How to write a dissertation – my top tips!

By | August 7, 2013

jie-weiStudent marketing ambassador Jie Wei is in the final semester of an MSc in Marketing and Management. The 25-year-old grew up in China in the city of Yunfu, in the Guangdong Province and has been working for his father importing marble and stone from around the world. When he returns to China, he plans to work in marketing. Here he explains what has helped him write his dissertation and what other students should know.

I can’t believe that in a matter of weeks my time here at Bradford University School of Management will be over.

It has been a very demanding year but I feel the next few weeks will be the most intensive as I put the finishing touches to my dissertation – most students here at one of the UK’s top management schools will write a dissertation between 15,000 and 25,000 words.

Here, I share with you what has helped me and what I have found most useful.

1. Why choosing the right question is so important

Dr Robert Lomas Lecturer in Technological ManagementWhen choosing what topic to focus on, I think it is a good idea to look at what impact it will have on getting you a job. There seems to be a differing of opinion over the role a dissertation plays in making you employable, but as Dr Robert Lomas advised in one of our previous blogs, it is definitely something to take into consideration when choosing your topic.

One of the most critical things I have learnt throughout this whole process is the importance of choosing the right question. It probably sounds easy but to be honest it isn’t, as you need to create a question that demonstrates your knowledge and will encompass what you have learnt on your course. My lecturers warned me and my fellow students not to pose a question that would be too hard to answer or one which would not allow us to show what we know.

2. How do I make sure I reach my deadline?

Managing your time when writing a dissertation is a priority particularly when you are doing an MSc or MBA as the courses only last one academic year, if studying full-time.

Sixteen weeks may sound like a long time to write your dissertation, but it really isn’t – it just flies by. That’s why it is so vital to have a plan – but just remember that plans can change and are dependent on your research and what you find out.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

At the School of Management, we are encouraged to produce three drafts of our dissertation. The first draft should be the one that answers the question – at this stage it doesn’t matter about how many words you’ve written or the style you’ve adopted – you deal with these at a later date.

What you need to show here is that you have answered the question posed and put forward the evidence in your answer. It is a series of steps and each one has to be justified.

As you work through your response, you will end up featuring a series of sub-questions that will need answering – remember your plan needs to be flexible and is dependent on the evidence you have uncovered.

To keep on top of things, I would also recommend you either research or write everyday – start out as you mean to carry on because before you know it, your deadline will only be days away. You don’t want to leave everything until the last minute!

3. How do I know if I am writing it in the correct format?

One of the best things I ever did was visit the Bradford University School of Management’s Management and Law Learning Resource Library to check out how dissertations should be written.

They have a good selection of dissertations and you can request to see one that has been awarded a distinction. Not only can you see why it has been given such a top mark, but it will also show you how to set a dissertation out.

When you are at this final stage, you need to make sure you have properly answered your question and explained it so that your reader can easily understand what you have written.

  • Then you need to check
  • All spelling and grammar
  • The font
  • Diagrams are labelled correctly
  • Layout
  • Word count

But this third stage is not one you can do in a hurry. Dr Robert Lomas, Technological Management lecturer here at one of the UK’s top management schools, recommends you take at least two weeks to proof read what you have written.

He suggests you read what you have written and then go away for a couple of days before rereading it – you will definitely view it in a different light and may see ways of making improvements.

4. How important is seeing my supervisor?

Having a supervisor, someone to oversee your dissertation is a really key factor when writing a dissertation. I have found this so helpful and what has been especially useful is the fact I can just email my supervisor as often as I want and she is always there to talk things over with me.

The benefit of talking with your supervisor is you may look at things in a different way or even consider an idea you had not really thought of before. I don’t think it really matters if they are experts in your chosen subject – they just need to know how to write a dissertation.

If you don’t get on with your supervisor, I would recommend you change as quickly as possible. My supervisor has been fantastic – she has given me great instruction and direction as well as inspired me. You really need someone who is approachable, reliable, reassuring and able to give good, relevant feedback.

But if you find yours is not as helpful as you would like, then request a change as soon as you can. Remember, you only get one chance to get it right.

Bradford UniversityStudying at the School of Management has been a life-changing experience for me. As well as being Marketing Ambassador, I have made friends from all over the world, had the chance to study in Spain and taken part in career workshops.

As a result of my MSc, I will be able to change my career path and work in a field I am passionate about.

Is it important to have a good supervisor or should you be relying more on your own judgement? What other tips do you have to produce a successful dissertation?

5 thoughts on “How to write a dissertation – my top tips!

  1. Dora

    Thank you. Your post helped me to know more about dissertation. I got your blog in Google while I am searching. I need to write a dissertation and this is the first time I am writing dissertation. I have many doubts. Your post helped me to clear some doubts.

  2. Hilary Emanuel

    Type it Tiger is a transcription company who help many students by typing up their dissertations for them. Dissertations can take students hours and hours to type up (especially if their typing speed isn’t very fast) so a lot of students send us their audio files and we type the files for them, saving them lots of time and then they’re able to go off and do other things knowing that their working is being typed for them. Have a look at our website

  3. Chris johnson

    My first priority in writing a dissertation is that it should always be meaning full and must be related to the title.

  4. Pingback: Writing a Master’s Dissertation – useful resources | Angela Gallagher-Brett

  5. morgana sundaram

    dear sir,

    im planning to write about leadership management and why local manager fails to meet that requirement.
    this research involves hotel industry. please advice how I able to come up with a question, I have experience in hotel industry more than 8 years.

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