Outlining your aims and objectives is a way to mitigate any claims that you are completing your research for some ‘self-serving’ purpose; integrity and value should be upheld throughout your proposal, planning, research, and writing phases.
Anyone involved at any stage of your research, whether directly included as a participant or not, should be well-informed about the reasons for your work, and the way that their ‘data’ will be incorporated and used in your eventual paper. Participants should be made aware of their participation and should be told exactly what to expect, what is expected from them and what the ‘risks’ of their involvement are. Planning to utilise a ‘consent form’ and providing participants with a ‘fact sheet’ reminding them of this information, would be a good way of making sure that you have covered all bases.
Confidentiality and anonymity are central to research participation, and it is your duty as a researcher to do everything in your power to ensure that your participants can not be identified within your work and that their information is protected and/or encrypted whilst in your possession. Using pseudonyms such as ‘Person A’ and ‘Person B’ can be helpful in writing up and labelling your transcripts.
It's probably the most important piece of research and writing you will undertake during your undergraduate career – so the thought of writing your dissertation can be daunting. Starting out with a robust plan will focus your research, use your time efficiently and keep the task manageable.
Select your field of interest
First things first: what topics have you most enjoyed on your course? Investigating a subject you genuinely enjoy will make dissertation research less overwhelming.
Do as much preliminary reading around the subject area as you can to make sure there is plenty of literature out there to support your initial ideas.
Take a good look at the most recent writings in your areas of interest. They will help you to identify the best angle to take and could highlight the gaps in current inquiry that you can address.
Choose an approach and a title
What will your line of inquiry be? You may, for example, wish to extend a study that has already been carried out, apply a theory to some practical experience and critique how successful it is, or closely analyse an idea or object using a particular approach.
Your approach will inform your title. The title should clearly present the line of inquiry your dissertation will take. If you're unsure, make up a working title. You could even compose a few different titles each with a slightly different emphasis, and keep them all in mind as you do your research.
Remember to run your title by your dissertation tutor. They will be able to give you advice, help you refine any grey areas and suggest reading for research.
Make an outline plan
The general essay structure is as follows:
• Introduction – say what you are going to say
• Main body – say it
• Conclusion – say what you've said
You can break down each of these three areas further. In the introduction, your subheadings could include:
• What you are examining
• How are you going to do it (concepts/theories/studies)
The main body might break down into:
• Definitions, setting out areas of research, anticipating problems
• Main argument or theme
• Alternative argument or theme
And your conclusion would include:
• Summary of your findings
• Is there a solution?
• What remains unresolved?
• What future research could illuminate the issue further?
Start a list of sources
When you're planning your sections, include the full names of books and page numbers wherever you can to help you retrieve information quickly as you write your draft. It is also useful to begin to compile you bibliography during the planning stage.
Review and adjust your plan as you go
Even the best laid plans go astray – so don't worry! As you read and research around your key areas, the structure and direction of your initial plan may shift. This is the beauty of having a plan. As a potential new focus arises, you can adjust your title, section headings and content notes to encompass your new ideas before your draft writing begins. A good plan means you will not lose focus on the end result.
• Next in this three-part series: How to write your dissertation.
Thanks to Goldsmiths University for supplying this content.