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Title: Researching and Writing Dissertations

Researching and Writing Dissertations
Researching and Writing Dissertations
  • The Craft of Writing
  • WEEK 9

  • Recommended text
  • Researching and Writing Dissertations
  • Horn, R
  • CIPD London
  • 2nd Edition, 2012
  • ISBN 978 184398 302 6
  • Chapter 10 The Craft of Writing, page 215.

Lecture outline
  • Developing good writing habits.
  • The macro/micro approach to writing.
  • How to use creative thinking.
  • How to write effective paragraphs.
  • Linking and signposting.
  • How to structure and format your dissertation.

Learning objectives
  • Be able to use the macro/micro approach to
  • Understand the value of creative thinking.
  • Be able to build strong, clear and well-linked
  • Understand how to structure a dissertation.
  • Be able to correctly reference material in a

Develop good writing habits
Writing is just like any other skill Writing is
not a magical skill. It is a skill with a
standard set of approaches and procedures that
can be learned, and learned relatively quickly.
Writing can be learned but it takes some time
and practice. Failure to spend time developing a
writing style is a real shame because poor
writing skills can weaken excellent ideas
and research.
Develop good writing habits
Develop a writing habit Writing is a skill and
skills must be practised. The best practice for
writing is to write. Early in your dissertation
there will be very few opportunities for writing
large pieces of work. But, you should get into
the writing habit early. You can create
opportunities for writing by reviewing,
paraphrasing and critiquing some of the important
theory in your subject area.
Develop good writing habits
Use feedback to improve your writing We are
often very poor judges of our own writing. To
enhance your skills in writing you have to
overcome your slight fear of showing our writing
to others.
Develop good writing habits
Understand that writing takes time Writing takes
time, so you need to plan and organise carefully
to ensure that you have enough time to carry out
the writing and the reviewing process. Failing
to provide the right amount of time to carry out
the writing will lead to poor, rushed work.
Typically, you will need about six to eight
hours to complete (think, write and review) 1,000
words of academic writing. This assumes that you
have done the background planning and research.
Develop good writing habits
Read, think, design, write and reread every
day Writing, thinking, planning, reading, and
rereading must become a daily habit when you are
completing a dissertation. Unless you have
carried out the reading of background material
and have been thinking about that material, you
will not have anything to write.
Develop good writing habits
Read, think, design, write, and reread every
day By thinking I mean understanding,
critiquing, analysing, synthesising and
evaluating. Once you have written a passage of
work you must reread it to make sure that it is
correct, makes sense and has clarity of thought
and a strong argument. Try to set aside time
every day for these tasks.
Develop good writing habits
Develop stickability The term stickability
means the ability to concentrate on a task over
periods of time, especially when the task seems
to be getting increasingly difficult to complete.
Stickability is a frame of mind. Successful
people are often quite stubborn and will not be
beaten by anything. This makes them difficult to
live with, sometimes, but they do achieve things.
Some people are naturally stubborn and stick at
things you may have to develop it!
Develop good writing habits
Think and plan and make notes before you
write Macro Writing is the planning that is done
before you start to write. In a highly
structured approach you would plan each chapter,
section and paragraph before you started to
write. This ensures that when you do write, the
process is less daunting, in that you simply
extend each idea into a paragraph. You will have
to develop and personalise your planning style
but it is essential that you do plan, think and
make notes before you start writing.
Develop good writing habits
Get it write first time Following on from the
idea of careful and extensive planning is the
notion of writing structured, well-planned and
evidenced paragraphs. This structured approach
means that you are likely to write a paragraph
that is WRITE first time. If you type first
and think afterwards, you are likely to have to
make extensive and time-consuming revisions. The
quickest and most effective way to write is to
think, plan, structure and organise and only
then WRITE.
Develop good writing habits
Understand the necessity to revise your
writing An idea forms in your head and is then
transferred to type. While the idea may be well
thought through and well evidenced, the writing
process will always need review and improvement.
You must plan a strategy for reviewing and
revising your work. Once the words are typed,
review each sentence in each paragraph before you
go on, then review the whole paragraph.
Develop good writing habits
Understand the necessity to revise your
writing When you have read it several times and
made corrections to English usage, the clarity of
the idea and the form of words, move on to write
the next paragraph. Leave the writing for at
least a week and then review whole sections and
make revisions and adaptations. If you are able
to enlist the help of someone else friends,
family, study group let them read it and
Macro writing
  • Planning your macro writing can be done in
    various ways
  • Make mental models in which each chapter and each
    sub-point is in a box, with paragraphs leading
    off the edge. Ordering the chapters and sections
    is carried out by numbering the boxes.
  • Use pen and paper to set out headings,
    subheadings and paragraph headings. Ordering the
    chapters is carried out by numbering and
    renumbering the headings and sections.

Macro writing
  • Continued
  • Use Word in outline mode. This allows for
    structured headings, subheadings and several
    levels below this. Ordering is done by position
    in the list, and reordering and reorganising is

Word in outline mode
This is a main heading Heading 1 This is one
heading lower Heading 2 This is one heading
lower Heading 3 This is one heading lower
Heading 4
Word in outline
  • Main point 1
  • Introduction paragraph
  • Main claim 1 paragraph
  • Evidence for claim 1
  • Main claim 2 paragraph
  • Evidence for claim 2
  • Conclusion of main point 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Introduction
  • Point 1
  • Point 2
  • Point 3

Creative thinking
Creative thinking might be thought of as the
ability to generate something new. In your
dissertation there will be endless opportunities
to create and use new ideas. This is a vital
part of the dissertation process, but one that is
often forgotten or ignored, leading to rather
dull and one-dimensional writing.
Creative thinking
The ideas that we are looking for in a
dissertation are not brilliant, astonishing ideas
they are good, sound ideas for solving
problems, creating new theory, using an existing
idea in a new way, or adapting an existing method
to work better in your research.
Creative thinking
Creative evolution Creative evolution uses an
existing idea to develop a better one. Small
refinements in methods and theory can generate
useful new ideas. Solutions to existing
organisational problems can often be refined and
improved and used in your dissertation.
Creative thinking
Creative evolution Research methods are a useful
area to consider creative evolution. Published
research methods were designed for a different
context from that of your research dont be
afraid to engage in creative improvement of a
method so that it works better with your context
and research questions.
Creative thinking
Creative synthesis Synthesis is the combining of
things to create something new. This can be
very useful in developing theory, methods, data
analysis, and solutions. Try bringing ideas
from other subject areas and applying them in
Creative thinking
Creative revolution Creative revolution throws
away old ideas and asks What about the
impossible? When you are looking for a creative
revolution, you do not need to think about what
has been used before only about whether
something will work.
Creative thinking
Creative revolution If your data presents a
research problem, finding a creative revolution
would require asking many What if? questions.
What if we? Or What if we? In this way you
should try out several improbable ideas or
solutions until you have a eureka moment. This is
the equivalent of brainstorming ideas.
Creative thinking
Creative reapplication Creative reapplication
involves looking at something old in a new way.
Clear your expectations of how old ideas can be
applied, and opportunities open up. Try to look
at your dissertation outcomes in new ways and
look for new solutions based on existing
Creative thinking
Creative reapplication Reapplication in
dissertations works well with theory, methods,
and solutions. Creative solutions and
breakthroughs occur when we stop trying to
implement a solution and start trying to find a
  • Understanding the structure of paragraphs
  • A paragraph tends to develop a single idea,
    statement, finding or line of argument.
  • A series of paragraphs forms a section or a
  • Try to adopt some of the following ideas related
    to paragraph use
  • Vary the lengths of paragraphs to maintain the
    readers interest.

  • Understanding the structure of paragraphs
  • Try to avoid very short, one-sentence paragraphs.
  • Avoid long paragraphs there should be a minimum
    of four or five per page of single-spaced text.
    Any longer than this and the reader will get lost
    and you will lose their attention.
  • Paragraphs should have a natural flow.

  • Understanding the structure of paragraphs
  • The first sentence introduces the paragraph.
  • The main points follow on.
  • The last-but-one sentence summarises the
  • The final sentence links to the next paragraph,
    and/or the overall theme of the section or

  • Understanding the structure of paragraphs
  • Use link words and phrases such as although, in
    contrast, however, but in this finding, etc.
  • Vary your use of common words to avoid monotony.
    Try to aim to never use the same word twice in
    any one sentence, and no more than three to five
    times in any one paragraph.

  • Statement, analysis and findings paragraphs
  • In dissertations many paragraphs will be
    introducing and evidencing statements, analyses
    and findings. These paragraphs will need a
    particular structure, as set out below
  • Paragraph statement (introduction).
  • The main claim or statement of the paragraph.
  • FIRST EVIDENCE to support the claim or statement.
  • Warrant how the evidence supports the claim or

  • Statement, analysis and findings paragraphs
  • Qualification of the evidence (exceptions and
  • THIRD EVIDENCE SOURCE, and maybe up to five or
    six more sources of evidence.
  • Summary sentence.
  • Link sentence to a new paragraph.

Linking and signposting
To improve the clarity of your writing it is
important to provide links and signposts. Sentenc
es, paragraphs, sections and chapters can all be
linked. Aim to provide extensive links between
sentences and paragraphs, and to a lesser extent
sections and chapters.
Linking and signposting
Paragraph links are often provided in the first
and/or last line of a paragraph. The last line of
a paragraph can link forward (the unwritten
meaning is in brackets), for example However
this was not the only issue related to gender
(there is another coming up in the next
Linking and signposting
Continued eg 2 Some issues remain to be
resolved in this data (and are explored in the
next paragraph). eg 3 This evidence brings up
some striking points that as yet we have not
discussed (but we will be doing so soon). eg 4
However, although these points make a compelling
argument in favour, there are counterpoints that
ought to be explored. (The counter-argument is
in the next paragraph.)
Linking and signposting
The first line of a paragraph can conversely link
backwards for example eg 1 Although we have
seen the evidence of a gender-based pattern of
behaviour, there is evidence and data that does
not support this position (and is in this
paragraph). eg 2 Although most of the data
relates to quantitative measures, we also
investigated some qualitative elements (which are
coming up in the current paragraph).
Linking and signposting
Continued eg 3 There are weaknesses in the
argument above that need further exploration
(which is forthcoming in this paragraph).
Linking and signposting
  • Signposting
  • Signposts are a mark of good writing and help
    the reader to understand the argument more
    easily. They also provide a sense of where the
    reader is in the text. The signpost is created
    with words and phrases such as
  • for example,
  • however,
  • similarly,
  • some problems with
  • in contrast,
  • this programme

Linking and signposting
  • Signposting continued...
  • Despite this counter evidence,
  • This suggests
  • However, in future research
  • In the following section
  • The next chapter will look at
  • In the last chapter we looked at
  • Whereas this was covered there, that will be
    covered here
  • A recent study reported
  • The seminal work in this area was

Linking and signposting
Signposting In each phrase there is a link to
something already mentioned. Signposts can look
backwards as well as forwards. Signposts can
work at various levels, from sentences and
paragraphs to sections and chapters.
Dissertation structure
A general structure is as follows Title
page Title, your name, course name, date, name of
supervisor. Abstract One paragraph summarising
the whole dissertation. Acknowledgements Thanks
to those who have assisted you. Table of
contents Chapters and/or sections and subsections
with page numbers. Table of figures and
Dissertation structure
Continued Introduction A presentation of your
question/problem/thesis, the context in which the
research was undertaken, and a brief outline of
the structure of your work. Main
chapters Literature review Methodology Data
collection Analysis of data how Findings from
the data what.
Dissertation structure
Continued Conclusion/findings Where you bring
it all together, restating clearly your main
findings, making recommendations, suggestions,
and revisiting and evaluating how well you met
the research objectives. Bibliography A complete
list of your sources, in alphabetical order and
correctly formatted.
Dissertation structure
Continued Appendices Any relevant information
not central to your main text for example,
complete questionnaires, copies of letters, maps,
etc. Other sections you may be asked to include
could be terms of reference, reflective accounts,
executive summary, skills development matrix.
Dissertation formatting
  • When formatting your dissertation submission, the
    following list of recommendations should be
  • Use A4 paper (or whatever is the standard size in
    your part of the world).
  • Provide a front cover for your dissertation with
    the title centred about one-third of the way down
    the page, your own name centred about six lines
    below, your supervisors name six lines below
    that, and with the university name about six
    lines below that.

Dissertation formatting
  • Leave a margin of at least 3 cm at the sides and
    top and about 5 cm at the bottom for the markers
  • Use a font size of 11pt or 12pt. Use either Times
    New Roman or Arial.
  • The requirement for dissertations is that they
    are printed in double-spacing. But because of
    environmental concerns, many universities will
    accept single-spacing.
  • Align the page on the left only do not fully
    justify the text.

Dissertation formatting
  • Separate each paragraph with an extra empty line.
  • After a full-stop leave (only) one space before
    the capital letter of the next sentence.
  • Do not accidentally leave extra spaces between
    any of the words.
  • Ensure that your pages are numbered using Arabic
    numerals (1, 2, 3, etc).
  • Do not number your points or paragraphs this is
    used in report format, and is not suitable for a

Preparation activity for next week
Reflection Prepare two slides of PowerPoint
presentation setting out 1. My experience of
reflection to date is 2. I intend to get help in
completing my dissertation from
Work alone
  • Try to develop effective writing habits
  • Spend time designing and planning your writing
    macro writing.
  • Try to bring creativity to your writing.
  • Develop sound ways of constructing paragraphs.
  • Make extensive use of linking and signposting.
  • Ensure you use an appropriate structure and
    format your dissertation appropriately.

Next Week
  • Techniques for reviewing and proof reading your
  • How to meet the word target.
  • The fragmentation technique.
  • How to involve others in your writing.
  • The role of your supervisor in the review
  • Auditing your work using the assessment criteria.
  • How your work will be marked.
  • Reflecting on the experience.

Researching and Writing Dissertations
The End