Many undergrad degrees at university have the requirement of a dissertation or a research business project at the tail end of your course. Now at first, this can seem extremely scary but with the support of your tutors and proper planning you will be able to ace your dissertation! You may think you have no knowledge on how to write a piece of work like this but when you learn section by section how to do it it will all make sense!
Think about your interests
Firstly, you will want to think about which course topics have you found to be the most enjoyable. It will be easier to complete your dissertation research if you choose a topic you are truly interested in and want to research.
Make sure there is enough material to back up your first ideas by doing as much preparatory reading as you can on the topic. It is helpful to do a quick overview of articles that cover your topic, you will roughly need around 30 – 50+ depending on your word count.
Examine the most recent articles in the fields you are interested in – the date the article was written will be important! You can then can point out any gaps in the existing line of inquiry that you can fill and assist you in choosing the best approach. When examining articles and any other material you need for you dissertation, your university will of course have some fantastic resources available to you that can help this process immensely. What’s great too is that once you find an article that will help you, if you look in the cited section, you will probably find a great deal of other articles that will come in handy for you.
Plan your working days
Create a timetable, timetables can help hugely with the day to day management of your dissertation. The advantages of a timetable are that it gives you self-enforced deadlines, of course there will be enforced deadlines too set by tutors, however having your own will help you to meet the enforced deadlines. With timetables I always believe it is best to give yourself two possible times to meet. That way if you meet the first one you can either start the next stage and get ahead or give yourself a well-earned break. Alternatively, it gives you time to check over your work and possibly make alterations. Whilst timetables are good for the day to day management, what I consider useful for further management of your project is a Gannt chart, this can help you group small jobs into mini projects. At the opposite end of the scale, in order to manage your day as opposed to a timetable managing a few days, you can utilise a technique call timeboxing. This helps you to prioritise your daily tasks effectively.
Even the best-laid plans can go astray, so don’t be concerned! The structure and direction of your initial plan may change as you read and research in your key areas. This is the benefit of having a strategy. As a potential new focus emerges, you can modify your title, section headings, and content notes to incorporate your new ideas before beginning your draft writing. A good plan ensures that you do not lose sight of the end goal.
DO NOT LEAVE IT TO THE NIGHT BEFORE!
Honestly, you will be doing yourself a massive favour and saving so much stress if you plan it out over the weeks prior to your deadline.
Plan your dissertation before you start
The following is the general essay structure:
Start with an introduction and mention the layout of your project – talk about how you will do it, speaking about the concepts and theories.
Move onto the main body which will start with your literature review. Include definitions, research areas and gaps you have found.
After this talk about your research from your primary or secondary data, how you concluded your research and what you found.
Your conclusion would then include anything you can contribute and what further research still needs to be done.
Take each section at a time
It might be easier to write each section on a separate word document before putting it all together at the end. The saves you from trawling through all your other areas of the dissertation to get to the section that you need to be at. It is also very handy when you are allowed to send snippets of your dissertation to your tutor for any feedback. Given tutors are not allowed to read your full dissertation until deadline day, it can actually save you more time than you think if you have each section on a separate word document.
Further to the above, do not try to tackle all of your dissertation at one time. What I mean by that is don’t write your literature review at the same time as writing the main body, this will only confuse you and most likely mean you will have a disjointed dissertation. It is much easier if you take one section at a time, however in order to do this you must plan your time to ensure that you don’t end up overlapping each section of the dissertation because you didn’t complete the previous section in time. To make this easier refer back to the plan your working days paragraph.
Create a reading list
Include the full names of books and page numbers wherever possible when planning your sections to help you retrieve information quickly as you write your draft. It is also beneficial to start compiling your bibliography during the planning stage. Compiling your bibliography throughout the dissertation will make it a lot easier at the end of the dissertation. Let’s face it after doing all that work the last thing you want to do is sort a bibliography out. Trust me, I learnt this the hard way, trying to Harvard reference 50 plus references at the end of the project is not ideal.
Attend additional workshops
Attending workshops can really help develop your dissertation, the tutor will be able to tell if you have put in the extra effort with your dissertation as opposed to not putting in the extra effort. The great thing about these workshops even if you think you don’t need them, you may still pick something up that will help your project, even if it is as little as picking up and using a new word that was mentioned.
At first sight, your dissertation can look really overwhelming. But your tutor is there to set everything out very clearly. If you do need help or recommendations make sure you ask your tutor or supervisor, as this will show them that you are being proactive and trying to do the best you can!