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How To Plan A Dissertation Outline

How to Plan a Dissertation Outline

A dissertation is usually given to humanities and social sciences undergraduate students as a final piece of study before they become eligible to receive their college degree.

Some colleges offer alternatives to dissertations such as an extended essay or a senior paper or an independent self-learning project. This article gives an idea of how to plan a dissertation outline.

Create a to-do list

While a to-do list is great to ensure that you stay on track, it is also very easy to get carried away with making the list and ending up spending far more time than actually needed to make the list. On that note of caution, here is a set of guidelines that will help you create your to-do list to prepare for your dissertation.

  • Go through other dissertations submitted by seniors or other students

  • Choose your topic of interest and prepare your groundwork by doing some initial investigations

  • Write your proposal and/or decide on your research question

  • Get your supervisor's sign-off on your proposal

  • Decide whether your dissertation will be empirical or non-empirical; if your paper is going to be empirical-based study, then think through the methodologies you are going to use and get approval for these separately from your supervisor; get all necessary approvals for the empirical part of your dissertation such as ethical clearances and other regulatory permissions, if any

  • Remember there are going to be plenty of notes; decide how you will manage and keep them in order

  • Spend a lot of time reading; while you read your literature, make notes too

  • Read up on the advantages and disadvantages of the various research methodologies and make notes of these too

  • Begin to write the basic parts of your research methodologies and literature review although this will be an ongoing process till you finish your dissertation

  • Strategize how your entire dissertation is going to look; make outlines for every segment/chapter

  • Now, you can try writing the introduction of your dissertation to get an idea if you are able to get the flow of writing going; at regular stages, get your supervisor's nod on your various drafts

  • For the non-empirical part make a list of the key supporting evidence along with the list of credible sources used

While the above list is only an indicator, you might have to add or delete some points to create a list more suited to your actual dissertation. Moreover, remember to start working on the tasks in the to-do list. You can also add/amend the list suitably as you progress and make headway.

Planning for your dissertation

Your outline should clearly state what ideas and thoughts are going into each section of your dissertation. There are basically two kinds of planning methods that you can use to plan your dissertation outline; concept planning and linear planning.

In this method, you plan your work in the order of doing them starting with the first task and ending with the last task. It is a good method and gives you a vague, unambiguous outline, although making changes could prove to be difficult.

The linear planning method would usually take the order of the chapters/sections in your dissertation whereas the concept planning need not necessarily follow this.

Elements in your dissertation

Introduction/rationale – Why or what made you choose this subject?

Research question – Make sure you explain all the terms used in the research question so that the reader gets a clear idea of what to expect in the dissertation

Outline of the literature review – Make notes of the key thinker; what are they saying; are you in agreement or not; ensure you have the list of credible sources for this

Research methodologies – For an empirical study, get your questionnaire/interview/observation sheet ready, decide how you are going to present the data collected; for a non-empirical study, get supporting and counter-arguments

Conclusion – What have you found from carrying out the research? Is there scope for developing the idea?

References and Bibliography

Final Notes

A dissertation paper requires a lot of planning and groundwork to be done before you actually start writing it.

Our experts at Prescott Papers are highly skilled in writing dissertations and would be glad to help you. Do contact us for any kind of academic help.

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