How to Write a Dissertation

Writing a thesis or dissertation for a Master’s degree is a challenging and daunting proposition.  A dissertation at this level is generally about 20,000 words based around direct research.  Commonly it involves a review of literature around the chosen subject alongside unique research material created by the author.  The aim is to prove or disprove a hypothesis and along the way it is beneficial, if not essential, to discover new ideas or scientific theories.

In the first instance, writing 20,000 words can seem like a massive mountain to climb.  The title is on the page but there follows huge areas of white to fill.  It is not so much as waiting for inspiration to strike as taking the time to be organised, methodical and plan.

Planning how to write the dissertation and writing an initial outline is the key to success.  One of the best ways to start is by using a mind map.  On a large piece of plain paper write the title in a bubble in the middle.  Using a series of outward lines start thinking about ideas that spring to mind.  At this stage don’t hold back.  Just write down all the words, titles, phrases that web off the original title.  Later comes editing but for now just let the creative juices flow.

Follow the same process through with the next level until a web emerges on the page.  At this stage it’s time to go back and start editing all those ideas until what is left is a series of sensible relevant subtitles. 

Write all these titles on a page and think about a logical order to the work.  It can help to put all the sentences on small bits of paper and shuffle them around until the flow of the work starts to make sense.  At this point write them down on one page, save the work and go off and have a cup of tea or walk.  After a break read the list again and question it objectively for viability and linkage to the title.

Let’s imagine there are twenty sub headings – some may be subsections of a section but that is fine.  Each heading now can be roughly broken down into 1000 words and somehow that seems a lot more manageable than 20,000 words!  Go and complete detailed research on each heading and write an essay on each based on the information discovered, remembering to reference carefully.

Now there are 20 related essays.  By careful linking these can be tied in together in the format created from the original mind map.  And voila!  A 20,000 word dissertation appears on the computer screen!

Proof read and edit with a fine tooth comb to complete.  Then sit back and sigh with relief, knowing a good job has been achieved.  By planning and working methodically, breaking it down into bite size chunks, even the most daunting task is a walk in the park!