I have been asked a few times by my followers about my dissertation and my top tips for writing a good dissertation, so I decided to do a blog post on it so that all of the information is in one place! I recently found out that I received a first class mark on my dissertation, which examined the limits that the courts can place on parental responsibility within the medical decision making process- I still can’t believe my mark, I’m shocked! So, on with the advice…
I started my research on the topic in the summer before my third year of uni. Although we had no work set by the university, I wanted to get ahead on my dissertation. I enjoy research, and I was really interested in my dissertation topic so I wanted to research it, which meant that it didn’t feel as much of a chore!
One of the things that I did when researching was printed any relevant cases and articles, highlighted the useful sections, and put them away in a folder. That way, I had all of the information together and easily accessible!
Getting ahead on research, and doing it throughout the year, meant that when it came to actually writing my dissertation there was little research to be done, it was just a case of drawing together what I had read, which made the writing process a lot easier, and definitely less stressful!
One of the most important things with research is showing that you have read from a variety of sources. I found that doing my research over such a long period of time meant that I did have the time to examine a number of sources. This should also be reflected in your writing of course!
Also, if you can discuss legal theorists- I found that my jurisprudence module was particularly helpful in this respect, then that will definitely support your work. I found it easiest to fit this into the literature review section of my dissertation. It shows not only wider research, but also a wider consideration of the justice system as a whole and the principles that underpin it.
Each university, and sometimes even each dissertation supervisor within a university, expects something different in terms of structure. Some, for example, prefer to have the literature review as a separate chapter, whereas others like it to be throughout the whole dissertation.
My advice would be to be clear with your supervisor what is expected of you, and have a clear plan of how your dissertation will be structured. Otherwise you may end up in the same position as me- two weeks before my dissertation submission date, my supervisor asked me to read my methodology section to her. I hadn’t written a methodology section as I didn’t realise that it was required!! So, moral of the story is always to check your structure with your supervisor!
I also found that it was helpful to have a rough idea of how long each section would be. For example: Literature review (1000 words), Chapter one (1500 words) etc. This means that you have smaller targets to work to and are not overwhelmed by the overall word count. However, don’t be too rigid with this. For example, my literature review ended up being 300 words over the 1000 word limit that I’d set myself, but another one of my sections was slightly under, so overall it balanced out. My advice on this would be to write the whole dissertation before you start trying to cut things down.
Sometimes the overall word limit of a dissertation can be a little overwhelming. I wondered how I was ever going to write 6000 words- in the end I submitted just short of 6600, and had cut a lot out of it. However, I find it helpful to treat each chapter as its own individual essay, and to plan it as such.
I planned each chapter out individually and looked at it on its own. Once I’d planned it out, to stop me going off track, I wrote my plan (very briefly) on a post it note, which I stuck on my laptop. This way, my writing was structured and didn’t go off course.
The final thing to say is good luck!! Manage your time well, don’t get overwhelmed, and pick a topic that you enjoy. The rest should all fall into place!
Good luck, and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me!