A SUGGESTED WRITING FRAME FOR THE DISSERTATION
The main body of the dissertation should be subdivided into chapters. Sub-headings within chapters allow for greater clarity and coherence. It is unlikely that there would be less than five chapters and generally not more than eight. A typical arrangement of chapters might be:
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
Chapter 2: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Chapter 3: METHODOLOGY
Chapter 4: ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
Chapter 5: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
References: Using the APA system (see separate section).
Appendices: Research instrument(s)
Examples only of raw data
It should be possible to read the Introduction (Chapter 1) followed by the Conclusions (Chapter 5) and for these to make a coherent whole.
Variations on the above are obviously permissible, the most common being a merging of the Introduction and Review of Literature to form the first chapter and an expansion of chapter 4 into two e.g. a chapter containing the results, followed by another discussing the results and their relationship to other work. The aim is to provide a balanced collection of chapters.
Guidance to students on draft feedback
The supervisor’s role is to provide you with advice and guidance on your dissertation. This includes commenting on a draft of the dissertation write up. In general we would expect that supervisors would comment on a part of draft of each chapter and that this would be emailed to the supervisor chapter by chapter as you complete each chapter. This will help you get early feedback on the draft chapters so that you can improve the chapters that you write next. However, it may be necessary for you may to agree with the supervisor a different arrangement e.g. sending the dissertation in two parts. You should discuss with your supervisor how to manage the writing up and the type of feedback that would be most useful to you. This should be a negotiation between you and the supervisor, recognising the workload involved for both student and supervisor.
In all cases the supervisor will provide you with guidance to help you improve your work, but cannot give you guidance on what you do to achieve a guaranteed mark. In addition the supervisor will identify the main areas to help you develop but will not be able to point out all the things that could be changed or improved, and you should use your judgment to determine how your work can be strengthened beyond the supervisor’s comments. Supervisors are also likely to point out things only once that apply throughout the work e.g. where referencing needs attention, or a repeated grammatical mistake (for example where apostrophe is used incorrectly or missing). It is your responsibility to identify other places in your work where the supervisor’s comments apply.
What follows is some guidance, in the form a writing frame, on how to construct the chapters for your Dissertation. Please note the use of the writing frame ensures that all elements required towards a successful dissertation are included. This is only a suggested writing frame and is in no way meant to suppress your creativity in structuring your study. However, please do check any proposed structure with your dissertation supervisor.
Writing effectively at this level requires reading widely. Keep up to date with materials that are provided for you during the MA programme, and keep a collection of relevant articles and detailed records of where useful references can be found. It is important that you manage your research study in a coherent, systematic fashion. It is crucial that all direct quotes that you use in your dissertation are given a page number in your text and that all the references you use appear in the reference section at the end. Therefore, you must devise a system to keep records of all sources used. Hunting these down at a later stage is not an easy task (see Section Referencing).
Express yourself as clearly and simply as possible in straightforward language using the normal conventions of punctuation and grammar. Write in a lively accessible style. It is particularly helpful to use side headings to structure your narrative. If you use acronyms make sure you put the full title when the name is first used, followed by the letters in brackets e.g. Local Authority (LA). A glossary of acronyms/initials should be included after the index page.
Word length and academic misconduct issues
The word length for the research study is 12,000 – 15,000 words. (15000 is the absolute upper limit: there is no additional 10% allowance). The guidance given is only a suggested approximate number of words for each section. Students are expected to adjust these to suit the requirements of their research study. Word length includes introduction to the conclusion including all tables and diagrams. It does not include reference list, but does include all in text references. Please state the word count on the title page.
You need to be aware of the dangers of plagiarism and self-plagiarism. Plagiarism is where you use other people’s work without acknowledgement and constitutes a breach of academic conduct which has penalties (see the University regulations). Self-plagiarism is where you use work that you’ve submitted for assessment previously is used in an assignment. Clearly there is some overlap with the proposal and that will be inevitable (e.g. the context, key literature, the aims and methods) but please ensure that you develop and refine your work from the proposal to minimise this overlap.