This National Dissertation Day, we asked our dissertation advisers to answer some of the most common questions they get asked by students. These range from what you need to know before you start, tips for when you’re writing, and things to check when you’ve finished.

1. Before you start writing

Q: What is a dissertation?

A: A research project with a word count of 12,000+ at Master’s level.

Q: What is the difference between a postgraduate and an undergraduate dissertation?

A: The length for Undergraduate is less than 12,000 words and for Postgraduate it is more than 15,000 words. Level 7 requires a higher level of critical debate, better synthesis of the arguments, and more independence in research. It also requires originality and an attempt to touch, challenge, or expand the body of existing knowledge.

Q: How much time should be spent writing a dissertation?

A: An Undergraduate dissertation is worth is 40 credits (from 360 in total) and should take 300-400 hours. A Postgraduate dissertation is worth 60 credits (from 180 in total) and should take 400-600 hours.

Q: What is the best way to pick a topic and where should the focus be when writing?

A: As per your pathways of study and incorporating your areas of interest, based on previous research papers and contemporary or futuristic issues.

Q: What kind of research do students need to complete before starting?

A: Both Undergraduate and Postgraduate students study a module on research methodology and develop a research proposal, based on previous research.

2. Whilst you write your dissertation

Q: Can dissertations include other media i.e. imagery, videos, graphs, external links to examples?

In most programmes this is not possible, however specific programmes such as MA design, media studies, or architecture may allow various media to be included.

Q: How much support is offered by advisers?

A: Students are offered 4 hours of one-to-one supervision spread over 12-14 weeks of a term.

Q: Are students able to submit multiple drafts?

Yes, this is allowed.

Q: What is the policy on dissertation deadline extensions?

A: A student can be granted late authorisation (two extra weeks) or personal extenuating circumstances, but there needs to be evidence to support the requests.

3. What advisers see after the dissertation submission

Q: What are some of the most common mistakes advisers see with dissertations?

A: The following:

  • Non-focused research objectives and a lack of SMART research topics
  • Not enough depth and critical debate in the literature review
  • A lack of justification of research methods and not using a reliable questionnaire
  • A failure to use required methods of qualitative or quantitative research
  • Not discussing their results

Q: What makes a truly great dissertation?

  • A well-structured piece of work with a clear introduction, literature review, research methods, findings, discussions, and conclusions
  • A dissertation that follows TAASE (Theory, Applications, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation)
  • Work that meets the module’s learning objectives

Q: What does excellent collaboration between a student and an adviser look like?

A: Regular planned meetings, mutual respect, and a partnership where both of the parties are motivated and inspired for the research.

Q: What’s one key piece of advice you can give to prospective Master’s students on dissertation writing?

A: Critically read and benchmark previous peer-reviewed research journals in your area of research. Regularly attend supervision meetings and work continuously and not only towards the end of the term. Be honest and ethical in your data collection.

If you need more information about dissertation writing or pursuing a degree, please contact us using the details below:

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