An English language dissertation is a substantive academic piece of writing at postgraduate level – Masters or Doctoral – that aims to defend a thesis or position and, by doing so successfully, contributes original research and insight to the field of English language studies. Understanding how to write an English language dissertation is the first step in achieving the demanding academic objectives of original and significant research in your field. Learning how to write an English language dissertation then, is probably the most important part of postgraduate studies.
How to begin to write an English language dissertation.
There are two major components to learning how to write an English language dissertation. These are:
- The planning, research and note-taking phase
- The structuring, organising and writing phase
Understanding how to write an English language dissertation begins with the deceptively simple task of developing a clear and achievable objective within a given topic or area of research. When writing an English language dissertation, the topic will change over time, as research and reading brings to light new ideas and questions, until it develops into a very specific focus based within the original research topic of interest.
The planning, research and note-taking phase should begin as soon as possible, but the structuring, organising and writing phase should also begin sooner rather than later. This is because both phases are mutually supportive. It is important to remember that learning how to write a successful and significant English language dissertation requires numerous drafts. With each new draft, the topic of the thesis becomes clearer and directs the student to further research. Both phases of writing an English language dissertation should occur simultaneously.
Planning how to write an English language dissertation.
The initial planning, research and note-taking phase begins with developing a topic, usually in collaboration with the student supervisor. The supervisor will be the first point of contact and this is where you begin by sounding-out your ideas for a suitable topic.
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The topic chosen for an English language dissertation will be general, at first, for example you may be interested in the sociolinguistic aspect of the English language. Begin by reading widely in sociolinguistics until you uncover a specific aspect that might come up in the literature, but that has yet to be explored further. This gap in the research is where you may focus your own research project and offer something new in the field of sociolinguistics. For example, a more appropriate research topic would be to consider how sociolinguistic theory of the English language may offer insight into the fiction of migrant novelists. When you have decided on a narrower topic of interest, you must be able to write it up in about eight words. This will be the title of your English language dissertation.
Learning how to write an English language dissertation, however, is not just about coming up with a topic and writing about it. A student faced with the task of writing a dissertation must balance two things: theoretical research and practical activity. The theoretical aspect simply refers to reading, research, analysis and evaluation. The practical aspect involves personal and time management, setting deadlines and meeting them. It is important to address the practical aspects of writing your English language dissertation as soon as possible, by doing the following:
- Develop a draft title for your dissertation
- Write up an initial reading list
- Write an outline of the dissertation
- Set a date for completion of initial reading list
- Set a date for a first draft
- Set dates for subsequent research deadlines
- Set dates for subsequent drafts
How to write an English language dissertation with effective structure.
Learning how to write an English language dissertation also includes learning about structure. Individual universities and supervisors have their own expectations of how a dissertation should be structured, so in all cases it is best to refer to your supervisor and to your departmental handbook for writing an English language dissertation. In general, however, your dissertation should be structured like this:
- Title page: Include the title of your dissertation, your name, your supervisor’s name, and department and course information.
- Abstract: Summarise the introduction, body and conclusion of your dissertation in around 125 words.
- Acknowledgements: Thank the people who have been instrumental to you during the writing of your English language dissertation.
- Table of contents: List the chapters and sections of your dissertation with page numbers.
- Introduction: Introduce your thesis, outline the scope and structure of your dissertation and anticipate your conclusion.
- Main body: Present in complete detail your research and reading, respond with your analysis and evaluation of the research, and argue your new and significant perspective.
- Conclusion: State your response to the original thesis of your English language dissertation and conclude your argument. Remember that your conclusion must present something completely new in the field of English language studies. You may also make recommendations for further research along the lines of your topic.
- Bibliography: List your sources according to the style preferred by your university. Consult the style guides before doing this. Because this is an English language dissertation you will most likely use the styles preferred by the Humanities, such as CMS, MLA, Harvard or Oxford. Acknowledging your sources is as important as writing and researching, because it shows the breadth of your background reading and accumulated knowledge and avoids accusations of plagiarism.
- Appendices: Add information that is not necessary to your central argument but may be of interest to your reader for further exploration and research.
How to write an English language dissertation with effective style.
When writing an English language dissertation it is important to remember that this is a significant piece of academic work, no less than an intellectual and critical achievement. As such, your work must not only be original and give evidence of superior research skills and critical thinking and analysis, but it must also be written with style and quality that is indicative of your flair for academic reasoning.
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The purpose of writing an English language dissertation is to present your ideas in a clear and concise fashion, using vocabulary that is suitable to your purpose, and executed in an appropriate style to your subject. It is important to write well at both the sentence level and the overall level. Sentences should be grammatically correct and linked together to effectively present your analysis and argument. At the larger level, paragraphs should be organised in a way that allows the argument to flow naturally and logically to its conclusion.
The style and quality of your writing is the main tool that will help you showcase your research and critical thinking skills. Learning how to write an English language dissertation in the style appropriate to the field is the best way to exhibit the desired academic ideals of critical thinking and and significant research at the culmination of your studies.
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