Are you going into your third year? Worried about your dissertation and where to start? Well here are a few things to help get you started.
Planning is key in all that you do. It gives your essay a structure, it can be used as a guideline when writing your essay and it can also highlight the areas that you feel confident in and areas where you feel there is room for improvement. When planning for your dissertation, or any essay that you do, it’s best to do it in small steps.
First: Your Question.
When planning a question/ topic that you will focus on, think of a topic that you are really passionate about. A subject that, when talked about, you feel engrossed and eager to learn more about. This is something that is very important! If you chose a question/ topic that you are not interested in it will be hard to write 8,000 – 12,000 words on that subject, let alone make your argument convincing. Your passion will shine through you work!
If you’re having difficulty with writing a question for yourself, write a broad question or a statement of what you will mainly be focusing on. For example, ‘Was the Empire good?’ or ‘Empire and Imperialism’. These examples are very broad, but that’s okay, this is what advisors are for, as long as you have an idea of what to focus on you can go to your lecturer and ask them how to shape and sharpen your question.
Next: Your Plan
Now when you’re starting off you don’t need a big long plan, especially at the very beginning. All you need is a couple of bullet points. Divide your dissertation into 3 or 4 parts (excluding your introduction and conclusion), and try to come up with your main topics within your dissertation. Think of your dissertation as 3 essays put together. Just make sure they are all related, flow and are relevant to your question.
Then within those topics, jot down a further 4 points. So that’s only 12 points that you need to write about. That’s approximately 1,000 words per point. That doesn’t sound too bad now does it?
Finally: Your Bibliography
Depending on your subject, it is suggested that you have around 25-40 sources (primary and secondary). This is why you need a question that you are passionate about! But please remember that you do not need to read the whole book, you will only ever use 1-4 quotes from each source, so don’t stress too much.
Nevertheless, it is still important for you to start your reading early. This way you will not be too overloaded when term kicks in. The bibliography will help support your argument as well as giving you theorists that you can criticise etc. The way to search for your sources is often personal but it may help to go back towards your plan. Allocate several sources for each topic/ point and then it will be easier to see where you need more sources.
It is important that you communicate with your advisor to get the best out of your dissertation and from this point on you can add to your plan to bulk it up until you have the full thing.
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