The graduate dissertation is one of the most important research projects you will ever encounter in your life. Not only will it mark the culmination of your academic career but it may very well also mark the start of your professional career. There are several methods for success, but we’ve collected eight of the very best little secrets of writing a superb dissertation paper. Here’s what you need to know:
You’re going to have several months to complete your dissertation, but without a sense of organization you can run into a lot of trouble pretty quickly. Taking your final deadline, work backwards creating a detailed plan which includes milestones and due dates. Account for time off or unexpected hurdles which are bound to come up.
When you select a topic for your research you should aim to choose something that is interesting and original. You can always build on another’s work, but you should aim to explore new areas or take someone else’s work further. Narrow your topic until you are dealing with a manageable, specific idea.
Most of your work should be based on academic research you do at the library. Your sources may come from online databases and physical materials such as books or journals. Aim to use sources that are no more than three years old since this is most likely to be current. If you have any questions about where to look, speak with the reference librarian to get started.
When you research material for your dissertation you can save yourself a lot of time by making sure that you take accurate notes and full citations. Invest in some notecards or a notebook to keep your information organized. This will make it easier to create an outline and review your research material when you finally get down to writing the dissertation.
Many writers say the first draft is the most important and most difficult piece of writing. Don’t wait until the last minute to get started and remind yourself that this is only your first attempt at getting your ideas down in one place. This being said, you should aim to get your writing done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. You won’t get a project of this length written in a single sitting, but you shouldn’t worry yourself about finding the perfect words. Just keep writing.
Your first draft will have all of your best ideas; however, it probably doesn’t express them as effectively as you would want in a document like this. When you revise you are looking to make large improvements to your work by adding material, removing material or rearranging material so that your argument makes more sense to your readers. You should be extremely critical of your work when you revise in order ensure that you are expressing your ideas logically.
Finally, the last step involves two separate activities: editing and proofreading. You should always do these actively instead of passively. Look at your work at three levels: the document level, the paragraph level, and sentence. Edit for clarity, using simple sentence constructions and word choices to express your ideas more directly. Proofread for all kinds of mistakes to grammar, punctuation, and spelling.