Undergraduate dissertations

Planning for content

Now we’ll look at planning for content using an actual dissertation as an example.

The title of the dissertation is:

Analysis of British press coverage following the attacks in America on September 11th, 2001. Did the British press aid in perpetuating age old misunderstandings between the West and Islam by falling in line with historical patterns of representation?

The title is already telling the reader what to expect. The first part of the title is a statement that defines the general area of discussion. The second part is a question that defines the specific area of the dissertation.

This dissertation is divided into seven clearly identified and sub-headed sections plus references and an appendix.

Introduction – two pages or approximately 600 words, divided into three clear paragraphs which give: an overview of what the dissertation will do; an overview of how it will be done; and which explains what terms are going to be used and why, e.g. does ‘the West’ mean only the UK and USA or all of Western Europe.

History of representation – three and a half pages or approximately 1000 words giving a broad historical overview of Western views of Islam.

Muslims and Islam in the British press – three pages or just under 1000 words giving an overview of British press coverage of Islam in the context of the historical background discussed in the previous section.

Media commentary – two pages or around 600 words reviewing any critical comments on press coverage on Islam and any press guidelines that may exist.

Research questions and methods – one page or around 300 words outlining the newspapers to be analysed and the questions the analysis seeks to answer.

Research findings and analysis – approximately five pages.

Conclusion – one page.

Note: Some departments and some institutions will require you to begin your dissertation with a literature review. For a discussion of how to write one, click on Literature reviews on the sidebar.