Dissertation Without Primary Research

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When you look back at all the things you do at university, well, the academic things, your dissertation should be the thing of which you are most proud. You’ll spend a large chunk of your final year, and probably a whack of your penultimate year, working on it: it will most likely be the lengthiest thing you produce as an undergrad, and it will sit on a shelf in your house long after you graduate, finished and bound like a proper published work.

It’s the thing you can show your friends and family for years to come – an essay’s an essay, but the dissertation looks and feels that bit different, that bit more significant. It looms ahead of you throughout first and second year, when all you really know of it comes from the harassed looking third years camped out in the library.

Your research will dictate the kinds of research methodologies you use to underpin your work and methods you use in order to collect data.

If you wish to collect quantitative data you are probably measuring variables and verifying existing theories or hypotheses or questioning them.

If you are going to use interviews you will have to decide whether you will take notes (distracting), tape the interview (accurate but time consuming) rely on your memory (foolish) or write in their answers (can lead to closed questioning for time’s sake).

If you decide to interview you will need to draw up an interview schedule of questions which can be either closed or open questions, or a mixture of these.

You will be familiar with many of these methods from your work and from MA, MSc or BA study already.

Interviews enable face to face discussion with human subjects.

You will need to ensure that questions are clear, and that you have reliable ways of collecting and managing the data.

Setting up a questionnaire that can be read by an optical mark reader is an excellent idea if you wish to collect large numbers of responses and analyse them statistically rather than reading each questionnaire and entering data manually.

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