Manage your time effectively
Specify a clear research question
Understand your research methodology
Construct a comprehensive search strategy
Engage critically with the literature
Leave no stone unturned in your search for resources
Think carefully about how to structure your argument
Write with an analytical style
Make the most of Word
Seek help when you need it
When you’re writing your dissertation, always aim to write with an analytical style. It’s much easier to produce very descriptive writing, especially in a literature review, but it’s much more effective and interesting if you write analytically. Consider the reader’s point of view: do they really need a one-by-one description of everything that you read, or would they rather read a critical overview of the themes? Even the best descriptive writing can get a bit boring after a while, so try to avoid it where possible.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t be descriptive at all. For example, the methodology and findings sections are likely to describe a relatively linear approach. Even in these sections, however, look for opportunities for be analytical. In the methodology, for example, reflect on your chosen approach; why was it the right one to meet your aims? This elevates your writing style and makes for a much more engaging dissertation.
Remember that there is a difference between criticism and criticality. Being critical in academic work doesn’t mean that you’re being negative or derogatory about other people’s work, or even your own. It’s more about being honest about the limitations, and highlighting the comparisons and contrasts that exist.
With that in mind, it’s hugely important that you don’t shy away from areas of complexity, either in the literature or within your own research. As we explored in tip 5, it’s tempting in the literature review to include only those items which agree with your point of view. Whilst you of course want to persuade the reader of the merits of your argument, you mustn’t leave out any areas of conflict; if you do, you’re presenting a very one-sided argument, which might look like you have left significant gaps in your research. Try to present as many different perspectives on the literature as possible, make comparisons and contrasts between sources, and ultimately demonstrate why your argument is the most persuasive or justified. This makes for a much stronger and more convincing dissertation overall.
Explore our Skills Guide on critical writing for more guidance in this area. You might also like to explore the links below.