Writing Dissertations


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  • learning about data collection methods, analysis (learning software), writing up -Results & Discussion] Qual +words rather than numbers
  • card index system
  • [theory & review of previous studies] General-specific pattern
  • Record your dissertation timetable, when your supervisor is away.
  • Writing Dissertations

    1. 1. Robert Blake Student Learning Development Centre, CELT EFFECTIVE LEARNING PROGRAMME WRITING DISSERTATIONS
    2. 2. DISSERTATION WRITING: OUTLINE <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>What is a dissertation? </li></ul><ul><li>Planning your study: generating a research question; background reading & method </li></ul><ul><li>Planning a research schedule </li></ul><ul><li>Structuring your dissertation </li></ul><ul><li>Working with your supervisor </li></ul>
    3. 3. WHAT IS A DISSERTATION : <ul><li>Depends on department </li></ul><ul><li>Extended lab/field report & conclusions </li></ul><ul><li>Extended study </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis of case study </li></ul><ul><li>Project work from company placement </li></ul><ul><li>Library driven examination of problem </li></ul><ul><li>Model testing [e.g. Acc & Fin] </li></ul><ul><li>Metaphor of a journey </li></ul>
    4. 4. RESEARCH PROPOSALS i.e. plan for the dissertation <ul><li>Required by many depts. Example from Linguistics: </li></ul><ul><li>Area of research </li></ul><ul><li>Questions you aim to answer </li></ul><ul><li>Rationale i.e. reasons for researching this area- contribution to understanding & practical use </li></ul><ul><li>Your background in this area: previous knowledge & gaps </li></ul><ul><li>Data you will collect </li></ul><ul><li>How you will collect data and how you will analyse it </li></ul><ul><li>Initial bibliography i.e. review of key studies </li></ul><ul><li>* [progress report/ grant proposal-science] </li></ul>
    5. 5. GENERATING A RESEARCH QUESTION <ul><li>Start with expected outcome or hunches </li></ul><ul><li>Develop research question[s] or hypothesis </li></ul><ul><li>Research question= well specified critical question rather than description of what aspect you want to find an answer to. </li></ul><ul><li>2 stages: What am I interested in? What questions can I make about this topic that could lead to an investigation? </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of RQs in psychology from Oxford http://www.psych.ox.ac.uk/babylab/research.html </li></ul>
    6. 6. GENERATING A RESEARCH QUESTION <ul><li>Hypothesis = A tentative proposition which is subject to verification through subsequent verification…. Guide to the researcher depicting & describing the method to be followed in studying the problem. In many cases hypotheses are the hunches that the researcher has about the existence between the variables [Verma and Bear 1981 in Bell 1993] </li></ul><ul><li>Forms framework of study: i.e. which literature to investigate, how to select/devise methods; how you discuss results and write conclusions </li></ul><ul><li>NB need to modify question as study develops </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>What data will you collect? </li></ul><ul><li>How will you collect this data? -interviews, questionnaires, case study -lab or field work -writing code and trialling software designing a model or hardware </li></ul><ul><li>-simulating/testing </li></ul><ul><li>-analysis of primary sources e.g. documents [original historical, legal sources etc]; </li></ul><ul><li>-secondary sources- library & web sources- peer reviewed? </li></ul>DECIDING ON RESEARCH METHODS
    8. 8. ANALYSING DATA <ul><li>How will you analyse this data? </li></ul><ul><li>theory or framework, </li></ul><ul><li>quantitative or qualitative quantitative e.g larger scale, number/statistically based. </li></ul><ul><li>qualitative e.g. small scale, detailed description </li></ul><ul><li>using software for analysis e.g. SPSS, Excel etc </li></ul><ul><li>How much data can you deal with in time allotted? </li></ul>
    9. 9. READING: BACKGROUND THEORY OR LITERATURE REVIEW <ul><li>Read efficiently using SQ3R </li></ul><ul><li>SQ3R= Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review </li></ul><ul><li>http://www2.ntu.ac.uk/sss/studysupport/Information/Reading/SQ3R/SQ3R.htm </li></ul><ul><li>Read critically - see Toronto Uni http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/critrdg.html </li></ul><ul><li>Library –database searches –see subject librarian </li></ul><ul><li>Keep a careful record of reading & where used in your dissertation  </li></ul>
    10. 10. YOUR COMMENTS ON READING….. YOUR NOTES FROM READING BIBLIOGRAPHIC THIS PART- DETAILS. TOPIC & KEYWORDS RESEARCH QUESTION. PHD READING RECORD   Date of notes/pages author     title   publ/place/year/ed   topic   keywords   chap/section/rq     notes                                 comments              
    11. 11. SCHEDULING YOUR DISSERTATION WORK <ul><li>Make a timetable or wall chart e.g. Gantt Chart </li></ul><ul><li>Identify best work times and keep to a daily writing slot </li></ul><ul><li>Split your dissertation into bite size-chunks </li></ul><ul><li>Be realistic about daily targets </li></ul><ul><li>Include time for input [supervisor & critical friends] & for drafts & redrafts </li></ul><ul><li>Familiarise yourself with deadlines* & plan accordingly </li></ul>
    12. 12. <ul><li>3 key questions </li></ul><ul><li>Do I have the skills & knowledge to carry out this research? </li></ul><ul><li>What time is needed? </li></ul><ul><li>Do I have time within my schedule? </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. need to learn/improve knowledge of statistics </li></ul><ul><li>Learning software: Excel SPSS, </li></ul><ul><li>Learning new techniques & other skills </li></ul>SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED
    13. 13. MAKING A DISSERTATION TIMETABLE <ul><li>How many words? </li></ul><ul><li>How much practical work & analysis? </li></ul><ul><li>2 ways of timetabling dissertations: </li></ul><ul><li>Whole dissertation timetable: examples 1 & 2 </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly timetables: example 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Important to break down dissertation into realistic weekly tasks to make it more achievable </li></ul><ul><li>Look at the 2 examples of dissertation timetables </li></ul><ul><li>What level of detail would work best for you? </li></ul><ul><li>[Examples 1 &2 are from Strathclyde University's Centre for Academic practice webs pages on Dissertation writing. See: http://www.strath.ac.uk/Departments/CAP/dissertation/frameset4.html </li></ul>
    16. 16. MAKING A DISSERTATION TIMETABLE <ul><li>The next slide shows how the plan for the whole dissertation can be broken into weekly tasks. </li></ul><ul><li>Allows you see progress at manageable level- </li></ul><ul><li>focus on individual tasks </li></ul><ul><li>tick off these tasks </li></ul><ul><li>not be overwhelmed by totality </li></ul><ul><li>know exactly where you are or should be </li></ul>
    18. 18. WHAT DOES A DISSERTATION LOOK LIKE? <ul><li>Dissertation structure can vary significantly from dept to dept & whether it’s based on an empirical study or analysis of literature. </li></ul><ul><li>The former are based on a scientific report structure: </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul>
    19. 19. AN OVERVIEW OF THE CHAPTERS: INTRODUCTION <ul><li>This sets the scene, by introducing: </li></ul><ul><li>the research area </li></ul><ul><li>previous studies </li></ul><ul><li>gap in research to be filled </li></ul><ul><li>your research questions/hypotheses </li></ul><ul><li>brief signposting of dissertation structure </li></ul><ul><li>NB In some dissertations, the background information is in a separate chapter called Literature Review </li></ul>
    20. 20. METHODS <ul><li>Explains what methods you used to collect data </li></ul><ul><li>Explains how you collected the data </li></ul><ul><li>Not just a description as it should explain reasons for various choices made </li></ul><ul><li>Goal of your explanation is to allow future student to repeat your study </li></ul><ul><li>Grammar! Past tense & passive used e.g. Twenty five interviews were conducted….. </li></ul>
    21. 21. RESULTS <ul><li>Presents the results collected from the method[s] you used </li></ul><ul><li>But does not analyse these results </li></ul><ul><li>May use a series of tables and figures to present the results more effectively </li></ul><ul><li>Talks the reader through the series of results i.e. refers to figures Figure 4.2 shows that the incidence of x rises when… </li></ul><ul><li>Highlights key patterns </li></ul><ul><li>NB Some writers combine the Results & Discussion headings and organise by topic </li></ul>
    22. 22. DISCUSSION <ul><li>Interprets the results i.e. explains what they mean </li></ul><ul><li>Broadens from discussion of your results to how they can be compared with the results of others who’ve done similar research </li></ul><ul><li>Refers to the previous studies you introduced earlier </li></ul><ul><li>Discusses any problems with results </li></ul><ul><li>Doesn’t include tables & figures, except when comparing your results with others </li></ul>
    23. 23. CONCLUSIONS <ul><li>A short, succinctly written summary </li></ul><ul><li>Must addresses the research question/hypotheses presented in the introduction </li></ul><ul><li>May include limitations of your study and suggestions for further work </li></ul>
    24. 24. OTHER BITS <ul><li>FRONT </li></ul><ul><li>Title page </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledgements </li></ul><ul><li>Contents </li></ul><ul><li>List of figures* </li></ul><ul><li>Glossary* </li></ul><ul><li>BACK </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>Appendices* </li></ul>*if your study requires this
    25. 25. WORKING WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR <ul><li>What can my supervisor? </li></ul><ul><li>What won’t my supervisor do? </li></ul><ul><li>Will they approve the research proposal/research questions? </li></ul><ul><li>Will they read with drafts of work & if so, to what extent? </li></ul><ul><li>Will they advise on methodology & help with difficulties </li></ul><ul><li>~~~ </li></ul><ul><li>NB Make agendas for supervision meetings/ Tape as a record </li></ul>
    26. 26. SOME DISSERTATION WRITING TIPS [i] <ul><li>Keep a research journal with you to record ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Write a dissertation timetable: whole process & weekly </li></ul><ul><li>Start writing early </li></ul><ul><li>Set a daily writing slot </li></ul><ul><li>Allow time for problems:personal & with your data collection </li></ul><ul><li>Set plenty of editing and rewriting time </li></ul><ul><li>Get a critical friend to read through drafts and feed them! </li></ul>
    27. 27. MORE DISSERTATION WRITING TIPS [ii] <ul><li>Read at a couple of past dissertations </li></ul><ul><li>Compare their structure by tracing through the research questions from the introduction to conclusion. </li></ul><ul><li>Start writing in the middle- methodology or background </li></ul><ul><li>Write the introduction and abstract last, when you know what you’ve found </li></ul><ul><li>Introduce and conclude chapters. Guide the reader through with signposting & cross referencing </li></ul>