Chapter 3 of the book discusses some of the challenges in getting started with your dissertation and highlights the importance of planning. Managing the workload of the dissertation and making careful plans for each stage is important, and doing so will help you to feel in control of the process.
You can find out more about techniques to manage your time in Chapter 3, and in this video:
As also noted in the book, each dissertation will look different. The subject, methods, methodology, data, sample and your own personal style will ultimately dictate how it looks. However, most dissertations include the same sort of ‘ingredients’ and these can become part of a checklist or ‘to-do’ list for your dissertation.
To help you even more with planning and managing your workload, as well as organizing your ideas for various stages of your dissertation, we have provided five templates to make the process more manageable, and equip you to deal with different milestones.
Remember, that the selection of dates and order you might like to do things will be personal to both you and your project. We therefore recommend you use these templates a basis for your planning, but that these plans should also be discussed with your supervisor.
A ‘to do’ list spanning the whole dissertation seems like an impossible task at the very start, but Planning Template 1 will help you to get on track with your planning from the outset. You should remember that your checklist might start very broad (as in this template), but should be refined as the process evolves. Keep in mind that you might want to begin by planning in months and make more specific dates as your ideas evolve.
Planning Template 2 will help you to identify your topic area and plan your literature review. As you might find as you go along, it can be tricky to get started and to generate research ideas/questions. An important part of achieving this is starting to explore what research exists and how this is all connected. Once you have completed a reading, try to add key points into Planning Template 2. This will help you to map out the most pertinent parts of the work can help you to identify your topic area and research questions. Using this template as a starting point, you might want to code readings according to themes or areas of interest, too, and you could do this using different fonts or colours.
One way to select your method or methodology is to think of this decision making process as a process of elimination, which will help you identify some suitable methods and methodological approaches, and their limitations. Planning Template 3 takes you step-by-step through this process.
The structure and content of the methods chapter of your dissertation or research project will vary according to each individual dissertation. However, Planning Template 4 outlines some key content that can be modified as you wish.
Planning Template 5 will help you identify key themes in your findings, start clustering your findings together according to themes or points of interest/contention, and return to your research questions, utilizing the information you have gathered as a focal point for analysis.