What is a Dissertation?
The dissertation, also known as the research project, is probably the most important assignment that students have to undertake while at University or College. It is often a key indicator of the student’s true capabilities as a scholar and researcher.
A dissertation abides by certain basic principles of academic writing -
A dissertation is a structured form of assignment that develops a transparent line of thought (also called an 'argument') that is in response to the central proposition or question ('thesis').
It is an extended assignment and the dissertation layout is usually divided into chapters. It contains a considerably more detailed examination of the student’s subject matter and evidence of their arguments than is the case for most other forms of assignments. The expectation from the students, the learners, is that they should take the responsibility for their own learning. They should also produce a literature review. They can choose a method for the undertaking of a study, write up their findings and then discuss the results in a discussion section at the end of the dissertation layout.
Types of Dissertation
There are three general types of dissertations that may have their dissertation layout in a different manner -
1. Research Dissertation
The research dissertation focuses on writing a dissertation to research on a hypothesis. This research is carried out to discover or formulate a new theory or justify a theory.
2. Evaluative Dissertation
The evaluative dissertation evaluates arguments of a theory in the form of a long assignment and then discusses the results at the end with a view to justify or nullify a theory.
3. Case Study Dissertation
The case study dissertation refers to the analysis of a case study with a view to consider it as an example of the argument being discussed in the dissertation.
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The Dissertation Layout
A good dissertation layout should have the following components –
1. Dissertation Proposal (If Necessary)
The dissertation proposal should be prepared only when it is asked for by the supervisor. It is a form of blueprint of the dissertation in which students have to inform the supervisor about the subject and methodology of their dissertation. They may begin researching for the dissertation only when this dissertation proposal has been accepted by their supervisor.
The dissertation proposal is not a component of the dissertation layout as such, but it becomes mandatory if it is asked for.
2. The Title
A dissertation layout always begins with a Title page. This title page may or may not contain graphics or pictures depending on the nature of the subject. If the subject is serious, students should exclude pictures to eliminate the possibility of trivializing their academic matter. The title page should contain the following –
- The title of the dissertation.
- The student’s full name and academic qualifications.
- A statement like this - ‘A dissertation submitted in fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Masters in History.’
- The Institution’s name.
- The date of submission and the supervisor’s name.
3. The Abstract
The next component of a dissertation layout is the abstract. It is a summary of the thesis that is compressed into a short paragraph. This paragraph contains –
- The issues that the students have researched and the reason for the selection of those particular issues.
- The methods of research chosen and the reason for selecting those particular methods.
- The results and conclusions.
4. The Acknowledgement
Students should acknowledge the assistance of any person who has helped them with their research or in the preparation of their dissertation and this is the section of the dissertation layout where they should do it. Whether it was the staff in their College or University Library who assisted them in the search for relevant information, or the lectures that they have attended, or their colleagues, or experts who may have provided them with the relevant material or may have given them interviews, all of them should be acknowledged in this section.
5. The Introduction
One of the most important components of a dissertation layout is the paper’s Introduction. Students have to introduce the subject of their dissertation and describe their aims and objectives. They should explain the relevance and significance of what they are trying to prove, how they are going to prove it, and what methods will they utilize in this process. The introduction in a dissertation layout is the students’ opportunity of demonstrating that they have a grasp of the style, language, and grammar required to write an academic paper or assignment. If the students adhere to these standards, it will create a positive impression on the supervisor and will also continue throughout the rest of their dissertation.
6. The Literature Review
After the Introduction, students must include the literature review in their dissertation layout. In a literature review, students must critically review the relevant research done in the past for their dissertation subject. Listing the summaries of the articles in a chronological order is not suitable. Students must identify the research themes in the given literature or analyze papers according to the alternative methodologies applicable for a comparison. A good literature review in a dissertation layout is not only comprehensive but also critical and informative. Students should conclude the review by identifying the contribution that they intend to add to the current available literature.
7. The Methodology
The next component of the dissertation layout is the Methodology that the students adopt to write the paper. It is the description and development of their research framework. This section is where students have to describe the research methods, the data collection methods, and the data analysis methods that they have chosen. They also have to explain why these methods were appropriate for their research. The content of the methodology section will differ because it depends on the particular research method that was adopted.
8. Results and Discussion
After the methodology section, the dissertation layout should contain the results and discussions section. In this section, the students must display, describe, illustrate, and evaluate the results of their research.
They must also identify, limit, and discuss the strong and weak points of their reported research.
9. The Conclusion
The conclusion section of the dissertation layout is where students have to combine all the strands of their argument and provide a convincing answer to the question they had originally posed. They should be able to justify their conclusion and show how the steps in their reasoning are connected. They should also identify any potential future developments in their research topic and whether there may be any practical implications for the management or government policies.
10. Bibliography and References
The second last section of the dissertation layout should be the bibliography and references section. The students’ thesis must contain either a bibliography list or a bibliography and reference list as asked for by their supervisor. If students do not cite their sources correctly, they may be accused and questioned for plagiarism and it may also lead to the failure of their dissertation paper as a whole.
11. The Appendices
The final component of a dissertation layout should be the appendices section. This section should comprise of the examples of items that the students have utilized to gather evidence for their research. The items may be surveys, questionnaires, letters, statistical tables, illustrative material, etc. Similar materials of research should be included in the same appendix. Also, they should be numbered correctly and accordingly. For example, two different surveys should be included in the same appendix and numbered as S(1) and S(2) respectively.
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