When writing up your 1st draft you will first need to consider:
- Time Management
- Consider where and how to research the topic
- Completing a plan
The dissertation that is written in a single session will not achieve good marks. Writing it will take considerably longer than a week – every year students do attempt to write their entire piece of work with less than a week to go before they submit – and every year the same students fail to graduate. It is important to break your time down into completing individual chapters; you will find this makes the writing process much easier!
Set yourself a deadline to finish the first draft at least one month before the dissertation submission date. In the final period, you will need time to review your work, have it professionally edited, proofread and marked, and make amendments to it before submission. Remember you will need time to have the work bound and to ensure that page margins, font size, the bibliography (and similar constraints) conform to the requirements of your university. You will be surprised as to just how long the ‘finishing off’ of the dissertation will take.
Do remember, that this is a piece of work that carries with it a significant percentage of your final marks (especially if it is a double module) and that you will need time to review what you have written.
Where and how to research the topic
Before you start writing, research the topic thoroughly. Perhaps compile a list of useful resources you have located that link appropriately to your dissertation topic e.g. books and journal articles from your university library, records from city or town archives, electronic copies of books and journals from the internet. Your university library should have access vast databases of information, and by reading articles in journals you’ll be able to follow up-to-date debates between critics. You may also find gathering your own data helpful, depending on your subject – use things such as questionnaires, comprehensive field-notes and case studies. Consider the type of research you are going to be conducting and how and where you will obtain this data from.
Reading different relevant articles or books is not enough for writing a high-class academic dissertation. It is necessary that you should identify a common perspective before beginning to writing. Either it is a comparative academic dissertation, or a critique of a book or an article – either way, a writer should try to pose his own views after analyzing different perspectives related to the selected topic.
Make a plan
Prepare an essay plan for every chapter. It is normal to feel daunted at the thought of completing a dissertation. Try to think of the dissertation as a series of shorter essays, which you then link together.
You may find it useful to put your notes into separate wallets for each chapter.
- Number the pages of your notes as it is easier to sort them out if you drop them.
- On electronic notes and drafts, write a descriptive name and approximate date for the file as a footer so that you keep track of your documents.
- Do backups of notes. This may seem like common sense but everyone who has written a dissertation will tell you of the time they dropped all of their notes, or lost files.
Do not worry too much about the word count in your first draft. It is better to write too much and then edit and focus your work afterwards. Padding and waffle are easily spotted by markers and penalties are applied for failing to meet the word count. If you have trouble maintaining focus, write the dissertation title on a slip of paper and keep it on your computer – try to ask yourself ‘how does the sentence I am writing add to the dissertation?’.
It is best to write in fair sized chunks (such as about 800 – 1,500 words, depending on the length of the document). Doing so will help the work to flow and you will be more encouraged as you see your word count accumulate.
Important things to consider
- Remember to back up your work. This should be done to the hard drive every few minutes, before leaving your computer (to get coffee, for example), at the end of a writing session, and at the end of the day.
- At least once a week back up to an external source – an external hard drive, the cloud, a memory stick or a disc.
- For long dissertations consider sending a back up to a location other than that where your computer is normally kept – if you are coping with a disaster such as a burglary, you will not want the additional burden of having to re-do possibly years of work.
- Be sure to read the dissertation guidelines thoroughly to make sure other aspects of style (e.g., use of charts, tables, etc.) are followed closely.
- Ask your supervisor if you have any issues or queries, they are there to help!
- A high-class dissertation should be free from plagiarism, using quotes appropriately and correctly referenced.
You should consider the following 7 point checklist while writing an academic dissertation, which will help you in getting a high-class grade:
- Adequate identification and introduction of your thesis statement
- Relevancy of your discussion and explanation
- Length of paragraphs; you should try to keep a balance in the length of paragraphs, as ones which are too short or too long will end up in an uninteresting perspective for your dissertation
- Single concept in a paragraph makes it difficult to follow your train of thought, and could lead to a lower grade
- Proper linking of paragraphs through intermediary sentences
- Relevancy of examples and case studies
- Clarity of expression and relation with examples
For further assistance with writing a dissertation see our full guide "How to Write a Dissertation".
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