How to write a dissertation logoHow to write a dissertation


Your dissertation is probably the most important piece of research and writing you will undertake during your academic career – so the thought of it can be rather daunting. This site walks you through everything you need to know to focus your research, use your time efficiently and keep the task manageable. We'll share some great tips with you that will help you produce an excellent dissertation for your course.

The advice given here is naturally generic and you must also look through your university guidelines to find what the specific requirements are for the course you are taking.

Q: What makes a good dissertation?

Anglia Ruskin University:

"A good dissertation should:

  • Be original
  • Demonstrate:
    • extensive, relevant reading
    • an understanding of underpinning themes
    • the ability to collect data and evidence systematically
    • the ability to interpret, analyse and evaluate data and evidence
    • an ability to present data and evidence accurately and appropriately
    • critical thinking – raise and discuss issues, not just present findings
    • an ability to report effectively
  • Follow academic conventions – be objective, tentative, structured, consistent, clearly and concisely expressed, and correctly referenced".

Source: Anglia Ruskin University Dissertation Guide

Birmingham City University:

"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".

Source: Birmingham City University

Recommended reading:

  • Aiming for Excellence in the Dissertation - Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning. This excellent guide provides a comprehensive description of degrees of quality - from outstanding dissertations through to unacceptable. It is a great benchmark for you to compare your work to at all stages of the process.