Dissertations 1 introduction (handout)


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Dissertations 1 introduction (handout)

  1. 1. An LDU short course presentationDissertations & Major Project Writing Week 1 of 5: An introduction to writing dissertations & large projectsRobert Walsha, LDU City campus, Calcutta House, CM2-22
  2. 2. Dissertations & Major Project Writing week 1This week’s topics:• An introduction to writing dissertations & large projects (including overview of importance of critical analytical thinking, comparing & contrasting & building & sustaining argument);• focusing & formulating the topic;• developing & writing the proposal;• time & project management;• working with your supervisor
  3. 3. An introduction to writing dissertations• So, how does it differ from essays, reports, etc.? Is there anything I can take that I’ve learnt from my academic studies, i.e., on smaller written assignments so far?• critical analytical thinking• ‘comparing & contrasting’• ‘engaging with “the debate”’• looking for ‘similarities & differences’ in the literature/knowledge base• ‘building’ & ‘sustaining’ ‘argument’
  4. 4. Focusing & formulating a topic• pick a topic which will sustain your interest;• Ensure the project is manageable;• Don’t pick too general a topic;• Instead: narrow down within a general topic;• Try to identify areas worthy of investigation, areas where there is worthwhile ‘debate’ – does your initial reading throw up interesting questions?;
  5. 5. Focusing & formulating a topic• Don’t go too narrow – is there some discussion out there, even if not academic?;• think about what kind of research you will have to undertake, to do justice to the project – is it feasible (time), is it realistic (attainable);
  6. 6. Focusing & formulating a topic• Seeking initial advice;• Be as thorough as you can in your initial survey of the literature;• Begin to develop a realistic work plan
  7. 7. Focusing & formulating a topic• Hypothesis vs. identifying an area of investigation;• Identifying the most appropriate methodological approach(es);• Thinking ‘quantitative’ versus ‘qualitative’ research;
  8. 8. Developing & writing the proposal it (!) sy b e ea me – th dt itle. ject. r na e pro pos• Yo u g / pro s o f the s ue s rkin aim y is ess. • Wo e rall e ke addr rie f ov n of th e to ject •B atio ill hav su b tific ou w the • Iden ink y w hy th t on e ou en u ar y c om m t … h y yo rief eres • B int e nw s ev is o f rhap an d pe it. • … sted in in tere
  9. 9. Developing & writing the proposal e of u pon utlin ased ief o ts b n of s a br u gh o gati think rhap l tho inv doesti you• Pe initia r i nary here you prelim – w our eratur oing? e s hort y ea lit is g o duc ew , the roject t o pr revi that th ep h ave ature u rces … may y liter hed so why • You inar s u b li u l – a n d p p relimng key usef tlini ly to be ou k e a re li
  10. 10. Developing & writing the proposal will e an o u lu d ly, y inc g of r). rtain ve to aphy ( ted listin so fa e• … c ly ha liogr loca b b s (and p roba tive bi source cted e ica lished x p e ak ind ub be e ) to m p bly ise arch k ey roba be w he rese y – ill p inly t plo •Y ou w erta out t ab d to em c n w ould comme inten u s om e d s y o m etho y! wh and
  11. 11. Developing & writing the proposal t on ts with men rsec a com inte je c t . ant, earch the sub elev res• If r our c h on rch likely to o w y resear a ese u are h n g y r yo mp t xisti o n a n in k l atte e ent ou th you wil s. omm ties y h o w r o b le m •C u l d h av e d iffic nter, an these p u will ated o u d t yo nticip enc t aroun tha e a to g e sible on th pos efly is also t bri (s). • It mmen come to co ou t arch rese
  12. 12. Developing & writing the proposal ainly of the n cert idea ost me d ow t – ill alm de so reak esen u w rov i Yo o p p ter b at pr will• t /cha g of it and h ave section inkin this, ter). in th d b y a r y la m a ou are e boun es s n of (a s y l n o t b t if n e c ‘pla ing il i de a allow o u w a d ju s t rovi are y to to p you ble ave ime from a ay h the t o je c t u m .e., • Yo n’, i e pr e of th a ctio ch stag a f or e o finish t s tart
  13. 13. Time & project management• An overall plan/schedule;• Weekly goal-setting and performance monitoring? ~ are you keeping up?• Don’t hesitate to commence work – don’t ‘get the coursework out of the way first‘!
  14. 14. Time & project management• Peter Levin (Excellent Dissertations!, 2005), suggests 3-tiered approach: – Create a ‘dissertation calendar’; – Set a ‘comfort deadline’; (Excerpt from Levin, 2005, pp.64-65)
  15. 15. Time & project management – Create ‘to-do’ lists.…• Consult text books on survey research methods: 2 days• Produce preliminary draft of questionnaire: 2 days• Redraft questionnaire: 1 day• Pilot questionnaire & revise if necessary: 7 days• Carry out 100 questionnaire-based interviews: 14 days• Transcribe quantitative data from interviews: 4 days• Collate qualitative data from interviews: 8 days• Analyse data, formulate findings & think about their significance: 7 days… (Excerpt from Levin, 2005, pp.64-65)
  16. 16. Working with your supervisor• The importance of establishing an effective working relationship;• What the supervisor can offer: – Sympathy & encouragement?; – Expertise in the field ~ e.g., good knowledge of the literature; – General advice ~ e.g., on methodology, planning – Acting as a ‘sounding-board’ for your thinking;
  17. 17. Working with your supervisor• Problems that typically occur: – Meetings seem of little value / unproductive ~and how to motivate your supervisor; – Supervisor impossible to track down;
  18. 18. Working with your supervisor• Keep a record of what is discussed/agreed at each meeting;• When should I see my supervisor?
  19. 19. The planning stages 1. Draw up a shortlist 2. Select a topic for of topics. investigation. Consult library Discuss possible catalogues, past outcomes with your lecture notes, 2 or 3 supervisor and core texts. decide what the emphasis of your study is to be.Adapted from Bell, 1993, pp. 22-3
  20. 20. The planning stagesopic for 3. Establish the 4. Decide on the aimsn. precise focus of the and objectives of the ible study. study or formulate a h your Draw up ‘first hypothesis.nd thoughts’ list of Think carefully about he questions and subject what is and what is notyour each to rigorous worth investigating. . examination. Adapted from Bell, 1993, pp. 22-3
  21. 21. The planning stagesaims 5. Draw up an initial 6. Read enough to the project outline. enable you to decide ea List aims and/or whether you are on objectives, questions to the right lines.ut be investigated, possible The initial reading may not methods of investigation give you ideas about. and literature to be approach and methods consulted. Consult your and how information supervisor. might be classified. Adapted from Bell, 1993, pp. 22-3
  22. 22. The planning stageso 7. Devise a timetable to ide enable you to check that n all stages will be covered Begin in-depth and time allowed for readingmay writing. and researchut It is easy to take too longhods over one stage and so n have insufficient time to carry out essential tasks in Don’t forget to the next stage. Consult consult your your supervisor over the supervisor at viability of your timetable. stages 2, 5 & 7! Adapted from Bell, 1993, pp. 22-3