chapter  2
WHAT IS A (GOOD) DISSERTATION AND WHY DO I HAVE TO DO ONE?
Pages 11

First, your dissertation is ‘a piece of research’. This means that in the course of doing your dissertation you will need to try to find out something. This requirement is very important because it defines how you will need to go about your dissertation. It won’t be sufficient to write what you already know about a topic, or even to write what you and everybody else knows. It isn’t, therefore, a discourse or just a longer-than-usual essay. It is fundamentally different from most of the things you will have been required to write during your undergraduate course and is significantly different from any project that you may have done at school. Not surprisingly, it requires a very different approach. This may all sound daunting, but it isn’t. Challenging, perhaps, but not daunting. Remember, you only have to try to find out something – anything. It doesn’t have to be important or earth-shattering for you to produce a good dissertation. Naturally, if you do find out something important it will help your dissertation a lot. On the other hand, a good report on a minor piece of original research can gain you a first-class mark. (One of the decisions you will have to make will be how big or important a topic you investigate – see Chapter 4.) Equally, you don’t actually have to succeed in finding out anything. Many students worry when they discover that their cherished hypothesis comes to nothing and their results support what everybody thought all along. Although this may be disappointing, it needn’t affect the quality of your dissertation. We’ll have more to say about this in Chapter 10.