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Postgraduate Dissertation Tips – Advice on Successful Research for Masters Students

Write a dissertation | Masters Dissertation or Thesis Top Tips | How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis for Your Masters Degree

Dissertations on different topics will have very different research methods and ways of presenting the results. Students will also work on their projects in ways that work best for them. After all, one of the goals of a research dissertation is to help you develop and improve your research methods. Private online dissertation tutoring with the top dissertations tutors is a great way to support your efforts at all stages of the process.


So, the advice guide to writing your master’s below is very general, but it should help you get an idea of what it takes to write a dissertation at the Master’s level and show you some of the general problems you’ll have to solve.

Writing a masters dissertation needs a lot of work. You’ll need to make a lot of time to study, write, and the research objectives inorder to come upwith a good dissertation. Most of the time, students have to write somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 words.


Even for students who have already written a thesis or dissertation at the undergraduate level, writing a master’s thesis or dissertation can be a little scary. But don’t be scared away by the idea. You’ll have plenty of time to finish it, and your boss and peers will help you greatly.


Putting their ideas and findings into words is one of the hardest things for students. Writing is a skill in and of itself, but with the right advice, you’ll find it much easier to get into the flow of writing your master’s thesis or dissertation.


We’ve made a step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation or thesis for your master’s degree, with important things to think about at each step.


How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Top Tips | Research Proposal Methodology

1. Understand your Dissertation (or thesis) Topic | Understand your Research Topic

There are some small differences between theses and dissertations, but both require good writing skills and a lot of knowledge about the topic. The way they are put together is also very similar.


At first, writing a master’s thesis can feel like running a 100-meter race: it’s fast, and you don’t have much time to think. But you’ll usually have the summer semester to finish your dissertation, which gives you a lot of time and space to write a solid academic piece.


Writing a PhD thesis, on the other hand, can feel like running a marathon, and working on the same topic for 3–4 years can be hard. But in many ways, the way to do both of these tasks is pretty much the same.


Before you write your master’s thesis, you should know everything there is to know about your research topic. Understanding your topic will not only help you do better research but will also help you write better content for your dissertation.


Think about the main point of your dissertation as well. You are writing to put forward a theory or a unique way to look at the research. Make sure your writing makes it clear what your goal is.


Top writing tip: When researching your topic, keep an eye out for specific words and ways of writing that other academics use. Your chosen dissertation topic will likely have a lot of jargon and important themes that run through research papers.

2. Structure your dissertation or thesis

Writing a thesis is a one-of-a-kind experience, and there is no general agreement on how it should be put together.


As a postgraduate student, you should talk to your supervisor about what kind of structure works best for your research project. You’ll also be able to look at past master’s theses in your university library.


To some extent, all postgraduate dissertations are unique. Even though almost all of them have chapters, depending on the research, the number of chapters you cover will change. Write down your structure, and then use these as headings for the writing you’ll do later.


A good writing tip is to link the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next with a paragraph. For example, you could say, “These findings are looked at in more depth in the next section.” This helps the reader understand each chapter better and makes your writing flow better.

3. Write up your literature review

The literature review is one of the best places to start when writing your master’s dissertation. This means doing research and evaluating the academic literature that already exists so you can find any holes in your research.


Many students like to start with the literature review chapter because this is where many of the main ideas and theories are. This part sets the stage for the rest of your dissertation and will help you write the other chapters.

What to include in your literature review

The literature review chapter is more than just a summary of the research that has already been done. It also analyses how this research has helped you do your research.

  • Show how the different parts of your research all work together. Are there theories that work together? Are there disagreements between researchers?
  • Bring attention to the research gap. This is important because most of a dissertation comes up with your original research. Is there a research path that hasn’t been taken yet? Has research not been able to disprove a certain theory?
  • Back up your methodology. Show that your method is right by discussing how it has been used successfully in other research projects.

4. Write up your research | research and write

The most important part of your dissertation is the research you do. How you do your research is another topic, but you should remember that your research design will greatly impact how you write your final dissertation.


For example, a research topic that is more theoretical might include more writing from a philosophical point of view. Qualitative research may need a lot more analysing and talking about than quantitative research.

Methodology chapter

In the methodology chapter, you talk about how you did your research and what methods you used to collect data. You should write about broader methodological approaches, like qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods, and then go into more detail about your chosen data collection strategy.


Interviews, questionnaires, surveys, content analyses, discourse analyses, and many other things can be used to collect data.

Data analysis and findings chapters

In the data analysis or findings chapter, you should talk about what you found when you did your research. It should be detailed, specific, and objective (don’t worry, you’ll have time to evaluate it later in your dissertation).


Write your results so that they are easy to understand. For example, if you have a lot of numbers, it might be easier to know if you put them in tables.


This will make it easier for you to analyse deeper in later chapters. Don’t forget that the reader will go back to your data analysis section to compare your last evaluations with your actual findings, so it’s good to present your data in a simple way.


Think about how you could divide your data into different groups. For example, dividing interview transcripts by the person interviewed can be helpful.


A good writing tip is to note how you might say something about your research. This will help your writing be its best. Nothing is worse than coming up with the perfect way to say something and then forgetting it.


5. Discuss and evaluate | Make use of your supervisor

After you’ve shown what you’ve found, it’s time to evaluate and talk about it.


Because you are talking about the same data in your findings and discussion sections, it might be hard to tell them apart. The easiest way to remember the difference is that your findings show the data while your discussion tells the story of the data.


Your evaluation breaks down the story and explains the main points and what went well and what didn’t. You can discuss the results found in your findings section in your discussion chapter. For example, you could explain what certain numbers mean and show how different pieces of data are linked.


Top writing tip: Don’t be afraid to point out where your research falls short. If you write objectively, you will get better grades. For example, if you didn’t get as many interview responses as you thought you would, think about how that affected your research and results. Don’t let your pride stop you!

6. Write your introduction

Your master’s dissertation’s introduction sets the stage for the rest of the paper. You might wonder why writing an introduction isn’t at the top of our step-by-step list. The reason is that many students write this chapter last.


Here’s what your introduction chapter should cover:

  1. Background
  2. Problem statement
  3. Research question
  4. Significance of your research


This tells the reader what you will look into and how important it is. Your original dissertation proposal will give you a good idea of what to include here, though research often changes once it gets going.


Writing this section last or at least going back to it can be very helpful since you’ll have a better idea of your research when it’s done and written up.


Finishing and proofreading

When you write the last few words of your conclusion and reach the end of your thesis (hopefully still in one piece, not the thesis), you may feel like it’s all over. You just did something hard, so pat yourself on the back.


But finishing your master’s thesis is a bit like getting to Camp 4 on a trek to the top of Everest. Even though I don’t want to sound too gloomy, there is still a lot of work to do, mostly editing and proofreading your thesis to ensure it is perfect.


Hopefully, you sent draughts of your thesis to your supervisor for review as you were writing it. There may have been parts of the data set or individual chapters in these draughts that needed to be clarified. Your boss would have given you feedback on these draughts in writing or in person. You must keep track of these comments because they will be important in the last steps before you send your paper.

Masters dissertation writing tips | write a dissertation Tips

When to start writing your thesis or dissertation

How big your research project is and how long your course is will determine when you should start writing your master’s thesis or dissertation. Sometimes, your research project may be short, and you may not be able to write much of your thesis before you finish the project.


But no matter what your research project is or how great your course is, you should start writing your thesis or some parts of it as soon as possible. There are several good reasons for this:


  • It takes practise, not talent, to write well for school. When you start writing your dissertation, the first steps will help you get into the swing. Writing early will give you time to get ready.
  • Write down what you do as you do it. This is a good way to add new ideas to your dissertation and make sure you don’t forget anything important.
  • There is never a perfect first draught. Give yourself time to go over your dissertation and make it better. You’ll probably need to make at least one or two more draughts before submitting the final version.
  • Writing early on will keep you motivated for all the draughts that follow.
  • Thinking and writing go together a lot. As you write, you’ll think of new ideas and thoughts. So starting to write early is a great way to come up with new ideas.

How to improve your writing skills

The best way to improve your skills at writing a dissertation or a thesis is to:

  1. Finish the first draught of your master’s thesis as soon as you can and send it to your supervisor for revisions. Your boss will look over your draught and point out any mistakes you made. This process will be done more than once, which will help you find and fix your writing mistakes as time goes on.
  2. If you don’t speak English as your first language, it might be helpful to ask your English-speaking friends to read a section of your thesis and point out any mistakes you keep making. Read our section on helping with the English language for more tips.
  3. Most universities have writing centres where postgraduate students can get help with writing and other things. By going to these classes, you might be able to improve your writing and meet other graduate students with whom you can talk about what makes a good thesis.
  4. Read academic articles and look on the Internet for help with writing. This will help you write in an academic style, which will become second nature after a while.

Keep track of your bibliography 

When studying for your master's dissertation, you'll need to find a good way to organise your bibliography. This will keep you from getting lost in the information you'll need to write your dissertation.


The best way to keep track of all the articles you’ve read for your research is to make a database where you can summarise each article or chapter in bullet points that highlight the most important parts.


Learning to use reference management software (RMS) like EndNote is another good way to do this well. RMS is easy to use and will save a lot of time when you put together your bibliography. This could be very helpful, especially if your reference section is missing two hours before you submit your dissertation.

Avoid accidental plagiarism in your academic writing

Plagiarism can get you kicked out of graduate school, so you should be careful not to do it when writing your thesis or dissertation.


Sometimes, postgraduate students plagiarise without meaning to. This can happen when people copy and paste parts of journal articles they cite instead of rephrasing them. Whenever you use information from another academic source, give credit to the source and don’t just copy the original statement word for word.

What kind of format should your thesis have?

Different universities have different rules about how to format your thesis. Before you turn in your thesis, you should read these rules to avoid getting in trouble.


Before you start writing your thesis, read the guidelines from your university so you don’t have to change the format later. In general, most universities will tell you to use 1.5–2 line spacing, font size 12, and A4 paper for your thesis. These formatting rules might not result in the most aesthetically pleasing thesis. Still, beauty isn’t always useful, and your postgraduate examiner might get tired of reading a thesis that looks good.

When should I submit my thesis?

Students will take different amounts of time to finish their MSc or MA thesis. People work at different speeds, projects have different difficulty levels, and some projects have more problems than others.


You should turn it in when your MSc thesis or MA thesis is done! The rules of each university will say that it is up to the student to decide when it is ready to turn in.


But your boss will let you know if your work is done, and you should listen to what they say. If your boss says that your work isn’t done, it’s probably not a good idea to turn it in. Most of the time, your supervisor will read the final draft of your thesis or dissertation and tell you what needs to be done before you turn in your last draft.


Set a goal for yourself to reach. This will keep you on track so you don’t fall behind. You may also only have money for one year, so make sure you turn in your dissertation before the deadline and don’t miss your graduation!


Work backwards from the completion and submission date to set your target date, and try to finish your final draught at least three months before the final date.


Don’t wait until the last minute to send in your work. Send it in early, before the deadline. Think about what else will be going on in your life around that time. You’re moving back home. Do you have a holiday? Do you have anything else to do?


If you need to be done by the end of June to attend a graduation ceremony in July, you should give yourself enough time. At the beginning of your research, you can plan for this in your dissertation project.


Remember that turning in your thesis or dissertation does not mean finishing your master’s programme. One to three months will pass between the time you turn in your work and your last day. In some classes, you may even have to talk about your research project in a viva, though this is more common at the PhD level.


If you passed, you would need to make plans for the thesis to be properly bound and resubmitted, which will take a week or two. You might also need to make a few small changes to the work, which could take up to a month. This means that you need to give yourself at least three months from the time you hand in your thesis to the time your programme is done. Of course, it is also possible that after the viva, the examiners will ask you to do more work on your thesis and resubmit it before they agree to give you the degree. This means that it could take even longer for you to finish.



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