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Does a dissertation have to have an argument

Each section or chapter has its own particular function Title page The title itself is an important opportunity to tell the potential reader what your research is about. You will need it to be succinct, specific, descriptive, and representative of the research you have done. There is likely to be a required format for the title page in your discipline, so you need to check what that is. Abstract This may be one of the shortest sections of your thesis or dissertation, but it is worthwhile taking great care to write it well.

Essentially, the Abstract is a succinct summary of the research. It should be able to stand alone in representing why and how you did what you did, and what the results and implications are. It is often only one page long, and there may be a word limit to adhere to. The Abstract is an important element of the thesis, and will become a document in its own right if the thesis is registered within any database. The examiners will therefore assess your Abstract both as part of your thesis, and as a potentially independent document.

It can be best to write the Abstract last, once you are sure what exactly you are summarising. Alternatively it can be useful to write the abstract earlier on, as an aid to identifying the crucial main thread of your research, its purpose, and its findings, which could then guide the structure of the dissertation. It might be useful to look at how others have managed. It is certainly an academic exercise, but perhaps not too different from the concise explanations of your research you may have had to give to relatives and neighbours over the last few years, in terms of its brevity, accessibility, and comprehensiveness.

Acknowledgements This is your opportunity to mention individuals who have been particularly helpful. Reading the acknowledgements in other dissertations in your field will give you does a dissertation have to have an argument idea of the ways in which different kinds of help have been appreciated and mentioned.

Contents, and figure and table lists The contents pages will show up the structure of the dissertation. This is a useful check on whether amalgamation of sections, or creation of further sections or sub-sections is needed. Introduction Although this is the first piece of writing the reader comes to, it is often best to leave its preparation to last as, until then, you will not be absolutely sure what you are introducing.

The introduction has two main roles: The literature review, or context of the study The purpose of this chapter is to show that you are aware of where your own piece of research fits into the overall context of research in your field. To do this you need to: This can lead logically into a clear statement of the research question s or problem s you will be addressing.

In addition to the research context, there may be other relevant contexts to present for example: It can be difficult to identify the best order for sections in this chapter because the rationale for your choice of specific research question can be complicated, and there may be several inter-linked reasons why the research is needed. It is worth taking time to develop a logical structure as this will help to convince examiners of the relevance of your research, and that you understand its relevance.

It will also provide you with a framework to refer back to does a dissertation have to have an argument your discussion chapter, when you reflect on the extent to which your research has achieved what it set out to do. Chapter s describing methods, sources, material etc In these chapters a straightforward description is required of how you conducted the research. If you used particular equipment, processes, or materials, you will need to be clear and precise in how you describe them.

You must give enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study. For example a scientific dissertation would probably have very clear separation between the results and the discussion of those results; whereas a social science dissertation might have an overall chapter called Findings, bringing the results and their discussion together.

Decisions about style of presentation may need to be made about, for example: Discussion This is where you review your own research in relation to the wider context in which it is located. You can refer back to the rationale that you gave for your research in the literature review, and discuss what your own research has added in this context. It is important to show that you appreciate the limitations of your research, and how these may affect the validity or usefulness of your findings.

Given the acknowledged limitations, you can report on the implications of your findings for theory, research, and practice.

  • Even the early chapters submitted for assessment, and passing that assessment, may need to be revised later on;
  • It is important to be prepared to critique and revise your own work several times;
  • If you have a marking guide then apply it to your dissertation and see if there are aspects that you can improve;
  • When to stop Just as it can be difficult to begin writing, it can also be difficult to know when to stop.

Conclusions This chapter tends to be much shorter than the Discussion. References This section needs to be highly structured, and needs to include all of your references in the required referencing style.

As you edit and rewrite your dissertation you will probably gain and lose references that you had in earlier versions.

  • Developing an argument An important aspect running through your dissertation will be your argument for;
  • Moving from doing the research to writing a comprehensive account of it is not necessarily easy;
  • Appendices You need to check whether or not the appendices count within the word limit for your dissertation;
  • Under each sub-heading, list the main content that needs to be included, creating sub-sub-headings if needed.

It is important therefore to check that all the references in your reference list are actually referenced within the text; and that all the references that appear in the text appear also in the reference list. Appendices You need to check whether or not the appendices count within the word limit for your dissertation. Items that can usefully go in the appendices are those that a reader would want to see, but which would take up too much space and disrupt the flow if placed within the main text.

Again, make sure you reference the Appendices within the main text where necessary. Designing your detailed structure If your dissertation is well-structured, easy to follow, logical, and coherent, your examiners will probably enjoy reading it, and will be able to listen to your argument without the distraction of trying to make all the links themselves.

The only way to achieve a consistent argument throughout a piece of writing is by creating some kind of plan or map of what you want to say.

It can be useful to think of the research question or topic going like a strong thread throughout the dissertation: Moving from doing the research to writing a comprehensive account of it is not necessarily easy.

It can be helpful to break the task down into smaller, more easily accomplished elements. The process of producing your writing plan could go as follows. You could start by making a comprehensive and unstructured list of all the elements and ideas that you need to include, ranging from chapter headings to notes about analysis, and from ideas for graphical representation to ideas for further research. Alternatively you could choose to start at stage 2.

List the main chapter headings in the order in which they will appear. Under each chapter heading, list a series of important sub-headings. It may be that, for example, a literature review chapter needs to be split into a review of several different segments of literature.

In this case each segment can have its own sub-heading, with a synthesis that brings the findings together at the end of the chapter.

Introduction

Under each sub-heading, list the main content that needs to be included, creating sub-sub-headings if needed. If you began by making a long and unstructured list of content, you can now feed that into the developing structure by inserting it as bullet points under the relevant headings. You need to ensure that all the content you want to include has been allocated a place.

As you go, you can slot in ideas, references, quotes, clarifications, and conclusions as they occur to you, to make sure they are not forgotten. Take feedback from others at this stage, before you begin to fill in the detail. Filling in the detail It can be a good idea to put the word limit to the back of your mind at this point, and concentrate on getting everything recorded in a document. You can always edit upwards or downwards later as necessary.

Writing as you go along It is likely, and advisable, that you will not wait until the end of your research before starting to write it up. You may be required to produce one or more chapters for assessment part way through your research. The process described above can be used for any individual chapter you are working on. It is important to be prepared to critique and revise your own work several times. Even the early chapters submitted for assessment, and passing that assessment, may need to be revised later on.

This is not a failure, but a positive sign of increased experience and skill. Developing an argument An important aspect running through your dissertation will be your argument for: You will refer does a dissertation have to have an argument the work of others as you make your argument.

This may involve critiquing the work of established leaders in the field.

Agree with, accede to, defend, or confirm a particular point of view. Propose a new point of view. Concede that an existing point of view has certain merits but that it needs to be qualified in certain important respects.

Reformulate an existing point of view or statement of it, such that the new version makes a better explanation.

Develop an existing point of view, perhaps by utilising it on larger or more complex datasets, or apply a theory to a new context Adapted from Taylor 1989: You should be open about where the gaps are in your research, and cautious about over-stating what you have found. Aim to be modest but realistic in relating your own research to the broader context. Improving the structure and content Once you have the dissertation in draft form it becomes easier to see where you can improve it.

To make it easier to read you can use clear signposting at the beginning of chapters, and write links between sections to show how they relate to each other. Another technique to improve academic writing style is to ensure that each individual paragraph justifies its inclusion. More ideas will be presented in the Study Guide The art of editing. You may choose to review your draft from the standpoint of a dissertation examiner, which might involve preparing a list of questions that you want to see answered, then reading through your dissertation scribbling comments, suggestions, criticisms, and ideas in the margin.

  • Summary Devote time to planning the structure of the dissertation;
  • Propose a new point of view;
  • Fill in the detail, concentrating on getting everything recorded rather than sticking to the word limit at this stage;
  • Again, make sure you reference the Appendices within the main text where necessary;
  • You may be required to produce one or more chapters for assessment part way through your research.

If you have a marking guide then apply it to your dissertation and see if there are aspects that you can improve. While you do this, be aware of whether you need to increase the number of words, or decrease it to reach your target.

As you read you can then cross through material that appears unnecessary, and mark points that could be expanded. This will then form the basis for your next, improved, draft. When to stop Just as it can be difficult to begin writing, it can also be difficult does a dissertation have to have an argument know when to stop. You may begin to feel that your dissertation will never be good enough, and that you need to revise it again and again. It may be helpful to divert your attention for a while to the finishing off activities you need to attend to: Coming back afresh to look critically at the main text may then enable you to complete it to your satisfaction.

Remember the dissertation needs to demonstrate your ability to undertake and report research rather than to answer every question on a topic. It is important to allow yourself enough time for the final checking and proof reading of the finished document. Summary Devote time to planning the structure of the dissertation. Plan a structure that will enable you to present your argument effectively.

Fill in the detail, concentrating on getting everything recorded rather than sticking to the word limit at this stage. Regard writing as part of the research process, not an after-thought.

Writing a dissertation

Expect to edit and re-edit your material several times as it moves towards its final form. Leave time to check and proofread thoroughly. A guide to better writing for scientists, engineers and students.