How to Write a First Class Dissertation

From The Graduate Research Blog

Articles full of expert guidance and advice on improving your writing skills and your time at university

How to Get a First in Your Dissertation

A dissertation paper has two main goals: 

(i) to prove that the student has acquired extensive knowledge about a selected topic and,

(ii) to demonstrate the student’s ability to use pertinent research methods for their selected study. 

Understanding how to write a first class dissertation implies a level of knowledge and training fit for future academic endeavours, as well as for achieving professional and/or personal goals.

What Makes a First Class Dissertation?

A first class dissertation is a research paper of the highest quality, with a final grade of at least 70 percent. This mark implies that the thesis will show signs of excellence when it comes to clarity, presentation, originality and an understanding of the key issues; furthermore, a first class dissertation shows evidence of the student’s independent manner of critical thinking and judgement.

Communication and Feedback

Whilst learning how to write a first class dissertation, students need to acknowledge and understand the importance of constant communication with their supervisors. The steady feedback offered through this channel will help to ensure that any problems encountered during the course of research will be dealt with immediately. Avoiding one’s supervisor is a potentially costly mistake, often resulting in the student receiving a second or third class grade for his or her dissertation.

Writing the Dissertation Paper

A student who knows how to write a first class dissertation is able to understand and apply the knowledge offered by his bibliographical sources in a creative manner that demonstrates critical thinking and originality. Furthermore, a first class dissertation requires an excellent use of writing skills when constructing the arguments and bringing the evidence for a certain point of view. The chosen bibliographic materials need to be of the utmost relevance and recency, regardless of the where the student has acquired them from (Internet websites, libraries, etc.).

Generally speaking, a dissertation consists of several separate sections. These will be logically structured and should flow in a coherent manner.

First Class Dissertation Structure

Your dissertation should always begin with a title page, followed by an acknowledgements page.

You may need to include an abstract. One paragraph would ordinarily be sufficient. Your abstract will cover the major aspects of the entire paper in a logical sequence that includes: 1) the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated; 2) the basic design of the study; 3) major findings or trends found as a result of your analysis; and, 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions.

A table of contents will follow the abstract and should include all of the sections and subsections of your dissertation for the ease of a readers navigation and overview.

The introduction should be the first chapter and serve to provide a background of the chosen study. A well-written thesis needs to be properly introduced within this section. Any student looking to write a first class dissertation needs to be able to attract and prepare his or her readers for the content detailed within the paper. By emphasising on the goals and objectives the dissertation aims to achieve, the author makes the audience more perceptive to the arguments brought forth within the study. A good hint would be to go back and edit your introduction once the dissertation is finished. The introduction is one of the most difficult parts to write of an academic thesis due to the need to covey the contents of the paper in its entirety.

The literature review should serve as the second chapter of the thesis; in it, the author underlines the problems that are going to be discussed, researched and studied, whilst presenting every relevant piece of evidence pertinent to the subject. By analysing the theories presented by the current understanding displayed in the literature, you will prepare the grounds and form the basis for the next section of the dissertation, the methodology.

The methodology will serve as the third chapter and looks in detail at every specific method of data analysis used in undertaking the thesis’ research. A first class dissertation award will imply the ability to use qualitative research methods in addition to quantitative ones. Any ethical considerations in collecting the data should be made here along with an explanation as to why the research methods decided upon for the study were chosen. The specific methods of analysing the data will also need to be addressed. Overall, the better the author explains the methods and processes used for bringing forth evidence to the thesis, the more credible the final paper will be.

A good academic impression is built by offering arguments for all the pros and cons related to the subject matter of the thesis. Someone who knows how to write a first class dissertation will bring evidence both for and against the subject they aim to prove, and will not refrain from admitting the limitations of the study and highlight any areas which could be improved upon in the future. Furthermore, every table, statistic, figure or chart presented within the dissertation needs to be thoroughly explained; a failure to do so will likely result in losing valuable marks which could make the difference between a 2:1 grade and a 1st class award.

The results and analysis can take the form of one or two chapters depending upon the thesis. This section will detail the results of the research undertaken and analyse these in line with the methods detailed in the methodology section. The analysis section often includes a justification of the methods used. It is often the most technical part of any research paper.

The findings and discussion is a purely descriptive section. The analysis takes place in the analysis chapter but here is where the findings of the analysis are presented and discussed in relation to the projects overall aims and objectives.

The conclusion provides a recap of the whole discussion and brings it to a satisfactory end. Every current issue related to the chosen research topic is to be presented in this section, without adding any new information that asks for or requires any additional explanation. A first class dissertation will also present the limitations encountered during and upon concluding the research, and direct the reader to other recommended studies that can provide additional information about the subject. A good conclusion offers a sense of closure to the paper and reinforces the author’s credibility at the same time; like the introduction, the conclusion is a section many students find quite difficult to construct.

Lastly, the works cited or references page and the appendix are to be added at the end of the dissertation. Pay attention to the formatting style you have chosen; any inconsistencies will automatically lead to the loss of all too valuable marks.

The Use of Language, Style and Formatting

Aiming for a top mark requires paying proper attention and respect to the language and style used throughout the thesis. A first-class academic paper should be written in a third-person, formal style and use the appropriate terminology throughout. Remember that consistency is key!

A student who knows how to write a first class dissertation will avoid colloquial and informal expressions; however, an overt and excessive use of scientific terminology or technical language is undesirable. Clear, concise sentences are the most appropriate method for making oneself understood. A pompous style employing lengthy sentences and intricate wordplay will likely diminish the interest of the reader. This is something you desperately want to avoid.

It is recommended that you avoid using the first person in your text; “the researcher/author” is commonly used in academic papers when referring to the person who has devised and undertaken the study. Furthermore, words that express qualitative judgments (such as “bad”, “good”, “perfect”, etc) should be avoided, “correct” or “incorrect” being more fit for presenting your arguments or opinions.

Additionally, the specifications and conventions of the formatting style must be respected at all times. Most commonly, academic papers employ the Harvard or APA style of formatting, but many subjects and/or institutions specify the use of other referencing standards such as OSCOLA, MHRA or Chicago.

Last but by no means least, it is vital to proofread and spell-check your final dissertation. If you can show the paper to a native English speaker, do so, asking him or her to tell you where you might improve on your use of language to make the subject matter clearer. If you wish to know how to write a first class dissertation, then you must know that incorrect use of language and grammar will lose you marks. For the best results, consider using our Proofreading Service; furthermore, our Dissertation Writing Service can help you by providing an expertly written dissertation you can use as a model for your own study.

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