1. The Introduction
- Provide preliminary background information that puts your research in context
- Clarify the focus of your study
- Point out the value of your research
- Specify your specific research aims and objectives
2. The background sectionOne of the main purposes of the background section is to ease the reader into the topic. It is generally considered inappropriate to simply state the context and focus of your study and what led you to pursue this line of research. The reader needs to know why your research is worth doing. You can do this successfully by identifying the gap in the research and the problem that needs addressing. One common mistake made by students is to justify their research by stating that the topic is interesting to them. While this is certainly an important element to any research project, and to the sanity of the researcher, the writing in the dissertation needs to go beyond ‘interesting’ to why there is a particular need for this research. This can be done by providing a background section. You are going to want to begin outlining your background section by identifying crucial pieces of your topic that the reader needs to know from the outset. A good starting point might be to write down a list of the top 5-7 readings/authors that you found most influential (and as demonstrated in your literature review. Once you have identified these, write some brief notes as to why they were so influential and how they fit together in relation to your overall topic.
3. The research focusThe research focus does two things: it provides information on the research focus (obviously) and also the rationale for your study. It is essential that you are able to clarify the area(s) you intend to research and you must explain why you have done this research in the first place. One key point to remember is that your research focus must link to the background information that you have provided above. While you might write the sections on different days or even different months, it all has to look like one continuous flow. Make sure that you employ transitional phrases to ensure that the reader knows how the sections are linked to each other.
The research focus leads into the value, aims and objectives of your research, so you might want to think of it as the tie between what has already been done and the direction your research is going. Again, you want to ease the reader into your topic, so stating something like “my research focus is…” in the first line of your section might come across overly harsh. Instead, you might consider introducing the main focus, explaining why research in your area is important, and the overall importance of the research field. This should set you up well to present your aims and objectives.
- Appropriateness (each objective is clearly related to what you want to study)
- Distinctness (each objective is focused and incrementally assists in achieving the overall research aim)
- Clarity (each objective avoids ambiguity)
- Being achievable (each objective is realistic and can be completed within a reasonable timescale)
5. The ConclusionYour dissertation conclusion will do one of two things. It may fill you with joy, because it signals that you are almost done. Or it may be a particularly challenging test of your mental strength, because by this point in the dissertation you are likely exhausted. It is your job at this point to make one last push to the finish to create a cohesive and organised final chapter. If your concluding chapter is unstructured or some sort of ill-disciplined rambling, the person marking your work might be left with the impression that you lacked the appropriate skills for writing or that you lost interest in your own work.
To avoid these pitfalls, you will need to know what is expected of you and what you need to include in your successful dissertation conclusion chapter.
There are three parts (at a minimum) that need to exist within your dissertation conclusion. These include:
- Research objectives – a summary of your findings and the resulting conclusions
- Contributions to knowledge