Friday, May 20, 2011

Dissertation Writing

This is a busy time for many students who are working to complete their dissertations. 

Having supervised and examined submissions over the years I appreciate the investment of effort that students make when completing their research dissertation.

For many Master's degree students this is their first truly self-directed learning project and the experience of carrying out primary research transforms their outlook on knowledge of the world.

I would like to offer my top tips for Master's dissertation writers, here they are:
  • When you write a dissertation, even a scientific work you are telling a story – it’s important to unfold the plot in manner that will engage the reader.

  • The research question is the crux of the narrative - you need to articulate this question clearly, concisely and frequently throughout the thesis and use it to connect all the parts together.

  • A good research question has three characteristics (i) it arouses curiosity in both writer and reader (ii) it contributes significant and useful insights and (iii) it is suitable for investigation by means of an established research method.

  • The purpose of a literature review is to establish a conceptual framework for the research question and to discuss other relevant or similar research.  Therefore the quality of a literature review is by means of its connection with the research question.  A review without reference to a question has little merit.

  • Be careful with claims!  Statements containing terms such as proved, verified, experiment, significant and so on have certain precise meanings in research contexts. 

  • Like all good stories, there needs to be a conclusion - a resolution or summing up of the events and some take-away points for the reader.

  • Storytellers are never neutral they recreate the story with each telling and through the process they add to it by contributing part of their own experience.
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