Writing your final year thesis
The first step of a dissertation requires the student to form a proposal - this basically is a document that communicates to the supervisor/lecturers what it is you want to focus your final year project on and how you want to conduct the research project. You may find the following step-by-step guide useful when forming your dissertation proposal.
1. Find a topic that you are interested in exploring or a topic that can relate to your future career
2. Find recent journal articles/reports on your chosen topic. You may want to contact your subject librarian to help you identify relevant scholarly materials/readings
3. Identify in your readings what scholars are currently talking about/researching
4. Think about how you can enhance the current debates:
identify gaps, problems or unresolved issues and consider how your own study can fill these gaps
formulate a research question and show how this links in with the discussion that scholars are already having in relation to your chosen topic
Structure of Dissertation
Students often find it helpful to see a plan of a dissertation to get an idea of what makes a dissertation. You can usually find first class dissertations written by past students in the university library. It is advisable that you take a look at them. Generally, there are a number of sections that all dissertations cover. They usually cover the following in the order presented:
1. Introduction: Here the student outlines the topic that is being investigated to set the scene for the reader. Here research questions are presented and a short summary of why it is an important area to research.
2. Literature Review: This chapter presents a discussion of previous scholarly work on the chosen area of investigation. It usually helps to break down the chapter into different sections. This chapter usually covers a large number of readings and references.
3. Methodology: This chapter covers a discussion of the methods, sample, benefits and disadvantages of the chosen methodology to investigate the research questions. This chapter should also include a reflective discussion on what went well while doing the research and any issues that were encountered.
4. Findings/Results: This chapter presents the data that was obtained to investigate the chosen research question. You should analyse the data here, by providing a discussion of how your findings relate to previous scholarly work as presented in the literature review.
5. Discussion/Evaluation: This chapter should present an assessment of how well the data collected was able to answer the research question. Some questions you can answer here include:
Was you able to answer the research question?
If not, why not?
How can you further strengthen your findings?
6. Conclusion: You should bring your thesis to a close, sum up what you set out to achieve and discuss how successful you was. Do not introduce new literature or arguments here but clearly present the ones made here throughout the thesis. You may also want to offer possible insights on how the study can be improved, enhanced, followed up etc.
8. Appendices: You may be required to attach any documents you produced or used during the project such as a interview guide/ethics approval form etc.
Tips for Writing a Dissertation
Place your study in context
Explain to the reader why your study is important
Be critical when discussing previous scholarly work in your chosen field, evaluate the methods/theories and concepts that have been used in previous work
Identify and explain key theories and concepts in your literature review chapter
Take a critical approach in your writing, identify concerns and gaps
Do not mention everything you know in your dissertation
Support your arguments with academic references throughout the dissertation
Write in a way that makes the logic of your analysis/argument clear
Use alternative words to help you write clearly for example you can use words such as - Then, After that, It follows, Given this - to mean the same as the next step
Present your chapters, arguments, findings in a clear logical fashion
Build an argument in your dissertation, that is persuasive
Do not repeat the same arguments
Each chapter should have a clear purpose and focus that builds on the previous chapter
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