Undergraduate dissertations

General comments

To summarise, successful dissertations all share the same characteristics.

  • A clearly stated topic and research focus.
  • A clear introduction.
  • A well organised main body of between four and six distinct sections.
  • A conclusion which summarises what the dissertation has discovered, which does not duck the complexities of the topic and which, where appropriate, recognises the limitations of the approach the writer has taken.

Good dissertations also use comprehensive range of references – i.e. books, journal and newspaper articles, internet sources, conference papers, other materials like company reports or relevant legislation. If you have several pages of references but most of them are articles from Metro or The Guardian you are probably missing something.

Good dissertations also have an appendix or a number of appendices that bring together research materials. Remember: an appendix is not just a place to stuff photocopies. It is also another place to show active and original engagement with your subject. For example, if part of your research involved conducting a number of interviews all using the same questions, you could think about presenting the answers in tabular form as well as just including the transcripts.