You may find the idea of writing a dissertation rather daunting. It is the longest academic essay you have been asked to write so far. It will require lots of commitment and will absorb most of your final year. But writing a dissertation is also a fascinating experience. You will conduct your own research and will explore topics that you find interesting.
Start your research early
If you are asked to come up with your own title, start your research early. Think about subject areas you find interesting and start exploring “gaps” in existing literature. Look for any aspects that have not been addressed by other scholars or need exploring further. For example, you may find that quite a few studies concentrate on the number of people voting in local elections. But there is not much research exploring why people vote.
Narrow down your subject area
It is important you are able to research and present your work within the specified word limit. Exploring reasons behind the collapse of communism worldwide in a 10,000-word dissertation may not be feasible. Rather, you can narrow down your research by focusing on a particular country or aspects of the issue. This will allow you to explore the subject in more detail.
Consult your supervisor
Even if your supervisor is not an expert in your subject area, they can provide guidance and help you define your research topic. Make sure you arrange regular meetings with them to discuss your ideas and progress. If arranging a meeting proves difficult, email your drafts regularly and ask for feedback. You can also discuss your research with your personal tutor or departmental librarian.
Plan your work
Allow sufficient time for collecting and analysing data in case you need to repeat experiments or gather more information. Relate your results to the various ideas and theories you introduced in your literature review. If your data reveals new concepts, explore them as you go along.
Enjoy your dissertation and prevent stress related to missing deadlines by planning your work well ahead.
Do you have any more tips for final-year students on how to handle the dissertation? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo: Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr