Doing A Literature Based Dissertation Proposal Example

You are now ready to plan and compose the second piece of your proposal, the methodologysection.  In it you will describe what you plan to accomplish, why you want to do it and how you are going to do it. This process is very  important; to a reviewer, your research investigation is only as a good as your proposal methodology. Generally, a research proposal should contain all thekey elements involved in theresearch process and include sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study.  An ill-conceived proposal dooms the project, even if it somehow is approved, because your methods are not carefully thought out in advance.

The methodology section should describe how each specific objective will be achieved, with enough detail to enable an independent and informed assessment of the proposal. This section should include:

  • Restatement of research tasks:hypothesis or research questions;
  • Studypopulationandsampling: description of study areas, populations and the procedures for their selection;
  • Data collection: description of the tools and methods used to collect information, and identification of variables;
  • Data analysis: description of data processing and analyzing procedures;
  • Laboratory procedures: descriptions of standardized procedures and protocols and new or unique procedures; and
  • The specific tools that will be used to study each research objective.

First, review the two types of research, qualitative and quantitative, in order to make a decision about your own methodology's procedures pathway. 

In a series of steps in aplanning guide, you will outline yourmethodologysection and craft yourproposal

Deciding My Own Approach

Start planning and writing by clicking on each of the elements in research proposal's methodology section

What type of overall study design is best for my investigation and research?

There are two types of information gathering—qualitativeandquantitative. Both designs, quantitative and qualitative, are said to be systematic, meaning that they have a system or follow a process. Each type of design, however has different approaches to methods of reasoning, step-by-stepprocedures, and researchtoolsandstrategies. Although deciding that an investigation is qualitative or quantitative directs the researcher toward a certain path, depending on what research questions still need to be answered as the investigation unfolds a combination of approaches can be used in the specific research tools used.

Now you will determineoverall project design; that decision will help you to frame out your basic methodology and determine whether you will need to use inductive or deductive reasoning in making your conclusion. 

Complete Crafting a Research Proposal:  II. Approach to Research Design in order to decide which approach will best suit your research.  To answer some of the questions there, you may need to review your Reflection Journal and the material introduced earlier about methodology located on this web site.

When you are done, select the approach that you think will work best for your research and follow the pathway for your particular approach

Design My Project

Now that you know which design best suits your investigation, you will need to follow a specific pathway for the following research proposal elements in order to follow the specific reasoning and concerns of your approach.  You will also need to download and save the planning guide for your approach to methodology to your computer.

Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology (Qualitative)

Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology (Quantitative)

Different Pathways for Different Research Design Approaches

After you have downloaded and saved the file,  you will need to complete Step 1 : Designing Research Methodology.  Use the links below to help you to make decisions as you complete your planning guide.

Qualitative Approach Pathway

Qualitative Variables

Role of the Researcher in Qualitative Design

Researchers usually prefer fairly lengthy and deep involvement in the natural setting. Social life is complex in its range and variability, and operates at different levels. It has many layers of meaning and the researcher has to lift veils to discover the innermost meanings. In order to gain access to deeper levels, the researcher needs to develop a certain rapport with the subjects of the study, and to win their trust.

There are some key ideas to consider as you plan for your role in your research design.

Quantitative Approach Pathway

Quantitative Variables

Role of the Researcher in Quantitative Design

The quantitative researcher is detached and objective.  Explain whether you will be an unobtrusive observer, a participant observer, or a collaborator.  Evaluate how your own bias may affect the methodology, outcomes, and analysis of findings.

Many times this element of the research proposal will be affected by ethics.  In addition, this section is often interwoven in a narrative design explanation with other elements of the proposal.  Review sample proposals to see how other researchers with similar designs to yours have explained their roles in the research investigation.

Complete this section on your planning guide.

When you have completed  Step 1 on your planning sheet, move on to Step 2: Refining My Quantitative(or Qualitative) Investigation with Specific Methods, Tools, and Procedures.

You will need to make decisions in Step 2 for the following topics.  Use the links below, your reflection journal, and the Elements of the Proposal section of the web site to assist you as you complete this portion of your planning guide.

After you have planned the elements above, there are a few more things to decide and plan.  Use the list below and your planning guide to help youcomplete the rest of yourresearch proposal

Other Elements in the Research Methodology

  • Timeline
  • Resources and Materials
  • Limitations and Delimitations
  • Final Product In the section, the researcher discusses the possible outcomes of the study, its relation to theory and literature, and its potential impact or application.  A description of the possible forms of the final product, e.g., publishable manuscript, conference paper, invention, model, computer software, exhibit, performance, etc., should be outlined.  Be specific about how you intend to share your results or project with others.  Although all of these ideas may change in light of the research process or the final results, it is always good to plan with the end product in mind.

    This section may also include an interpretation and explanation of results as related to your question; a discussion on or suggestions for further work that may help address the problem you are trying to solve; an analysis of the expected impact of the findings and product on the audience; or a discussion on any problems that could hinder your creative work.

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    • In what form will your findings be presented?
    • How will you be disseminating your findings?
    • To whom will you be disseminating your findings?
    • How will you ensure anonymity in any publications?
    • Will you need to create an abstract of your overall investigation?

    Before you write this section, you may want to go back to the sample research proposals to see how other researchers explained their ideas.  You may also want to go back to your Reflection Journal to see what your own thoughts were as you reviewed the sample proposals.  Considering your original proposal statement, where you decided if your research was going to be basic, applied, or practical, may also give you ideas about your final product.
  • References Keep a running list of all references as you work through the proposal.  You will need to have this list to avoid plagiarism and chances are you will need to go back to certain references throughout the entire research experience.  This includes all textbooks, reference books, journal articles, Internet sources, etc. 

    See the references section from your Literature Review for a comprehensive guide to completing the reference section of your proposal.  You do not need to duplicate the efforts of your Literature Review, but PLEASE remember to add any new references that you utilized for your methodology, data collection tools, etc.  Spend some time reviewing the references to ensure that they are complete and accurate - names of all the authors, correct date, full and accurate title, complete publishing information (city of publication, publishing company for books, full journal title, volume and number and pages for journal articles). Use the appropriate citation forms for your field of study. 

    Complete this section using the directions on  your proposal planning guide.
  • Appendices Adding a few appendices  to the end of your proposal allows you to show how thoroughly you have prepared your research project without obliging the reader to wade through all the details. The purpose of an appendix is to display documents which are relevant to main text, but whose presence in the text would disturb rather than enhance the flow of the argument or writing.  Results of the literature search, pilot data, data collection forms, patient information sheets, and consent forms can all be added as appendices to include documents, pilot study material, questions for interviews, survey instruments, explanatory statement to participants,etc.

    Some likely parts to incorporate in the appendices are:

    • Distribution Plan - A part of the proposal which is the plan for distributing of information about the project to the audience. It can also include financial statements for the funding agencies which want to see financial standing of the project. This section may include radio broadcasts, training programs, workshops, printed handouts, newsletters, presentations, etc.
    • Cooperating Agency Information – If references of different cooperating agencies are given, then try to give some detail about these agencies in appendices like name and address, services or product, names of important personals, etc.
    • Evaluation Tools – It is good to include the copy of evaluation tools planed to use which are used in information gathering like questionnaires, survey, interview, etc.

Appendices have a format:

    1. Pagination: Each Appendix begins on a separate page.
    2. Heading:If there is only one appendix, "Appendix" is centered on the first line below the manuscript page header. If there is more than one appendix, use Appendix A (or B or C, etc.). Double-space and type the appendix title (centered in uppercase and lowercase letters).
    3. Format: Indent the first line 5-7 spaces.
    4. Example of APA-formatted Appendix:

Most of the items that you include in your appendix will only need a Copy-Paste to be added to your proposal.  It could also be possible that they would need to be converted into a graphic or a .PDF file if they are web-based. 

Complete this section following the directions on your proposal planning guide.

After you make your decisions for above, you will have completed Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 of your planning guide.  You now will need to write your methodology draft.  Use this sample methodology section as an example for explanations, language, and phrasing for this part of your proposal. 

Sample Description of Methodology

Data Gathering Plans – The two instruments and a simple instruction sheet that also asks subjects their age and gender, will be delivered to an administrator in each setting who has agreed to distribute and collect the completed instruments. Prior to their distribution an introductory letter from both the researcher and the respective administrators will be placed in each selected subject’s mailbox or mail slot asking for their cooperation. The letters will describe the research and its importance and the support of the administrator. They also will note that a $5 coupon toward any groceries at the local Wegman’s Grocery (donated by the store’s public relations office) will be available to each person completing the two instruments and signing a letter of informed consent related to the research. Finally, they will provide a telephone number for anyone with questions or who may need assistance in completing the instruments. This procedure will be pilot-tested with at least 10 volunteers from the Fayetteville Senior center to refine the data gathering plans.

Once the pilot-testing procedures have been completed, any required changes in the administration plans will be carried out. Then the administrators will be authorized to distribute the forms. Any person who has phoned needing clarification will be provided further explanation. Anyone who phones in a need for assistance in completing the forms will receive support in the form of one the location’s administrative assistants reading the forms and recording the answers. Each assistant so involved will be provided training by the researcher on how to read and record the answers in an unbiased manner.

One week after this initial delivery, a follow-up phone call will be made to either thank those who completed the forms or to remind those who have not yet completed their forms. The grocery coupons will be mailed to all who have completed the forms with a letter of thanks. If fewer than 95 people from each of the two settings complete the forms, then the random sampling and distribution will continue until at least that number of completed forms from each setting has been received. It is anticipated that all data collection efforts will be completed within one month.

Your Reflection Log and the sample proposals you studied earlier also should be excellent resources.

Through the steps  in Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology, you have planned, and maybe even completed, the first draft of your research proposal's methodology section. 

When you have completed your draft, you will need to combine all three pieces of your proposal, your introduction, your literature review, and your methodology.  Use Step 6 on your planning guide to assist you.  

Print book

Dissertation proposals & writing dissertations

This book takes you through all the elements needed for a successful dissertation proposal and dissertation. The book explains the sections required for both proposal and dissertation, and offers helpful downloadable templates to assist with the presentation.

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Dissertation proposals & writing dissertations

Getting Started

Writing both your dissertation proposal and your dissertation will utilise the skills you have developed throughout your course. Many of these, such as Research, Critical Thinking and Referencing, have been covered elsewhere in the succeed@solent.

This book will cover:

  • submitting a successful dissertation proposal
  • writing and organising your dissertation
  • presenting your proposal and dissertation to the required specifications for submission.

The first step is to put together your proposal.




 

Step 1: Dissertation proposals

What are the essential elements to a good dissertation proposal?

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Aims and objectives
  • Methodology
  • Literature review
  • Scope and constraints
  • Resources
  • Outline of sections/chapters
  • Timetable
  • References.

Title

You need a working title to focus on throughout your research. It may be that you will improve on the wording later but make sure the title you begin with means something.

Remember:

Future employers may ask about the topic of your dissertation. It might be worth thinking to the future in order to come up with something that will gain their interest.

Which of the following would gain your interest if you were the manager of a web-based sales company?

  • "Intranets and their use in advertising"
  • "Using Intranets to build a knowledge management system"
  • "How recent developments in Intranet technology can be used improve sales performance."

Introduction

Set out your reasons for undertaking this particular study in your Introduction.
Set your ideas into a theoretical/academic context.

Your statement should:

  • Outline the problem – what is the key issue?
  • Explain why you think this is worth investigating
  • Describe the nature and purpose of your research
  • Indicate what you hope to achieve.

Remember:

Some lecturers prefer students to weave their literature review into the introduction; others prefer it to be kept separate.

If you are unable to complete your statement then you are not yet ready to begin.

Aims and objectives

The primary focus of your research project is usually expressed in terms of aims and objectives.

What is the difference between an aim and an objective in an academic context?

Aim

  • An intention or aspiration; what you hope to achieve.
  • Aims are statements of intent, written in broad terms.
  • Aims set out what you hope to achieve at the end of the project.

Objective

  • A goal or a step on the way to meeting the aim; how you will achieve it.
  • Objectives use specific statements which define measurable outcomes. For example: what steps will you take to achieve the desired outcome?

Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific – be precise about what you are going to do
  • Measureable –you will know when you have reached your goal
  • Achievable – Don’t attempt too much. A less ambitious but completed objective is better than an over-ambitious one that you cannot possible achieve.
  • Realistic – do you have the necessary resources to achieve the objective? For example: time, money, skills, etc?
  • Time constrained – determine when each stage needs to be completed. Is there time in your schedule to allow for unexpected delays?

Remember:

Use strong positive statements which use strong verbs. Avoid weaker verbs.

Strong verbs:collect, construct, classify, develop, devise, measure, produce, revise, select, synthesise
Weak verbs:appreciate, consider, enquire, learn, know, understand, be aware of, appreciate, listen, perceive

How many aims or objectives should there be?

  • There are no fixed number of aims or objectives.
  •  Some tutors are happy with one clear strong aim, whilst others like to see a main aim supported by at least two subsidiary aims.
  • You will be required to produce sufficient objectives to be able to measure progress towards meeting the aim/s.

Remember:

Aims describe what you want to achieve. Objectives describe how you are going to achieve those aims.

Example
Aim: To investigate the relationship between tectonic-plate movement and the gravitational effect of the alignment of the major planets.

Objectives:

  • Data sets will be extracted from the known historical record of tectonic-plate movement
  • Data sets will be extracted from astronomical tables detailing the various alignments of the major planets covering the same period as data from the geological record.
  • The data from both sets will be synthesised to establish if correlation points exist between major geological events and planetary alignments.

Methodology

Remember to do the following when writing your Methodology:

  • explain what methods you intend to use when researching and developing your report.
  • use a descriptive writing approach. It is important to explain what research methods you used to collect your info.
  • Do not include your questionnaires, interview transcripts, etc. -these go in the dissertation’s appendices.
  • Discuss with your project supervisor the extent and level of detail required; original research will obviously require a more detailed description than a project based solely on secondary research.

Example of a methodology statement

The following sample statements are intended to give a flavour of the approach one could take but they are not to be assumed to represent a complete methodology.

Literature survey
Secondary data will be reviewed initially through the university library using a range of information sources such as the OPAC system, academic and commercial abstracts, bibliographic databases, and Internet search engines.
To aid the search, a table of key terms will be constructed and the sources located will be correlated with this. A secondary cross-reference table will be developed so that data can be viewed from different perspectives.

Data collection and sampling
To test current practice against the historical record an on-line survey will be conducted to gather primary source data from companies currently engaged in the export of goods related to heavy engineering projects.
The survey will collect quantitative data on the range of goods requiring an end-user licence. A systematic yet random sample of companies will be drawn from members of the British Business Register.

Data analysis
As the number of companies, engaged in the defined activity, has yet to be established the data analysis method has not yet been decided. However, it is anticipated that a commercial spreadsheet package such as MS Excel would be suitable, although more sophisticated analysis software such as SPSS is available within the university’s IT centre should this be required.

Remember:

If someone else chooses to carry out the same or a very similar type of study, they should be able to understand and copy your methods from your descriptions.

Literature survey

The Literature survey (also known as a  Literature Review):

  • uses a descriptive writing approach
  • describes the existing and established theory and research in your report area by providing a context for your work.
  • can show where you are filling a perceived gap in the existing theory or knowledge
  • can propose something that goes against or is controversial to existing ideas.
  • accurately references all sources mentioned in the survey and gives a full citation in the Reference List.

Remember:

Not every dissertation proposal contains a Literature survey.

Sometimes the literature survey can be a discrete piece of writing that is set and marked separately.

You can embed your literature survey in the main body of your dissertation but this depends on the preferences of your department or tutor.

Scope and constraints

Set the boundaries clearly in this section.

For example:

  • you may have too much material to cover so you will need to put some limits in place on the project
  • you may not be able to conduct some research due to constraints imposed by time, cost or availability of materials.

Examples of boundary setting:

1. The literature survey will be as thorough as possible and will be complete by the time the dissertation is written up in full. However, one key area will require a number of visits to the British Library as some materials are not available on inter-library loan. This section will be researched over the summer break as time permits.

2. Whilst it is hoped to conduct some primary research in the USA during the summer of 2010, current restrictions on visa applications is causing some concern. Should the USA research prove impossible to achieve, secondary research will be extended in order to provide an alternative means of analysis.

3. Whilst every endeavour will be made to present a global perspective, many original documents are written in languages other than English. Obtaining technical translation of these documents may prove difficult due to financial constraints. Electronic translation software is not sufficiently advanced as to guarantee reliable results with this type of material and will not be employed.


Resources

List resources that you will need to complete your study in the Resources section.

Example:

The university’s library and IT facilities should prove adequate for the majority of the research and analysis required by this study.

However, graphical representation of some of the data may require the use of specialist software such as Pro-graph, which is not currently available in university’s IT suite.

This will not affect publication of the results, however, as this service is provided locally by a commercial printing facility.

Timetable

Below is a proposed timetable for your dissertation. Your schedule should be designed to fit in with the university timetable/academic year and should take account of any deadlines set by your department. It should also be sufficiently detailed for your supervisor to identify any areas of weakness in order to provide you with appropriate guidance:

Academic calendar week no.Activity
10Receive clearance from supervisor to proceed.
11-12Literature searching.
Christmas breakReview literature and start work on first draft. Aim to complete chapter one.
13Design questionnaire (if appropriate).
14Submit draft of questionnaire and chapter 1 to supervisor.
15-16-17Work on first draft of remaining chapters (excuding conclusion).
18Submit first draft to supervisor. Receive feedback on previous work.
19Update questionnaire (if required) and send out.
20-21Chase questionnaires and begin tabulating results.
22Receive feedback on first draft main chapters.
23Analyse results of questionnaire.
EasterWrite up final draft of dissertation - begin drafting out conclusion.
24Complete final version - main chapters.
25Receive feedback on conclusion and write up.
26Final revisions after proofreading.
27Print - bind - submit.

Outline of sections/chapters

Give an outline of the structure of your dissertation in this section. This is usually restricted to the main body as the overall structure is often prescribed.

The main discussion will require a more detailed breakdown than other sections. You should give suggested chapters headings and one or two paragraphs about the proposed content.

Example outline for the main body

Introduction
• Literature survey
• Methodology
Results (if appropriate)
Discussion

e.g.Is art really a good investment? (1-2 paragraphs describing the proposed content)
How UK auction houses manipulate market values (1-2 paragraphs describing the proposed content)
Provenance: truth or fiction? (1-2 paragraphs describing the proposed content)
An international perspective (1-2 paragraphs describing the proposed content)

Conclusions
Recommendations (if appropriate)

Remember:

Check if your faculty has any specific requirements.

References

The reference list at the end of your work demonstrates the depth of your research.
It acknowledges your sources of information, protecting you against the serious charge of plagiarism (passing off others’ ideas as your own).

This is where you list all of your research reading if you have included a literature survey.

Remember:

If you presented your literature survey separately, you would have referred to some aspects of that reading in your introduction (your statement of the problem).

You must cite and reference those aspects in this section.

Step 2: What sections go into a dissertation?

Below is a list of the sections a dissertation may contain. However, not every dissertation includes all these sections. Find out which sections you need to include by asking your supervisor, by identifying what is standard practice in your discipline or by reading papers written by other students:

  • Cover
  • Title page
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • Contents page
  • List of figures or illustrations
  • Main body
  • Introduction
  • Literature survey
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations
  • Reference list / Bibliography
  • Appendices

This is a formatted Word document that you can overwrite with your report content. In the template above, simply delete sections which you are not required to write or move sections within the document by cutting and pasting.

Remember:

When submitting any written work via turnitin you need to add an electronic cover sheet to your assignment. You can get a copy of this from your Unit page, or visit Successful Online Submission. To see examples of past dissertations from Solent University students, please visit the archive below.

Cover page

All dissertations and theses submitted at Southampton Solent University must be bound and have an official uni cover page. You can get the cover page from your faculty office. Notice that the cover page has a 'window' in it (a rectangular hole). Make sure that your title page has the required information positioned correctly so that it shows through the hole.

Figure 1: Example cover page

In the template above, the title page is formatted correctly. Notice that the template title page shows through the picture of the cover.

Remember:

When submitting any work online via turnitin add an electronic cover sheet to your assignment. Get a copy of this from your Unit page, or visit Successful Online Submission.

Dissertations are exempt from online submission, however you can use turnitin prior to the hand in date to check your work.

Title page

Your dissertation or thesis should have a title page - it'll look something like the one here (taken from one held at the Solent Electronic Archive 'for reference only').

Figure 2: Example title page

Your faculty should provide you with a standard Solent University dissertation/thesis cover. This has a rectangular hole or ‘window’ through which it should be possible to read the following details from the title page:

  • The award for which the project is submitted
  • The academic year of submission
  • The name of the author
  • The title of the work

You have to position the window carefully in the centre of the page. You could create a moveable text box on the page in order to do that, or you could use the template which has the window positioned correctly.

Other information that may appear on the title page but outside of the window space may include:

  • Southampton Solent University
  • The name of your faculty
  • The name of your supervisor
  • The date of presentation

Remember:

Check with your faculty/tutor for their preferences.

Acknowledgements

The acknowledgments is a paragraph which thanks everyone who has helped you whilst you have been researching and writing your dissertation.This may be your supervisor or any other academic staff who have provided guidance and support; other students or colleagues that you've collaborated with; interviewees; librarians;  external bodies who have given you assistance.

Not every dissertation/thesis has one but it is a good idea, if you are clear about who you should thank - don't just include one because you feel you ought to. Do check previous students' papers in the library and talk to your supervisor about whether to include one.

Figure 3: Example Acknowledgements page (from Solent Electronic Archive).

Remember:

Acknowledgements usually come on the first page after the title page although some people put it after the abstract. Check for the normal practice in your subject.

Abstract

The Abstract is a summarised version of your complete paper. A reader could get the main ideas from just the abstract, or use the abstract to decide whether to read the rest of the paper. Every dissertation/thesis does have an Abstract although it may be called a 'summary'.

Remember to:

  • Briefly outline what your paper aims to do
  • Briefly outline the results and the conclusions you have reached.

Figure 4: Example abstract page (from Solent Electronic Archive).

Remember:

The abstract will always come at the beginning of your paper, before the contents page.

Contents page

A dissertation or a thesis is an extended piece of writing. To help your reader find information easily, you must include a Contents page.

Figure 5: Example contents page

Usually, the Contents page will come after the Acknowledgements and Abstract, and before the List of figures (if you have one) and the Introduction.

Notice that everything leading up to the Introduction does not have to be numbered here. If you do number the pages, the numbering would be in Roman numerals.

Remember:

Be very careful when making your final draft that all of the page numbers given in the Contents are correct.

List of figures or illustrations

You will need to include a List of figures, a List of illustrations or even both if your dissertation has the following items:

  • tables or charts
  • diagrams 
  • photographs, pictures or illustrations

This page should:

  • list the name of each figure or illustration, included in the body of your dissertation or thesis. It should give the number of the page that it appears on.
  • give a descriptive title (not 'Figure 1', 'Table 1' etc.).

Figure 6: Example of a list of tables/figures page

Remember:

You do not need to give reference details here.

Include these in a citation next to the figure itself and in your Reference List or Bibliography.

Figures, tables, illustrations... what's the difference?

If you are doing a design or fine arts subject, it is likely that you will include photographs, drawings, paintings or illustrations in your dissertations. These would normally be included in your List of illustrations.

In other subjects, it is common to include all tables, charts, graphs, photographs, drawings, etc. together in a List of figures.

However, if you have a great deal of information presented in tables, it may be best to have a both a List of tables and a List of figures (everything that's not a table). When labelling, number these separately (Table 1, Table 2, Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.).

Remember: 

The List of illustrations is positioned after the Contents page (on a separate page) and before the Introduction.

Check what is the normal practice in your discipline.

Main body - introduction

The introduction serves as an expansion of your title and is included in every dissertation. The introduction:

  • uses a descriptive writing style
  • gives a bit more detail about the problem or question you are tackling in the paper
  • makes a very clear statement of your purpose – Why did you carry out the research? Why are you writing this dissertation?
  • indicates the scope of your research.
  • outlines the sections to be included
  • gives a very brief statement of the background to the topic.
  • can define any key terms which need clarfying in order to understand the content.

Remember:

The introduction comes at the beginning of the paper, after the abstract, acknowledgements and contents lists.

When numbering the pages, start at 1 on the introduction.

Main body - literature survey

The Literature Survey is also known as a Literature review.

A Literature Survey

  • uses a descriptive writing approach
  • is positioned after the introduction and before the methodology
  • describes the existing and established theory and research in your report area. You are providing a context for your work.
  • can show where you are filling a perceived gap in the existing theory or knowledge
  • can propose something that goes against or is controversial to existing ideas.
  • accurately references all sources mentioned and gives a full citation in the Reference List.

Remember:

The Literature Survey is not in every dissertation. Sometimes the literature survey can be embedded in the main body of your writing. 

Check whether to include this seperately or not with your department or tutor.

Main body - methodology

The general idea is that, should someone else choose to carry out the same or a very similar type of study, they should be able to understand and copy your methods from your descriptions. Your thesis or dissertation will involve a large body of research so it is important to explain what research methods you used to collect your information.

The Methodology should:

  • uses a descriptive writing approach
  • is positioned after the introduction (and Literature survey if one is included)
  • explains the methods used in researching and developing your report.

Remember:

Do not include your questionnaires, interview transcripts, etc. here -  put these in the appendices instead.

Main body - results

The Results section may also be called 'Findings'. This section:

  • uses a descriptive writing approach in an objective and factual way.
  • is positioned after the Introduction (Literature survey and Methodology if these included), directly before the Discussion section.
  • describes everything discovered through your research.
  • gives all of the results, but only the results of your research activities.
  • can include tables, graphs or illustrations here to make it easier for the reader to understand the data.

Remember:

Do not include any discussion, argument or conclusions – these come later.

Main body - discussion

The Discussion section:

  • uses a discursive and evaluative writing approach
  • is positioned after the Results section.
  • interprets your own understanding of what the results of your research show.
  • makes interpretations and judgements.
  • contextualises your ideas in relation to other theories and with other similar research, particularly in reference to the works mentioned in your literature survey.

Remember:

All of this discussion must be framed within the purpose you stated in your title and introduction.

Do not draw out your conclusions here, but open up the discussion of possibilities.

Main body - recommendations

Check with your tutor or department whether you should be including recommendations in your dissertation or not.

If the dissertation provides information on an area for which future decisions will need to be made, then you should include recommendations on what decisions to make.

The recommendations:

  • use an evaluative writing approach
  • is positioned after the Conclusion
  • must be cross referenced to the part of the paper that gives evidence for them.
  • each recommendation should be numbered separately.

Remember:

Including a Recommendations section depends on purpose.

Always check with your tutor first.

Main body - conclusion

The Conclusion should reach your point. The conclusion:

  • uses an evaluative and possibly argumentative approach.
  • is positioned after the Discussion.

Consider the following questions:

  • What, in your conclusion, did your research show in relation to your aims?
  • Did you meet your aims, go beyond them, or in fact fail to reach your aims?
  • Did you prove your own hypothesis or disprove it?

Remember:

Do not go back to a longwinded explanation of your results but instead give a brief and clear statement of what these results show.

Reference List/Bibliography

Some dissertations have a reference list, some have a bibliography, some have both. Ask your supervisor, and look at past papers in your subject to find out which one to use.

Figure 7: Example references page


A Reference list:

  • is positioned at the end of your paper before the appendices
  • gives the detailed references for all source materials used in your paper. 
  • includes anything quoted, paraphrased or referred to that was written or stated by someone other than yourself .

A Bibliography:

  • is positioned at the end of your paper before the appendices
  • gives the detailed references for all source materials you have read. 
  • lists anything looked at  in your research

Tip:

For details on how to write different kinds of references: visit the Referencing Book.

Appendices

An appendix normally includes research related material that does not fit easily or suitably in the body of the paper:

  • survey questionnaires
  • observation sheets
  • interview transcripts
  • supplementary data which adds useful information or insight but is not essential to the understanding of the paper

An Appendix:

  • is positioned as the final section of your dissertation or thesis.
  • is numbered and titled 
  • uses a different page numbering system ('A-1', 'A-2' etc.).

Figure 8: Example appendices page

The dissertation template has that all set out for you - click the image of an appendix on the right to download the template.

Remember:

You can have more than one appendix (appendices).

For each Appendix, start on  a new page.

What a dissertation should look like

The following pages give you advice on:

  • how to format and present a title page
  • numbering sections and figures
  • page numbers
  • format
  • presentation
  • binding

Watch this short video for a student's perspective:



Remember:

The advice on this site is general. Always check the specific requirements of your faculty or department. Ask if they can provide you with dissertation writing guidelines. To see examples of past dissertations from Solent University students, please visit the archive below.

Solent Electronic Archive (Weblink opens in new window)


Title page

As your dissertation is a larger piece of writing you should have a title page. Your faculty should provide you with a standard Solent University dissertation cover. This has a rectangular hole or ‘window’ through which it should be possible to read the following details from the title page:

  • The award for which the project is submitted
  • The academic year of submission
  • The name of the author
  • The title of the work

Position the window carefully in the centre of the page. You could either create a moveable text box on the page in order to do that, or use our template which has the window positioned correctly.

Other information that may appear on the title page but outside of the window space may include:

  • Southampton Solent University
  • The name of your faculty
  • The name of your supervisor
  • The date of presentation

Remember: 

Dissertations are normally exempt from online submission. However, you can use online submission to check your work prior to the hand in date.

If you're submitting any work online via turnitin  add an electronic cover sheet to your assignment. Get a copy of this from your Unit page, or visit Online Submission using Turnitin.

Numbering sections and figures

Good academic writing is about ease of understanding. Numbering the sections makes it easy to know where you are in the dissertation at any one time. It also means that your reader can use the contents page to find any particular part of the text they are interested in.

Numbering sections in your dissertation

Give all major sections a consecutive number using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).

For example:

1. Introduction
2. Literature review
3. Methodology
4. Results
5. Discussion
6. Conclusions

Number consecutively using decimal points within these sections

For example:

1. Introduction
2. Literature review
3. Methodology
3.1 Interviews
3.2 Questionnaires

Continue to add sub-sub sections by increasing the number of decimal points. Avoid doing this excessively as you may make the structure too complicated.

Numbering figures, tables and illustrations

  • Label and format correctly any figures or tables that you use in your dissertation:
  • Number figures and tables separately
  • Number them consecutively, using Arabic numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 3, etc.) in the order that they appear in the text
  • Each figure or table should have a title

For example:

Figure 9: Example of writing figures

Figure 10: Example of a table

  • Check very carefully that the numbering and page numbering are all correct in your list of tables and figures
  • Always provide a source for any figure or table that was not created by you, and give a full citation for the source in your reference list

Remember:

‘Figure’ refers to any graph, chart, photographs, drawing, picture or other illustrations.

For example:  illustrations in a design dissertation has 'figures’.

If including a figure or table, refer to it in the body of your paper at the point where it appears.

  • the sequence of appendices should be given using capital letters of the alphabet (A, B, C, etc.).
  • list them by their letter in the contents page 
  • give each appendix a heading in the form ‘Appendix A’, ‘Appendix B’, etc., as well as a descriptive title.

For example:

“Appendix A: Copy of survey questionnaire”

Page numbers

As far as page numbering goes, there are four sections to your dissertation:

Title page

Your title page should have no number.

Preamble

The preamble is everything between the Title page and the Introduction:

  1. Abstract
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. Contents 
  4. List of Tables and Figures.
  • Use small-case Roman numerals (i.e. i, ii, iii, iv, etc.) to number.
  • Insert a section break between the pre-amble and the main body.

Main body

  • Includes everything from the Introduction up to (but not including) the appendices.
  • Use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) to number.

Appendices

  • Use the letter name of the appendix and an Arabic numeral. (i.e. A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2) to number.
  • Create a section break for each appendix and manually add the letter name into the footer.

Note:

All these sections, with correct numbering, appear in the general dissertation template which can be accessed below.

Format

Font

  • The standard font for Southampton Solent university is Trebuchet MS.

Line spacing

  • Set your line spacing to 1.5 lines.

Indents or breaks

  • Leave a space of one line between paragraphs, rather than indenting the first line
  • Set your spacing at 12pt after a line.

Margins

  • The left hand margin should be set at 3.2cm (1.25 inches)
  • The right hand margin about 2.5cm (1 inch).
  • Approximately 3.8cm (1.5 inches) should be left free of text at the top and bottom of each page.

Section headings

  • Sections headings should be left aligned, bold and numbered.
  • The numbering should be the same as given in your contents page.
  • Make sure you are consistent in your numbering of headings and sub-headings.

Remember:

There may be some variation in your department’s requirements.

For example: some departments may want you to indent as well as leaving a line space. Check with your supervisor or your department’s guidelines.

Presentation

Try and follow the presentation points below:

  • Use white A4 paper of a reasonable thickness (not too thin and not thick like card)
  • Single sided (print on one side of the paper only)
  • Bind and cover your paper – plastic comb binding is the most common way
  • use the standard Solent University front and back cover that has window in the front to show the assignment details

Look at the example title page above. It has the dissertation details in the correct place to appear through the cover window.

Remember:

If your dissertation is in any way different to the normal format (as, for example, some design dissertations may be), consult your supervisor for correct presentation.

If you check your work electronically using turnitin, add an electronic cover sheet to your assignment. Get a copy of this from your Unit page, or visit Online Submission using Turnitin. The final submission of your dissertation will not normally be done online using Turnitin.

Binding

Professional binding
For advice and guidance, email the university's Print Centre at print.centre@solent.ac.uk or visit the collection desk, on the lower floor of Mountbatten Library. Opening hours are 8am -5.30pm Monday to Friday.

Online orders including posters, dissertations and a wide range of printing, finishing and binding options can also be placed using this Canon Print Centre link.

What type of binding should you use?
  • First of all, check the expectations of your department.
  • How important do you view this paper you are handing in? If it’s really important, then surely it’s worth the cost of having it professionally bound.

No matter how well bound your dissertation is, the content is the most vital part.

Submitting your dissertation

Dissertations are normally exempt from online submission using Turnitin. However, it is a valuable tool for checking your work prior to the hand in date. Your tutor will need to have set up a turnitin link on your course page to do this.

You can get more information on online submission elsewhere in the Successful Study Guide.


Dissertation proposals & dissertation checklist

Before submitting check that you have completed all required details.

Front cover:

  • What is required? If in doubt check with your faculty but as a minimum you should include:
  • Your name
  • Your faculty/course name
  • The assignment/project title (if specified)
  • Your proposed title
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Date of submission

Main text:

  • Is your title meaningful?
  • Does your statement clearly define the problem?
  • Is your purpose in undertaking the study clear?
  • Have you set out your aim/s clearly?
  • Are your objectives clear and measurable?
  • Is your methodology sufficiently clear that someone else could replicate your study?
  • Do you have the necessary resources to complete the study?
  • Is your timetable realistic?
  • Are your sections/chapters sufficiently developed that your supervisor will be able to see where you are going with this?
  • Are your references complete and in the required format?

Academic style:

  • Is your title meaningful?
  • Does your statement clearly define the problem?
  • Have you checked the word count?
  • Have you checked the layout? (Does your faculty have any specific requirements e.g. numbered sections/paragraphs?)

Remember:

When submitting any written work online via turnitin you need to add an electronic cover sheet to your assignment. You can get a copy of this from your Unit page, or visit Successful Online Submission.

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism is taking the words, theories, creations or ideas of another person and passing them off as your own.

Plagiarism can be deliberate – copying a passage from a book or journal or pasting something from the internet into an assignment without referencing the original source.

You can also commit inadvertent plagiarism which is where you unintentionally repeat some of the information you have read in the course of your research. You must ensure you do reference ALL material that comes from another source so question yourself as to whether you have read the information elsewhere and go back to your sources to locate the reference.

Plagiarism can also result from not referencing correctly. You must ensure you know how to reference your work using the style advised by your tutor.


Watch this video to find out more about avoiding plagiarism:

Consequences

Plagiarism is a serious issue that can result in failing an assignment, failing the year or even having to leave the course. All forms of plagiarism will be taken seriously - deliberate or not!

Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct. Southampton Solent University has clear guidelines on student academic conduct and procedures for dealing with academic misconduct. Make sure you are familiar with these by looking at the links on this webpage:

To avoid plagiarism, make sure you include references within your assignment to all sources you use and then include full details of all the sources in a reference list at the end of your work.

To find out more, download the Avoiding plagiarism summary below.

Test your understanding of what plagiarism is by clicking on the links below.


Extra resources

Reading List

Read a book or ebook from the Dissertation Proposals and Writing Dissertations reading list.

The following titles are available from the library:



Post-graduate study

Subject specific books and ebooks

Recommended websites.
This is currently being updated.

Downloadables

Documents used in this resource

More help

If you'd like some more help with dissertation proposals and writing dissertations you can:

  • Ask your lecturer for guidance.
  • If you are a disabled student you can also contact Access Solent for guidance and support.
  • View the glossary to help you understand the words used in this book.
  • Read a book or ebook from the reading list found in Extra resources.
  • Visit recommended websites in Extra resources for further guidance on dissertation proposals and writing dissertations.

If you have any feedback about dissertation proposals and writing dissertations. or additional material you'd like to see in the course, please email us at lt.help@solent.ac.uk

Thank you to all staff and students at Southampton Solent University who contributed to this course.

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