How to write a dissertation for a University in the UK?

By on August 23, 2012

Dissertation writing is an important milestone in the way of achieving a postgraduate or PhD degree. A dissertation is basically research which intends to solve a specific problem by means of collecting and analyzing data. Dissertation writing should follow some established standards regarding the content and layout.

Different citation styles for dissertation writing

There are several citation styles for dissertation writing. Most common styles include:

  • Harvard style.
  • American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Modern Language Association (MLA) style.

The content however remains similar in every style but the referencing style and citation style differs. There are pre-established standards under every style which act as rules while writing a dissertation. Universities evaluate the dissertation on the basis of the writer’s adherence to these standards. UK style of citation is one of the most commonly used.

The content of the dissertation in UK style

The dissertation report generally contains the following chapters and headings in sequential order:

  1. Abstract: The abstract is a summary of the whole dissertation which guides the readers about the content and purpose of the dissertation. The abstract is short and generally written in around 100 words in the form of a paragraph.
  2. Introduction: The introduction chapter starts with the heading ‘background of the study to inform readers about the dissertation subject in brief. The introduction proceeds with stating the ‘problem statement’ followed by the ‘aims and objectives of the study. This informs the readers about the purpose behind selecting this particular dissertation topic. Next, ‘the significance of the study is to be provided to justify the dissertation topic. After describing the significance, the ‘limitations of the study are also required to be stated clearly. This informs the readers about the scope of the dissertation.
  3. Literature Review: The literature review is written to explain to the readers all the various aspects of the dissertation topic in detail. This is a compilation of secondary data gathered from various sources. A literature review should be written under various sub-headings and in a proper flow.
  4. Research Methodology: The research methodology is written to describe various research tools used in the dissertation. This is also written into various sub-headings. Commonly following headings are written:
    1. A Brief Introduction
    2. Research Theoretical Framework
    3. Research Philosophy
    4. Research Design Strategy
    5. Data Collection
    6. Sampling Plan
    7. Limitations of the Research Methodology
    8. Ethical Issues
    9. Summary
  5. Data Analysis: The complete analysis of both primary and secondary data is depicted here using various statistical and mathematical tools. If the data is qualitative, descriptive analysis is provided.
  6. Findings, Conclusion and Recommendation: The results of the data analysis are written under ‘findings’ followed by ‘conclusion’ and ‘recommendations’ on the research problem.
  7. References: References are provided to acknowledge the sources of data collection. Different universities adopt different referencing styles.

UK style of citation

Let’s have a look at the UK style of referencing. Two main aspects of citations are:

  1. In-text citation: The literature review is mostly a compilation of others’ works and therefore it needs to be properly acknowledged to avoid plagiarism. UK style prescribes an author, date system of in-text citation. At the end of the statement, the citation is provided like (surname of the author, year of publication).
  2. End-referencing: The end-referencing depends on the kind of source utilized for data collection. The referencing is done alphabetically according to the author’s name or the title of the work. The sequence and punctuation should be as follows:
    1. Referencing for Books: Surname, initials of the author. Edition. (Year of Publication). Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher’s Name.
    2. Magazines/Journals: Surname, initials of the author. (Date of Publication). ‘Title of the Article’. Title of Magazine. Volume Number, Issue Number. Page Number/s.
    3. Web Resources: Surname, initials of the author. (Date of Publication). ‘Title of the Article’. Accessed on: Date. Retrieved from: URL.


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