Planning a Dissertation – Framework of a Research Essay

Oct 19, 2021

Find useful pointers to formulating a hypothesis, seeking a title, relevant reading, and research methods, and organizing a timeline of goals and deadlines.

Academic research is not simple information gathering nor is it personal opinion, it is an intellectual process that requires specific skills. Having asked an essay writer, it was stated that academic research further demands impartiality, objectivity, academic reading, and reflexivity (careful though). Above all, it demands planning, a lot of writing, and needs to be seen as a process rather than a result.

Planning for a Dissertation Research Essay

  • Preparing to begin may seem mystifying, but it will include:
  • Choosing the topic and seeking a title
  • Literature searches and reading
  • Selecting research methods
  • Timetabling the stages of the project
  • Self-imposed goals and deadlines
  • Tutor-imposed goals and deadlines

Finding a title will include keyword brainstorming. This title should express a doubt, not state a fact or pose a question. However, a question that has niggled at you through your previous studies may well be the foundation from which to brainstorm keywords. From a tentative title, a hypothesis may begin to emerge. Thinking about what kind of research will be needed to test the hypothesis should lead to further brainstorming about the topic and clarification of the wording of the title.

What to Do Before Commencing Research

A research essay has certain essential elements but the project develops 'organically', during the process, as much the product of lateral thinking as logical thought. This poses organizational challenges to which the quality of student response is part of what is assessed. Keep organized by bearing in mind the framework of the finished essay:

  • Introduction, including hypothesis
  • Review of the literature (academic reading) with a discussion of existing pertinent ideas and theories and development of an academic argument
  • Methodology, using and demonstrating understanding of the technical vocabulary of research method
  • Description of methods chosen and the process of using them to gather data
  • Presentation of data with an evaluation and interpretation of data
  • Conclusion, stating whether or not the hypothesis was proven
  • Bibliography organized into lists of primary and secondary sources
  • Appendix

Be informed before beginning to gather data. Conduct a survey of relevant reading for information on issues and debates and on previous related meaningful research projects, and to consider how published researchers present evidence, analysis, and evaluation of their research. This reading can later be incorporated into the Literature Review, often a preliminary paper in its own right, which will go through several drafts.

Considering Research Methodology

The method is how to gather and interpret research data, while methodology is a discussion of possible methods, methods considered, and methods are chosen and why. Methods influence the type of data gathered and explanation of methodologies in your writing demonstrates an understanding of the task at hand. Data are the results of your research; they will be quantitative and also qualitative.

Quantitive data can be organized and represented in graphs and charts and tables which usually go into an appendix. Qualitative data usually involves people and what they tell the researcher in interviews, group discussions, and questionnaires.

Write a Preliminary Proposal for Tutor Evaluation

After some initial workshops and beginning reading, a proposal will be written which will then be discussed with the supervisor, usually a specialist in the area of focus you have chosen. In the proposal,

  • State the hypothesis
  • Examine or at least indicate awareness of previous published relevant research
  • Discuss possible methods that could be used
  • Describe the favored methods that you want to use
  • Justify why these methods have been chosen to answer this particular question
  • State what data this is expected to gather (how this may answer the founding question)

Evidence of reading of previous research can be contained in a short annotated bibliography, perhaps with a detailed evaluation of one main text that informs the approach to the task. At the feedback interview expect to have to:

  • Clarify initial reasoning
  • Outline the emerging argument
  • Discuss further reading (1) recently completed (2) as yet omitted
  • Outline how research approaches are emerging
  • Use notes to answer questions about what happens next
  • Have written questions prepared to ask about any problems, and what to do next
  • Have a research timetable mapped out

Students are usually restricted to a maximum of four hours of tutor supervision once the proposal has been discussed and the way forward agreed. Never go to an appointment with the tutor without written work in hand, even you are writing an outline; have plenty to discuss. The next step is writing and handing in the Literature Review, which will be followed by detailed writing on Methodology as you formulate and execute your research plan.

An undergraduate dissertation is a substantial piece of work, part of the final assessment for a bachelor’s degree, and requires careful writing. It is presented in book form although spiral binding is often allowed; two or more copies will be required. It is usually 8,000-10,000 words long, not including the bibliography and appendixes. This is a research essay and will take most of a year to write from start to finish.

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