All about resources for your paper (Part 2 Dissertations/Theses)

November 15th, 2007
By Jon H
All about resources for your paper  (Part 2 Dissertations/Theses)

Yesterday I posted about sources and their relevance to essays and reports, similar to a 3,000 word essay you could write at college or university as a student. Today, in this post, I’m going to delve into the world of dissertations and theses – which I consider one in the same.

No matter where you are in the world, if you’re on an undergraduate or postgraduate degree course then you’re going to have to complete a substantial paper of between 10,000 and 15,000 words. If you are a lucky one then you might have managed to get out of this, but your degree will probably not come with ‘honors’ or ‘hons’ – having an ‘hons’ is looked on highly in the world of work as it shows you have determination and a sense of achievement.

How Many Sources?

This is kind of tricky, as you will (most probably) need to conduct some type of secondary research as well as some primary research (I’ll cover more on this in December), so the amount of sources for each individual to stick to will need to be adapted and modified.

Carrying on with my train of thought, 10 secondary sources to every 1,000 words is still a good figure to keep in your head – you may go under or over this (hopefully the latter), but you will want to concentrate on reading as many resources that you can. There may be a newspaper article that relates to your hypothesis or area of study that leads you to another resource, theory or author. Now the newspaper story probably won’t appear in your references section, as you haven’t included the resource in the paper, but the resource that it led you to, should definitely be included, as the author had a sound grasp of theory and the topic, as well as some helpful incite, didn’t he? Thus, you could be reviewing up to 20 different sources every few days and only find one that is of particular use – I know time consuming isn’t it!

Types of Sources

Similarly to yesterdays post there are many wide ranging secondary data sources that you can relate to, reference and rely on when writing your research paper. Additionally, you will want to quote from your primary research that you have conducted, or some other uncommon resources such as using a past paper (a dissertation for example) or some information/data from a past paper that you, yourself have written – read below on why you would do this.

Don’t stick it in there ‘because’

If you don’t think you’re going to get many sources in your references then don’t just plonk a resource because the title is good, if you are not going to use the resource, or relate to it in you research paper then there is little point in adding it at all. Similarly, not adding enough resources could cause your readers to question your understanding of the topic and your ability to recognise key authors and theorists in your field/subject.

What to do if you don’t have enough resources? Think outside the box and find some more!

Style of Sources

When you’re writing a dissertation or thesis in higher education, you will find that choosing sources to reference from is key in allowing your readers to consider your research techniques as reliable. Selecting previous studies and research papers are of the utmost importance, as these will generally be recent research that has identified trends and patterns – some of which may have helped you form your initial hypothesis. Not concentrating on research papers written by professors and lecturers in colleges and universities can also be a mistake – a professor profile like this one will help you identify what research is relevant to the field you are in (scroll to the bottom for working papers).

Primary Research

When you are looking at primary research for your research paper, then this data ad resource will generally be conducted by you – interviews, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups – if you took the time to bring the participant(s) together with yourself and have got them to answer some questions (whether written or oral), or conduct a task and recorded the findings, then you have simply conducted primary research. This research is vital to your work and analysing it properly is important – even if you notice mistakes and huge gaps when you review the study, you can show that you have understood the process and the need for improvement. Identifying why and how you need these sources should always be apparent in your paper. They can be treated as credible sources, but their reliability maybe questionable – this you will have to discover for yourself. Generally, these sources appear in your appendices and you will relate to them as attachments/further reading.

Can I use myself as a resource?

Have you written a past paper that fits in well with what you are researching? Many a time I have quoted myself and other students who have written an essay or dissertation. It doesn’t matter if the paper has been published, you still need to reference the paper – generally the author, title, date and which course/university it was written at should be suffice. I did find though that it was sometimes strange referencing yourself in a paper, and even more peculiar citing words that you typed on the very computer only 6 months or a year previously – don’t forget to properly cite/reference this though, as plagiarism is a big deal! Know how not to get caught? Don’t do it!

Remember: The above amounts of sources, are sources that you include in your bibliography/reference list and that you cite or reference in your paper – you may review 100’s of resources, but don’t include them as they aren’t meaningful.

Further Resources

How to write a dissertation

Writing Theses and Dissertations

The Discussion

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