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Cheat Sheet

Writing a Dissertation For Dummies (UK Edition)

Writing a dissertation shouldn’t mean panicking. If you plan ahead and know how to structure your work, you’ll achieve fantastic results. And guess what? You might even enjoy yourself; writing a dissertation can be a highly rewarding experience. Follow this guide to producing the best possible dissertation.

Obeying the Dissertation Rules and Regulations

Keep yourself on the straight and narrow when writing your dissertation, not only because illegal practices can land you and your university or college in trouble, but also because you’re likely to get found out and marked down.

  • You must keep your university regulations to hand as well as any course materials from your tutors about exact requirements.

  • You must have ethical clearance for your work (where necessary).

  • You must make sure that your work does not plagiarise any other works. Always check whether a piece is copyrighted before you use it. Make sure to reference quotes and any information you borrow.

Essential Networking when Writing a Dissertation

It’s a good idea to have the contact details of the people in this list very handy when you’re writing your dissertation so you can call on them to help you out when necessary.

  • Your tutor (or supervisor)

  • Your course administration office people

  • Any university or course support people

  • The university library

  • Any networks of fellow students or ‘academic’ friends who can help with work questions

  • Your good mates with whom you can share reciprocal shoulder-crying, late night stressing and comfort sessions!

Settling on Your Dissertation Research Question

Settling on a research question might take some time, and you may find that you refine it slightly as you begin researching. A workable question should:

  • Link clearly to your field of study.

  • Be possible to summarise in two sentences.

  • Have been agreed with and signed off by your supervisor.

  • Still pique your interest.

Organising Your Working Methods while Writing a Dissertation

Different working patterns work for different people. You need to find the balance that’s right for you while writing your dissertation. It’s a good idea to make sure you are:

  • Working in a study space that is well-laid out.

  • Being honest with yourself and the people around you about how you are getting on.

  • Working and referring to a clear plan for the overall project (with extra time included for anything unforeseen that may pop up).

  • Eating well, and keeping your alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and sugar intakes under control.

  • Getting sufficient sleep and exercise.

  • Balancing your work sensibly, seeing friends and having reasonable relaxation breaks.

Optimising Your Dissertation Writing

The quality and clarity of your writing has a significant impact on how your dissertation is marked. Make sure that it packs a punch, and reflects the hard work you’ve put into your project. Here are some top tips.

  • Contact your support services if you know you struggle with writing. Explain the nature of the difficulty to your supervisor (also suggest what you can do to help yourself).

  • Get help from the university support services if you don’t fully understand what is meant by ‘good English’ and find samples of good writing to help you improve your writing style.

  • Proofread your writing – you can pick up on mistakes that you or even your computer’s spellchecker may have made.

  • Avoid cliché, colloquialisms and a chatty style, but also beware of sounding too formal and stuffy. You need a clear, academic, unfussy style.

  • Keep paragraphs and sentences short and straightforward.

  • Never use words you don’t fully understand.

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