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How to plan a Dissertation


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This presentation describes on the various steps that should be taken in planning a dissertation

This presentation describes on the various steps that should be taken in planning a dissertation

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  • 1.
    How to plan a dissertation
    Dr. T. Balasubramanian M.S. D.L.O.
  • 2. Introduction
    All PG degree course students must write a dissertation
    It trains the student on research methodology and thesis writing
    It also trains the student to critically review a thesis material
    A dissertation is an inquiry into some aspect of physical, natural or social world
    Before attempting to write a dissertation a student should assume that his / her work will be subjected to public scrutiny
    Conclusions if any should be based on meticulous analysis of the results
  • 3.
    Bear in mind
    Dissertation is only one of the hurdles in the pursuit of your course
    You have been selected to undergo this course because we consider you to be a passing material
    Non submission of dissertation should be considered to be worse than exam failure as this would reflect badly on the reputation of your faculty
    Dissertation is a compromise between what is desirable and what is possible
    You need to maintain the delicate balance between academics / clinical duties / dissertation / family
  • 4. Thinking process
    • Be incisive with your thinking
    • 5. Always write down ideas in your log book
    • 6. Don’t be excessively influenced by other’s research
    • 7. Be realistic with your goal setting
    • 8. Set feasible time lines
    • 9. A preliminary study will help to clarify your research
  • Types of students
    Young energetic & enthusiastic
    Old and mature
    Problems faced by these two groups are vastly different
    In medicine the divide between these two groups is more evident
  • 10.
    Problems faced by older students
    They are seniors & hence more egoistic
    They find it difficult to adjust with youngsters
    They are more mature & hence can handle problems in a better way
    Wisdom & motivation always comes with age
  • 11.
    Assessing oneself
    Are you motivated and committed ?
    Can you cope with the demands of the course and family ?
    Is your reading & writing skills up to the mark ?
    How to you respond to deadlines ?
    Do you like to work alone ?
  • 12. Planning & scheduling
    What is the exact date of submission ?
    Are there any intermediate dead lines to meet ?
    What is the nature of support available ?
    Library facilities (Play a vital role).
    Review of previous year’s student dissertation
  • 13.
    Choosing a subject
    Always start with a detailed title and plan of work
    Choose a topic in which you are really interested in
    Choose a topic in which the institution has the facilities and expertise to handle
    Feasibility of the title should also be assessed. Don’t take more than what you can chew
    Always choose from a list of titles with the help of your faculty
  • 14. Points to ponder
    • Is it possible to complete the project on time?
    • 15. Can you afford the expenditure?
    • 16. Can you find the relevant literature?
    • 17. Will the topic be relevant till the project is completed?
    • 18. What type of support your college can provide you with?
    • 19. Get your topic vetted by the ethical committee before beginning it.
    Ethical issues
    The participants in the research project should not be harmed either physically, mentally, or socially.
    Children , elderly, and physically challenged should not be exploited and hence should be excluded from the study parameters
    No physical / environmental damage should be caused by your research project
    Anonymity and privacy of the participant should be protected
    Nothing should be done in the name of research that could bring disrepute to your institution
  • 20. Getting the proposal ready
    Always read other proposals
    Always prepare a comprehensive literature review
    Photocopy all relevant materials
    Add first three chapters of dissertation to the proposal
    Include a title for your project
  • 21. Realistic planning
    Allot time for illness
    Allot time for family problems
    Take into account holidays
    Give allowance for computer failures
    Take into account typing / binding manuscript delays
    Be prepared for rejection of manuscript
  • 22.
    Computing skills
    Friendliness with word processors / typing skills will save time and money
    If not skilled always allocate 10 extra days / money for typing jobs
    Always keep backups of your work
    Keep your completed work in a cd rom so that printouts can be taken whenever necessary.
  • 23. Time allocation
    Introduction – 5%
    Review of literature – 35%
    Research methodology – 10%
    Data collection – 20%
    Analysis – 15%
    Conclusions – 10%
    Bibliography – 5%
  • 24.
  • 25. Gross blue print
    What do you want to know?
    How are you going to find the answers?
    What are you going to do with the answers?
  • 26. Possible aims of a dissertation
    To develop a theory
    To verify a hypothesis
    To evaluate critically a practice
    To increase the understanding of a topic
    If possible to recommend policies
  • 27. Importance of Hypothesis
    Forms a kernel in most of the dissertations
    Usually it is based on observation a premise actually
    Effort should be made either to prove / disprove it
    It is possible to do a dissertation without a hypothesis (very rare)
  • 28. Which one is a valid hypothesis
    Asphyxia is the common cause of cerebral palsy
    Hybrid animals liver longer than pure bred ones
    Consuming too much sugar predisposes to DM
  • 29. Types of basic research
    • Positivist work – concerned only with observable / objective facts
    • 30. Interpretive / subjective work – Uses explanation & interpretation
    • 31. Overlap technique – includes both these styles in varying amounts
  • Check list
    • Checked & understood the general requirements
    • 32. Have you chosen / refined / focused the subject
    • 33. Feasibility
    • 34. Selection of a tentative title
    • 35. Arrived at a time schedule
    • 36. Discussion with peers / tutors
  • Don’ts
    Develop fondness for any particular page you have written
    Hesitate to edit your work ruthlessly
    Hesitate to consider your initial work as a draft
    Hesitate to spend sometime at least every week to keep your motivation going
  • 37. Task plan
  • 38. Dissertation proposal
    Draft title (can be changed later if necessary)
    Aim of the research
    Style / technique
    Theoretical basis for the study (include references if any)
  • 39. When to start writing?
    The best time to start writing a chapter is as soon as material collection is ready.
    Each chapter should be read / reread corrections made.
    Written material and corrections should be meticulously catalogued
    This is the time for you to use your typing skills if you possess one
    A typed manuscript is easier to read and edit
  • 40. Time table
    Reading / note taking / planning / writing introduction – 3 months
    Writing review of literature – 2 months
    Writing of research methodology – 1 month
    Carrying out work / recording findings – 1 month
    Data analysis – 1 month
    Preparing conclusions / Bibliography – 1 month
    Typing / proof reading / corrections / binding – 1 month
    Grace time – 2 months
  • 41. Titles likely to be rejected
    Study of JNA – Too broad & vague
    Survey of ASOM – Vague & nonspecific
    Study of interesting cases – Not dissertation at all
    Study of discharging ear – Too vague to pursue
  • 42. Data analysis
    Checked for reliability – Would the same procedure / experiment if carried out again produce the same result
    Generalizability – How can your work be used by general public / others
  • 43. Variables
    Beware of variables – This could easily invalidate your dissertation
    All true variables should be identified and documented otherwise the whole research project would have no validity
    One important variable while you are researching for occurrence of domestic fires would be the level of family stress
  • 44. Role of variables in experimental research
    Two variables can be distinguished in purely experimental research – Independent variable & dependent variable
    Independent variables are manipulated by the researcher
    Dependent variables are those variables that occur as a result of the manipulation by the researcher
  • 45. Dissertation some conventions
    Use white A4 paper for dissertation typing
    All main texts to be typed in double space
    Single spacing can be used for quotations
    Use plain standard fonts
    Margins – 1.5 inches in the left and 1 inch on other sides
  • 46. Types of research projects
    Action research
    Experimental methods
    Ethnographic research
    Case studies
    Historical research
    Correlational research
    Evaluative research
  • 47. Action research
    Also known as participatory research
    The researcher tackles a real problem, intervenes, makes changes and monitors results
    Subjects participate and implement the changes
    “Real life problem solving”
    This research methodology will be carefully scrutinized by the ethical committee
  • 48. Surveys
    Attempts to gather information from a group
    It may reveal unsuspected facts / May reinforce known facts
    Information can be gathered through a questionnaire, interviews
    Questionnaire design is vital for a good survey
    Results may be invalidated by poor sampling / lack of cooperation from the participant community
    Participants may hesitate sharing personal data / may lie
  • 49. Experimental method
    Commonly used in physical sciences
    Can be used to test / refute a theory (Hypothesis)
    Data measurements should be made with extreme precision
    Ethical issues should be addressed before setting up an experiment
    Any experiment should have two groups a study group and a control group
    Beware of Hawthrone effect – behavior of a subject alters if he / she knows about participation in an experiment
  • 50. Ethnographic research
    This is a qualitative & descriptive research style
    The study group is integrated into the society and the researcher studies the behavior & customs of that group
    This is really time consuming & hence may not be advisable for a dissertation style
  • 51. Case studies
    Commonest approach used
    Frequently abused also
    May be qualitative / quantitative
    Always resist the temptation to formulate universal theory out of trivia
  • 52. Historical research
    Acceptability of this method must be checked
    Documentary sources should be clearly identified
    All the documents used in the research should be closely checked for veracity
    Statistical variables should be accounted for
  • 53. Correlational research
    This research is a study of variables
    Attempt should be made to study the variables for a possible relationship without manipulating them
    Mathematical tools should be used to study the possible relationships among variables
  • 54. Evaluative research
    This research method deals with a possible set of questions
    The work needs to be highly structured
    While attempting to answer the specific set of questions the researcher should guard against personal vagaries / variables
  • 55. Researcher duties
    • Your title should be a legitimate one
    • 56. Be polite / professional with contacts
    • 57. Dress formally during field visits
    • 58. All communications should be processed to a high standard
    • 59. Be very formal while talking to subjects. Avoid being over chatty
    • 60. Always offer to share the findings of your research if you find it appropriate
  • Sampling
    This is a potential mine field
    It is easier to obtain sample from physical world
    The sample size should be large enough to be significant – 1% of the size of the population studied
    Sample should be as representative as possible
    Don’t attempt to extrapolate grand theory from small sample sizes
    Sampling may be opportunistic (only sample that can be reached) / random (use computer to generate sample list)
  • 61. Types of sampling
    Stratified sampling
    Matched sampling
    Clustered sampling
    Systemic sampling
  • 62. Stratified sampling
    A sample layer is selected
    There is some uniformity between the samples i.e. selecting all 50 year olds for a study
    This is useful when performing finer drug trials
  • 63. Matched samples
    In this type two groups are matched one against the other. In this type of matched sampling strict inclusion & exclusion criteria should be formulated.
    One of the said group can be a study group and the other one can be a control group. The main consideration is that both group should be alike in all respects
  • 64. Clustered sampling
    These are groups defined by area / environment
    Random sampling can also be applied to the clusters
    Environmental disorders can be studied using clustered samples
  • 65. Introduction
    In your introduction try answering these questions:
    What is going to be done?
    Why are you doing it?
    Who is likely to be interested in your work?
    What is the hypothesis / problem you are attempting to test?
    What is the use of performing this study?
    What is the focus / location of your study?
    Writing an introduction chapter helps you to break ice
  • 66. Review of literature
    Should include what others have written on your topic
    Discussion on the theories used to illuminate your topic
    Literature relationship with your research questions
    Considerable time should be spent compiling this chapter
    This shows you have read widely the subject
    You acknowledge work of others here
  • 67. Methodology
    You will have to narrate what procedure you intend to follow in your research
    A detailed discussion of the style and technique chosen for your research should be enumerated with proper justification
    The tests you intend to perform, inclusion & exclusion criteria if any, a discussion on data observation and recording should find a place under this head
  • 68. Data analysis
    Data recording
    Interpretation of the recorded data
    A discussion on whether the collected data proves or refutes a hypothesis
  • 69. Conclusion
    Should contain a summary of the complete work
    It should contain a discussion on the results of your study
    Recommendations if any you make after the study should be incorporated here
  • 70. Bibliography
    This is nothing but a list of journals, reference materials, text book materials and other resources you relied on to complete your work. Don’t include references which are more than 5 years old. It is ideal to index and number them for easy reference.
  • 71. Appendix
    Tables, master chart and additional material if any should be incorporated under this heading
  • 72. Dissertation Log book
    • Helps you to organize your work
    • 73. Record the material you have read pertaining to your dissertation meticulously
    • 74. Handle each material once only. You can consult your log book repeatedly in case of doubt if the recording is meticulous
    • 75. Record the volume number / page number of journals used as reference
    • 76. An average dissertation should contain not less than 50 references
  • Plagiarism
    Don’t plagiarize others work
    Beware of internet resources
    Verify internet resources
    Spend time analyzing the material thrown out by your search engine
  • 77. Questionnaire design
    It must be in simple language
    The questions should be appropriate and crisp
    Be ruthless while editing the questions
    Always relate each question on a questionnaire to your research question
    Devise a scoring system for each answer provided by the participant
    Don’t attempt to collect unnecessary personal data
    Closed end questionnaire is easy to design and administer because the answer is either a yes or no
    Questions should not be leading in nature
  • 78. Data analysis
    Nominal scales – Yes / No scale
    Ordinal scales – Data is placed in a descending order. Number codes are given i.e. 1 (strongly agree), 5 (strongly disagree)
    Interval scales – More like ordinal scale but some points on the scale are equal
    Ratio scales – Used for measuring lengths, weights etc
  • 79.
    Thank you