Dissertations – Learning at Lincoln (2023)


Your dissertation will require extensive reading and research on your chosen topic.

Dissertations – Learning at Lincoln (1)

A dissertation (also known as an independent study) is a long document (usually around 10,000 words or longer at postgraduate level – depending on your course), where you will conduct a study, based on empirical research or library-based research which is focused upon a topic or hypothesis of your choice. Your study will present your analysis and findings and overall conclusions, with a focus on self-directed study. This form of assessment is normally undertaken in your final year of undergraduate study and at postgraduate level.

You will be allocated a dissertation supervisor who will provide support and guidance on research methodology, structure and help you develop and frame your ideas, whilst also suggest sources of information and provide feedback on drafts.

Although support and guidance are available, dissertations involve independent learning and you will be expected to manage your own workload to meet the deadline.

Your dissertation will be a long process and require more work than past essays you have written, so right from the off, it’s worth putting the effort in – it’ll make your life so much easier in the long run.

Rebecca – Lincoln Graduate

Preparing for & planning your dissertation

If you’re heading towards your final semester of second year then it’s time to start considering your dissertation and topic of choice. Your course may provide access to a module to help prepare for your dissertation, or provide research methods training, and it is acknowledged that if you’re on a course that doesn’t feature many essays this development for your dissertation may seem daunting.

The earlier you start researching, gathering the data, and writing, the better. The whole process needs all the time that you are given to complete. Each stage, including research, requires just as much time and effort as the actual writing.

If you’re unsure where to start try discussing this with your tutor, this can always be useful in determining your focus and plans at this early stage. You will also have access to a blackboard site and module handbook this will tell you what is required from each assessment, their percentage of the overall grade and what learning outcomes they cover. Your module handbook should also contain a reading list of recommended secondary sources. Take advantage of this, because you can use this to start your research.

Kathryn – 3rd-year Drama & English

Choosing your dissertation topic is one of your most important decisions, and deciding early on is very beneficial. If you can settle on your topic of choice (or even a rough area of study) during your 2nd academic year, this will give you extra time to get started on your research and data collection over the summer.

When deciding on your topic, choose something you are passionate about. You’ll be writing about this topic for an entire year, so it’s important you choose something that you are genuinely interested in and want to learn more about, otherwise you will lose motivation very quickly.

Think about topics or modules you have enjoyed studying on your course. Alternatively, consider your interests outside of your studies. With the right research methods, most topics can be used for your dissertation (which your personal tutor can advise on).

Jess – 2nd-year Creative Advertising

At the start of the dissertation process, you’ll need to find out whether there’s already a lot written around your chosen area or if sources are limited. Unfortunately, the only way to find this out is to do the research – read widely using books, journals, and other official publications.

This will help you to understand your area of research much better and confirm whether or not the hypotheses you’ve drawn are supported – you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll end up researching a topic if you find it really interesting.

Rebecca – Lincoln Graduate

Another benefit of choosing a topic you enjoy will hopefully mean that you will have already read around your chosen subject and may already have a few books you can cite or at least know will be useful.

If not, the summer break [before third year starts] is a great time to start reading a variety of different texts. These don’t need to just be academic books; journals, blogs, even podcasts are also great references to have for your study.

You don’t need to read an entire book to be able to cite it. When reading academic texts pick out certain chapters that you think will be helpful and make note of any areas you may want to reference later on.

If you use your time well and only do a little bit a day your research won’t seem like much of a job. In fact, you’ll probably enjoy finding out more about the topic you have chosen.

Jess – 2nd-year Creative Advertising

Once you have a clear understanding of your topic and the primary research you wish to conduct, make sure that you start your research process as early as possible. This is especially important if you need to inform the University of your plans if certain ethical permissions are needed before you can start researching.

Many research methods also require time, so the earlier you start, the sooner you can begin to write up your results.

Rebecca – Lincoln Graduate

The next step is to efficiently document and reference what you’ve read as you are researching, it will save you a lot of time.

By documenting which sources you have read, who wrote them, where you found them, what date you accessed them and how useful they were, you can easily find great sources to use as a reference when writing. This will also help you greatly if you are required to write a Literature review.

It will also save you having to go back through old texts that you can’t remember the context of, trying to find a quote you desperately need.

Even if you don’t find a text initially useful, you might find that later on your argument requires something from that text, so make sure you document it and what it refers to.

You can use an Excel spreadsheet to colour-code your references. This will also help greatly when writing your bibliography.

Kathryn – 3rd-year English & Drama

Once you have been assigned your dissertation supervisor and been given a slot for a tutorial, make the most of this support. Try and set up a meeting with your supervisor as soon as you are assigned to them, as this way you can share your ideas for research and they can help you in the correct direction of study.

These are great opportunities to discuss your initial ideas, and if you’re struggling to find a topic your supervisor can also help you come up with ideas.

Make sure you book in a few meetings with your supervisor to not only keep them updated on your progress but to give you some structure along the way.

It is especially important to seek out help from your tutor if you’re struggling. It can be tempting to avoid issues but the best thing to do if you’re feeling stuck is to ask your tutor for some advice. After all, they are there to help you. Frequent contact can also include just dropping them an email to ask a few questions.

Caitlin, Katie & Jess – Lincoln Students

It can certainly be helpful to get a head start on your dissertation during second year, but try not to worry or stress about it. If you don’t know what topic you want to do or decide to change your mind you still have plenty of time to work on it.

Your summer is also a much-needed break from your studies, so if you do choose to work on your dissertation during this time, try not to put too much pressure on yourself and take regular breaks.

Jess – 2nd-year Creative Advertising

Dissertation proposal

Give yourself time to explore your options when putting your proposal together. You’ll feel better knowing you have a good basis to work from and this will also reduce the work you’ll need to do when it comes to starting in September – when you’re busy learning all about your new modules at the same time.

You may also be required to do a short (around ten minute) presentation, giving the rationale, your area of study, the research question, and timescale for when you will have completed this research.

Once you have completed your proposal and presentation, you will have much more freedom to go and do the research that you set out in your proposal.

Caitlin – 3rd-year Film & Television

Starting your dissertation

Your 3rd year Semester A should be spent planning and writing first drafts and getting feedback. Semester B, therefore, should be all about perfecting it – finishing your writing, taking on feedback constructively and completing the writing process. Remember, referencing and [preparing your] presentation are vital tasks as well, so don’t leave them to the last minute.

It is also worth considering the other deadlines you will have around the same time as your dissertation deadline – being prepared will save you any additional stress as the deadlines start to pile up.

Jess – 2nd-year Creative Advertising

When you start writing your dissertation you will have lots of other commitments, like your other university work, a job, friends, household chores as well as finding time for yourself. It is therefore very easy to put off your dissertation especially when the deadline seems so far away. However, that date will come around quickly. So, entering 3rd year with a good idea of what you want to do for your dissertation and with a start on some research will put you at an advantage. From that point on, put aside one day a week or a couple of afternoons/evenings a week to solidly work on your dissertation.

To reach the final deadline comfortably it is useful to see your dissertation as separate smaller assignments – try setting yourself smaller deadlines to make the final one feel less daunting. With any essay, it is useful to have it completed in advance of the deadline to give you plenty of time for proofreading and formatting. Each course will have its own method of referencing, so make sure you know how yours is supposed to be laid out. (Head over to the Library for more info on referencing styles.)

If you have doubts about your original topic and decided to change the title, don’t worry. Try looking at some of your core textbooks and list areas that interest you and make a note of ones that would fit together well. With this, you will have the basis for a new idea to discuss with your dissertation supervisor.

You will have put lots of work into your original plan so don’t disregard the work you’ve already put in – some of it will still be relevant and your research could be adapted. So, don’t be disheartened, if you’ve given yourself enough breathing space you will have plenty of time to catch up.

Katie & Rebecca – Lincoln students

This can be one of the biggest challenges, but it is necessary to ensure you keep to the word count. Additionally, spelling, punctuation, and grammar are very important, and you could easily lose marks for mistakes – ask a friend or family member to proofread chapters, but like other assignments they cannot write it for you.

Taking regular breaks can also help the editing process. After taking some time away, you’ll see things that you didn’t notice beforehand or be able to re-write a section to make it clearer. Going back to your work with a fresh pair of eyes is definitely a good idea.

Beth – Lincoln Graduate

When you can’t think of what to write, don’t!

Go out for a walk, clean your room, do something menial that requires little brain power – subconsciously, you’ll be mulling over ideas and often, that’s when you’ll crack what to write next.

Beth – Lincoln Graduate

Dissertation support

Use the support available

If you run into problems, try to not let them get too big or leave them too long, seek advice whether it’s just a quick email or setting up a meeting with your supervisor.

Also, use all the support that is set up by your course/school to guide you in this module – you’ll need to understand the major steps and deadlines making sure the process is clear and there are no nasty surprises.

Sydney – 3rd-year English & Drama

Writing Help and Guidance

The University of Lincoln Library website has many things that you can look into that will help you start your dissertation journey. One of the most helpful is the ‘Writing Development’webpage that aims to help you with:

  1. One-to-one writing skills
  2. Exams and revision
  3. Editing and proof-reading
  4. Students with dyslexia
  5. Critical thinking

Before you book an appointment it’s important to know that they cannot proofread your work, but you can send a draft in and they can talk you through the process of how to do this yourself.

Research support

Your Academic Subject Librarian can help you find (and use) information but also help with referencing and study skills. They can help you find books that you are struggling to find by searching for something you may not have thought of.

Email library@lincoln.ac.uk if you want to book an appointment.

Find out who your subject librarian is.

Sydney – 3rd-year English & Drama

Dissertations – Learning at Lincoln (2)
Dissertations – Learning at Lincoln (3)
Dissertations – Learning at Lincoln (4)
Dissertations – Learning at Lincoln (5)

Book recommendations

  • How to Write Your Undergraduate Dissertation by Bryan Greetham (ISBN: 9781137389763)
  • Planning Your Dissertation by Kate Williams (ISBN: 9781137327949 / Library: 808.02)
  • Writing Successful Reports and Dissertations by Lucinda Becker (ISBN: 9781446298268 / Library: 808.066378)
  • Writing a Dissertation for Dummies by Carrie Winstanley (ISBN: 9780470742709 / Library: 808.066378)
  • How to Write Your Undergraduate Dissertation by Bryan Greetham (ISBN: 9781137389763 / Library: 808.066378)
  • Your Undergraduate Dissertationby Nicholas Walliman (ISBN: 9781446287071)

Sydney – 3rd-year English & Drama

Projects, dissertations and reports - Skills for Study

All University of Lincoln students have access to the learning resource hub Skills for Study, provided by the Library.

Follow this link to the Projects, dissertations and reportsmoduleand complete topics on:

  • Research projects
  • Conducting your research
  • Reporting your findings

You will need to login using your University of Lincoln credentials to access this learning resource.

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