Dissertations and projects

As you approach the end of your studies at university you may well be asked to prepare a long piece of written work such as a dissertation or project. The specific guidance you receive will help you to work out many of the formal features, as projects and dissertations vary according to the subject or discipline, and the two terms may be used interchangeably. In some disciplines a dissertation means a 'long essay', and the only thing that makes it distinctive is its length. You are also likely to be given the freedom to choose your title. In other disciplines or subjects a dissertation is broken up into clearly signalled sections. If this is the case it is common for the work to be preceded by an abstract which provides a useful summary. This means that the reader can see straight away what your dissertation will be about. A dissertation or project may begin with a short review of the relevant literature. If it has involved some of your own research or fieldwork there may be a section on methodology, indicating how you carried out your research. You may also indicate the kinds of research questions that you are addressing and have a separate section on your analysis of the findings. You will generally need to develop your own argument which will be supported both by your own findings and by the literature that you have read and referenced. The specific structure of your dissertation or project is likely to follow any general guidelines that you have been given.

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