Writing up

To sit in front of a blank screen faced with the task of writing 10,000 words is a daunting task and one to be avoided! Ideally, over the course of your research you should gradually collect notes, observations and data which you can use to put together your first draft. You may choose to keep a research diary to start the writing process early and this could include anything from reflective musings on how your interviews went to your critical comments on an article you just read.

Once you have some notes together, start writing early. The easiest way to start is to prepare a structure for the dissertation, based on any guidelines you have been given by your tutors. This should outline possible chapter or section headings and, although these will differ between subject areas, is likely to include:

This is normally written at the end of the project and is usually a 300 word summary of answers to the questions: ‘what is the dissertation about? What does is argue, prove, and contend? What has it achieved?’

This should explain the issue to be investigated and the main aims of the dissertation, provide a short summary of the context of the study and describe the structure of the dissertation.

This is an organised, critical review of attempts to answer your dissertation question and should provide the context for your research and justify the gap your research will fill. For more information, see our ASK pages on Writing the Literature Review.

This usually takes the form of a questions or as aims and objectives. The purpose here is to tell the reader what your research aims to do.

This will include a discussion of your philosophical approach to your investigation (methodology) as well as a description of what methods you have selected to conduct your research (e.g. experimental design, interviews, archival analysis). For work involving human subjects, it should also reflect how you have dealt with ethical issues (e.g. confidentiality).

This will describe what your research found and discuss what this means in relation to your original aims. The exact format varies between subjects. For science students, the results and discussion sections are often written as separate chapters with the results clearly annotating and discussing what the research discovered and the discussion reflecting on what this means.

This will draw overall conclusions of what your research has found and the implications of this for the research field.

University of Leeds tutorial on dissertation writing