Dissertation writing


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Dissertation writing

  1. 1. Dissertation writing
  2. 2. • Your dissertation, or research project, is probably the single most important assignment you will undertake whilst at university, and is often a key indicator of your true capabilities as a student and researcher. • A dissertation adheres to certain fundamental principles of academic writing: • It is a structured piece of writing that develops a clear line of thought (an 'argument') in response to a central question or proposition ('thesis'). • A dissertation is an extended piece of work, usually divided into chapters, and containing a significantly more detailed examination of your subject matter and evidence than is the case for most essays.
  3. 3. • Because you usually have much more responsibility in choosing your research topic, and for sourcing your supporting materials, your dissertation provides evidence of your ability to carry out highly independent study and research. • You are typically expected to be clear about the methodology (investigative procedures and rules) you have used to gather and evaluate your evidence. This aspect of producing a dissertation has much greater emphasis than in a typical essay. • Those of you undertaking analysis of quantitative data must similarly ensure that you adhere to the methodological requirements expected within your academic discipline and that you utilize the appropriate software. You must satisfy yourself as to these requirements within your subject area.
  4. 4. Steps to writing good dissertation • Proposing a Topic • Theoretical Framework • Literature Review • Methodology • Findings and discussions • Readability • Reference Format • Further Reading • Academic Research Desk
  5. 5. • Proposing a Topic • Your choice of topic for research is likely to be influenced by such factors as: • relevance: its perceived relevance to the academic department's in which you are studying; • supervision: the availability of tutors/supervisors within the department (s) who are interested in the topic and their willingness to supervise such a dissertation; • interest: your existing knowledge of that topic and the strength of your desire to learn more about it; • competence: your likely ability to employ the proposed methods of data gathering and data analysis; • scale: the feasibility of completing the study within the time and resources available
  6. 6. • Using MORI to choose your topic • Those of you that are expected to develop your own proposal for a dissertation or project should try to follow these four MORI principles: • Manageable: your dissertation topic must be sufficiently focused so that it is possible for you to do the topic justice within the available word count. Any topic on which you feel that you won't be able to cover it in any detail in the space of 8 - 10 thousand words should not be chosen. • Original: this relates to the above point, since a topic that is focused and manageable is more likely to be one that has not been written about too extensively, thus leaving room for your original contribution.
  7. 7. • Relevant: your project should clearly be relevant to some aspect of your studies, but it might also be relevant to your plans for, say, postgraduate study or a career. The dissertation may also be relevant in the sense that it plays to some of your established strengths, such as a particular unit or topic that you have enjoyed studying and in which you have previously done well. • Interesting: you are obviously more likely to enjoy and be successful in your dissertation if it is of real interest to you and to those marking your work. Ask yourself if you are sufficiently committed to your idea to be able to give it your best throughout the duration of your project. You should also ascertain whether your supervisor finds the idea interesting during your initial discussions with her or him.
  8. 8. • Theoretical Framework • A theoretical framework often features as an early section in a dissertation. In a theoretical framework you would include an outline of existing theories which are closely related to your research topic. • You should make clear how your research relates to existing theories. How are 'research questions' in the field framed? How does your own research relate to such framings? • You should make your own theoretical assumptions as explicit as possible. Later, your discussion of methodology should be linked to this theoretical framework.
  9. 9. • REVIEW OF LITERATURE • This is a review of what is already known and of the main themes or issues. It covers past research and studies and articles from relevant journals, books, newspapers, etc. • It is a summary of what other people have written and published around the theme of your research. It is very important that you acknowledge the authorship of other people's work. • The literature chapter can, and should be drafted very early. As you find the literature, read it, and write about it. • Think of the literature review as a patchwork quilt - made up of paragraphs you have written about individual texts. Highlight the findings that are relevant to your theses. • Be critical of the literature - don't just report it.
  10. 10. • Methodology • Methodology refers to the choice and use of particular strategies and tools for data gathering and analysis. • Some methodologies embrace both data gathering and analysis, • data-gathering methodologies include interviews, questionnaires and observation; • data analysis methodologies include content analysis, discourse analysis and statistical analysis. • There are many varieties of each methodology and the specific methodological tools you are adopting must be made explicit. Interviews, for instance, are often categorized as 'structured', 'semistructured' or 'open-ended'. You should mention which other related studies (cited in your literature review) have employed the same methodology. • The section on methodology should include a rationale for the choice of methodology for data gathering and for data analysis. In the rationale you should consider what alternative methodological tools might have been employed (particularly those which related studies have employed), together with their advantages and limitations for the present purpose.
  11. 11. • Findings and Discussion • The ways in which you report your 'findings' depend heavily on the methodologies employed so it is difficult to provide general guidelines here. However, it is important to ensure that you go beyond basic description of your data • Some notes on numeric data. • Extensive tabular data is usually best confined to appendices: select only the most important tabular data for inclusion in the main body of your text. • Avoid any reference to 'significant' findings unless you can specify their statistical significance. • Consider where it would be most useful to employ graphical displays such as bar-charts or pie-charts rather than tables. • Label tables as 'Table 1' [or whatever] and all other forms as 'Figure 1' [etc.]. • Remember to list these at the beginning of the dissertation.
  12. 12. • Readability • It is important to make your text easily 'navigable' for the reader, providing 'signposts' to help them to find their way about. If you have been writing primarily to clarify your own thoughts (as many people do) then as you get closer to presenting your writing to others you must switch your focus to the convenience of the reader. It can help to ask a friend to comment on a late draft because it is not always easy for the writer to spot the problems which readers may have. If you know who the reader(s) will be, then try to consider the ways in which they are likely to react to the text. Can you anticipate any objections which they might have? If so, then you need to revise your text to address these. • Your dissertation should ‘tell a story’ in the sense that you should ‘set the scene’ (and grab the reader’s attention) at the start, then try to lead the reader as smoothly as possible from point to point, working up to some genuine conclusions at the end. Not many of us can write like this at the first attempt, but a dissertation can be gradually edited into this form. Check in particular that there are no sudden jumps from one point to another.
  13. 13. • Include a contents page (some universities have specific guidelines for the way in which this should be done). Use subsections within each chapter (these can usually be included in the contents page). After the contents page include a list of figures and a list of tables. It is customary to include an 'Acknowledgements' page: be sure to record your thanks to all of those who have helped you. • You should double-space your text and use generous margins. Choose a font size of 12-13 points, • You should avoid using too many quotations, however: it may give the impression that you have no ideas of your own and that you accept too uncritically what others have said on the topic.
  14. 14. • The cardinal sin in academia is plagiarism, which we may define as the presentation as one’s own of ideas • For students, there are very serious penalties for this and it may be treated as an act of fraud.
  15. 15. • Reference Format • The list of references should appear at the end of the paper in alphabetical order as below. • Name of the author [in reverse order], year of publication, book title, edition, location of publisher, publishing co. page no • Agar, Michael H (1980): The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography. New York: Academic Press, pp. 112-130. • Berger, Arthur A. (1991): Media Research Techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 25-46. • Hammersley, Martyn & Paul Atkinson (1983): Ethnography: Principles into Practice. London: Routledge, pp. 246-315.
  16. 16. • Note : reference list: • After the initial author, the names of co-authors are not reversed • Link co-authors with an (&) rather than 'and‘ • Use pp. only for chapters in books - not for journal page numbers • Include full names, where given, for authors • Always provide both volume number and part number for journal articles • Where more than one reference is to a chapter in an edited collection, list the collection as a separate reference, ending the chapter reference with 'In [Editor(s)] [Date], pp. [page-range]'
  17. 17. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION (approx. 10% of total words) 'The context'. Why do this study? Why now? Why here? Why me? The aims of the study. Chapter one is very important and is possibly best compiled by answering a series of questions as follows. Is there a problem? What is it? Why does it need to be solved? What is your hypothesis (hunch)? Who will benefit from your investigation? In what sense will they benefit? In what sense will my contribution add to what is already known? How in general terms are you going to solve the problem, e.g., collect data, analyze data? By what methods? E.g., a case study approach. What are the constraints or limitations of the study? A good way to end the introduction is to state the dissertation objectives.
  18. 18. Chapter 2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE (approx. 25% of words) • This is a review of what is already known and of the main themes or issues. It covers past research and studies and articles from relevant journals, books, newspapers, etc. It is a summary of what other people have written and published around the theme of your research. It is very important that you acknowledge the authorship of other people's work. • The literature chapter can, and should be drafted very early. As you find the literature, read it, and write about it. Think of the literature review as a patchwork quilt - made up of paragraphs you have written about individual texts. Highlight the findings that are relevant to your theses. Be critical of the literature - don't just report it.
  19. 19. Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY (15-20% of words) • 'The framework': What I did? How I did it? Why did I do it that way? • This is a description and evaluation of the methods, techniques and procedures used in the investigation. It describes the scope and aims of the dissertation in some detail. It is also very important that you justify the methods used.
  20. 20. Chapter 4. SYSTEMATIC PRESENTATION OF THE DATA (approx. 10-15% of the words) • What was observed and what was discovered/found out? • This is a presentation of the data - not a discussion in this section. It may involve the creation of tables, charts, histograms, etc., each of which should have an appropriate title or heading.
  21. 21. Chapter 5. DISCUSSION, ANALYSIS & INTERPRETATION OF THE DATA (approx. 15 - 20% of words) (a) Interpretation of findings. What patterns have emerged? (b) The difference between your findings and those of other people. The difference between the views of various other authors. (c) How do the main points you are making change the way you think about the topic?
  22. 22. Chapter 6. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS (approx. 10 - 15% of words) (a) Summary of main findings as a series of statements. (b) Conclusions and directions for further research. (c) Recommendations. • Finally, after the last Chapter, you should include • Appendices • Bibliography.
  23. 23. Topic By Name Qualification A Dissertation submitted to Name Designation Organization name Purpose Date Dissertation directed by Name Designation Organization Name
  24. 24. A STYLE MANUAL FOR THESES AND DISSERTATIONS by Amit Goel M.A. in Organizational Psychology, May 1999, Columbia University A Dissertation submitted to The Faculty of The School of Engineering and Applied Science The George Washington University For the degree of Doctor of Science December 15, 2003 Dissertation directed by Douglas Linwood Jones Professor of Engineering The School of Engineering and Applied Science
  25. 25. ABSTRACT This manual was written with two purposes in mind: · Present the reader with the proper format for a dissertation or thesis. · Communicate some of the rules of English grammar and style. This manual contains such information that will assist engineering students in writing their theses and dissertations. Preparing this manual involved a study of websites from various universities and a number of books. Thesis and dissertation guideline formats from a variety of universities were examined and a guideline format was created. The finished manual will be posted on the website for use of all engineering students.
  26. 26. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND/OR DEDICATION This manual is dedicated to the graduate students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at The George Washington University. I deeply acknowledge all the help provided to me by Prof. Douglas Linwood Jones. I also thank all my friends and class mates who have helped me in preparing this dissertation.
  27. 27. TABLE OF CONTENTS Page • Abstract • Acknowledgement and/or Dedication • Table of Contents • List of Figures • List of Tables • List of Acronyms • Glossary Chapter 1 • Introduction • 1.1 Review of Literature • 1.2 Chapter Summaries • 1.3 Statement of Purpose Chapter 2 • Basic Grammar • 2.1 Parts of Speech • 2.2 Capitalization • 2.3 Punctuation ii iii iv vi vii viii ix 1 1 2 2 3 3 5 6
  28. 28. Chapter 3 • Advanced Grammar • 3.1 Subject/Verb Agreement • 3.2 Indicating Possession (Apostrophe) • 3.3 Run on Sentences • 3.4 Conjugating a Verb Chapter 4 • Words and Expressions • 4.1 Problem Words and Expressions • 4.2 Being Brief • 4.3 Irregular Singular/Plural Chapter 5 • Miscellaneous • 5.1 Funneling • 5.2 Being Forthright • 5.3 “A, an, the” • 5.4 Electronic Theses/Dissertations Chapter 6 • Conclusions • References 8 8 9 10 10 12 12 13 14 15 15 16 18 19 21
  29. 29. LIST OF FIGURES Figure 5.1 A writing funnel diagram Page 15
  30. 30. • LIST OF TABLES Page • Table 2.1 The parts of speech…. 5 • Table 3.1 Conjugation of the verb “to be.” 11 • Table 4.1 Being brief: commonly misused phrases and their corrections……. 13
  31. 31. • LIST OF ACRONYMS • APA American Psychological Association • ASTD American Society for Training and Development • MLA Modern Language Association • SIOP Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  32. 32. • • • • • • • • • • • GLOSSARY Abstract - Summary of a larger work Chapter - Subsection of a longer work, usually a book Format - Way in which a document or presentation is arranged Glossary - List of difficult terms with accompanying definitions Manual - Reference item, usually with information or instructions on a particular topic Syntax - The ordering of words within a sentence Tone - Whatever it is in a particular piece of writing which indicates the attitude of the writer towards a particular topic Verb - A word that indicates action or state of being in a sentence