How to write a business dissertation
1. Where to start with your business dissertation…
Choosing a topic may be relatively straightforward for you if you have a keen interest in one aspect of your course. Even if this is the case, you must still conduct a basic literature review to determine whether your topic is original or whether another researcher has already covered it. Duplicating existing research may cost you valuable marks so check out online databases such as ABI/INFORM for current articles on your topic before you submit your proposed research title.
If you have no research topic in mind, then your literature review may be quite broad and cover several different topics on your course to identity the most appealing and the best resourced in your university library. The availability of a preferred dissertation supervisor may also influence your choice of topic; having a helpful and approachable supervisor is enormously beneficial.
Once you have identified your topic, you need to develop a working title for your dissertation.
2. Writing a research plan for your business dissertation…
Your research plan should be an outline of what you plan to do, the resources you have identified that you will need, and your timescale.
Firstly you need to decide on your research strategy, which will probably be a survey or a case study.
In designing a survey, you need to identify who you are planning to ask to respond (your target group), how you are going to ask them (face to face, telephone survey, postal survey, or web-based survey) and identify / develop the resources you will need. Once you have identified your research questions, you will need to trial your questionnaire to ensure that you have eliminated any confusing, long or misleading questions. You should also clearly identify appropriate statistical techniques that you will use to analyse your data.
For case studies, you need to decide whether your focus is an individual, a group of people or a context. You will also need to determine a set of research questions and to identify how you are going to gain access to the individual(s) in your study. You also need to decide how you will analyse your data, whether you will use an ethnographic approach and explore themes and ideas, or whether you will analyse your data using statistical techniques that you have covered in your course.
Finally, your research plan must also contain a timetable of the important steps necessary to complete the dissertation by the deadline.
3. Getting your data…
If you have chosen to undertake a survey or interviews, you must have a clear idea of the approach and timescale. For face to face interviews be aware of your own appearance and conduct as this may influence how people respond to you; an open and encouraging approach will make interviewees perceive you more favourably. For postal interviews, ensure that you enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope and be prepared to send out a second copy of the questionnaire as a reminder and to encourage responses.
If you have chosen to take an ethnographic approach to a case study, your data collection will be very time consuming and the success of your dissertation will largely depend on how well you record your observations. Don’t forget that you are not just recording what people say. Think also about what you are seeing in terms of the key people involved, what they are doing, and how they interact as well as the physical environment.
4. Presenting your findings…
Having gathered your data, you must ensure that the data is appropriately recorded and analysed. Your research methods course should have prepared you for this aspect of your dissertation. If you are struggling with data analysis then it is crucial to contact your supervisor as early as possible; they can’t do the analysis for you but they can share vital tips that will save you time and stress. They are there to help you!
Presenting your findings is a crucial part of your dissertation, as a logical approach will reassure the examiners that you have approached your topic in an appropriate fashion.
Be very clear about the key points that you want to highlight, why these are important, and what significance these points have to the argument that you are presenting.
Think carefully about what data you present and don’t insert all your data tables in the main body of your report. Your findings section is about bringing out the key points in an attractive and readable way so use charts and diagrams and key tables in the main body and use the appendices section for less important (but still relevant) data.
5. Writing up your business dissertation…
Once you have your findings established then you can start to prepare the first draft of your dissertation. Remember to write in the third person, active voice or the passive voice and to accurately record all the sources that you have used.
To make sure that your dissertation flows, it is good practice to start each section of the dissertation with an introductory paragraph that outlines what the section is about and how it fits into the overall dissertation. Each section should also end with a concluding paragraph that states what the section covered and introduce the next section.
The format generally follows an established pattern
- Title page: your university will have guidelines on what this should look like.
- Abstract: this is a summary of your dissertation including key findings and should be no longer than a paragraph.
- Introduction: this is where you introduce your topic and outline why this is a topic of interest or importance
- Literature Review: this is where you say what others have written on your topic and where you outline why your approach is different
- Methodology: describe the research methodology chosen, why you chose it, and justify it as being appropriate for the research you undertook
- Findings: Outline your main findings and utilise captioned charts and diagrams to ensure that they are easily accessible and understandable.
- Conclusions: Write again what you did, how you did it and re-state the importance of your findings.
- References: Ensure you follow the referencing requirements of your university and list all sources used in writing your dissertation.
- Appendices: This is where you put tables of data and a sample copy of your questionnaire (if appropriate).
You now have a full first draft. Re-check your university’s guidelines on formatting a dissertation and complete the final edits before getting your dissertation bound.