You should also think about whether you are dependent on any one else to complete your project, and think about what you are going to do if they are unable to help you. Once you have created your plan it is a good idea to show it to someone else.
Ideally you will be able to show it to a member of academic staff or bring it to the Learning Development, but talking it over with a friend may also help you to spot anything that you have forgotten or anywhere that you have been unrealistic in your planning.
Although a dissertation is an opportunity for you to work independently, you will usually be allocated a member of academic staff as a supervisor. Supervisors are there to help you shape your ideas and give you advice on how to conduct the research for your dissertation.
They are not there to teach you the topic you have chosen to investigate: They are, however, one of the resources that you can call on during your research.
Academics are busy people, so to get the most out of your supervisor you will need to be organised and to take responsibility for the relationship. To ensure that you get the most out of your supervisor you need to:. If you are not happy with the way you are being supervised, explain why to your supervisor or discuss the issue with your personal tutor. Regardless of whether you have been given a dissertation topic or you have developed your own ideas, you will need to be able to demonstrate the rationale for your research, and to describe how it fits within the wider research context in your area.
To support you in doing this you will need to undertake a literature review, which is a review of material that has already been published, either in hard copy or electronically, that may be relevant for your research project. Key tools that are available to help you, include:.
It is a good idea to make an appointment to see the librarian specialising in your subject. An information librarian should be able to give you advice on your literature search, and on how to manage the information that you generate.
You will probably generate more references than you can read. Use the titles and abstracts to decide whether the reference is worth reading in detail. Be selective by concentrating on references that:. Once you start reading, ensure that you think about what you are trying to get out of each article or book that you read. Your notes should enable you to write up your literature search without returning to the books you have read.
Refer to the guides Effective Note Making , Referencing and Bibliographies , and Avoiding Plagiarism , for further help with note-making. For most research projects the data collection phase feels like the most important part.
However, you should avoid jumping straight into this phase until you have adequately defined your research problem, and the extent and limitations of your research. If you are too hasty you risk collecting data that you will not be able to use.
Consider how you are going to store and retrieve your data. You should set up a system that allows you to:. There are many systems that support effective data collection and retrieval. These range from card indexes and cross-referenced exercise books, through electronic tools like spreadsheets, databases and bibliographic software, to discipline-specific tools. You should talk about how you plan to store your data with your supervisor, an information librarian, or a study adviser in the Learning Development.
As you undertake your research you are likely to come up with lots of ideas. It can be valuable to keep a record of these ideas on index cards, in a dedicated notebook, or in an electronic file.
They may be useful as ideas in themselves, and may be useful as a record of how your thinking developed through the research process. A pilot study involves preliminary data collection, using your planned methods, but with a very small sample. It aims to test out your approach, and identify any details that need to be addressed before the main data collection goes ahead.
For example, you could get a small group to fill in your questionnaire, perform a single experiment, or analyse a single novel or document. When you complete your pilot study you should be cautious about reading too much into the results that you have generated although these can sometimes be interesting. The real value of your pilot study is what it tells you about your method. Spend time reflecting on the implications that your pilot study might have for your research project, and make the necessary adjustment to your plan.
Even if you do not have the time or opportunity to run a formal pilot study, you should try and reflect on your methods after you have started to generate some data. Once you start to generate data you may find that the research project is not developing as you had hoped.
Do not be upset that you have encountered a problem. Research is, by its nature, unpredictable. Think about what the problem is and how it arose. Is it possible that going back a few steps may resolve it? Or is it something more fundamental? If so, estimate how significant the problem is to answering your research question, and try to calculate what it will take to resolve the situation. Changing the title is not normally the answer, although modification of some kind may be useful.
If a problem is intractable you should arrange to meet your supervisor as soon as possible. Give him or her a detailed analysis of the problem, and always value their recommendations. The chances are they have been through a similar experience and can give you valuable advice. Never try to ignore a problem, or hope that it will go away. Finally, it is worth remembering that every problem you encounter, and successfully solve, is potentially useful information in writing up your research.
Rather, flag up these problems and show your examiners how you overcame them. As you conduct research, you are likely to realise that the topic that you have focused on is more complex than you realised when you first defined your research question. The research is still valid even though you are now aware of the greater size and complexity of the problem.
A crucial skill of the researcher is to define clearly the boundaries of their research and to stick to them. You may need to refer to wider concerns; to a related field of literature; or to alternative methodology; but you must not be diverted into spending too much time investigating relevant, related, but distinctly separate fields. Starting to write up your research can be intimidating, but it is essential that you ensure that you have enough time not only to write up your research, but also to review it critically, then spend time editing and improving it.
The following tips should help you to make the transition from research to writing:. Remember that you can not achieve everything in your dissertation. The companion study guide Writing a Dissertation focuses on the process of writing up the research from your research project.
Personal tools Web Editor Log in. Search Site only in current section. What is a dissertation? Important stages in the dissertation process include: Choosing a topic While some students come to their research project with a clear research question to address, many others arrive at this point with several ideas, but with no specific research question.
There are several ways forward: Does this spark an interest? Look at other writing: Choose your Appropriate Field Looking for Research Assistance?
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Remember that the thesis statement is a kind of "mapping tool" that helps you organize your ideas, and it helps your reader follow your argument. In this body paragraph, after the Assertion, include any evidence–a quotation, statistic, data–that supports this first point.
A dissertation advisor or a dissertation consultant can help you discern what kinds of primary sources are appropriate to your dissertation project and discipline. What all of the different kinds of primary sources have in common is that they are raw data that dissertation writers like you can analyze and interpret.
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