Writing a Master's Dissertation: Tips from 4 Experts

Writing a Master's Dissertation: Tips from 4 Experts

A master's dissertation—also known as a graduate thesis—is a formal written document that a learner will create in order to graduate from a master's program.  A student should write the master's dissertation on a subject related to his or her master's degree, as the master's dissertation is the final document that a learner will produce for the master's program and represents the culmination of the student's academic career (at least through graduate school).

Students will have to defend their master's dissertations in front of a panel of professors and experts in their fields.  Therefore, in order to create the master's dissertations, students not only need to research a particular topic in depth, but they also need to include all relevant information in their documents.  However, the panel of judges can ask students questions that are related to the master's dissertations, even if the information is not included.  

In order to create an effective master's dissertation, students need to spend a great deal of time studying a particular subject.  Students often spend months on research alone before they even begin to write the document.  Only once a student feels that he or she has a suitable amount of information and a purpose for the document should the student begin actually writing the master's reference project.  

Master's dissertations follow a very specific format.  In many cases, learners will be given formatting instructions from their graduate school programs that they will need to follow in order to create the kind of project that the program expects.  The dissertation will not only be lengthy, but it will also need to include a generous amount of information, after all.  

All master's dissertations will include an introduction into the topic and subject matter about which the student has written the document.  The introduction may include key concepts and terms that the learner will use.  Additionally, the introduction should contain a thesis statement.  A thesis statement is a one-sentence statement that a learner will prove to be true throughout the master's reference project.  

The master's dissertation needs to contain a body, which is where the learner will include facts and information related to the subject matter.  This information should be tied together in a conclusion, which is the end of the document and is the portion of the document where the learner will provide his or her insights and opinions.  Depending on the graduate program, a student may need to contain additional information in the master's thesis, as well.  

A master's thesis is different than an undergraduate thesis.  An undergraduate thesis is usually a document that a student needs to write in order to complete a course.  Undergraduate theses are usually more similar to term papers, in that they are documents that students complete after they research a particular subject in depth.  A master's thesis, however, is a larger body of work that takes a significantly greater time to produce and is a requirement to graduate from a master's program.

Viewpoint of Author #2

An MBA dissertation is a literary work that learners write in order to complete an MBA program.  MBA programs are graduate programs for students that wish to study business.  After a student completes an MBA program, the learner will hold a business Master's degree.  However, in order to complete the MBA program, students are required to write MBA dissertations based on topics that interest them and that are related to a particular business topic.  

In order to decide on an MBA dissertation topic, students need to consider what their special interests are.  Usually, when a student enters into an MBA program, students have at least a broad idea of what general topic they want to study in business school, such as organizational management, marketing, or human resources.  The MBA dissertation topic that a student chooses will often be centered on the student's special interests.  

An MBA dissertation follows the same format as a dissertation for any other academic subject.  First, the student needs to include an introduction.  The introduction will include information about the purpose of the report, background of the topic about which the student is writing the report, as well as an overview of the methods that a student plans to use (or has used) while researching for the MBA reference project.

The next section of the MBA report should include information about the specific steps and methods that a student uses during the research.  The body will include the results of the research, including information, ideas, themes, and additional background that is important for understanding a particular topic.  

The conclusion of the MBA dissertation will include the MBA student's specific conclusions at which he or she arrived after his or her research.  The conclusion is a very important part of the MBA dissertation, as it is often where a student will not only introduce new ideas in a specific field or industry, but it is also where a student provides tips for future students that wish to perform similar research.  

After the conclusion, MBA reports should also include an appendix and resources section in which the student sites his or her references, charts, photographs and other important information that he or she used.  

An MBA dissertation is different from a project that a student would write as part of a Ph.D. program.  A graduate program dissertation, such as an MBA dissertation, is written so that a student can graduate from graduate school.  However, when people generally refer to dissertations, they are referring to the projects that Ph.D.  students write.  

Dissertations that Ph.D.  learners write are very in-depth and lengthy formal academic documents that a pupil writes after a long period of research, which is usually months or years.  Dissertations often launch a student's career and serve as critical documents in a person's career.  Therefore, MBA dissertations are often lesser works than projects that a learner will write for a Ph.D. program.

Viewpoint of Author #3

An MSc dissertation is a long, original, investigation-based document that a university student writes as the final project in earning a Master of Science (MSc) degree.  MSc dissertations may be known at some universities as MSc theses.  In most cases, there is no difference between an MSc dissertation and an MSc thesis.  Both should be distinguished from a Ph.D. dissertation, which is the culminating project of a doctoral degree and is typically required to be much longer and more in-depth than an MSc dissertation or thesis.

Because an MSc dissertation is composed for a Master of Science degree, the majority of MSc dissertations will take the form of research studies.  This means that they will be divided into five chapters:

  1. an introduction;
  2. a literature review;
  3. a methodology section;
  4. a results section;
  5. a discussion section.

The introduction provides background information about the topic and asserts the researcher's reasons for investigating the topic.  The introduction section will also present the researcher's hypotheses regarding the study's outcomes and briefly describe the study methods that will be used to test these hypotheses.  Information regarding the study methods should merely be overview information, however, as a detailed explanation will be offered in chapter 3.

The literature review is the second section of an MSc dissertation, and often the longest.  In this section, the researcher will present a comprehensive overview of all existing scholarly studies that are relevant to his or her research topic.  Each study mentioned should be summarized in an objective fashion.

The methodology chapter of an MSc dissertation details the design of the student's study.  The description of the study construction and execution must be detailed enough so that other researchers could replicate the study if so inclined.  This section should also include a detailed description of any study participants, if included, and their demographic descriptors.

Following the methodology chapter, the student should present a detailed report of the study's results.  This includes a description of how the results were analyzed.  

Following the results, the student should provide a discussion of the results.  This is the chapter in which the pupil can suggest what the results mean and the impact these results may have for the student's field at large.  This section is also the place in which the pupil can make recommendations for future studies that can build on the student's own research.

All MSc reports should be composed according to the precise guidelines issued by the student's university.  Students can typically obtain these guidelines from their departments.

Viewpoint of Author #4

A master dissertation is a long, investigation-based document written as the culminating project of a student's master's degree.  A master dissertation is similar to a Ph.D. dissertation in that both are original investigation-based texts.  The primary difference between master and Ph.D. dissertations is in length and depth: Ph.D. dissertations will typically be much longer and more specific than master dissertations, often resulting in nearly book-length documents.

Typically, a master dissertation is composed over the course of one academic year, with the bulk of the research being completed in one semester and the bulk of the writing in another.  In the first semester of preparation, a student should determine a topic, gather a committee, receive approval for the topic, and complete his or her research.  The first step, determining a topic, is often the most difficult, simply because it is challenging to select an original research topic that one can generate sustained interest in over a year's time.  Therefore, this process is often done in collaboration with a student's professors.  Typically, the learner will determine a general area of his or her discipline in which he or she wishes to do more intense research, and then will devote weeks or even months of study to researching this area to determine how he or she can add something new to the area.  Throughout this process, the learner will often report back to his or her professors to receive guidance on how to refine an area of interest into a narrowly-defined topic for the document.

After or during the process of selecting a topic, the student should gather a master dissertation committee.  This committee should be comprised of three professors.  One will be the student's primary advisor, and the other two will be ancillary.  The advisor should have advanced knowledge in the student's discipline and an avid interest in the student's research topic.  Of the other two committee members, one should be a professor in the student's department, and the other is often required to be a professor from outside the student's department.

After the committee has been gathered, the student should present his or her topic to the complete committee in a formal document known as a dissertation proposal.  This report should outline the student's exact research inquiry and his or her method of approaching that inquiry.  The feedback received from the committee after submitting the document should be used as the student proceeds with the document.

Once the report is approved, the student should begin intense research on his or her topic.  Much of this research will consist of returning to sources reviewed during the topic-selection process to obtain more specific details and knowledge.  The research process will take weeks and perhaps months, so the student should be careful to take detailed notes of the process.  The student should also remain in close contact with his or her advisor during this time to report on his or her research findings.

When the first semester of work has been done, the master dissertation is as yet unwritten, but in fact very near completion, as the most difficult aspects of the process have already been finished.  Writing master dissertations simply requires the student to carefully and elegantly synthesize his or her research findings and thoughts.  This process is a lengthy one, but not nearly as work-intensive as the research and discovery process.  

All master reports should go through at least three drafts, all of which should be reviewed by the report advisor and/or committee.  This way, the pupil can receive suggestions on ways to improve the report several times before submitting.  It is also advised that all master writers enlist the assistance of outside readers other than their committees for feedback on readability, grammar, and style.  Often, an excellent source for this feedback is a university writing center.

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