Masters Dissertation - Some Advice for Researching and Writing It

Masters Dissertation - Some Advice for Researching and Writing It

The last course of study is always exciting - the main assignment of all your years is ahead. A masters dissertation is the final step to your Master's degree. It gives an opportunity to prove considerable skills in a certain field or science, comprehensive education, capacity to organize & carry out such a project by a student. You have to set objectives of study, organize, analyze sources where to find the necessary data. One should draw a conclusion and if necessary, make recommendations and marks for a supplementary investigation.

What is a Master’s Dissertation

The dissertation is the final stage of the Masters degree and provides you with the opportunity to show that you have gained the necessary skills in a certain science and knowledge in order to organise and conduct a research project. It should demonstrate that you are skilled in identifying an area, or areas, suitable for research: setting research objectives; locating, organising and critically analysing the relevant secondary data and authoritative literature; devising an appropriate research methodology; analysing the primary data selected and drawing on the literature in the field; drawing conclusions; and if appropriate making relevant recommendations and indications of areas for further research.

A dissertation is a “formal” document and there are “rules” that govern the way in which it is presented. It must have chapters that provide an introduction, a literature review, a justification of the data selected for analysis and research methodology, analysis of the data and, finally, conclusions and recommendations. Where the subject is based around a business or an applied situation recommendations for action may also be required.

The Masters level dissertation is distinguished from other forms of writing by its attempt to analyse situations in terms of the ‘bigger picture’. It seeks answers, explanations, makes comparisons and arrives at generalisations which can be used to extend theory. As well as explaining what can be done, it addresses the underlying why. The most successful dissertations are those which are specific and narrowly focused.

This document is intended to guide you through the dissertation process. It can only offer suggestions; there is nothing that can be said which will guarantee the production of a fine piece of work, but these are suggestions which, through time, have been found to be both practical and effective.

The Differences Between an Undergraduate Dissertation and a Masters Dissertation

A dissertation to get a Master’s degree and an undergraduate thesis are not the same. Research work gets detailed answers, compares relevant facts, underlines response to “why”. The best works have narrow specific subjects. The main rule is not to make the paper reserved - it takes time to write a good work.

Basic Undergraduate (Thesis) and Masters Dissertation Differences

The main difference between a thesis and dissertation is when they are completed. The thesis is a project in a graduate school that marks the end of an undergraduate program, while the dissertation occurs during master’s study. The two are actually quite different in their purpose, as well. A thesis is a compilation of research that proves you are knowledgeable about the information learned throughout your graduate program. A dissertation is your opportunity during a master’s (or - doctorate) program to contribute new knowledge, theories or practices to your field. The point is to come up with an entirely new concept, develop it and defend its worth.

Length and Structural Differences

In an undergraduate you research a topic, then analyze and comment upon the information you gleaned and how it relates to the particular subject matter at hand. The point of the thesis is to show your ability to think critically about a topic and to knowledgeably discuss the information in-depth. Also, with a thesis, you usually take this opportunity to expand upon a subject that is most relevant to a specialty area you wish to pursue professionally. In a master’s dissertation, you utilize others' research merely as guidance in coming up with and proving your own unique hypothesis, theory or concept. The bulk of the information in a dissertation is attributed to you.

Finally, there is a difference in length between these two major works. The length and structure of an undergraduate and masters dissertations vary according to program; however, most theses are significantly shorter than dissertations. Students seeking a master's degree usually complete a thesis project in one full semester during which this is the only course they take. A master's dissertation should be at least 100 pages in length, likely a bit beyond that. Length and structure also depend on the field of study. Science majors write less because they conduct more hands-on experiments; students in humanities and liberal arts programs write longer papers with more in-depth analysis.

A dissertation is an extremely complex work. It will likely be two, possibly even three, times the length of a thesis. You will receive guidance from a faculty member who will serve as your dissertation adviser. This adviser will be there to point you in the right direction if you are stuck, can assist in locating resources and ensure that your proposal is on the right track.

Research Content

Regardless of how schools use the terms thesis (undergraduate) and dissertation (masters), the purpose remains the same for both projects: undergraduate level theses and Master's dissertations require extensive research in order to prove that students have retained sufficient knowledge about their field. Theses typically require less external research because the project reflects a student's own ideas and conclusions. Dissertations take several years to complete and may require hundreds of external sources.

The secondary focus is to see how well students can defend their own work. Both of these research projects typically conclude with an oral defense in which faculty members ask questions about the research and final paper. A dissertation defense can last several hours whereas a thesis defense may last only an hour.

Master’s Degree Dissertation Structure

All postgraduate dissertations are unique to a certain extent; there are two main structures that every postgraduate should use. PhD (doctoral) graduates may systematize the paper into a series of articles. They might be published in professional journals; with such a structure one does not need to draft thesis and essays to issue them separately.

This form of dissertation is non-traditional. Before composing one needs to discuss this ability with a supervisor, you may check some templates of the thesis and learn how long is a masters dissertation. The traditional way to create dissertation is to write it like a foliant with several chapters. There shouldn’t be many of them. Despite the number of units which depend on the type of examined area and the duration of the course, the work has the following structure:

  • Title page
  • Abstract - The dissertation should contain an abstract of up to 350 words. A good abstract is difficult to write and can only be completed after the full dissertation has been written. It represents a brief summary of the results of the dissertation research. By summarising the results of the research, it allows other people to get an idea of what was accomplished without having to read through the whole dissertation. Other scholars can read an abstract to decide if looking at the full work will be worthwhile. The abstract should provide sufficient information about the results of the research that reading the full dissertation is not necessary, although your markers will read the full dissertation.
  • Contents - The contents page should list the chapter headings, appendices, references and the pages on which they can be found. Separate listing should be given for lists of figures, tables and abbreviations.
  • Chapter 1 (background / introduction) - the Introduction to the dissertation should set out the background to the research study and address the following areas: a) the context in which the research took place; b) the reasons why this study was carried out; c) the way the Dissertation is to be organised.
  • Chapter 2 (literature review) - The main reason for the inclusion, in a Masters dissertation, of a literature review section is - To present and to analyse, in a critical manner, that part of the published literature which is relevant to your research topic and which acts as the basis for a fuller understanding of the context in which you are conducting your research; thus helping the reader to a more rounded appreciation of what you have completed. Remember critical does not mean looking at the negatives but forming an evaluation.
  • Chapter 3 (methodology) - You should begin the Research Methodology chapter by stating, again, the research objectives of the project. This will enable the reader to make an assessment as to the validity of your chosen research methodology. This chapter is that part of the dissertation where you have the opportunity to justify to the reader the process by which the research questions, which were derived by an analysis of the relevant literature, were answered.
  • Chapters 4-6 (info / data analysis) - These chapters present the evidence and/or results of primary research which you have undertaken. Depending upon your subject area this can be in the form of detailed quantitative models, hypothesis testing to some basic analysis using basic descriptive statistics or qualitative techniques dealing with structured content analysis, textual analysis, to case study descriptions. The main part of the chapter is the presentation of the data that you obtained. Even projects of relatively moderate dimensions will generate a large amount of data which has to be considered. This data must be organised in a logical and coherently ordered whole so that your thought processes and interpretation are clear to the reader.
  • Chapter 7 (discussion) - This is the heart of the dissertation and must be more than descriptive. This chapter develops analytic and critical thinking on primary results and analysis with reference to theoretical arguments grounded in the literature review. You should try to highlight where there are major differences and similarities from the literature or between different groups.
  • Conclusion - Here you will bring together the work of the dissertation by showing how the initial research plan has been addressed in such a way that conclusions may be formed from the evidence of the dissertation. No new material or references should be placed here. The conclusions should make a statement on the extent to which each of the aims and objectives has been met. You should bring back your research questions and state clearly your understanding of those questions. Be careful not to make claims that are not substantiated from the evidence you have presented in earlier chapters.
  • Bibliography - All the sources used in writing the dissertation (whether direct quotations or paraphrasing) should be included in a bibliography, compiled in alphabetical order by the author.
  • Appendices - Appendices won’t be necessary in many dissertations, but you may need to include supplementary material to support your argument. This could be interview transcripts or questionnaires. If including such content within the body of the dissertation won’t be feasible – i.e. there wouldn’t be enough space or it would break the flow of your writing – you should consult with your supervisor and consider attaching it in an appendix.

Any other type of structure can be agreed with your supervisor.

Important Clues for Writing an Introduction

An introduction is a part of the master's dissertation you notice last. Notwithstanding, it is not the last thing to do. You may draft an outline with the introduction as soon as you know the topic of the work. There you compose all your ideas about the topic of the research, specify what you would like to study during writing. As ideas evolve, you are able to change this section of the dissertation. You should answer why your work is relevant and why it is valuable.

Define the objective that is associated with the question, present literature about your topic. If there is an analytical debate, it would be a good start to explore the topic of the dissertation and express your private opinion. It should be combined with the analysis of sources.

Here are some ideas to make a good introduction:

  • A strong opening sentence that catches the reader’s attention
  • It is not required to give full data in reverse to the topic in the introduction, but give vague ideas and arguments
  • Verify not mentioning some facts which will not be explained in your work later

The Main Steps of Writing

One way to draft logically is to draw up a plan or a mind map in which one can note essential ideas. Determine the question of your research that would go through the thesis. Link the parts of the study and give an agreement to describing. When you have some ideas about writing the dissertation, put them on paper - it is easy to forget them when you have to memorize a lot of data. Your writing plan may be the following one:

  1. You may begin with creating a completed and unorganized list of all the key facts and details which are considered necessary to be included
  2. Firstly note the headings to all the parts, use graphic representations if needed
  3. Create a list of headlines in order
  4. Type essential sub-headings to each section of the dissertation. A chapter concerning the literature review is required to be divided into several sub-parts. Every sub-part would have its own heading, together they form the unit
  5. To organize your thoughts better, create a list with bullet points under each chapter. Each point corresponds to one paragraph
  6. When it is done, add more ideas, a list of references, citations, and conclusions. Do not forget to include these elements in your Master’s degree dissertation
  7. Verify that there is correspondence among parts and the format is comprehensible, convincing and every idea is well-defined
  8. Make sure that the writing is logical

When a thesis is well-structured and clear, it would be a pleasure to the committee to read it. They will listen to you without interruption for trying to understand the logical links or asking a lot of questions concerning your dissertation.

Steps to Conduct a Research

Depending on how you build your dissertation or thesis, writing of entire work will vary. The body should be methodical and effective. So you would not spend time on analysis or reading resources that are not related to work. Following tips may help you in writing.

1. Write a schedule for each part of dissertation:

  • Find a convenient number of sources to fully understand the topic, but it is necessary to end researching and not go with the ideas far
  • A lot of students are afraid that they have to read every book concerning the dissertation. Think about how much time you spend on reading several crucial sources and follow your schedule
  • Show that you have read and understood relevant researches as well as their limitations

2. Find appropriate places to find valuable sources for the dissertation:

  • When it is time to conduct a study, official websites serve as the first point. One should understand that the data is not reliable on all the websites. Check it twice and look for truthful pages of official websites. Use Google Scholar to locate such sources
  • Go to the library to ask a cataloger for some help in writing your dissertation. They may advise reading the books needed for the research

3. Systematize the data:

  • Take notes so that you will not be perturbed and always know where to find important arguments that you want to use. Such tools as Penzu will help you to save necessary notes and sources.

Find Your Advisor to Write Decent Master’s Dissertation

When you finish writing the work, you'll know more about the degrees of the research object than the сommittee. You will see how the relationship between your advisor and you changes having asked him to become your colleague. Talk to him/her about how to make the research work more effective and how you will work on this together.

Ask about how often you may text him about the new data added to the dissertation if he would like to read drafts of chapters, how much time he needs to read and correct the draft if the sections should be sent to him in writing or not. It is indispensable to tell your advisor about the kind of feedback you want to get.

An advisor may give purposeless or discouraging answers that will not help you to cope with your dissertation. Let him know what response would be useful for the assignment. Give specific explanations and arguments so that he would know exactly how to give a helping hand. Inform him about every step of the thesis by sending the reports weekly or monthly.

You should find another advisor’s students, as it is probable that they have certain communication strategies. That would help you to find common language quicker; if it is not so, you may choose another advisor. It is possible to ask a committee member to be your secondary advisor and check your notes.

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