What Makes A Good Dissertation

First-class dissertation criteria

There are four categories for this type of academic document: first class, second class, third class and fail. To clarify what is meant by a” first-class dissertation “, a final grade of 70 percent or higher is generally required. If you want to write a first-class dissertation, the highest class possible, it is imperative that you understand exactly what the markers are looking for.

Communicate with your supervisors

Your supervisors play a vital role in getting a first grade for your dissertation. Ask them to thoroughly review your work before final submission.  Ask for positive feedback, as well as constructive criticism, emphasising that your ultimate goal is to achieve a first-class mark in your dissertation.  Make sure to keep your supervisors well informed throughout the process, and advise them if you encounter any problems while writing your dissertation.  Some students even opt to prepare a weekly or monthly progress report so they maintain constant communication.

Many students fail to complete this crucial step; unfortunately, this mistake often costs them valuable marks, which may result in receiving a second or third-class grade.  Obtaining feedback from your supervisors will not only reduce the amount of time required to revise your thesis or dissertation, but it will also greatly increase your chances of obtaining your desired grade.

In addition to ensuring all of the established criteria are met to a very high standard, the written research must also be at a very high level.  This includes properly structured sentences and paragraphs with correct syntax and grammar, as well as factual, interesting content. It will be very difficult to achieve a first-class grade if you present a dissertation that contains a poorly chosen topic or a thesis that is hard to defend.

Content of a first-class thesis or dissertation

There is a specific dissertation structure to use when writing this type of dissertation or thesis, and it begins with an introduction and literature review, followed by a methodology, conclusion, recommendations, and finally references. Each of these sections will be explained in further detail.

The writermust convey a clear and thorough knowledge of the practical and theoretical materials.  Any theses or dissertations written in support of management or business studies must include clearly developed management and business practice strategies.  The author must convey a balance of creative and critical thinking, as well as the ability to reflect any of the theory’s limitations and research methodologies.  A first-class thesis or dissertation will also include alternative options recommended by the author.

Introduction

This initial section of a first-class dissertation should include a background of the particular study, and it is often one of the hardest sections to write. The introduction prepares the reader for the content to follow and provides a proper context for the relevant research. The introduction must also convey the study’s objectives and goals. It is often easier to edit this section of the dissertation after you have completed the remaining sections of the document.

A captivating thesis

A well-written introduction will motivate and interest the reader, whilst a poorly worded introduction will have the exact opposite effect. Hence, be sure you don’t choose an opening that is too trite, general or vague. The introduction will also lay out the thesis for your academic paper, which is the issue your paper will discuss and analyse. Don’t make the common mistake of choosing a topic, rather than a thesis in this section. A solid, well-written thesis will be clearly expressed, specific and arguable.

Literature Review

The second part of a first-class thesis, called a literature review, must centre on current issues that pertain to your particular research area or topic, practice and theory. The author must also present a solid statement highlighting the problems that will be researched. Students need to ensure they are utilising current evidence to support the paper’s research topic. This means choosing relevant journal articles that are current. For example, if the dissertation is written in 2013, the news and journal articles should be no older than 2011, unless they are key texts and papers which have shaped the issue in question.

Reliable Data Sources

Writing a solid thesis or dissertation also involves analysing relevant models and theories related to a thorough literature search.  Some recommended sources for the literature review include newspapers, the news, textbooks and journal articles.  It is also crucial that students verify the accuracy and reliability of any secondary data sources.  Many reliable sources can be found online on sites such as www.statistics.gov.uk, www.bbc.co.uk and www.emeraldinsight.com.

Methodology

This section includes:

  • Primary/Secondary research design
  • Information sources – list all secondary data sources such as textbooks, journal articles, websites, etc.
  • Timetable – detail the specific number of days or weeks theauthor spent performing relevant tasks such as typing up the dissertation or distributing questionnaires.
  • Data analysis – describe all the methods of analysis used in the thesis and remember to review other student theses or dissertations,which are normally available from the library

Students must adopt a critical survey approach when they write a first-class thesis.  This includes using SPSS for data analysis if the research involves questionnaires. Business research books are are commended source to investigate the various research methods that can be used.

The author of a thesis can choose to adopt qualitative, rather than quantitative research methods.  This will depend on your personal preference, and your affinity for statistics and numbers. If you are unsure which method you should use, it is best to discuss the issue with your supervisor.

In addition, the research methodology will determine the analysis of the primary data.  For example, questionnaires will involve the use of the SPSS program, whereas descriptive patterns can be used for any interviews conducted with focus groups.

It’s important to note that the content of a dissertation or thesismust be written with a critical eye.  Rather than implying that thecontent must be negative, the author must simply adopt a questioningapproach and attempt to explain the findings of the research.  Studentsmust clearly demonstrate the validity of their argument and interpret,demonstrate and explain it as thoroughly as possible.

If a thesis or dissertation includes elements such as additional statistics, tables, calculations or figures, the author must include a complete and critical explanation or comment for each.  If you fail to include any comments or you provide an insufficient explanation, you may end up losing valuable marks.

Conclusion

The final chapter of a first-class dissertation is called the conclusion, and it should include recommendations and conclusions that incite additional investigation or action. Any current issues relating to the research topic should be presented and arguments both for and against the topic should be included.

When you reference your thesis or dissertation, you need to ensure all of your references are correctly cited and consistent. You should use the Harvard system for this type of academic document. Details about this particular referencing system can be found on any of the major online search engines such as MSN, Yahoo! or Google, as well as websites such as http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm.

Writing style

If you want to earn a high mark for your thesis or dissertation, you must pay proper attention to your writing style. The writing style of this type of academic paper is very different from other informal documents such as personal letters. Make sure you take note of the following guidelines, which reflect proper writing style for dissertations:

Appropriate Terminology

Avoid all conversational, colloquial or informal expressions used in general conversation such as “kind of” or “just about”.  A first-class thesis or dissertation should also not include an excessive use of technical language.  A clear, concise writing style is recommended for writing such an academic document.

Rather than using first-person terms such as “me” or “I”, you should choose nouns such as “researcher” when you are writing your thesis. Whenever possible, you should also use plural subjects, rather than“he/she” or “her/his”.  This is the recommended format for academic documents such as theses.

You should also avoid words such as “bad”, “good”, “perfect”,“ideal,” etc, that make qualitative judgments.  Instead, refer to anyerrors or facts by choosing terms such as “correct” or “incorrect”. The goal of a dissertation or thesis is not to make a judgment, but topresent a valid, well-researched argument regarding a certain topic.

Proper punctuation, spelling and grammar
Make sure all of your sentences are correctly punctuated and that there are no spelling mistakes. You should also develop each of your paragraphs properly and include appropriate linking phrases or words to guide the reader through the various sections of the thesis.  Most paragraphs should include about five to six sentences, although some may be shorter.

Enlist the help of a native English speaker to proofread your thesis if English is not your first language.  Non-native English speakers have a much greater probability of making grammatical or syntactical errors in their academic paper.  Hence, you should ensure your dissertation does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors before submitting the document to your supervisor.  You will lose marks for submitting a paper that contains numerous errors and has not been proofread and corrected.  An error-free thesis or dissertation will also convey a more professional appearance and be much easier for the marker to read.

During the initial planning of your thesis, you do not need to focus on issues such as verb agreement.  However, you should allot sufficient time to correct any grammatical or spelling errors as you write your dissertation.  Your writing skills will continue to improve as you rewrite your academic paper.  This process will also enable you to convey your ideas more succinctly, rather than merely jotting down any last-minute ideas.

As soon as you have completed writing your thesis, ask anotherindividual to read your paper.  Discuss any ideas or criticisms thisperson may have in terms of the ideas presented in your document, aswell as the language used to express them.

If you want to achieve your goal of writing a first-class dissertation, you must ensure your thesis includes all of the necessary elements, is written concisely, is free of grammatical or spelling errors and presents a valid argument with solid research to support it.  If you have any concerns or questions, be sure to discuss them with your supervisor.  You can also consult the Internet or library for relevant guidelines and advice on writing academic documents.

References

Books

BOLKER, J (1998) Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: AGuide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis, HenryHolt and Company, LLC, New York

SKWIRE, D & SKWIRE, S (1990) Writing with a Thesis: A Rhetoric and Reader, 5th Ed., New York

MADSEN, D (1992) Successful Dissertations and Theses, Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, San Francisco

NEWTON, RAE R & RUDESTAM, K (2001) Surviving YourDissertation:  A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process, SagePublications, Inc, California

OGDEN, E ( 2007) Complete Your Dissertation or Thesis in TwoSemesters or Less, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., BlueRidge Summit

SWETNAM, D (2004) Writing Your Dissertation: The Bestselling Guideto Planning, Preparing and Presenting First-Class Work, How to Books Ltd., Oxford

Journal Articles

GILMORE, A, CARSON, D and PERRY, C (2006) ‘Academic publishing: Best practices for editors, guest editors, authors and reviewers’, European Business Review, 18:6, 468–478

STEVENS, C and CAMPBELL, P 2006, ‘Collaborating to connect globalcitizenship, information literacy and lifelong learning in the globalstudies classroom’, Reference Services Review, 34:4, 536–556

World Wide Web

Online Dissertation Help 2008, viewed November 10 2008,http://onlinedissertationhelp.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/how-to-write-a-first-class-thesis-or-dissertation/

WILSON, K & Articlesbase 2007, How to Write a First Class Thesis or Dissertation, viewed November 10 2008 http://www.articlesbase.com/article-writing-articles/how-to-write-a-first-class-thesis-or-dissertation-256512.html

Dartmouth Writing Program 2005, Writing a Thesis, viewed November 10 2008 http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/thesis.shtml

FLEMING, G & About.com 2008: Homework/Study Tips, The Thesis Sentence, viewed November 10, 2008 http://homeworktips.about.com/od/thesissentence/a/fuss.htm

Monash University Education 2008, Writing a Research Thesis, viewed November 10, 2008 http://www.education.monash.edu.au/students/current/study-resources/thesiswriting.html

Birmingham City University 2007, How to Write a Dissertation, viewed November 10, 2008& http://www.ssdd.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.03.htm

University of Newcastle upon Tyne 2001, Writing Research Theses or Dissertations (Guidelines and tips), viewed November 10, 2008http://www.cs.purdue.edu/homes/dec/essay.dissertation.htm

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How to Write Your Best Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

When you get to the point of writing a dissertation, you're clearly near the end of an important stage of your educational journey. The point of this paper is to showcase your skills and capacity to conduct research in your chosen discipline, and present the results through an original piece of content that will provide value for the academic and scientific community.

Before we get any further, let's clarify one main thing: what is a dissertation?

This term is usually used to present the final result of independent work and research for an undergraduate program. A thesis, on the other hand, is crafted for the completion of a Master's degree.

Dissertation - the final project that PhD candidates present before gaining their doctoral degree.

However, the term dissertation is also used for the final project that PhD candidates present before gaining their doctoral degree. It doesn't matter whether we are talking about an undergraduate or PhD dissertation; the form of the assignment is very similar, although the PhD project is much more serious.

This guide will be useful both for undergraduate and PhD students, who are working on their dissertation projects, as well as for students developing theses for MA programs.

It's not easy to write the best dissertation.

Most candidates usually start with great enthusiasm, but this intimidating project can throw them to despair. The process of planning, research, and writing will be the longest and most complex challenge you've ever committed to. The end result will be very rewarding, but you might go through several obstacles to get to that point. These are some of the most common problems students have when writing their dissertations:

  • Procrastination. They think there is plenty of time to work on the project, and they keep delaying the starting point. This is a big problem, since these students usually find themselves in frantic stress when the deadline approaches. Check out article ”7 Signs You Might Need Academic Writing Help” and find the best solution
  • Lack of research skills. Students who don't have enough experience with academic writing think they just need to collect few relevant resources and extract relevant quotes from them. That's far from the truth. You need to analyze those materials thoroughly and discuss them in the paper.
  • Lack of writing skills. The dissertation paper should follow the strict rules of academic writing. You should write in proper form, style, and language; and you should make sure to implement the correct citation guidelines.

Although the challenge seems overwhelming, the important thing is to start from the beginning and complete each stage step by step. We have a guide that will show you the right direction.

Step 1: Write a winning dissertation proposal

We already explained what a dissertation paper is, but what is a dissertation proposal?

As the term itself suggests, this is a proposal for the final dissertation project, which should persuade the committee members that you're going to commit to a valuable, interesting, and complex questions. This is a shorter paper than the final dissertation, but it's equally as important because this is the point when you'll think of a significant question and you'll set up a plan for assembling information and writing the paper. Even if the proposal is not mandatory in your university, you should still write it and discuss the points with your mentor.

These are the main points to pay attention to when wondering how to write a dissertation proposal:

Choose the theme, question, and title

- What problem is your dissertation going to tackle?

- Why is it a problem for the research, academic, and scientific community you'll belong to?

- Why is it important for you to find a solution?

- How are you going to search for the answers?

Do you want to find out more about choosing your dissertation topic? Check out our article.

“How to Come up with a Topic for Your Dissertation”

All these questions are important for making the final commitment. Make sure to brainstorm and choose a theme that will be valuable, unique, and reasonable. You don't want to end up with a too complex question that would trick you in a dead end. The question you choose should lead you to a testable hypothesis that you can prove with strong arguments.

Discuss few alternatives of the dissertation title with your mentor before you start writing the proposal.

Structure of the dissertation proposal

If you want to make the proposal convincing, its format has to be clean and easy to follow. Here are the points you should include in the proposal:

  • Dissertation title
  • Objectives - Aim for up to three objectives. If you're too extensive at this point, it will seem like your plan doesn't have a focus, so you'll need to narrow it down.
  • Literature - Ask your mentor if you're expected to list some specific references in this section. If that's not the case, you'll at least need to mention the areas of study, schools of thought, and other sources of information you're going to use during the research stage.
  • Research - This is the main section, where you'll elaborate the ideas of your research question. You will clearly outline the area of research.
  • Methodology - The dissertation project can be non-empirical (if the resources come from previously published projects) or empirical (if you collect data through questionnaires or other methods). In this section, you need to explain the methods of collecting data.
  • Potential outcomes - Where do you think you'll end up after all the research and analyzing? Explain the outcome you expect to come down to.
  • Timeframe - Create a schedule that explains how you will manage all stages of dissertation writing within a specific timeframe.
  • List of references - Ask your mentor if you're supposed to include this part, and he'll provide you with the instructions.

Step 2: Conduct an effective research

The dissertation research stage is going to determine the overall development of your project. It has to be methodical and effective, since you don't want to waste your time reading and analyzing irrelevant resources. Here are a few tips that will help you go through it:

  • Make a timeline for the research stage
  • It's important to find enough resources to fully understand the phenomenon you're focused on, but you'll need to stop researching at one point or another.

    Many students fall into a trap: they think they have to read everything that was ever written regarding the dissertation question they are about to elaborate. How much time do you plan to spend in the research stage? Make a timeline and stay committed to it.

    The point of the research stage is to show you have read around the topic and you understand the previous research that has been conducted, but you've also understood its limitations.

  • Find the right places to look for sources
  • The Internet is a good starting place during the research stage. However, you have to realize that not everything you read on the Internet is absolutely true. Double-check the information you find and make sure it comes from a trustworthy resource. Use Google Scholar to locate reliable academic sources. Wikipedia is not a reliable source, but it can take you to some great publication if you check out the list of references on the pages of your interest.

    Librarians are really helpful at this point of the project development. Don't avoid the actual library and ask the librarian to provide you with some interesting publications.

  • Organize your resources
  • You have to take notes; otherwise you'll end up seriously confused and you won't know where you located a certain important argument that you plan to use. Use Evernote, Penzu, or another online tool to write down notes about your impressions, as well as the sources you plan to reference.

The point of the research stage is to show you have read around the topic and you understand the previous research that has been conducted, but you've also understood its limitations.

Step 3: Write a mind-blowing dissertation

Now, you're left with the most important stage of the dissertation writing process: composing the actual project, which will be the final product of all your efforts.

It's surprising to see that many students have some level of confidence during the previous two stages of the process, but they crack when they realize they don't really know how to write a dissertation. Remember: you already did a great job up to this point, so you have to proceed. Everything is easier when you have a plan.

  • Make an outline
  • You already have the dissertation proposal, which is a preliminary outline for the actual dissertation. However, you still need a more detailed outline for the large project. Did the research stage lead you in an unexpected direction? Make sure to include the new points in your outline.

    This is a basic outline that will make it easier for you to write the dissertation:

  • Introduction
  • The first chapter should include a background of the problem, and a statement of the issue. Then, you'll clarify the purpose of the study, as well as the research question. Next, you'll need to provide clear definitions of the terms related to the project. You will also expose your assumptions and expectations of the final results.

  • Literature Review
  • In this chapter of the dissertation, you will review the research process and the most important acknowledgements you've come down to.

  • Methodology
  • This part of the dissertation is focused on the way you located the resources and the methods of implementation of the results. If you're writing a qualitative dissertation, you will expose the research questions, setting, participants, data collection, and data analysis processes. If, on the other hand, you're writing a quantitative dissertation, you will focus this chapter on the research questions and hypotheses, information about the population and sample, instrumentation, collection of data, and analysis of data.

  • Findings
  • This is the most important stage in the whole process of dissertation writing, since it showcases your intellectual capacity. At this point, you'll restate the research questions and you will discuss the results you found, explaining the direction they led you to. In other words, you'll answer those questions.

  • Conclusions
  • In the final chapter of the dissertation, you will summarize the study and you'll briefly report the results. Don't forget that you have to explain how your findings make a difference in the academic community and how they are implied in practice.

    At the end of this chapter, include a "Recommendations for future research" section, where you'll propose future research that will clarify the issue further. Explain why you suggest this research and what form it should take.

  • Bibliography
  • Use the recommended citation style for your field of study, and make sure to include all sources you used during the research and writing stages.

  • Manage your time
  • You'll need another timeline, but this one will be focused on the writing process. Plan how to complete your dissertation chapter by chapter. When you have attainable goals, it will be easier for you to write the project without getting overwhelmed by its length and complexity.

  • Write the first draft
  • There is no life-changing advice to give at this point. You just need to stay away from distractions, stick to your timeline, follow the outline, and complete the first draft. You already have what it takes; now you're ready to do the real work.

Findings stage is the most important in the whole process of dissertation writing, since it showcases your intellectual capacity.

Step 4: Edit and Proofread the Dissertation like a Pro

Now that you've completed the first draft of the paper, you can relax. Don't even think about dissertation editing as soon as you finish writing the last sentence. You need to take some time away from the project, so make sure to leave space of at least few days between the writing and editing stage. When you come back to it, you'll be able to notice most of its flaws.

  • Start editing
  • There is a substantial difference between editing and proofreading: editing is focused on the essence, and proofreading is focused on the form of the paper. You need to deal with the essence first, since it would be silly to proofread the dissertation to perfection and then start getting rid of unnecessary parts and adding more details.

    Pay attention to the logical connection between each argument. Are there any gaps in information? Fill them in with more details you collected through the research stage. Maybe you got carried away with the explanations at some point? Make sure to reduce the volume of those parts and clarify them as much as possible. The point is not in quantity; it's in quality and clarity.

  • Proofread
  • Finally, it's time to do the final few readings and catch all spelling, grammar, and style errors you made. Read word by word, sentence by sentence, and consult a dictionary or thesaurus if you have any doubts.

    If you notice that you're struggling through the stages of editing and proofreading, you should know you're not the only one with such problem. You are too attached to this project and it's difficult for you to see the flaws in it. That's why it's recommended for students to use an editing service that will bring their projects to perfection. This is a smart investment that will save you from embarrassment after all that effort and stress you went through.

Editing is focused on the essence, and proofreading is focused on the form of the paper.

Step 5: Get feedback

Before you can submit the dissertation project to the committee, you need to get some feedback.

Start with a friend or colleague who has knowledge in this discipline. You need to trust this person, since the dissertation is your unique intellectual property. Ask about their opinions and suggestions for improvement.

Then, discuss the project with your mentor. He/she will point out any possible weak points, and you'll get instructions on how to finalize the process before getting ready for the presentation.

The dissertation writing process is a great challenge, which not all students are capable to cope with. You need to keep in mind that you've come this far in your studies, so there is no other way to go but forward. Tackle the project stage by stage, and you'll soon complete the most important paper in your whole educational journey.

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