How to write an undergraduate dissertation
Dear Undergraduate at UoM,
I am completing my PhD at the University of Manchester. I can understand your anxiety in completing well. However, your question has too many parts as it relates to life goals and academic goals. For now, here are the top 7 tips for succeeding at your University course, especially in your writing.
Dissertation – Plan, Research, Write, Edit
You would have been given the topics early enough. Shortlist your favourite 3 topics. You may decide based on your knowledge in that area, wanting to research more in that topic, and/or you have sufficient reading materials and resources to use for your research.
There will be keywords in your question. Circle or highlight these keywords and start writing down the ideas and sub-topics around these keywords, including names and events that you have been taught on your course or through your library search.
In the book, go to the contents (first few pages) and index page (last few pages) and scan for the keywords around your topic. Read the relevant pages in detail. If there are case studies that keep recurring in this book and the next, you would probably need to take note of it and include it somehow in your discussions.
As you move from book to book, or from journal article to journal article, take note of (i) quotes you want to use, (ii) data and facts you want to cite, and (iii) bibliographic information which you will need when your dissertation is written. The bibliography or references can take up a lot of time in terms of formatting. Be consistent.
5. Start Writing.
You will need to have arguments and evidence to support your arguments. At your level, you will need to consider counter-arguments as well. So find academic sources to support your philosophical stance, and attack the counter-arguments, and convince your reader that your argument is sound and logical.
Once your draft is done, take a day off, relax, and come back to it later to proofread. Assume you want to mark this paper, so be harsh on yourself. Look out for:(i) consistent layout, e.g. double-line spacing, font size, font type
(iv) progressive development of ideas, with sufficient evidence
Also, please keep the networks alive as you may need references from your academic supervisors and tutors when you apply for a job.
[This article is in response to a question on Quora: “I’m going into my final year of university as an undergraduate. What advice would you give for success in my dissertation, exams, and life for this coming year?” See link here.]