A dissertation is another way of describing a planned research project. It shows a lot about your work, which is why they receive a large proportion of marks at university. It shows that the student is able:
- To carefully plan and execute the research.
- To explain how the findings were gathered and why.
- To support the discussion, implications and conclusions of the research.
Dissertation structure is an important part of the work and can be quite time consuming, which is why planning is so important. It is vital that your arguments and observations are revealed in a coherent order that takes the reader from the very beginning of your work to the final conclusion.
As well as preparing you for academic research, a dissertation shows employers that a student can:
- Plan their time effectively
- Work to a deadline
- Carry out self-motivated and independent work
- Follow plans and adapt ones that aren’t working
- Problem solve
- Communicate effectively in writing
The structure of your dissertation will likely depend on the subject, your topic and the length of your project (in terms of word count). You must speak to your tutor or dissertation supervisor well in advance (preferably when you first start) to find out what you need to include. However a general structure has been provided below to give you an idea of where to start:
- Title page
- Dedication (optional)
- Acknowledgements (optional)
- Table of contents
- List of Tables
- List of Figures
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Review of the Literature
- Chapter 3: Methodology
- Chapter 4: Findings
- Chapter 5: Discussion
- Appendices (optional)
The best way to ensure you succeed with your dissertation is to create and stick to a plan in order to organise your research and keep track of what you need to do and when. If it helps, use a checklist to tick off the things that are finished and highlight what you need to come back to. A dissertation is a long project, so it needs to be worked at over time; if you don’t work a few nights so that you can go out with your friends, it’s no big deal as long as putting off your work isn’t a regular thing. You must ensure you set realistic goals with a realistic time scale; don’t expect 100 survey participants in a week. Lastly, but most importantly, you must pick a topic that you find interesting; this is a project that has to keep your interest for a long time (potentially a few months), so make sure that it’s a subject that you aren’t going to get bored of.
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