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If you’re thinking about applying for a master’s degree or are already studying for one, chances are that you’ve come across the dreaded term ‘master's dissertation’.
Most master’s degrees necessitate that students write a final dissertation as part of their course requirements.
While it can be a daunting task, planning things properly goes a long way in helping you write an excellent dissertation.
This blog will explain what a master’s dissertation is and cover the top tips that you need to know in order to write a great master’s dissertation.
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A dissertation is an extended work of academic writing based on an original research project, produced by students at the end of their undergraduate or postgraduate degree.
Also known as a ‘thesis’, a postgraduate dissertation aims to highlight the independent research skills and analytical abilities that a master’s student has acquired over the course of their degree.
Master’s dissertations can range in length from 10,000 words to upwards of 25,000 words, with an extensive bibliography and source list being an absolute must.
With dissertations often accounting for a large portion of final degree grades, it is really important that postgraduate students get to grips with how to write a good dissertation.
When you start your dissertation, the first thing you will have to decide on is your dissertation topic.
Your topic will ground your research, posing a central question that the rest of your dissertation will aim to answer.
When choosing a topic, it’s important to remember to:
The best thing you can do is choose an area that you have a genuine interest in.
Keep in mind that you are going to spend months reading and writing about this topic, so you should pick something that interests and excites you, otherwise it will feel like a very long, arduous process.
The biggest mistake you can make is choosing a completely novel area of interest.
You need to choose a topic that has been studied before so that you have sufficient articles backing up your work.
The aim is to contribute something new to an area of research, not to come up with a completely new area of research altogether.
After choosing your dissertation topic, it’s time to turn your focus toward researching and writing up your findings.
The writing process can be split into two sections: writing your dissertation plan and writing your dissertation content.
Writing your plan
Before writing your dissertation, try to read and locate as many relevant articles from as many high-quality journals as you can.
These will be a huge help in forming your ideas and establishing facts related to your research.
The more you read, the better articles you will find and the more confident you will be in the quality of your research.
Manage your time:
Most universities give students around 3-5 months to write their dissertation, which can lead to a false sense of security in regard to time.
Before you know it, the initial months are gone, and the supervisory meetings and deadlines start piling up.
Putting together a plan of action with a timeline of self-imposed deadlines is necessary to keep track of things and to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
Writing your dissertation
A good structure is the key to achieving a high mark in your dissertation.
The first thing a grader sees when marking your work is the structure. It is the make-or-break moment of your dissertation.
Thus, you need to make sure that you spend enough time on it.
This doesn’t mean that you come up with an extremely complex structure for your dissertation - that will most likely confuse the grader.
The best way to go about it is to give a very uniform, easily readable and well-proportioned look to your entire document.
Revise and rewrite:
There’s no better way to achieve a good grade than to constantly revise and rewrite your work.
A master's dissertation word count is usually around 10,000 words or so, hence it cannot and should not be written in one go.
A master's dissertation literature review is usually the longest section of your document and according to some supervisors, the most important.
Therefore, this section, in particular, should be revised as many times as possible.
The more you read through your work, the more clarity you will be able to provide in your document.
There are lots of factors that go into producing a good dissertation. It’s important to:
It sounds pretty simple; however, it is anything but.
The key is to cover all your bases as early as you can.
Start going through master's dissertation examples early on in your degree so that by the time the dissertation period arrives, you aren’t completely caught off-guard.
Furthermore, the earlier you have your topic picked out, the easier it will be for you to attend supervisory meetings and ask relevant questions.
Most students get between 5-7 meetings to discuss their progress with their supervisors.
Depending on your university policy, these meetings are either conducted one to one or as part of a group along with other students.
Either way, these meetings are crucial for your dissertation.
Make sure that you attend every single one because supervisors often give small tidbits of information throughout these meetings that can go a long way in helping you secure a high grade.
Moreover, these meetings give you a chance to ask any questions that you might have regarding your work, and if you genuinely are working hard on your dissertation, chances are that you will have many questions.
Use these meetings to your advantage while also creating a positive image of yourself in front of your supervisor.
When writing a dissertation, it is important to do your reading and research as thoroughly as you can.
But once you have done so, don’t keep second-guessing your work.
This will put you in an endless cycle of self-doubt with no way out.
It is not helpful to worry about the smallest of mistakes and whether they could make you fail your master’s dissertation.
Trust your gut and know that the grader will be looking at the overall picture and not the nitty-gritty of your work.
While working hard and revising your work is a good thing, make sure that you plan your time in a way that allows you to take breaks.
Writing a dissertation can be a very long, draining process at times, which is why it is important to take breaks regularly.
Don’t just assume that you’ll take a break, physically the time to schedule breaks for yourself every day in advance.
Getting a half-hour of fresh air after hours of staying indoors can do wonders for the mind.
The key to writing an excellent master's dissertation is to give yourself time and room to make mistakes.
If you do your due diligence, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your dissertation is as fault proof as it possibly could be.