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

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Understand your research methodology

Understand your research methodology

It's a really good idea to read around the method that you've chosen for your dissertation so that you're fully prepared to use it in practice and to explain why that approach is appropriate for your research question. You’ll almost certainly have had some research methods training from your department already, so be sure to go back to the materials from those sessions as a starting point. All dissertations need in some way to review literature, and this tip will help you get to grips with the methods literature no matter what type of dissertation you're producing.

Approaches to your dissertation

ChecklistIt’s really helpful from the start to know exactly how and why you’re going to tackle the research in the way that you’ve chosen. Broadly speaking there are two main approaches to a dissertation: empirical research or literature review. The former involves gathering and analysing your own research data through a method of your choice; the latter involves analysing and comparing existing research literature. Whilst carrying out empirical research will definitely require a wider working knowledge of research methods (not least so that you can choose the method that’s right for your research), don’t underestimate the methodology that you’d need to apply if you choose the literature review approach. Whatever type of dissertation you write will involve explaining and justifying the methods you have selected.

What about ethics?

Ethics signpostFrom an early stage you must consider the ethical implications of your chosen research method. Empirical research definitely carries bigger questions around protecting your research participants and their data, and you won't be allowed to undertake empirical research without ethical approval. However, even literature reviews need some ethical scrutiny.

Be sure to look out for information about ethics from your department; they will very likely require you to fill out an ethics form to show the detail of you project and how you are going to approach any ethical implications. There's deliberately not much detail given here about the process, as this will vary hugely across departments.

More advice

Whether you are looking for ways to engage critically with research or planning to undertake your own research, there are a range of resources you can use to help. A useful source of research methods literature is Sage Research Methods Online, which contains articles and videos explaining the principles of a range of different methods (quantitative and qualitative). Don't forget that the Library holds a lot of other literature on research methods; search YorSearch to get started.