A dissertation or thesis is likely to be the longest and the most difficult piece of work a student has ever completed. It can, nevertheless, be a really fulfilling piece of work because, unlike essays and other assignments, the student can choose a special interest issue and work independently.
The research journey will be a lot smoother if the student clearly understands the big-picture of how to write a dissertation or thesis. Here are some tips to outline the big picture of how to write a high-quality dissertation or thesis without losing your mind in the process.
Step 1: Understand what is a dissertation
So, what exactly is a dissertation?
To put it simply, a dissertation or thesis is a formal piece of research that reflects the typical research method. It’s not an opinion piece, nor is it a place to push your agenda or persuade someone to agree with you. Now, what is the usual research procedure? There are four main steps:
- Ask a question(s) that is(are) highly specific and well-articulated (your research topic)
- Check out what other researchers have to say about it
- If they haven’t appropriately responded, collect and analyze your own data in a scientifically rigorous manner.
- Respond to your initial question(s) based on your conclusions from your investigation
Step 2: Select a unique, valuable topic
As discussed, asking a clear, well-articulated question is the first step in the research process. To put it another way, you’ll need to come up with a study topic that poses a specific question or series of questions (these are called research questions).
A a few key characteristics of a good dissertation topic are given below:
Your research topic should be very specific about what you’re going to research, what you want to learn, and how you’re going to learn it. There should be no ambiguity or uncertainty concerning the topic of your investigation.
Your research should address a question or set of questions that hasn’t been addressed before, or that hasn’t been addressed in a particular context (for example, in a specific country or industry).
It is not enough to just ask a unique or original inquiry; the query must add value. To put it another way, answering your research questions correctly should add value to the field of research or the industry.
Step 3: Come up with a compelling research proposal
Once you’ve found a good research topic, the following step is to persuade your university to let you conduct research on it. No matter how fantastic you believe your topic is, it must first get approval before you can proceed with your research. A research proposal can be used as a tool to get this done.
So, what exactly does a research proposal entail?
- You have a well-articulated, distinct, and significant topic (this may seem similar…)
- You’ve done some preliminary research into the existing literature on your issue (i.e. a literature review)
- You have a rough plan in place for how you’ll collect and analyze data (i.e. a methodology)
Step 4: Write a strong introduction chapter
After your proposal has been approved, it’s time to start writing your dissertation or thesis
Your proposal will serve as the foundation for your first three chapters — introduction, literature review, and methodology.
What is the purpose of the opening chapter?
In general, it will comprise the following:
- A brief overview of the study’s context, including an explanation of the research’s main focus
- A problem statement that describes the issue with the current state of research (in other words, where the knowledge gap exists)
- Your research questions – the exact questions that your research will attempt to solve (based on the knowledge gap)
- The importance of your research – in other words, why it’s vital and how the findings will benefit the world
Step 5: Undertake an in-depth literature review
You’ll need to do some initial evaluation in Steps 2 and 3 to find your research gap and craft a convincing research proposal – but that’s just the beginning. When you get to the literature review stage of your dissertation or thesis, you’ll need to delve even further into the current research and create a thorough literature review chapter. There are two main stages:
The first step is to do a thorough review of the available literature (journal articles, textbook chapters, industry reports, and so on) to obtain a thorough understanding of the current status of research on your issue. Reading and digesting the necessary literature is a time-consuming and a demanding task. Many students underestimate the amount of effort that goes into this step, so make sure to budget enough time for it when planning your study.
After you’ve read and digested all of the material, you’ll need to write up your literature review chapter. You’ll need to do at least three things to write a successful literature review chapter:
- You must synthesise the available research rather than simply summarising it. In other words, you must demonstrate how various bits of theory fit together, as well as what is agreed and what’s not agreed upon by researchers.
- You should identify a research gap that your study will address. To put it another way, you must explain the problem in order for your research topic to propose a solution.
- You should base your methodology and approach to your own research design on previous research.
Step 6: Conduct your own research
When you’ve completed your literature evaluation and have a thorough comprehension of the existing research, it’s time to develop your own study (finally!) You’ll do this study with the goal of discovering the answers to your specific research topic.
The first step is to plan your research strategy and draft a methodology section.
Create a research strategy
Designing your research strategy and writing a methodology chapter are the first steps.In another way, this chapter explains the “how” of your research. The “what” and “why” were explored in the introduction and literature review chapters, so it’s only natural that the “how” should be discussed next – that’s what the methodology chapter is all about.
Execute: collect and analyse your data.
You’ll put your research idea into action and begin collecting data once you’ve finalised it. This could include conducting interviews, running an online poll, or using any other technique of data collection. Data collecting can take a long time (especially if you conduct in-person interviews), so make sure you provide enough time in your project schedule for it. Things don’t always go as planned (for example, you don’t get as many survey responses as you expected), so factor in some extra time in your budget.
After you’ve gathered your data, you’ll need to undertake some data preparation before diving into the analysis.
Step 7: Make a presentation of your findings
It’s finally time to share your findings after you’ve finished your analysis. You’ll usually present your findings in two chapters in a dissertation or thesis: the results chapter and the discussion chapter.
Results and discussion chapters’ difference
While the results and discussion chapters are identical, the results chapter simply presents the processed data neatly and clearly without interpretation, whereas the discussion chapter discusses the story the data is telling – in other words, it provides your interpretation of the results.
Depending on the university and degree, these two chapters (results and discussion) are occasionally consolidated into one. So make sure to verify with your institution. This section is about presenting the conclusions of your research in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner, regardless of chapter arrangement.
Step 8: Make a conclusion and talk about the ramifications
You’ll wrap up your research in this chapter by highlighting the most important findings and discussing the consequences of those discoveries.
What are the most important findings? The key discoveries are those that have a direct bearing on your original research questions and overall study goals (which you discussed in your introduction chapter). On the other side, the implications describe what your findings mean for industry or research in your field.