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Writing a dissertation Sara Steinke STUDENT ORIENTATION 2011.

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1 Writing a dissertation Sara Steinke STUDENT ORIENTATION 2011

2 Aims of session How writing a dissertation differs from writing an essay Writing your thesis Structuring your thesis Managing your supervisor Preparing for your viva

3 Think about the following What are the similarities between writing a dissertation and writing an essay? a)Follows basic procedure b)Adheres to academic conventions c)Involves research skills d)Includes writing in prose e)Requires analytical reading / writing skills

4 Think about the following What are the differences between writing a dissertation and writing an essay? a)Independence b)Individual designed piece of work c)Personal involvement d)Time management e)Self-management and motivation f)Literature search g)Presentation/structure h)Methodology

5 Structuring your dissertation Title page Abstract Acknowledgments Table of contents Introduction Literature review Theoretical framework / methodology Finding analysis Analysis Conclusions Footnotes / endnotes References Appendices

6 How to manage your supervisor? You will be allocated a personal supervisor to support you while you are writing your dissertation Do not delay your first meeting with supervisor –help with narrowing your topic –assistance with the dissertation writing process

7 Aspects of managing your tutor and the dissertation processYes/No 1 Let your supervisor know how much contact and support you would like 2 Accept that there are limits to the amount of help that can, and should, be given with a dissertation studied at an advanced level 3 Agree together at the outset on when you will meet and how best contact can be made (for example, by phone or by ) 4 Plan together some interim deadlines for the work, so that you are able to manage your time effectively 5 Make sure that you know from the start how your dissertation will be assessed – what assessment criteria will be applied to it – and that you understand these, discussing them with your supervisor if you need to 6 Ask for access, where possible, to past dissertations of the kind you are being asked to write, so that you can get a sense of their scope, structure, tone and the methodology used 7 Consider contributing to the setting up of appropriate support groups or pairings with fellow students, so that you can clarify your own thinking by discussing it with others if this is acceptable to your tutor 8 Find an appropriate way of mapping and monitoring your own progress; for example, by using a checklist of tasks to be completed. Use this to help the discussions with your supervisor to focus on areas where you need particular advice 9 Listen to, evaluate and respond to your supervisor’s feedback, by making notes and reflecting on what has been said or written, then applying the feedback to the next stage of your research or writing up

8 Preparing for you viva Before the Viva Read your dissertation over and over again so you know it inside out Does your University run a viva preparation course? If so, get on it. Write out what you think the main contributions of your dissertation are. Compile a list of key themes, and consider how they relate to each other Write out chapter summaries of each chapter so that you're clear on what each chapter achieves, what its central arguments are. Prepare example answers and take your notes in with you. Get fellow students to ask you the questions you dread, and have a mock viva with your supervisor. Use post-it notes to flag significant pages in your dissertations. Make sure you understand your University's regulations about procedures for corrections (minor or major). During the Viva Know what you have to defend and what you can let go. Examiners may ask you about 'fuzzy' terminology to clarify their usage. Examiners are trying to assess your competence in the wider field in which you're situated, so you should link what you've done to some of the big debates in your field. Don't worry if some of the questions seem a little aggressive or unsympathetic. You are not being personally attacked. Relish the chance to defend what you've worked so hard on for so long. Relax and enjoy the viva. It is the first (and probably the last) chance where you'll have the undivided attention of two people interested in your work. Remember that you will know more about the subject than they do.

9 Recap of session Identified similarities and differences between writing a dissertation and writing an essay – literature review, methodology, self management and motivation Structuring your thesis –reflections above Managing your supervisor –it is your responsibility; take control Preparing for your viva –practice and preparation

10 support/phd-support support/dissertations/pg_dissertations postgraduate/index.asp postgraduate/writing.asp Wisker, G. (2007) The Postgraduate Research Handbook (Palgrave)


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