Dissertation Preparation Help
How to prepare for a dissertation
Dissertations provide the most challenging yet rewarding module within a law degree. They provide the candidate with an opportunity to address an area of law in which they have a vested interest, or address relevant legal principles to the era/time period in which the dissertation is being written. To prepare for a dissertation it is prudent for the candidate to choose a topic/area of law that they find appealing or have a continued interest in. This is because a dissertation is an extended piece of writing that will take several months to complete, thus to keep the candidate motivated in their work it would be prudent for them to have a high degree of interest in the area of law which they are addressing. In order to prepare for a dissertation, the candidate must set out his dissertation plan in accordance with the time period that they have available to them, and structure their work accordingly. In most cases a candidate will have approximately 12 weeks to complete their dissertation, thus to prepare for a dissertation, a three step programme is advised for undertaking the work. Step One is the Preparation and Research Stage, this is the most important stage of the dissertation process, as it provides a fundamental basis for the completion of the dissertation, as the old saying goes, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”, thus it is essential a candidate undertakes a in-depth and wide research to prepare for a dissertation. Step Two is the Writing Stage, this stage although time consuming is the most straightforward, as with a good preparation, the application and analysis in the main body of a dissertation is made a lot easier. Step Three of the dissertation process is the Amendment Stage, this should be the least time consuming of the three stages but may be the most frustrating, as it involves the re-reading of the dissertation, with the addition and deletion of text so that it conforms with the stated word count.
(i)Preparation and Research Stage
To prepare for a dissertation a candidate must conduct in depth and wide ranging research from a variety of different sources. The research stage is the most important stage of the dissertation process. When undertaking the research stage the candidate should outline the type of sources that they want to use, be they qualitative or quantative, primary or secondary. Reputable or recognised sources should be utilised for the dissertation, a list of these should be provided in the module handbook. Textbooks and official legal documents are essential sources, while legal journals from recognised online legal databases such as Lexis-Nexis, Westlaw and Hein Online will provide a valuable source of academic opinion and argument as you prepare for the dissertation. The preparation and research stage should take up around five to six weeks of the candidate’s allocated time for the completion of the dissertation.
The writing stage should be relatively straightforward if the candidate has prepared well in the research stage. The writing stage involves the application and analysis of the research that has been previously undertaken. The candidate should split this research into relevant chapters that will provide a flowing argument and analysis of the dissertation topic. This enables the candidate to separate the different strands of research that they have undertaken, and construct a chapter around the relevant research. To prepare for the writing of a dissertation, the candidate should look to apply a word count to each chapter to ensure the cumulative word count is in line with what is expected. The writing stage of the dissertation should take up approximately four to five weeks of the allowed time for completion.
(iii) Amendment Stage
The amendment stage is the most frustrating of the dissertation as it requires a close analysis of the work undertaken in both the research and writing stages. The candidate should ensure that all references are correct and accurate and from recognised sources as outlined in their module handbook. The candidate should also address any problems re the word count. Any removal of text should be done in a way that has no effect on the flow or structure of the argument being made. The amendment stage also allows the candidate to insert any other pieces of research that has been undertaken throughout the course of the dissertation. This is the last chance that the candidate will have to ensure that there are no errors in their work and that their dissertation addresses the question appropriately, using ain depth and wide-ranging research. At this stage it would be prudent to note that the dissertation also requires a literature review, this overlaps the research and writing stage as it the critical analysis of the sources which were used for the dissertation, commenting upon their usefulness in certain areas and how they lead the candidate to other sources. This literature review should not be carried out until the dissertation is completed as only then will the candidate have a full understanding of the range and usefulness of the sources utilised to prepare for the dissertation and complete it.
To prepare for a dissertation a candidate must be aware of what is being asked of them, and the best way to approach this. Time management is a key component when one prepares for a dissertation. If the three step model is followed the candidate will have a set timeframe to complete certain tasks. The model can be amended to suit candidate preference if they believe that they would personally need more time to complete certain tasks, some may want more time for writing than research etc. The candidate must stick to the timeframe closely, as it provides the best way of ensuring that the dissertation is completed on time with as little stress and trouble as possible. If the candidate is successful in handling their workload, the dissertation provides and opportunity to provide ‘guaranteed marks’ as opposed to another module that requires an extensive piece of coursework as well as a final written exam.