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10 Top Tips for a Tip Top Undergraduate Dissertation: a Practical Guide


What's this guide all about?

DissertationsAre you just starting your dissertation, or looking to enhance what you've written so far? These tips will help you to understand what is expected of you during the dissertation, from introduction to conclusion and everything in between.

These tips will be of particular relevance to undergraduate students in Social Sciences departments, but anyone writing a dissertation will find them useful.

Be aware that they give general guidance and advice; you should always refer and adhere to the specific guidance provided by your department. You might lose marks unnecessarily if you do not follow the standards and principles which the department expects of your work. In particular make sure that you have read and understood the assessment criteria for the dissertation.

Use the menu on the left or the arrows at the bottom of each tip to find your way around the guide.


What is a dissertation?

WritingYou probably have some idea about what to expect from a dissertation, or you wouldn't be on this page! A dissertation is usually a long-term project, often across a full academic year, to produce a long-form piece of writing; think of it a little like an extended, structured essay. You might carry out your own original research, or base your dissertation on existing research literature (we'll explore more about the differences later). The dissertation will usually be undertaken in your final year; in many ways it's the culmination of all the work you've completed so far.

What's different about a dissertation?

Tape measuresThe main thing that sets a dissertation apart from your previous work is that it's an almost entirely independent project. You won't be left entirely adrift (we'll see later the many sources of help available), but you will spend a lot more time working on your own. You'll also be working on a topic which will be very different to your peers; you'll all produce a dissertation, but on very different topics and, potentially, in very different ways. Dissertations are also longer than a regular essay, both in word count and the time that they take to complete. You'll usually have the best part of a year to work on one, and multiple thousands of words - that might seem like a lot, but both time and word count will disappear very quickly!