Guide to Writing your Thesis or Dissertation
This guide should be useful to both under-graduates and post-graduates who have to produce an extended piece of research as part of their course work.
The process of developing and writing a thesis or dissertation has been broken down into stages and each stage of the process is discussed separately.
Choosing a topic
It can be very difficult to choose a thesis topic however the following tips should aid in your decision:
- Try to remember topics that have been of interest to you during your 3rd level education.
- Look at your class notes to see if lecturers have mentioned potential research areas.
- Discuss possibilities with your lecturers or thesis supervisor.
- If you have a broad topic in mind look at the related literature to identify any potential research areas.
- Write all of your ideas down.
Preparing the proposal
Your research proposal can help to frame your ideas and act as a template for the thesis proper. It also justifies your research area to your supervisor/department. Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing and writing your research proposal:
- Have a look at past proposals to see how it should be written.
- In the proposal state your topic clearly.
- Outline the questions you will address and the possible results.
- Justify the topic you have chosen by stating its usefulness in your field and identifying gaps in the literature
The are a wide range of resources available to you in the library including
- online databases
- inter library loans
- subject internet gateways
For tips on conducting your research and using these resources please consult the library guide on Doing Research in the Library and other guides on individual resources.
Writing the thesis/dissertation
The two areas where you might run into difficulty when writing your thesis are in presentation and content. The following tips should help to keep you on the right track:
- Find a model thesis that will act as a template for the structure and layout of your thesis.
- Consult books on writing skills and presentation available in the library (call no. 808.02).
- Always have a copy of your thesis proposal at hand to remind you of the focus of your project so you do not become sidetracked with irrelevant information.
- Write your introduction early and make sure subsequent chapters fulfill promises made in the introduction.
- Keep your writing clear, unambiguous and to the point.
- Your conclusion should address any issues or questions raised in the introduction.
It is very important to receive feedback from your supervisor at all stages of your thesis to ensure that you are on the right course. It can also be useful to share your research with your colleagues and receive advice from them. To ensure that you are getting enough feedback you should:
- Arrange regular meetings with your supervisor as early as the planning stage of your thesis.
- Attend all formal and informal thesis meetings and presentations so that you can share your work with your colleagues, hear about their research and gain feedback from them.
Organization & time management
These are essential in order to ensure that your thesis is completed on time and that your research is keep in some coherent order so that you can refer to it easily. Some keys to effective organisation and time management are:
- Keeping labelled folders and files containing your research which are organised in such a way that you can recover items easily (e.g. alphabetically ,by date etc).
- Make a realistic timetable of how you hope your thesis to progress and try to stick to it.
- Set yourself deadlines for completing chapters so that your work progresses steadily.
- Make an outline of what you will cover in each chapter which you can refer to as you work.
Copies of theses and dissertations completed in previous years are held in the theses section of the library. All theses are reference only. To find theses for your subject please use the library catalogue.
Books on writing and ResearchThe library holds a small collection of books with advice on conducting your research and writing your thesis/dissertation. These books are available at 808.02 .
ProQuest Dissertations and Theses UK and Ireland
ProQuest Dissertations and Theses UK and Ireland is also available online. To access this go to the electronic resources page select ProQuest Dissertations and Theses UK and Ireland from the list. You will need your library PIN to access this resource.
There are a number of other print guides available in the library on writing, research, referencing and using library resources. There are also a number of useful online guides available. A full list of guides can be found on the library guide homepage.
The library has created online tutorials on:
For the full List of online tutorials go to Online Tutorials
There are a number of websites which give useful tips on writing your thesis/dissertation. Some well regarded sites include: