A geography dissertation is a lengthy and original investigation-based text composed by a geography doctoral student in the final phase of his or her degree. Geography dissertations are independent projects geography students complete after they have completed the required coursework and exams in their discipline. The dissertation is intended to reveal the student's in-depth knowledge of his or her focus in geography and ability to apply that knowledge to create new and important research.
University reports are intended to be very long; in this way, the report and dissertation process may be quite different from the other scholarly projects a geography student may have done. By the time many doctoral students reach the report level, they have already completed and published conference papers and perhaps even journal articles. Such documents are often modified into books in the future, so they are much longer and more in-depth than papers or articles.
As geography is largely dependent on study in the field, it is likely that most geography dissertations will be at least in part reports of the student's individual fieldwork experiments. Therefore, many geography dissertations will assume the standard scientific dissertation format, which is based on five chapters: (1) an introduction of the research problem and a statement of the study's purpose; (2) a review of existing literature on the topic; (3) a methodology section explaining the study's procedure; (4) a results chapter outlining the study's findings; and (5) a discussion chapter that suggests the implications of the results.
The introduction of a geography report should contextualize the research topic and suggest why it is important that that topic be studied. The introduction should also offer background information on the writer's topic, explain that topic's importance in the field of geography and beyond, outline the student's objective in studying the topic, and articulate the student's hypotheses regarding the research outcomes.
The second chapter of a geography dissertation is the literature review. A literature review is an overview of existing research that relates to the student's topic. All studies that help to inform or contextualize the student's research project should be summarized in this chapter.
Following the literature review, geography dissertations present what is known as the method or methodology chapter. This chapter describes the researcher's process of executing his or her study in such a way that another researcher could replicate the study based on the information presented.
The results chapter of a geography dissertation presents analysis of the data gathered during the study's execution. Most geography dissertations will be based primarily in quantitative data, so it is likely that the results chapter of a geography dissertation will include many tables, graphs, and charts representing that data. In addition, this chapter must present statistical analysis of the results in order to determine the results' significance. The instruments used in this analysis should be identified.
A geography dissertation will close with a discussion chapter. This chapter explores the relevance of the student's study and how the results can be applied in the field. The discussion chapter may also point to future areas of study that may build on the researcher's own work.
In addition to the five main chapters, most geography dissertations will also be required to include (1) pages of front matter including a title page, copyright page, approval page, abstract, table of contents, list of tables, and list of figures; (2) a comprehensive list of references; (3) an appendix; and (4) the writer's curriculum vitae.
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