'e completed
'y end of this wee5:
4ind time this wee5 also to
e%plore:
&ossi'le
interim
deadlines
1 0ackground reading .ollow interesting *trails+, until one
leads to a provisional <uestion or
*thesis+
2 .inalise topic and title -ore 1ackground and focused reading
on your chosen aspect of the topic
6greement of title
Eiterature search > what has
already 1een written a1out your
topic& Seek out up3to3date
resources, asking for help from
li1rary staff
7nvestigate methodological issues,
implications of particular methods and
ethical issues. See the Developing an
Effective strategy =uide and Using
Endnote Bibliographic Soft!are =uide
for help with constructing and
maintaining a 1i1liography
0rief annotated
1i1liography
! Dissertation plan, informed 1y
your literature search
Reflect on methodological issues in
writing and revising your dissertation
plan
%verview of
design of
dissertation plan
, Develop dissertation plan 0egin to conduct your research and
gather evidence or data
D =athering evidence or data
F =athering evidence or data 0egin to analyse evidence or data
G =athering evidence or data 0egin to analyse evidence or data
I 2se initial findings to 1egin to
draft the dissertation
(ontinue to analyse and evaluate
evidence or data
7nterim report to
supervisor
1# Refine assignment plan and
develop draft, referring to self3
evaluation checklist in Section !
.ocus on adopting an appropriate
academic tone and style, together with
accurate, reader3friendly presentation
of evidence
11 (ontinue drafting and refining
12 (omplete draft Refine style (ompleted draft
1 6pply self3evaluation checklist
again
East refinements of written style and
presentationH final check of data and
its presentation
1! /roduce final assignment Su1mit
dissertation
Take your plan to a meeting with your supervisor. (t will help to
structure your discussion and should impress him or her.
I
/") Creating an appropriate structure for the dissertation
7t is important to 1e clear a1out the structure of your dissertation, to ensure that your
ideas are clearly and logically presented to your reader, so that your argument, with it is
supporting evidence, can 1e followed. 8ou will need a clear introduction, followed 1y the
main 1ody of your argument, and then a conclusion, 1ut make sure that you talk to your
supervisor a1out how your assignment should 1e structured. There may also 1e written
guidance on this aspect in your School.
Try noting down your provisional chapter headings here, together with a
few initial thoughts on the contents of each chapter.
gain, once you have done this take it to the ne)t meeting with your
supervisor to check that you are on the right lines.
/"/ 3aintaining academic principles: ethics6 referencing and
intellectual honesty
7t is a1solutely vital with a dissertation, as with all academic work, that your assignment
meets the re<uired standards in terms of ethics, accurate referencing and intellectual
honesty.
..1 "T'7(6E ST6@D6RDS
6ll research must 1e carried out in an ethical manner, without e)ploiting others or
1reaking agreed ethical rules. 8our own discipline will have a set of ethical standards to
which you must adhere$ make sure that you know what these are, and take advice from
your supervisor a1out any ethical issues arising from the nature of your particular study.
1#


Skills
Writing your dissertation
..2 R"."R"@(7@= 6@D 7@T"EE"(T26E '%@"ST8
-ake sure, too, that all of your references to other people+s work are made accurate
and in accordance with the academic conventions of referencing, citations and
1i1liographies appropriate for your su19ect discipline > see the eferencing Your Work
=uide for more information a1out this. 7t is vital that all ideas and arguments drawn
form the work of others are acknowledged, to ensure that you are not open to
accusations of plagiarism, or passing off the ideas or words of others as if they are
your own. 8our dissertation should 1e your work, made up of your evaluation of
evidence relevant to your central argument.
/"1 Writing with accuracy and elegance
Remem1er to check the accuracy and style of your own writing. (ommunicate as clearly
as possi1le, in a style appropriate for serious academic work, 1ut avoiding the use of
difficult sentence constructions wherever possi1le. .or more advice on this su19ect see
the Writing Effectively =uide .
1"# eing your own Critic 'efore Su'mitting your Wor5
There is much to 1e gained from criti<uing your own workH 1y now you may have
1ecome used to doing this 1efore su1mitting your assignments. 7f not, it is particularly
important to do so with such a su1stantial piece of work as a dissertation.
1"! Using a self7evaluation chec5list
8ou may find the following grid useful in checking aspects of your work. Depending on
your su19ect discipline, you will pro1a1ly find some terms and some categories more
useful and important than others, 1ut this is a generic overview of the kinds of criteria
markers use for dissertations. -ake sure that you also have in front of you a copy of the
specific marking criteria for your dissertation$ these should 1e availa1le from your School
or .aculty, and are often to 1e found on your su19ect we1site. 7f you cannot find these
criteria, askC
(learly, for this checklist to 1e of any real value, you need to 1e use it while there is still
time to address those <uestions where your answer is *no+, or seek further guidance
where your response is *not sure+. Thus, in Section .1 it is suggested that you apply it in
Weeks 1# and 1.
8uestions
,es-.o-
.ot sure
! Dissertation topic
7s the topic clear and well defined& Does it involve a pro1lem, <uestion, or
hypothesis that sets the agenda and points precisely to what needs to 1e
e)plored or discovered&
7s the topic of genuine relevance or interest within your su19ect discipline& Does
it pick up on important or interesting themes or su19ects arising from your
studies&
11
) Literature review
'ave you accessed the most recent literature of relevance to your topic,
as well as seminal sources from the past&
Do you refer to ma9or 1ooks, articles, artefacts& Since <uality is more important
than <uantity > how well have you selected your material&
Does the literature review hang together, to show how the ideas and findings
have developed, or is it merely a shopping list of 1ooks and articles&
7s the review critical& Does it 1riefly evaluate, showing how your dissertation fits
into what is mistaken or lacking in other studies& The literature review should
provide a critically appraised conte)t for your studies.
/ Theoretical underpinnings
Does theory permeate the structure from 1eginning to end, from statement of
pro1lem to conclusion& 6re you asking yourself a key <uestion, presenting a
thesis, or defending a statement& 0e clear a1out your approach.
Theory is the framework of your study > not a lu)ury. 8our dissertation will 1e
9udged, in part, 1y how well you e)press and critically understand the theory you
are using, and how clearly and consistently it is connected with the focus and
methodology of your dissertation.
1 3ethodology
Two chief criteria$
7s your choice of methods and research techni<ues well suited to the kind of
pro1lem you are studying& -ethods work if they provide a persuasive response
to your <uestion, positive or negative.
7s your description of the methods you have adopted clear enough to take a
1lueprint and replicate&
2 0esults
6re your findings faithful to what you actually found > do you claim more than
you should& Don+t *massage+ your evidence or findingsM
'ave you provided enough evidence to make a convincing case&
'ave you presented everything directly relevant to the <uestion in such a way
that the reader doesn+t have to flip 1ack and forth to make her or his own
connections&
6re results or findings clearly and accurately written, easy to read, grasp and
understand&
9 Conclusions
'ave you answered the <uestion *So what&+. What should we do with your
findings and conclusions& What do they imply&
.indings don+t speak for themselves > they need to 1e analysed. 'ave you
e)plained what your findings mean and their importance, in relation to theory
and practice&
7f you have completed your checklist in Week 1# you should 1e a1le to take it to a final
meeting with your supervisor. 6t this meeting it can serve as an agenda to guide your
discussion and help you decide your priorities for the final stages of the dissertation
process.
12


Skills
Writing your dissertation
1") 0elated approaches
When you have written something that relates to your dissertation, always put it aside
for a few of days. 7n other words *sleep on it+. Then reread with a critical eye. Try to put
yourself in the position of someone who is interested in your topic 1ut knows nothing
a1out it. Would it make sense to him or her& 'ave you used the 1est words to e)press
the points you are seeking to make& Where does what you have written fit into the
dissertation as a whole& Will the 9oins show& 7n considering these and similar <uestions
you will often 1e surprised at the changes you decide to make in the interests of
enhanced clarity and greater variety and elegance in the language used. The Three Rs of
competent writing are revise, revise, revise. This is especially important with a
su1stantial piece of work like a dissertation.
2"# Over to ,ou
6s has 1een emphasised, one of the key challenges in preparing a dissertation is
consistency of effort. 8ou must avoid the temptation to coast and cram. What you need is
someone who will act as a sounding 1oard for your ideas and 1e prepared to 1rainstorm
with you. She or he might also act as a progress chaser. 7t is unlikely that your
supervisor will 1e a1le to meet all the demands that you have in this respect. 'ence
there is a need to find someone else. The most likely, and most suita1le person will
pro1a1ly 1e a fellow student. 7n this case, you must of course 1e prepared to reciprocate.
While this might seem like additional pressure on your time, if you have chosen wisely
the 1enefits will almost certainly outweigh the costs.
1