Dissertations without fear –ASK session

Personal views and experiences

Dissertations without fear –ASK session

Had an absolutely fantastic session today, discussing dissertations with a professional. Sarah Treloar from the University of Portsmouth ASDAC unit who is completing her third dissertation at the moment (my reason for saying she is a professional), led the session in the Library. She showed great skill in learning and remembering the names of 24 students, for her first feet of brilliance. Then she moved on to the meaty stuff of explaining how to break the dissertation down into smaller chunks.

The steps to take

Finding a topic

  • Read around your subject
  • Find a topic with a lot of issues
  • Something with plenty of literature on it

Collecting data

  • Primary
  • Secondary


Writing up

So what’s involved?

Thinking about Primary Research:

  • Collection of data
  • Methodology
    • How and why you choose that method of analysis
    • Reliability of the data and method of collection
    • Justify your choice

So what do lecturers look for in a good dissertation?

  • Flow of writing
  • Good structure – primary focus at the start – get it right and fit the project into the sections
  • Fluently written work
  • Evidence of research
  • Attempt to prove a point – use an argument – have something to persuade your reader of
  • Addressing bias

Things that lose you marks: (spoils the whole thing in her experience)

  • Too much description
  • Poor spelling
  • Referencing errors
  • Grammatical errors
  • Over use of direct quotes
  • Don’t analyse in the results section

When you begin reading it’s a good idea to find other dissertations and see how the author created the structure of the project. You can also get ideas for sources in the work that you had not thought of and this leads to better reading around the topic.

Another top tip is to plan your work in advance. Use a Gantt chart to analyse the tasks that need to be completed in order to do the dissertation. Make a list of everything you need to do, then add to this list all the other things that happen during this period, such as other projects, lectures, part-time work and union responsibilities if you have them.

Micro tasking

Read 5 articles on your topic

Find 5 articles on a topic

Analyse 5 articles for

  • Validity of the topic
  • Indications of application of the topic
  • Write the notes for the topic (don’t forget to include references and page numbers so you can refer to them later)

The writing process

We worked in groups to produce a pie-chart which indicated the amount of time we thought would be needed to complete the following tasks.

  1. Analysis (find a question)
  2. Research
  • Reading
  • Notes
  • Gathering Data
  1. Planning
  2. Draft writing and editing
  3. Proof reading

The group I worked in found that:

Sarah made a point that none of us ever allow enough time for proof reading and you should never get another student to read your work as they are busy and will miss something.

It’s a good idea to use the following method:

Repeat this until you are happy with your work and it doesn’t contain errors. Make sure it flows and use the list above, ‘What the lecturers look for’ as a guide.


Know what is expected of you

  • Lecturer
  • Dissertations
  • Handbooks

Be Organised !!

  • Manage your time well – do this and you will do well
  • Break the whole thing down into small segments
  • Know what each element contains and tick it off as you go

Remember allow plenty of time for

  • Drafting and Editing
  • Proof reading
    • Marks are available in this area if you make the time

3 Responses

  1. Tony Skinner says:

    Sarah’s my one 2 one study skills teacher for ASDAC. She’s a very helpful person with lots to offer. Let’s hope my session with her tomorrow lives up to the standards of your one today.

    • tonycrowther says:

      What do you think to the blog post?

      • Tony Skinner says:

        Very very good. Sarah is full of useful hints and tips and the majority of this I’m sure is bound to crop up in the next phase of our sessions after I’ve completed the lit review.

        The advise that she gives is second to none and if all readers of this who are associated with our department think I’m wrong, then think again. Sarah is well known by certain members of our department including none other than our EDCOM teacher and they too think she is a wise advise giver.

        Sarah’s current interest is e-learning and she is now taking a second masters degree that specialises in this field. If that’s not a solid enough background to be able to preach from then I don’t know what is.

        Sarah has been provided with a link to the Netvibes page by myself as the topics we’re covering fall under e-learning in a sense so do look out for some comments. She may not have the time being busy but I hope she is able to make some comments.

        For those of you that are not lucky enough to be taught by Sarah then please read his blog post because this is exactly the sort of stuff that she will cover. It is real gold dust for all of us regardless of what type of project we’re doing.

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