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Dissertations and Extended Essays Shaun Theobald The Student Learning Advisory Service The workshop structure Preliminary information/discussion Maximising project potential Preparing a synopsis or abstract Time management & managing reading Summary/final discussion

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dissertations and extended essays

Dissertations and Extended Essays

Shaun Theobald

The Student Learning Advisory Service

the workshop structure
The workshop structure
  • Preliminary information/discussion
  • Maximising project potential
  • Preparing a synopsis or abstract
  • Time management&managing reading
  • Summary/final discussion
your final subject choice
Your final subject choice
  • Engagement; intellectual curiosity = academic ‘fun’
  • Choose a subject you enjoy
  • Then (with the right organisation & preparation etc…) the ‘results’ will follow
  • Your opportunity to negotiate your own area of interest
preliminary
Preliminary
  • What questions do you have about extended essays/dissertations?
  • What kind of document are you going to produce?
    • Word limit?
    • No of chapters?
    • Visual material?
    • Secondary sources?
preliminary dissertation structure
Preliminary-dissertation structure
  • Normal process =
    • (Abstract)
    • Ch 1 Introduction
    • Ch 2 Literature review (but may be integrated into other chs.)
    • Chs 3-6/7 Discussion
      • Each chapter ‘unfolds’ a topic/argument
    • Ch 7/8 Conclusion
    • References/bibliography
    • Appendices
preliminary the characteristics of a dissertation
Preliminary –the characteristics of a dissertation
  • How does a dissertation (extended essay) differ from an academic essay?
    • More depth
    • Topics explored in more detail
    • More ‘angles’ covered
    • Greater amount of literature used
    • More formal survey of this literature
    • More critical/summative evaluation of the literature
    • More independent, ‘original’ research
preliminary originality
Preliminary –Originality
  • How can you articulate ‘independent evaluation’ at dissertation level? (cf a PhD)
    • 1. Wider use of sources – your selection
      • Stronger evaluation
        • Detailed analysis of the ‘argument’
        • Comparison of sources
        • Identifying underlying themes/approaches
        • Rigorous embedding as ‘evidence’ in your writing
preliminary originality8
Preliminary-Originality
    • 2. Your writing may include an element of empirical/original research
      • Field observations/data
      • Surveys/questionnaires
  • In general, you are still working with existing research; carrying out a limited amount of original research
  • Keep things in proportion! Your dissertation is not a PhD where you will be mainly ‘on your own’…
  • BUT MAKE ROOM FOR YOUR OWN VIEWS!
preliminary types of dissertation
Preliminary- types of dissertation
  • Case study
    • Relates a specific example to a theoretical perspective/ generic ‘argument’
  • Comparative
    • Two + different ‘scenarios’ compared within a theoretical perspective/ generic ‘argument’
  • Quantitative investigation
    • Data used to test/extend existing arguments
  • Critical analysis
    • Review of ‘argument’ using existing sources, but making independent evaluations and comparisons
maximising project potential getting started
Maximising project potential: getting started
  • Start as soon as possible
  • Record any early ideas
  • Compile a list of any terminology/discipline-specific terms
  • Keep track of references and reading!
  • Talk widely to others – fellow students; the department
  • Record things all the time…so you can retrieve ideas/information later on
maximising project potential organisation
Maximising project potential: organisation
  • Organisation is vital
  • Organisation in one place
  • Study space - the ‘base camp’ for your work
  • Filing away - research material to hand!
  • Continuity needed
  • Maintain reading records
  • Working with others?
    • Agreeing space/time
maximising project potential preparing for reading research
Maximising project potential: preparing for reading/research
  • Prepare your bibliography
  • Understand department/module referencing conventions

http://www.kent.ac.uk/uelt/ai/

  • Keep an active record of your reading –
    • Material you will read
    • Recommended material
    • Rejected material
maximising project potential planning and choosing the topic
Maximising project potential: planning and choosing the topic
  • What? Why? How? Where? When?
  • Guidance from Department/Module
  • Your instincts
  • Your interests
  • Width and depth
  • Current academic thinking
  • Consulting journals to access this
maximising project potential planning and choosing the topic14
Maximising project potential: planning and choosing the topic
  • Build on the ‘spark of interest’:
    • Start with specific ideas/ data/ observations/ a piece of reading
    • Think how this could be extended to a hypothesis
    • Think about further reading
    • If time allows, read further now…but at the skimming/abstract level!
    • Refine hypothesis [from reading as well, if possible]
maximising project potential planning and choosing the topic15
Maximising project potential: planning and choosing the topic
  • Consult librarians
  • Use electronic data

http://www.kent.ac.uk/library/online/index.html

  • Initial literature reviews
  • Budgetary constraints-time + money?
  • Access to materials/libraries?
  • Methodological/fieldwork constraints?
literature reviews
Literature reviews
  • Think about your own ideas before you search
  • Relate the literature review to your ideas
  • Show sensible focus and selection
  • Be guided by others: dept.; supervisor; librarian
literature reviews17
Literature reviews
  • Integrate your literature review into your writing
  • Discuss your material
    • Don’t just ‘tack-on’ a summary of research!
  • Use the “opening-out” approach (Dunleavy p119)
    • Download available: Managing and organising the literature review
preparing a synopsis
Preparing a synopsis
  • Hypothesis-How?
  • Aims-Why?
  • Argument-What?
  • A document to guide you
  • A document to discuss with your supervisor
  • A document that can be revised
the pretend abstract
The ‘pretend’ abstract
  • Just an idea to get your started
  • Works like a ‘real’ abstract
  • Will be totally revised in the long-term
  • Positive forward-looking syntax & grammar
    • A confidence booster?
  • Concretises & crystallises your thinking
  • Starts you writing!
activity
ACTIVITY
  • Ten-minutes
  • Either
    • a. Writing up what you can on the synopsis pro forma
    • b. Trying a mock abstract
supervision
Supervision
  • Take charge?
    • (Diplomatically!)
  • Anticipate questions in advance
  • Plan actions to discuss them…
  • Then record agreed actions
  • Always have a specific agenda
  • Plan meetings strategically + regularly
time management
Time management
  • Priorities
  • Schedules
  • Using gap time effectively
  • Working to a deadline
  • Working backwards from a deadline
  • Leaving time for disasters!
  • Leaving time for creative thinking
  • Writing in chapter stages?
  • Or one draft, then review?
time management 4 big tips
Time management: 4 big tips!
  • Write-up empirical research as you go along
  • Work to a time/word limit
  • Allow about 25% of total time for writing up
  • Remember the time needed at the end for binding, paginating, sorting appendices etc!
    • Downloads: Study planner + Ten tips on time management
managing reading
Managing reading
  • Seek guidance
  • Establish priorities
  • Read actively: always carry forward questions & skim + scan + read for detail
  • Practice ‘rapid-access’ reading
  • Work with an active and accurate bibliography
notes from reading
Notes from reading
  • Make notes selective
    • Not summaries!
  • Use a variety of methods
  • Systematic organisation
  • Systematic filing
  • Bibliographical details
    • + page nos.
  • Separation of source material from your paraphrases
    • Avoiding the plagiarism trap
managing writing
Managing writing
  • PLAN ahead & time-manage
  • Overall plan
  • Detailed plans
    • Academic paragraph structure?
  • Write in 2hr (?) bursts
  • Set day/hour word targets
  • Light review constantly
  • Careful editing later
    • At the end of the writing ‘day’?
  • (Time for final editing)
over view
Over-view
  • Download – Making projects productive + final points on getting a good mark

http://www.rlf.org.uk/FELLOWSHIPSCHEME/writing/diswriting/intro.htm

good luck with your writing
Good luck with your writing…
  • For further support, contact us…
    • www.kent.ac.uk/uelt/learning