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Writing An Undergraduate Dissertation

After you have found a topic to research for your dissertation proposal, your next step is to define your question.  Writing dissertations can be challenging, but by choosing an interesting topic and carefully defining the parameters of your research you can make dissertation writing an enjoyable experience.

Writing dissertation titles

You want to formulate a question that is interesting and relevant to other academics working in the field.  There is little purpose in researching something obscure that has no value to the academic community.  Of course the primary reason for doing your dissertation is to complete the requirements of your course and pass your degree, but if you can ask a question that is thought provoking and useful it should give you a greater sense of purpose as you do the assignment.  Look at some sample dissertations if you need to get a better idea of the sort of title you should be producing.

Dissertation research possibilities

It is perfectly possible to formulate a question that is either beyond your own intellectual abilities to answer, or that needs research materials that are hard to find.  If you are writing a dissertation which needs to refer to documents that are held at the National Archives in Kew, while you live in Aberdeen, it is going to be a little tricky to get to the data you need.  Think about the logistics of finding the research data you need.

Writing tips: the dissertation proposal

Before you begin work on your dissertation, you will submit a proposal to your supervisor.  This helps you refine your dissertation question, which should be expressed clearly.  A complex, waffling question may be the result of confused or uncertain thinking.  Don’t hide behind long words that you don’t really understand.  Express the dissertation problem that you are trying to solve in simple and clear language.

If you can’t express the question clearly, it may be that you’re not really sure yet about the problem you are trying to solve.  Some students will write a vague dissertation question hoping to refine the problem later when they have done more reading.  However, by the start of the final year of your undergraduate course you want to have the question finalised, stated clearly and agreed with your supervisor.

Dissertation help: interesting ideas

Finally, try your best to choose a topic and a question that really interests you.  Some students can feel pressurised by the limits of time into choosing a question that they don’t really care for, or something that their supervisor has basically selected for them.  If possible define dissertation topics that you really do care about.  The dissertation writing process is a long one and your motivation is sure to dip at some point.  If you care about the topic this can ease the difficulty of those unenthusiastic phases in your research. If you have any queries about dissertation topics, please leave a comment below.

Undergraduate Dissertation

A dissertation is a long piece of writing, detailing your independent research, and setting out for other scholars in the field what you have found. It’s commonly done in the final year of your undergraduate studies, although there may be valuable opportunities for you to develop your independent research skills before this point. Length varies from subject to subject, but a ballpark figure for many departments would be around 10,000 words.

Your dissertation should be one highpoint of your studies. One, because you might go on to do post-graduate work, or indeed other forms of research. Highpoint, because it should represent the culmination of your skills as an independent researcher, a communicator, and a thinker – in other words, as an apprentice academic.

The dissertation will be well-integrated with the rest of your studies, using the many subject-specific skills you have developed. It is also an opportunity to develop new skills – perhaps managing a research project from start to finish for the first time, or using a research method that’s new to you. Whatever your situation, going it alone on a sustained piece of independent research presents its own opportunities and challenges. Your own department will give you their own advice and guidelines to follow, and the resources on the right will help you too.

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