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Study advice: Dissertations

Wednesday 11 December 2013 Dissertations

A dissertation can seem like an impossible hurdle in your final year but starting early with a calm approach can make it run that little bit smoother and give you something to show employers.

How should I choose a topic?

Knowing what to write about and then having enough to write 12,000 words about it can be extremely difficult. But starting early enough will give you time to come up with several ideas and throw them around before settling on one. Here’s some things to consider when making that all important choice.

Make it interesting - You’re going to be spending a lot of time writing about it so it’s probably a good idea that you actually like the topic, because if you get bored with it what hope has anyone else got of reading it? Not only the topic you choose but the scale of it will affect how interesting it is. You have a set word limit to meet but make sure you keep this proportionate as if you start waffling in your argument people will lose track of your point.

Talk about it - Once you have chosen a topic you will usually have an appointment with your dissertation tutor who will talk through your ideas and will act as a sounding board. It is also worth talking to others on the course as they will also be developing their dissertations. Bouncing ideas off each other may help you see something that you might have missed. Remember that it’s good to talk and two heads are better than one (and all other manner of clichés).

Plan - Set out your research objectives and then look at ways to meet them - in other words work out what you want to find out and then how you will do it. Mini plans could help you work through each stage of the dissertation and ensure that you don’t miss anything out. Planning will also mean that you won’t run out of time and end up with the last minute panic.

Will my dissertation help me?

You will probably breathe a big sigh of relief when you hand in your dissertation with the thought that you will never have to read those words again. However with a little bit of effort and careful consideration it could prove to be your ticket into employment.

Develop contacts - Asking people to help you with your dissertation will undoubtedly build up your contacts and also put your name in their mind. So when it comes to job hunting they'll already be aware of you and hopefully your dissertation will provide a conversation starter. However, don’t be offended if they don’t instantly remember that yours was the dissertation on cell analysis.

Be useful to employers - The subject has to be interesting to you however it won't hurt if it is good for employers as well. It’s all about choosing the right subject and boosting your employability. If it can be applied to industry and help a company to change the way they carry out a particular procedure for the better then your dissertation could almost become your calling card.

Be clear - Choosing a title that does exactly what it says on the tin will leave no doubt in the employers mind as to what it’s about. It will be unlikely that they will have time to read 12,000 words and so they will make up their mind from the title whether or not you can be of any use to them.

Top tips

  • Start with a clear structure
  • Get your draft in early
  • Use headings to keep the interest
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute, allow time for checking
  • Always keep a copy