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Dissertation Writing - PowerPoint Presentation

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					 EFFECTIVE LEARNING PROGRAMME



       WRITING A
      DISSERTATION
               Robert Blake
Student Learning Development Centre, CELT
               February 2006


                                            1
  DISSERTATION WRITING: OUTLINE


• What is a dissertation?
• Planning your study: generating a research
  question; background reading & methods
• Planning a research schedule
• Structuring your dissertation
• Working with your supervisor



                                               2
 WHAT IS A DISSERTATION :

Depends on your department
• Extended lab/field report with conclusions
• Extended essay/study
• Analysis of case study
• Project work from company placement
• Library driven examination of problem
• Model testing [e.g. Acc & Fin]
Metaphor of a journey

                                               3
RESEARCH PROPOSALS- plan for the dissertation

Required by many depts. Example from Linguistics:
• Area of research
• Questions you aim to answer
• Rationale i.e. reasons for researching this area-
contribution to understanding & practical use
• Your background in this area: previous knowledge
& gaps
• Data you will collect
• How you will collect data & how you will analyse it
• Initial bibliography i.e. review of key studies
                                        * [progress report science]

                                                           4
  GENERATING A RESEARCH QUESTION

• Start with expected outcome or hunches
• Develop researchable questions
  (Laws:2003:97)or a hypothesis
• Research question= well specified critical
  question rather than description of what
  aspect you want to find an answer to.
• 2 stages: 1) What am I interested in?
  2) What questions can I make about this topic
  that could lead to an investigation?

                                                  5
 GENERATING A RESEARCH QUESTION
• 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 1981:184 in Bell 2005:32]
• Forms framework of study: i.e. which literature
  to investigate, how to select/devise methods;
  how you discuss results and write conclusions
• NB need to modify question as study develops
                                               6
DECIDING ON RESEARCH METHODS

What data will you collect?
How will you collect this data?
• interviews, questionnaires, case study
• lab or field work
• analysis of library & web sources-(MetaLib) but
 are they peer reviewed?
 primary sources such as original documents (e.g.
 historical, legal) sources vs. secondary sources
• designing a model or hardware.
• writing code and trialling software.
• simulating/testing
                                               7
ANALYSING DATA

How will you analyse this data?
• theory or framework?
• quantitative or qualitative analysis?
• quantitative e.g larger scale, numbers i.e.
statistically based.
• qualitative e.g. small scale, detailed description
Tools using software for analysis e.g. SPSS, Excel
Time consuming! So how much data can you deal
with in time allotted?
                                                     8
 READING: BACKGROUND THEORY OR LITERATURE REVIEW


• Read efficiently using SQ3R
  SQ3R= Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review
 http://www2.ntu.ac.uk/sss/studysupport/Information/Reading/SQ3R/SQ3R.htm

• Read critically- see Toronto Uni’s
  http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/critrdg.html

• Conduct database searches: see subject
  librarian; use Metalib (read journals online)
• Keep a careful record of reading & where it’s
  used in your dissertation: own form as in slide
  10 or Endnote.
                                                                            9
READING RECORD             Date of notes/pages

author
                            THIS PART-
title

publ/place/year/ed
                           BIBLIOGRAPHIC
                             DETAILS.
topic

keywords                    TOPIC &
                           KEYWORDS
chap/section/rq

                         RESEARCH QUESTION.

notes




                     YOUR NOTES FROM READING


comments




                     YOUR COMMENTS ON READING…..
                                                   10
  SCHEDULING YOUR DISSERTATION WORK

• Make a timetable or wall chart e.g. Gantt Chart
• Identify best work times & keep to a daily
  writing slot
• Split your dissertation into bite size-chunks
• Be realistic about daily targets
• Include time for input (supervisor & critical
  friends) & for drafts & redrafts
• Familiarise yourself with deadlines* & plan
  accordingly

                                                  11
  SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED

3 key questions
1. Do I have the skills & knowledge to carry
    out this research?
2. How long do I have?
3. What do I have time to learn within my
    schedule? e.g.:
    learning/improving knowledge of statistics
    learning software: Excel SPSS,
    learning new skills & techniques

                                             12
        MAKING A DISSERTATION TIMETABLE
How many words do I have to write?
How long do I need for practical work & analysis?
2 ways of timetabling dissertations:
• Whole dissertation timetable: examples 14 & 15
• Weekly timetable as in slide 20
Break down dissertation into a series of realistic
weekly tasks to make it more achievable.
Look at the 2 examples of dissertation timetables.
What level of detail would work best for you?
           Examples 1 & 3 are from Strathclyde University's Centre for
           Academic Practice web pages on Dissertation writing, see:
    http://www.strath.ac.uk/Departments/CAPLE/dissertation/example.html
                                                                          13
MAKING A DISSERTATION TIMETABLE (i)




                B                     14
MAKING A DISSERTATION TIMETABLE (ii)




                 B                     15
      MAKING A DISSERTATION TIMETABLE

For many writers it’s helpful and more
manageable to plan work on a weekly basis
(slide 17). This can help you to
• focus on individual tasks
• tick off completed tasks (morale boosting!)
• see progress on a day by day basis
• not be overwhelmed by totality
• know exactly where you are or should be

                                                16
MAKING A WEEKLY DISSERTATION TIMETABLE




                   B                     17
WHAT DOES A DISSERTATION LOOK LIKE?

Dissertation structure can vary significantly
from one department to another & whether
it’s based on:
• an empirical study based on a research
experiment: extended report structure.
• analysis of literature. Here the structure will
that of an extended essay with a number of
sections or chapters.

                                                18
WHAT DOES A DISSERTATION LOOK LIKE?

Empirically based dissertations are usually
based on a scientific report structure used in
the sciences & some social sciences (IMRaD+C):
• Introduction
• Methods
• Results
• Discussion
• Conclusions
                                                 19
  AN OVERVIEW OF THE CHAPTERS: INTRODUCTION

This sets the scene, by :
•introducing the issue that you are researching
• reviewing relevant previous studies
• highlighting the gap in research to be filled
• explaining your research questions/hypotheses
• brief signposting of dissertation structure
NB In some dissertations, the background information is in a
separate chapter called the Literature Review


                                                         20
  METHODS

• Explains the methods you used to collect data
• Explains how you collected the data
• Not just a description as it should explain
reasons for various choices made
• Goal of your explanation is to allow future
student to repeat your study
•Grammar! Past tense & passive often used
e.g. Twenty five interviews were conducted…..

No methods section in literature based
dissertations
                                                  21
RESULTS
• Presents the data or findings collected from the
methods you used
• does not include analysis of these results
• May use a series of tables and figures to present
the results more effectively
• Talks the reader through the series of results
when referring to figures
Figure 4.2 shows that the incidence of x rises
when…
• Highlights key patterns in the data
NB Some writers combine the Results & Discussion
headings & organise them by topic
                                               22
 DISCUSSION

• This is where you interpreting the results i.e.
  explaining to the reader what they mean
• Broadens from discussion of your results to how
  they can be compared with the results of others
  who’ve done similar research
• Refers to the previous studies you introduced
  earlier
• Discusses any problems with results
• Doesn’t include tables & figures, except when
  comparing your results with others
                                               23
CONCLUSIONS


 • A short, succinctly written summary

 • Must addresses the research question or
   hypotheses presented in the introduction

 • May include limitations of your study and
   suggestions for further work



                                               24
    OTHER BITS


    FRONT                    AT THE END
•   Title page            • References/Bibliography 
•   Acknowledgements      • Appendices*
•   Contents
•   List of figures*
•   Glossary*


      *if your study requires this

                                                 25
 EXTENDED ESSAY DISSERTATIONS

Have a look at the contents pages of the 2
examples:

Labelling GM foods (Law) & Proteolysis (Biology)

How does each dissertation differ from the
IMRaD+C structure outlined earlier?



                                               26
  COMPARING THE STRUCTURE OF LIT REVIEW
  AND EXTENDED ESSAY DISSERTATIONS

Now compare the structures of the 2 extended
essay/literature review dissertations you’ve
just looked at with the 2 empirically/report
based dissertations.
How does the structure differ?
Can you find an ImRaD+C structure?


                                               27
 WORKING WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR

• What can my supervisor?
• What won’t my supervisor do?
• Will they approve the research proposal/research
  questions?
• Will they read with drafts of work & if so, how
  much?
• Will they advise on methodology & help with
  difficulties
                            ~~~

NB Make agendas for supervision meetings
   Tape as a record?
                                               28
      SOME DISSERTATION WRITING TIPS [i]

• Keep a research journal with you to record ideas
• Write a dissertation timetable: whole process &
  weekly
• Start writing early
• Set a daily writing slot
• Allow time for problems:personal & with your
  data collection
• Set plenty of editing & rewriting time
• Get a critical friend to read through drafts &
  feed them!
                                                29
     MORE DISSERTATION WRITING TIPS [ii]

• Read at a couple of past dissertations
• Compare their structure by tracing through the
  research questions from the introduction to
  conclusion.
• Start writing in the middle: methodology or
  background
• Write the introduction & abstract last, when
  you know what you’ve found
• Introduce and conclude chapters. Guide the
  reader through with signposting & cross
  referencing
• Don’t just write for your supervisor
                                              30

				
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