Undergraduate dissertations

Planning your dissertation

Like all pieces of writing dealing with a specific topic, a dissertation has three main parts:

  • i. Introduction – says what the dissertation is about, defines your approach to it, defines terms where necessary, describes theoretical background if necessary and where your dissertation sits in it. If you are doing original research then the introduction says what and how (e.g. interviews, analyzing a week’s newspaper coverage of a particular story).
  • ii. Main body – discusses your topic, examining evidence and different points of view – divides your argument into clear, logical sections.
  • iii. Conclusion – summarises your argument but recognizes its complexities. Don’t duck difficult issues but don’t start introducing new material or start saying ‘But I think . . .’ Keep focused on your evidence and its implications.

There are two ways to plan your dissertation into these three parts: planning for length, and planning for content.