Jennifer Hanford – 3rd Blog – Dissertation Week

As part of my Accounting degree I am completing a 10,000-word dissertation, which is very scary. My deadline is next Friday and I’m very happy to say that I’m almost done, but I know most people doing dissertations have a little longer, so I thought I would focus this week’s posting on the tips and tricks I’ve learnt, so hopefully you can all be as prepared as possible!

My first tip would be to utilise target connect and the facilities here at Lancaster University. The careers service run various sessions, dependent on the week, based on the different sections of the dissertation. These talks are very useful as they ensure you stay focused in each area and if you complete/start the sections along with the timescale of the sessions, you will be in a great position when it comes to your deadline week.

Planning is essential is producing a good quality dissertation; therefore the proposal you submit shouldn’t be a rushed piece of work. If you create a strong proposal/outline then you are starting from a very good place. A key aspect to your proposal is you research question, which needs to be very clear so that your marker knows exactly what your dissertation will be focusing on and the area you are researching. If your proposal has a good structure then you can continue this into your dissertation, giving it a backbone and a continuous flow, which are critical qualities in a successful dissertation.

Referencing is very time consuming and can be difficult to keep track of. Unfortunately, I left all my referencing till the end and constructing my bibliography took a lot longer than I had expected. If I was doing it again, I would keep a log off all the sources I used and add each one to my bibliography, as I went along. This will make it much easier and ensures you include all the sources you have researched and used.

Research is the first step in a dissertation and it’s very important to be detailed and thorough. This is the foundation for your whole dissertation and it’s essential you find a topic you find interesting and are able to write a lot about! It’s helpful to write about something that already has a lot of literature, as you will have a good starting point for your literature review, and lots to discuss throughout your dissertation, when comparing with your personal findings.

My dissertation includes interviews, which needed to be focused and directly related to my subject matter. The questions you ask in interviews can be very difficult to construct, which is why I would recommend writing your literature review first. I found that after writing my literature review, I knew a lot more about the topic and the previous findings, enabling me to focus my questions on key areas so that I was able to directly use the answers given, as they were directly related to my research question.

Methods used are very important, as this is the data that you have personally collected. It’s important to explain your methods clearly, relating this to other researchers who have used similar techniques and why you thought that was the best option for your study. This is where you can also include details of methods you didn’t choose and the reasons, before clearly defining the approach you took and how you approached it.

One key aspect is the relationship with your dissertation supervisor. They are a specialist in your subject and it’s important you communicate clearly; to ensure your dissertation is the best possible output you can create. Asking relevant and clear questions to your supervisor should improve the final mark you receive.

The word count should be aimed for, as that is what is expected. So don’t write too many words and then dump them all in the appendix when you reach the limit, but at the same time don’t write too little as then there is less you can score marks on. The appendix should be used for giving any extra detail to the main points of your dissertation, which may not necessarily fit in the word limit but are relevant to your work.

Finally, don’t panic. It seems like climbing Everest when you start on the dissertation ‘journey’, but once you break it down into the key aspects, the mountain seems a little more like Snowdon. Try to remain focused on your research question, always asking yourself if it’s relevant, clear and concise. Hopefully this has helped with anyone writing their dissertation and good luck to all!

Thanks, Jen