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The advice given here is very general in nature: A good dissertation will: Have a clear objective, based on a well worked out thesis or central question. Be well planned and widely researched. Show that the student has a good grasp of relevant concepts and is able to apply these in their own work. Include analysis, critical evaluation and discussion, rather than simple description. Contain consistent and correct referencing. Be structured and expressed in an appropriate academic way. Show your tutors that you have learnt something on the course and have been able to use this to produce a well-argued extended piece of academic work. A mediocre dissertation will: Have a very general or unclear title. Be poorly planned, with a narrow field of research. Rely heavily on source material, with little or no attempt to apply this to the student’s aims. Be mostly descriptive. Contain little or no referencing, perhaps in an incorrect format. Be poorly structured, with possible plagiarism of source material. Does not convince your tutors that you have learnt much. Some tips on how to produce a good dissertation Your topic Start thinking early on about what you would like to write about. Consult as soon as possible with your supervisor for advice on the expected scope of your dissertation. Remember that will be focussing on specific aspects, perhaps trying to solve a problem, querying currently held beliefs, or arguing a particular case. Therefore, Your final title may probably need to be refined over the weeks before you agree the final version with your supervisor. Planning and research Your dissertation is a major commitment and will be a long way to deciding your final award. It is obviously very important, therefore, to plan meticulously. Work out a timetable and stick to it. You really have no excuse to leave things to the last minute. There will always be problems: difficulties in obtaining books or materials; delays in receiving replies to letters or questionnaires; temperamental printers and floppy disks; mysterious dissertation-eating dogs. You must allow for these, however: none is an excuse for not handing in your work on time. In consultation with your supervisor, draw up an initial reading list, making sure that this is wide-ranging, relevant and as up-to-date as possible. Approach this reading with specific questions in mind; if not, you will waste a lot of valuable time reading irrelevant information. If you’re going to include some sort of survey or questionnaire, make this as wide as possible, but remember that companies and organisations are swamped with this sort of thing and the response rate will probably be very disappointing. Most of your writing will probably need redrafting several times, and you must carefully proofread everything you write, or perhaps get someone else to do this for you. Any revisions needed will of course take time, as will the binding of your finished dissertation. Structure of dissertation As stated, you must check with your supervisor and with course literature what the required structure is, as there are many variations. A basic framework would be: Title page Title, your student number, your name, course name, date, name of supervisor Abstract One paragraph summarising the whole dissertation, It should be concise and written in the IMRAD format (250-300 words) Acknowledgements Thanks to those who have assisted you Table of contents Chapters and/or sections & sub-sections with page numbers Table of figures If appropriate, Due to the length of this dissertation it is advisable to place these in the appendix. Background/Introduction(1,000 words) A presentation of your question/problem/thesis, with a brief outline of the structure of your work Methods/Methodology (700 words) Literature Review (2,000 words) The facts, the available evidence, the analysis of the evidence found. Findings/Results (units of analysis) Describing and presenting your own data, evidence or case study could well take slightly less or more than the earlier sections. This will depend in part on the kind of findings you are presenting Presented in a tabulated format or according to supervisory advice. Discussion (1,000words) This is the section that brings all of the strands of your argument together.One way to think of it is as athree-way conversation between the literature you discussed, the methodology you adopted and the findings you have presented. You are essentially evaluating the process of the research Conclusion (1000words) This chapter will draw together the conclusions as well as noting any recommendations for practice. It should bring together your central question, you should not include new ideas at this stage – they should have been dealt with in the discussion section. However, You can include a reflection on doing the research study and also identify ways in which you, or others, might take the work forward as further research as well as training and dissemination. This chapter often runs out of steam – be warned! Bibliography (Harvard referencing) A complete list of your sources, correctly formatted. Appendices Any information not central to your main text or too large to be included: for example, complete questionnaires, copies of letters, maps etc. Other sections you may be asked to include could be terms of reference, procedure, methodology, executive summary, literature review or recommendations. Avoid footnotes, unless you’re using a numerical referencing system. Avoid too many brackets. Use bold and italics sparingly and consistently. Avoid underlining. Avoid using “etc.” Content and style Your dissertation is a piece of academic work; an intellectual achievement. You are not expected to produce something completely original, but instead, to should show understanding of key issues and theories; evidence of thought and insight; critical analysis and evaluation, and a demonstration that you have been able to research a topic within public health and present your findings appropriately. Simple description is not enough, and will result in a low mark. You should write in an appropriate academic style, avoiding colloquialisms, contractions, phrasal verbs and vagueness. You do not need, however, to use long, over-formal vocabulary: you shouldaim at all times for clear and concise expression. You should normally avoid too much personal language (“I”, “my” etc.), although opinions on this vary. As a rule of thumb, only use it when you are describing what you actually did and when you are expressing personal opinions, probably in your conclusion. Don’t refer to yourself as “we” unless you are describing some sort of group work, and don’t refer to yourself as “the author”: it’s pompous and confusing. In your conclusion, don’t start undermining your work by apologizing for poor results or complaining about lack of time. Always be positive. If there were problems, analyse these objectively in an appropriate place. Any research has weaknesses; they’re part of the process. Sentences should be well-punctuated, complete but not over-long. Paragraphs should be adequately developed, with normally at leastfive orsix sentences. You should use linking words or phrases to guide your reader through your writing. Make sure all figures are integrated into your text and referred to. And remember to consistently and correctly make references to your sources. Reference; reference reference!!! Referencing Acknowledgement of your sources is a vital and integral part of the academic process. If you do not do this, particularly at dissertation/postgraduate level, you could be accused of plagiarism. By the time you do your dissertation you should be very clear on how to do this the preferred method is the (“Harvard Method”) and make sure you know how to use it. It can be a complicated area, but there are many guides and staff to help you. Little or no referencing and a short bibliography indicate little research carried out, a generally UN-academic approach and maybe even copying from source material. Extensive referencing and bibliography indicate wide research, a correct approach and the use of these sources as evidence to back up the argument.
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