It would be pretty impossible to write your dissertation without a solid base of research.
With that in mind, you must collect the best quality research you can.
There are some fairly common mistakes made by students during the research phase, which can impact the credibility and effectiveness of the final piece of writing.
Remember this as we dive into my biggest dos and don’ts for carrying out your dissertation research!
Do – Collect Your Information from a Range of Sources
Quite simply, the more resources you use, the more thorough your research.
It’s easy for students to fall into the trap of collecting all their research online.
After all, it means you don’t have to move. And it’s all at the click of the button!
While it’s possible, it’s certainly not recommended.
Remember, all of the sources you’ve referred to or cited in your final piece will get compiled into a reference list.
Which of the following do you think is going to impress an assessor more?
- A reference list comprising solely of web links.
- One which shows a range of sources, from web pages to textbooks and academic writing.
Of course, it would be the latter.
Using a variety of sources shows the assessor that you’ve taken the time and effort to find the most in-depth and relevant information you can.
Not only that, but you can often find information in one source that you can’t in another.
For example, there may be a highly relevant study that you can find in print in your institution’s library. But it, might not be available online.
Show pride in your work, and prove that you haven’t just tried to take the easy road.
Don’t – Trust all Web Information Without Cross-Checking it First
Not cross-checking is possibly the biggest trap students fall into.
DO NOT TRUST WIKIPEDIA ALONE!
Although Wikipedia isn’t the only site this applies to, it’s probably the biggest.
Anyone can edit that information without it needing to be confirmed before it’s published.
For example, as a general member of the public, I could go onto a page about horses and say that they’re descendants of prehistoric unicorns.
You know that isn’t true (as far as we’re aware), but I could post it anyway.
Now, consider that someone has posted believable false information regarding the topic you’re researching.
It could seriously impact the credibility of your dissertation.
As a general rule, try and confirm your information by cross-checking it with at least one other source.
For example, if you find a piece of information in a book, perhaps try and find the same information online to check it’s reliability.
When using websites, you may be able to find links to the sources they used for their information.
For example, if you scroll to the bottom of a Wikipedia page, you can find links that the users gathered their research from to enable you to cross-check.
Where possible, try and find at least two unlinked sources.
So, if you can only find one other source besides the one you found and one of them references the other, you may want to question its credibility.
Do – Take Note of Where You Found Your Research
There’s nothing worse than coming round to using a vital piece of research, only to find that you have no idea where you found it.
Of course, you don’t need to write out full citations at this point, but it’ll help to make a note of where you found the information.
If you found a particularly useful study, write down its title and the name of the publisher or author.
Or, if you find a quote or specific snippet of information, copy the web-link next to it in your research. If it’s from a textbook, write down the book name, author, and page number.
Giving yourself directions to the research will come in especially useful during writing.
Always make a note of what sources match what information.
Then, you won’t waste time scouring through your source list to find what you want.
Don’t – Try and Tailor Your Research to a Detailed Plan
You may have an idea in your head of how you’re going to structure your dissertation.
Although you might think finding research explicitly matching what you have mentally planned for each paragraph will help you, you’ll most likely find it hinders you.
You could miss a golden piece of research that could completely change your dissertation, and consequently, your grade.
The majority of students don’t stick to their original plan. So, if your research is too tailored, you could end up in a bit of a sticky situation.
Keep an open mind.
Complete broad research, and then start to narrow down your points.
At least then, you’ll always have extra information or alternative options if things don’t quite go to plan.
Do – Ask For Guidance
Don’t be scared to ask for help!
If you’re struggling with your research, speak to a tutor or a suitable member of the academic staff.
They should be able to help guide you and possibly direct you to the best resources for your topic.
Even if they aren’t very knowledgeable about the subject of your dissertation writing, they should at least be able to assist you in figuring out how to find the information.
For example, a library assistant could help you to locate a specific book, or they could show you how to check what books are available to you.
On the other hand, a tutor may be able to recommend a relevant book or direct you to a trustworthy online source.
Of course, the work does have to be your own. But that doesn’t prevent you from seeking advice if you need a little boost!
Don’t – Spend Too Much Time on Researching
While it’s imperative to have thorough and comprehensive research, you also need to leave yourself plenty of time to write the dissertation itself.
Don’t forget, a large chunk of your initial research is likely to be disregarded as you narrow your work down to more specific points.
Yes, you need to have plenty of information available for you to use, but you don’t want to spend so much time finding it that you compromise your ability to write the dissertation.
Remember, it’s the final product that’s going to provide you with your marks.
Make a plan, and find the right balance between researching and writing.
Ready to Research
If you found this blog useful, you should check out our blog “5 Tips from Past Students to Confidently Smash Your Dissertation Writing (Updated 2020)“.
Do you have any other dos and don’ts that you swear by when completing your dissertation research?
Let us know below and share your ideas.
You never know, you could have the one tip someone seriously needs!