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
So what’s involved?
Thinking about Primary Research:
- Collection of data
- 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.
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.
- Analysis (find a question)
- Gathering Data
- Draft writing and editing
- 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
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
- Marks are available in this area if you make the time