Reading, Research & Dissertations

A substantial part of your academic studies will consist of background reading on your subject, as well as identifying key texts by specialists in your chosen field.

This section will introduce you to some things you will need to be aware of when conducting your research, such as:

  • making effective notes
  • accurately referencing your sources
  • avoiding plagiarism
  • accessing library services
  • thinking critically when reading

Choosing a topic is the most important and difficult choice most students face when thinking of writing a dissertation. It becomes overwhelming, nerve-racking and sometimes can lead to panic attacks. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • What interests you ? – start a file that that has all your interests throughout your time as an undergraduate. it could be about a lab experiment you conduced, a particular topic in a module, what questions have continually interested you or what sort of things do you like to think/read about.
  • What do employers want ? – it does not have to be related to your field. However, it does give an extra bonus when they can relate your dissertation to your career choice (you can sell your skills and interests through your dissertation!)
  • Look for what other scholars say need more preliminary research – talk to tutors because they may have pointed out potential topics or unanswered questions. 
  • Look through dissertations of previous students in your department – they may have useful suggestions for further research, ask them questions on how they chose their topics, the people they consulted, the resources they used. 

Here is a link which can be used to help choose an appropriate topic and how to get started. The information is from Birkbeck, University of London – http://www.bbk.ac.uk/ems/faculty/phd-students/smith/presentations/dissert_f

Once your topic has been approved by your tutor, you need to try and develop a question that guides your project. Tailor your project to focus on these three things:

  • the issue that you are going to be investigating;
  • your argument or thesis (what you want to prove, disprove, or explore); 
  • and the limits of your research (i.e. what you are not going to be investigating)

This is the key tool to ensuring you are on the right path while researching, continously asking yourself – will this help me address the problem ?, how would it address the issue ?, why is this informtion useful ? Any drawbacks and how can it be countered ?

We tend to procastinate alot as humans so it is important to be self-aware of when this problem starts to happen and how to tackle it. Some common reasons people procrastinate about:

  • poor time management
  • negative self belief
  • lack of motivation
  • personal problems

This is where planning becomes very vital. It is necessary to identify when you start procrastinating and try to review what you’re expecting from yourself. What motivates you ? Who motivates you ? What has helped you come this far ? Its only a couple more months of tears and stress and pain but the reward after is so worthwhile and long lasting. Always remember that “NO GOOD THING IN LIFE COMES EASY”. Here are some tips on avoiding procrastination:

  • be realistic on when you would start
  • devote time to planning or revising your plan – ask your tutor for assistance  
  • include any work that needs to be done between the given period of time
  • have clear and achievable objectives for each week
  • reward yourself each time you finish an objective 

The structure of a good dissertation usually includes the following:

  • title
  • declaration
  • acknowledgements
  • abstract
  • list of symbols, figures and/or tables
  • table of content
  • introduction (including aims, objectives and method)
  • literature review
  • methodology
  • results
  • analysis
  • conclusion
  • recommendation
  • bibliography
  • appendices
  • research proposal (if required)

Quick links to resources

Library and information skills