For most students, a dissertation is the longest and most difficult piece of writing that they will ever attempt. However, if you follow the steps outlined in your dissertation module handbook (and summarised in this ASU guide), you should find it an enjoyable and manageable exercise which will produce a piece of work you can be proud of.
This guide summarises the advice given in the UHBS Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook (UHBS, 2010-11) and the Postgraduate Dissertation Handbook (UHBS, 2009-10) available from your dissertation module site. It is NOT intended as a replacement for either your dissertation handbook or the instructions of your supervisor. Although most dissertations follow the structure outlined in this guide, yours may be slightly different, depending on your research and your supervisor’s suggestions. Your assigned supervisor is the person to ask about content and the final structure of your dissertation. The guidelines for the word length of each chapter are given as a rough indicator only. Depending on your dissertation and your supervisor’s advice, you may need to make some sections larger or smaller, and perhaps add other sections, for example, a ‘Findings’ section followed by an ‘Analysis of Findings’, rather than just one section of ‘Findings and Analysis’.
Total Word Length: Undergraduate dissertation: 7,000–10,000 words. Postgraduate dissertation: 15,000 words.
Planning and Starting to Write
As soon as you start to read for your literature review, you should start making notes (either in a Microsoft Word© file or on note cards, etc.) of the main issue and arguments that you are reading. Also, reference as you go - note the complete Harvard reference of the material. Even if you do not cite the material within the text of your final dissertation, you can cite it in your Bibliography. If you do use it, you will not have to track back to find the reference, so it is better time management if you do not leave it until last.
Use Appropriate Academic Style
Use the same formal academic style that you use in your assignments (see ASU Guide to Academic Style). Take care to reference accurately and completely (see ASU Guide to Harvard Referencing). Number the chapters, sections and sub-sections (see ASU Guide to Report Writing).
The ASU can provide you with an editor who can be hired to proof read your dissertation. The editor will not be allowed to change your content in any way - only correct your writing where necessary (see ASU Guide to Dissertation Editing Service).
Sections of a Dissertation (generally accepted order):
Use the master template supplied in your Dissertation Handbook. If the dissertation contains confidential information, this should be indicated by the student on the title page. The University will treat all such information in the strictest of confidence and will undertake not to pass confidential information to a third party.
The title is up to you, but it should be relevant to your research and clearly focused. It has to be accurate as markers will assess your dissertation against this title. It can have one, two or three parts. For example:
➢ A comparative analysis of the impact of youth tourism on the towns of Brighton and Hove.
➢ Agricultural machinery trade between China and Europe: a case study analysis over the past three years.
➢ Has the role of HRM changed forever? A critical analysis with a focus on Smith plc.
➢ Internal marketing as a change management tool; an evaluation of whether internal market segmentation theory really benefits companies: the case of ABC Corporation.
It is usual practice to acknowledge the help and guidance of your supervisor, and any other supportive staff. You can also mention people who have personally supported you during the research process, such as family members. If you have used an