How To Approach Your Masters Dissertation

Choose a topic you love, relevant to your discipline

It might seem straightforward but this first step is a crucial one: you will have to deal with your topic during months, often locked in the library in summer times! It is then strongly advised to pick a topic dear to your heart. Speak to your supervisor about the applicability (and especially if you are to do fieldwork) and the relevance of your research interests to the discipline. Your topic has to draw on existing studies, interestingly going beyond and questioning them. Consequently, it is important that, already at this stage, you have done a significant amount of research on your field of interest. See our dissertation tutor page for more information. Also, it is always a good idea to construct a calendar with your supervisor to agree on the dates you can send him/her your questions and our drafts.

Further research secondary sources

When your supervisor agrees on your topic, try to collect as much information as you can to build a strong expertise of your theoretical area. Your supervisor can advise on the fundamental secondary sources you should start with. It is always safe to depart from one or two of your modules in order to get inspired by specific research themes and relevant reading lists. In all of your readings, choose one or two studies that will be the foundation of your argument, used to introduce theories and cast doubt on them. Remember to always be critical: your own argument must be increasingly clear at this stage.

Organising your thoughts

You are now ready to write a specific research question and research hypothesis. Take some time at this stage: it is important take distance on what you have read so far. Along with these, send to your supervisor an outline as detailed as you can.

Writing Your Master Dissertation

When your supervisor validates everything with his/her comments, start writing! Writing will allow you to further organise what is in your mind. You can keep reading while writing: it will help you sharpen your critical viewpoint.

Edit and submit, finally

Allow yourself one to two weeks after you have sent a first draft to your supervisor to revise everything. Again, it is good to take distance on what you have written and on the construction of your argument. Wait for your supervisor’s comments; they are precious! Make the necessary changes: editing is rewriting the content as well and organising your argument further. Keep two days to review spelling mistakes and the general format. Also, remember that referencing takes a long time! One day for constructing your bibliography list is necessary.

Now, you can submit!

Additional resources:

Top Tips for Avoiding Dissertation Stress
Writing Skills
Deciding if a History of Art Masters is for You

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