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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

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How to Write a Dissertation

Last Updated: December 21, 2021

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Christopher M. Osborne, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been viewed 87,049 times.

A dissertation is a book-length piece of original and substantial research that is submitted as part of a person’s candidacy for a doctoral degree. [1] X Research source Writing a dissertation is a long, challenging process. However, if you take the time to prepare physically, mentally, and academically, develop the right topic and strategy, and write in a steady,well-organized manner, you’ll greatly improve your odds of success, both for finishing the dissertation project and completing your degree.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Step 1 Embrace the purpose behind writing a dissertation.

  • A dissertation proves your ability to produce original research with original, substantial ideas and analysis. As a professional, you’ll be expected to contribute to your field by producing new ideas that address existing problems or issues. Your dissertation serves as your first major step.
  • A dissertation also demonstrates your mastery of research design. It proves that you can perform research in a way that is acceptable for your discipline.

Step 2 Hone your time management skills.

  • Create a detailed schedule that includes both your larger research and writing goals and your smaller ones. Try to stick to the schedule as much as possible as you work.
  • Set aside time to relax when it is not feasible to do work anyway. For example, listen to audiobooks or podcasts while you drive to school. Catch up on your favorite websites while you eat lunch and dinner. Exercise while waiting for search or test results.
  • Sleep on a regular schedule. This will be incredibly challenging at times, but sleeping on a regular schedule will make you feel more energized and focused.

Step 3 Work on your stress management abilities.

  • Ease stress by exercising, listening to music, or watching funny videos. Look for activities like these that are easily fit into complex schedules.
  • Try meditation, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, or other recommended stress-relief activities as well. If stress is getting the better of you, visit your school's counseling center (if available) or talk to a licensed therapist about helpful strategies.

Step 4 Create a space where you can work diligently and without distraction.

  • Some people work best in a closed off room with a desk, while others prefer working in the library or a cafe. Seek out advice from colleagues and friends, but also figure out which type of setup works best for you.
  • Having a single dedicated workspace makes it easier to keep everything where you need it. However, some people work better if they move around among different workspaces. Again, this is up to your personal preference.

Step 5 Search for funding so you can treat the process like a job.

  • Writing a dissertation isn’t just doing a really big and long project—it truly is a job in itself. By securing funding, you’ll be better able to view and treat it that way.
  • Ask your department and advisor for guidance for the best sources of funding in your program and discipline.
  • Generally, seek grants rather than loans. Fellowships from your university are also extremely helpful.

Determining Your Topic, Strategy, and Thesis

Step 1 Develop an initial idea for your topic.

  • You’ll need a topic that fits into the context of other work already done in your field of study. In some cases, you may need to explore different fields in order to find the right context for your work.
  • Use your years of coursework and immersion in the field to come up with questions, concerns, or issues that consistently pique your interest.
  • As you narrow down your list of potential topics, ask yourself things like: “What can I contribute that existing scholarship has not?”; “Is this topic too big (or small) in scope for a dissertation?”; “Am I ready to dedicate years of my life to this topic?”

Step 2 Work with your advisor to fine-tune your topic.

  • Choosing the right advisor can go a long way toward making your dissertation process a success. Think carefully about how you fit, not only in terms of research interests, but in personalities.
  • Take your advisor’s guidance to heart as you narrow your general topic into a clear focus. However, keep in mind that this is your dissertation, so be willing and able to state and defend your case.

Step 3 Keep your committee in mind as you develop your strategy.

  • Don’t ignore your committee members until it’s time to submit a draft. Draw on their experience and knowledge as you fine-tune your topic, develop your thesis, and conduct research. Remember, they’re part of your team!

Step 4 Formulate your thesis as you conduct research.

  • Let your research guide you to your thesis, instead of trying to force the research to fit your thesis.
  • Treat researching, writing, and revising a dissertation as individual tasks. Don’t try to start writing when you’ve only done part of your research, or you’ll have trouble juggling the different tasks and may have to make major changes to your thesis along the way. [10] X Research source

Writing Efficiently and Effectively

Step 1 Create an outline to structure the writing of your dissertation.

  • Your school or department may require you to compose a formal proposal or prospectus, which can help guide the organization of your dissertation. Check your department’s guidelines to find out what procedures you need to follow.
  • A dissertation outline often follows the same basic form as shorter research papers, beginning with an introduction to the topic, giving some background, presenting research by previous scholars, presenting your own evidence, combating evidence which does not fit or contradicts you, and then wrapping up.
  • There may also be a discussion of your methods, but where that goes and to what extent it is integrated into other sections will depend heavily on your discipline.
  • Talk to your advisor and committee regarding the expected length and structure for dissertations in your program and field.

Step 2 Set aside a specific time each day for writing.

  • Choose a time of day that works well for you. If you are too tired to write at night, write in the morning. If your brain takes half the day to boot up properly, write in the evening.
  • If you’re suffering from writer’s block during your set-aside time, do some of the other “writing” that’s required in a dissertation. For instance, work on your bibliography, format your citations, or fine-tune your tables, graphs, or images.

Step 3 Pay attention to voice and tense in your writing.

  • In most cases, dissertations should be written in an active voice and in the present tense. You want to make it clear that you are engaging directly with the source materials and related scholarship, and creating something new.

Step 4 Avoid unprofessional or indecisive language.

  • Indecisive or conditional language makes your dissertation feel weaker. You do not want to say that your thesis is “probably” right or that this evidence is “maybe” significant. Stand by your assertions, even if they may not be as solid as you’d like. Make sure you thoroughly address limitations, challenges, and/or competing views to your claims in the text as well, though.
  • Colloquial language, slang, overly informal language, contractions, and regionalized language are all typically poor choices for inclusion in a dissertation. Do not include them unless they are essential to your topic.

Step 5 Make citing your sources a priority.

  • In order to save time and keep track of your citations, cite your sources as you write. You can make this job easier by using bibliographic software such as EndNote, Zotero, or Refworks.
  • You can emphasize when ideas are coming from you, and also that they are supported by others, through your phrasing and citing. For instance: “String cheese is delicious and fun because it's cheese and you can play with it. Further evidence of this can be found in Dr. Mickey’s and Dr. Minnie’s work on the subject.”
  • Particularly bold claims or ideas that challenge accepted narratives definitely need to be cited. You need to build a strong base of support for such stand-out assertions.
  • If there is any doubt in your mind about whether you should cite something, just cite it. The answer is probably yes anyway!

Step 6 Get feedback throughout the writing process.

  • Writing a dissertation is a back-and-forth process of writing, getting feedback, revising, getting more feedback, and so on. Don’t get frustrated—this is how it’s supposed to work!
  • Peers who are also writing dissertations make a great resource for getting feedback. They’ll also be eager to commiserate about the occasional joys and ample frustrations of the process!

Step 7 Keep formatting, style requirements, and proofreading in mind.

  • Make sure to give yourself at least a few weeks to deal with formatting issues. Many universities have very strict formatting requirements, and you may need to make multiple rounds of corrections before you can get your dissertation approved for final submission.
  • Your advisor can help guide you through the formatting and style requirements. Departmental or program secretaries are also often fantastic resources.
  • Read through your work often to find spelling and grammar mistakes. Minor errors like these can disrupt the flow of your work and make your claims and analysis less compelling.

Expert Q&A

  • If you ever feel that you are under so much pressure that you would prefer to plagiarize, talk with someone immediately, and seek help from your adviser and other people you trust. Cheating is never an answer, and you will always have to live in fear of being discovered if you do cheat. Just don't do it. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Only discuss the in-depth ideas for your dissertation with people you trust. If you tell everyone in academia all of your ideas, don't be surprised if someone else takes your idea and writes about it, too. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/dissertations/
  • ↑ https://chroniclevitae.com/news/370-the-no-fail-secret-to-writing-a-dissertation

About this article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a dissertation, start by creating on outline to establish the structure of the paper. Next, begin with an engaging, relatively accessible introduction to the topic. After the introduction, dive into other scholars’ relevant research, then introduce your own original evidence. Address disparities between your research and pre-existing research by arguing why your research is correct, then write a conclusion to wrap everything up. For some tips on citing your sources, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write a Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

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  • Doctoral students write and defend dissertations to earn their degrees.
  • Most dissertations range from 100-300 pages, depending on the field.
  • Taking a step-by-step approach can help students write their dissertations.

Whether you're considering a doctoral program or you recently passed your comprehensive exams, you've probably wondered how to write a dissertation. Researching, writing, and defending a dissertation represents a major step in earning a doctorate.

But what is a dissertation exactly? A dissertation is an original work of scholarship that contributes to the field. Doctoral candidates often spend 1-3 years working on their dissertations. And many dissertations top 200 or more pages.

Starting the process on the right foot can help you complete a successful dissertation. Breaking down the process into steps may also make it easier to finish your dissertation.

How to Write a Dissertation in 12 Steps

A dissertation demonstrates mastery in a subject. But how do you write a dissertation? Here are 12 steps to successfully complete a dissertation.

Choose a Topic

It sounds like an easy step, but choosing a topic will play an enormous role in the success of your dissertation. In some fields, your dissertation advisor will recommend a topic. In other fields, you'll develop a topic on your own.

Read recent work in your field to identify areas for additional scholarship. Look for holes in the literature or questions that remain unanswered.

After coming up with a few areas for research or questions, carefully consider what's feasible with your resources. Talk to your faculty advisor about your ideas and incorporate their feedback.

Conduct Preliminary Research

Before starting a dissertation, you'll need to conduct research. Depending on your field, that might mean visiting archives, reviewing scholarly literature , or running lab tests.

Use your preliminary research to hone your question and topic. Take lots of notes, particularly on areas where you can expand your research.

Read Secondary Literature

A dissertation demonstrates your mastery of the field. That means you'll need to read a large amount of scholarship on your topic. Dissertations typically include a literature review section or chapter.

Create a list of books, articles, and other scholarly works early in the process, and continue to add to your list. Refer to the works cited to identify key literature. And take detailed notes to make the writing process easier.

Write a Research Proposal

In most doctoral programs, you'll need to write and defend a research proposal before starting your dissertation.

The length and format of your proposal depend on your field. In many fields, the proposal will run 10-20 pages and include a detailed discussion of the research topic, methodology, and secondary literature.

Your faculty advisor will provide valuable feedback on turning your proposal into a dissertation.

Research, Research, Research

Doctoral dissertations make an original contribution to the field, and your research will be the basis of that contribution.

The form your research takes will depend on your academic discipline. In computer science, you might analyze a complex dataset to understand machine learning. In English, you might read the unpublished papers of a poet or author. In psychology, you might design a study to test stress responses. And in education, you might create surveys to measure student experiences.

Work closely with your faculty advisor as you conduct research. Your advisor can often point you toward useful resources or recommend areas for further exploration.

Look for Dissertation Examples

Writing a dissertation can feel overwhelming. Most graduate students have written seminar papers or a master's thesis. But a dissertation is essentially like writing a book.

Looking at examples of dissertations can help you set realistic expectations and understand what your discipline wants in a successful dissertation. Ask your advisor if the department has recent dissertation examples. Or use a resource like ProQuest Dissertations to find examples.

Doctoral candidates read a lot of monographs and articles, but they often do not read dissertations. Reading polished scholarly work, particularly critical scholarship in your field, can give you an unrealistic standard for writing a dissertation.

Write Your Body Chapters

By the time you sit down to write your dissertation, you've already accomplished a great deal. You've chosen a topic, defended your proposal, and conducted research. Now it's time to organize your work into chapters.

As with research, the format of your dissertation depends on your field. Your department will likely provide dissertation guidelines to structure your work. In many disciplines, dissertations include chapters on the literature review, methodology, and results. In other disciplines, each chapter functions like an article that builds to your overall argument.

Start with the chapter you feel most confident in writing. Expand on the literature review in your proposal to provide an overview of the field. Describe your research process and analyze the results.

Meet With Your Advisor

Throughout the dissertation process, you should meet regularly with your advisor. As you write chapters, send them to your advisor for feedback. Your advisor can help identify issues and suggest ways to strengthen your dissertation.

Staying in close communication with your advisor will also boost your confidence for your dissertation defense. Consider sharing material with other members of your committee as well.

Write Your Introduction and Conclusion

It seems counterintuitive, but it's a good idea to write your introduction and conclusion last . Your introduction should describe the scope of your project and your intervention in the field.

Many doctoral candidates find it useful to return to their dissertation proposal to write the introduction. If your project evolved significantly, you will need to reframe the introduction. Make sure you provide background information to set the scene for your dissertation. And preview your methodology, research aims, and results.

The conclusion is often the shortest section. In your conclusion, sum up what you've demonstrated, and explain how your dissertation contributes to the field.

Edit Your Draft

You've completed a draft of your dissertation. Now, it's time to edit that draft.

For some doctoral candidates, the editing process can feel more challenging than researching or writing the dissertation. Most dissertations run a minimum of 100-200 pages , with some hitting 300 pages or more.

When editing your dissertation, break it down chapter by chapter. Go beyond grammar and spelling to make sure you communicate clearly and efficiently. Identify repetitive areas and shore up weaknesses in your argument.

Incorporate Feedback

Writing a dissertation can feel very isolating. You're focused on one topic for months or years, and you're often working alone. But feedback will strengthen your dissertation.

You will receive feedback as you write your dissertation, both from your advisor and other committee members. In many departments, doctoral candidates also participate in peer review groups to provide feedback.

Outside readers will note confusing sections and recommend changes. Make sure you incorporate the feedback throughout the writing and editing process.

Defend Your Dissertation

Congratulations — you made it to the dissertation defense! Typically, your advisor will not let you schedule the defense unless they believe you will pass. So consider the defense a culmination of your dissertation process rather than a high-stakes examination.

The format of your defense depends on the department. In some fields, you'll present your research. In other fields, the defense will consist of an in-depth discussion with your committee.

Walk into your defense with confidence. You're now an expert in your topic. Answer questions concisely and address any weaknesses in your study. Once you pass the defense, you'll earn your doctorate.

Writing a dissertation isn't easy — only around 55,000 students earned a Ph.D. in 2020, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. However, it is possible to successfully complete a dissertation by breaking down the process into smaller steps.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dissertations

What is a dissertation.

A dissertation is a substantial research project that contributes to your field of study. Graduate students write a dissertation to earn their doctorate.

The format and content of a dissertation vary widely depending on the academic discipline. Doctoral candidates work closely with their faculty advisor to complete and defend the dissertation, a process that typically takes 1-3 years.

How long is a dissertation?

The length of a dissertation varies by field. Harvard's graduate school says most dissertations fall between 100-300 pages .

Doctoral candidate Marcus Beck analyzed the length of University of Minnesota dissertations by discipline and found that history produces the longest dissertations, with an average of nearly 300 pages, while mathematics produces the shortest dissertations at just under 100 pages.

What's the difference between a dissertation vs. a thesis?

Dissertations and theses demonstrate academic mastery at different levels. In U.S. graduate education, master's students typically write theses, while doctoral students write dissertations. The terms are reversed in the British system.

In the U.S., a dissertation is longer, more in-depth, and based on more research than a thesis. Doctoral candidates write a dissertation as the culminating research project of their degree. Undergraduates and master's students may write shorter theses as part of their programs.

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A Practical Guide to Dissertation Writing

  • December 12, 2023
  • Written by Dallas Baptist University
  • Resources , Students

Maybe you have been thinking about beginning a doctoral degree but the idea of a dissertation is scary, perhaps you are almost done with your coursework and all that is left is that "daunting" dissertation. Either way, don't worry. At DBU, we are dedicated to helping students succeed, and we have put together some helpful tips that will help you navigate your way through the process of writing your dissertation , from choosing a topic to finalizing it all.

What Is a Dissertation?

If you have already completed your coursework, you know what a dissertation is, but if you are at those beginning stages of determining where your academic journey can take you, you may be asking yourself, "What exactly is a dissertation?".

A dissertation is an extensive and original research project that contributes to the existing body of knowledge in your field. The word may seem intimidating initially, but it's essentially a culmination of all the knowledge and research skills you have learned throughout your doctoral program, presented in a written document. By completing a dissertation, you are demonstrating to your professors and to the academic community as a whole that you can produce meaningful research for the benefit of others.

Some dissertations explore some aspect of history, of the life of a historical figure or group of people. Others examine well-known texts or pieces of established literature. Several engage in modern-day research that includes surveys, one-on-one interviews, or scientific experiments. While still more can be based around practical problems experienced in the workplace.

How Many Pages Should a Dissertation Be?

The length of your dissertation will depend on your specific program and department's requirements, as well as the nature of your research. However, most dissertations range from 200 to 400 pages.

Is a Dissertation Necessary for a Doctoral Degree?

If you're trying to find a way around writing a dissertation and still obtain a doctoral degree, you will be out of luck. Completing a dissertation of some sort is mandatory for earning a doctorate for most academic disciplines and universities.

What's the Difference Between a Thesis and a Dissertation?

The main distinction between a thesis and a dissertation is their length and purpose. A thesis is typically a shorter research project written at the undergraduate or master's level, while a dissertation is a more comprehensive and in-depth original research project undertaken at the doctoral level.

Tips for Writing Your Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Guide

Writing a dissertation is a challenging but rewarding endeavor. As you progress through each step, we're here to provide heartfelt tips rooted in faith and academia.

Let's get started on this journey together, hand in hand.

Step #1: Choose a Topic That Aligns with Your Faith and Calling

If you have completed your coursework, then you probably already know what topic you are going to select. In fact, at DBU, throughout their time in class, students work hand-in-hand with faculty to develop a topic that resonates with their passion and fills a gap in the research already in their field.

However, if you don't quite have that topic in hand, don't worry.  First, make sure that you explore a subject that resonates with your faith and calling. Consider areas of research that align with your theological beliefs, personal experiences, or areas of expertise where you feel compelled to contribute to the body of Christian scholarship.

Remember, your dissertation should reflect your intellectual curiosity and desire to make a meaningful impact in your field. You will be spending hours researching and writing, so you need to select a topic you're passionate about and believe has the potential to advance your field and help others.

Step #2: Conduct a Literature Review

After you've settled on your topic, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get digging. Imagine yourself as an archaeologist uncovering the rich history of your field. Search for published and unpublished scholarly works illuminating your study area. These hidden gems could be books, articles, dissertations, or even unpublished manuscripts waiting to be discovered. (The DBU library has everything you need to start your research.)

Don't be afraid to take your research outside of the library. Attend conferences, seminars, and workshops to connect with leading experts, learn about the latest research findings, and exchange ideas with fellow scholars.

Step #3: Develop a Research Plan

Once you've gained a solid understanding of your topic and conducted a thorough literature review, create a roadmap for your research journey. This roadmap outlines the methodology, tools, and techniques you'll employ to gather and analyze data.

By crafting a well-structured research plan, you'll lay a solid foundation for a successful dissertation. It will provide a clear direction, ensure methodological rigor, and instill confidence in your readers.

You will work closely with your dissertation committee to develop a thorough research plan. Your dissertation committee will be made up of faculty from your institution who will guide you through the dissertation process and ultimately decide when your dissertation is complete.

Step #4: Present Your Research Proposal to Your Dissertation Committee

After all the hard work you've put into the previous steps, it's time to present your research proposal to your dissertation committee. Think of it as presenting your project blueprint to a panel of experts. This formal proposal will provide a detailed overview of your research journey, including the questions you aim to answer, the tools you'll use, and the timeline you've set for yourself.

Not every institution handles research proposals the same way. Some, like DBU, have formal presentations before your committee to ensure you have a clear direction before you begin, and others have a less formal means of approval. Either way, before you start, you need to make sure your committee feels good about your destination.

Therefore, before submitting your proposal:

  • Make sure it's polished to perfection;
  • Review it thoroughly, seeking feedback from your advisor or fellow scholars;
  • Ensure it is clear, concise, and well-organized; and
  • Once you're confident in your work, submit it to your dissertation committee and prepare for their review.

Step #5: Collect Your Data and Prepare Your Outline

Now that your proposal has the green light, it's time to collect your data. Whether you're conducting surveys, interviewing experts, or sifting through archives, remember that every piece is a step closer to answering your research questions.

Step #6: Write Your Dissertation

Armed with the insights gained from your data collection and analysis, you're ready to write your masterpiece. Remember, your dissertation isn't just a collection of facts and figures; it's an opportunity to showcase the profound implications of your research for your discipline and add to the area of Christian thought and practice.

The writing process can feel long and arduous, and you will have to find time to get alone and block out all distractions. However, your professors are there to help you along the way. Be sure to let them help you as you write, and be open to feedback and criticism. Writing is a craft, so trust others to guide you.

Step #7: Final Defense

Once you have completed your writing and your dissertation committee feels good about everything you have completed, it is time for your final defense. If you have followed the guidance of your faculty members and have made all of the necessary corrections and changes, then you are ready to go.  Each institution has a different method for defense, but in all of them, you will be called upon to provide a final summary of your dissertation. Don't worry…by this point, you know your topic as well as anyone in the world! So provide a clear synopsis, be ready to answer any questions that may arise, and be confident that the hard work you have put into the process thus far will pay off in the end.

The Bottom Line

At DBU, we stress to our students that pursuing a doctoral program isn't just an academic pursuit; it's a calling from God. As you dig deeper into your research and craft the chapters of your dissertation, remember Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) : "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Trust in the Lord's guidance, infuse your work with passion, and let your dissertation be a testament to the intersection of faith and academic excellence.

Dallas Baptist University is a comprehensive Christ-centered university dedicated to producing servant leaders through the integration of faith and learning. With an enrollment of over 4,200 students, DBU's main campus is located in the foothills of southwest Dallas. DBU offers 79 undergraduate programs and 37 graduate degree programs in various fields, online college degree programs, and two doctoral programs. Get more information about Dallas Baptist University ( www.dbu.edu ) by browsing our website, emailing [email protected] , or by calling (214) 333-5172.

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Writing a Perfect Dissertation or Thesis: Step-by-Step Guide

11 Mar 2021

Writing a dissertation is something every student needs to undertake. This is the culmination of one's academic program and requires a careful understanding of how to write a dissertation properly. There's a lot riding on your dissertation or thesis, including your final grade and potential future career prospects.

Even though the structure of your dissertation writing depends on your field and level of study, the basic theoretical framework remains similar. The following guide will cover all the key concepts of a Master's or PhD dissertation. At the end, you’ll learn:

  • How to choose your topic, and what are the preliminary steps for planning and research.
  • Strategies on how to organize your ideas and coherently expose them in your structure.
  • What are the main elements and points of writing and editing your paper.
  • Tips on how to overcome difficulties such as getting stuck or being under pressure.

Let's go over everything you must know to start writing a dissertation. If thinking of this process makes you nauseous, it will be changed when you're done reading!

What is a Dissertation?

dissertation definition

A dissertation is a comprehensive paper based on your own research question or topic. This document showcases your knowledge and understanding of your academic field and requires graduate students to assess a research topic critically.

Many students get confused about thesis versus dissertation, trying to figure out the difference. Most of the time, they refer to the same thing. In the UK, a thesis is required to get a PhD, while a dissertation is written when completing a Bachelor's or Master's program. In the US, the opposite holds true: students write Master’s thesis and PhD’s dissertations. That's the primary difference to note between these research projects.

Choosing a Dissertation Topic

There are many ideas for a dissertation , and it could be challenging to find one that stands out and that you are passionate about. The first step to any original research paper is to come up with a question or set of questions you wish to answer. The research question must be specific and clear. It should also be something of significance that the readers can directly relate to and understand.

This is so that it makes sense to your audience and captivates them. Unlike typical essay writing , academic work based on personal research should also be about your interests. Always try to come up with research questions that intrigue you. That way, writing a dissertation will be easier and more enjoyable.

💡 Tip: Here, we collected the best dissertation topics in Architecture . These topics reflect the latest trends, challenges, and innovations in the architectural realm aspiring students for impactful research.

Planning and Research

Once you've decided on a topic, it's time to start researching. The research process is divided into two main steps: preliminary research and principal research. The former is a basic understanding of your dissertation research question. It helps you narrow down sub-topics and find relevant literature and sources for detailed research. This is often a tedious process so it may be broken down into:

  • Research journal articles and academic papers carefully. Note all important points you come across.
  • Create a rough draft of your thesis, adding everything relevant. This will help gather all the data regarding your research proposal.

These two initial steps are crucial for any academic writing. Having information in this manner will help you write your dissertation outline more effectively later on.

Once you conduct preliminary research, it'll be time to move on to a more in-depth study. This involves carefully analyzing all your sources and discovering everything possible regarding your research topic.

After recognizing every research gap in the subject, you'll want to review both primary and secondary sources. The former relates to materials that connect directly to an event. The latter involves secondhand accounts such as books and analyses.

The Dissertation Proposal

For both Master's and Doctoral programs, your research project requires a proposal to be submitted before you actually start writing. This is a fairly comprehensive formal document that goes over the research matters you wish to work on. Your thesis proposal should explain the reason for selecting your research questions, your study aims, and how you plan to conduct your research. All this must be something that your faculty members approve of, so it's good to spend some time and get it done correctly.

After you have the draft, it needs to be submitted to the committee members for review. They'll check your work and give pointers wherever applicable so you may improve your research design. This part of the dissertation process sometimes takes a few weeks but is well worth it in the end since you'll know if there's a research gap or source material you need to rethink.

Organizing Your Ideas With Proper Outline

An outline isn't a part of your dissertation defense, but it's an important tool to assist in your own work. It involves structuring your research from the get-go and helps organize everything you've collected thus far.

You can rearrange different topics and evidence before actually writing about anything. There are many ways to do so, but writing an outline is arguably among the best. This is where you get to figure out your chapter titles and the overall flow of your text.

Your outline should include everything from the location of any quotes or interview transcripts to the methodology and results of your research. All this is great not only for making your writing job easier but also for drawing connections between various points that you may not think about otherwise.

💡 Tip: Look for Dissertation Outline Examples in Our Guide !

Create a Clear and Coherent Argument throughout the Dissertation

A dissertation is unlike public speaking, where you can go on certain tangents and return to your point. This is a piece of text that's very long and quite arduous to read for many. Whenever you're working on a dissertation, it's vital to maintain your tone of voice as well as your argument. This is the part where most students struggle and why they ask for coursework writing help to complete their graduate education task.

It's the writer's job to present their research in a coherent manner. There shouldn't be parts that are contradictory to your primary topic. One tip is to keep questioning existing research. This not only leads to a compelling text but also adds more weight to your own dissertation topics.

Writing and Editing

Once you've created an outline and structured your research, it's time to start writing. Know the required word count for sections beforehand so it's easier to determine how much you should write under each heading.

The title page is where you explain your research topic in a few words. This should be related to your work and give the readers an idea of what they're about to read. The formatting of this page depends on your faculty and professors, and it’s usually in APA, MLA, or Chicago style. In most cases, you'll have to write your title, your name, your supervisor's name, the name of your program, and your university's name.

Acknowledgment

This is an optional page you may include if you wish to thank someone who has helped with your work. Mostly, this includes teachers and supervisors, or people who gave their time to answer your questions, etc. Keep this one as concise and formal as possible.

This part of the dissertation is a short summary of your paper. It outlines all the major points of your research, giving people a deeper insight into your work. This is where you must hook readers.

Give them enough information about your research topic to make them want to read more. Regarding requirements, a dissertation abstract is usually only one paragraph long, ranging from 250 to 500 words. Anything longer, and it becomes a whole chapter of its own.

Some students get confused about abstracts and executive summaries. While the two may seem very similar, they're not quite the same. Unlike an abstract, which is a very brief overview, an executive summary is more detailed, offering insights into the research's significance, methodology, results, and implications.

Introduction

The first proper section of your dissertation is the introduction chapter. This goes into further detail of your paper than the abstract, giving readers some background information on your topic so they understand it better. Whenever you're writing a research paper introduction , you must state your thesis statement and briefly highlight how your paper will discuss it.

A typical way of crafting this section is to give a quick summary of each chapter. You should also review your writing process and tell the readers a little about your research methodology. Talking about existing research on the topic is important to help define where your work fits in and how it inspires future research.

When embarking on a dissertation, one of the pivotal decisions pertains to the inclusion of a hypothesis. Whether or not a dissertation should include a hypothesis depends on the type of research being conducted. In quantitative studies, common in fields like psychology and natural sciences, hypotheses—testable predictions based on theory or prior research—are standard. Conversely, qualitative research, typical in anthropology or certain sociology sectors, might prioritize research questions or objectives over specific hypotheses. For mixed-methods research, which blends both approaches, the study might feature both hypotheses and research questions . Always consult departmental guidelines or your supervisor when determining the structure of your dissertation.

Literature Review

Analyzing existing literature on your topic is perhaps the most important part of your work. The literature review is a discussion chapter that requires going over your primary and secondary sources and evaluating the relevant information you've gathered from them.

You may also point out flaws and gaps found in this information to make your lit review for dissertation stronger. The research gap you find is crucial for a literature review. This pertains to portions of a topic that haven't been explored properly yet. Your primary concern should be filling these gaps with your own research proposal.

Methodology

When researching how to write a dissertation, students often worry about the methodology chapter. Essentially, the methodology chapter describes how you've collected and analyzed information, including any computer programs and tools.

The methodology chapter provides a detailed account of the research approach, offering insights into how data was collected and analyzed. It starts with a clear description of the chosen research design, be it qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods, and the underlying rationale for that choice. This is followed by an in-depth explanation of the data collection methods, whether through surveys, interviews, observations, or other means, and the criteria used for selecting the sample.

The chapter also covers the procedures used for data analysis, emphasizing measures taken to ensure validity and reliability. Ethical considerations play a pivotal role, encompassing issues like participant consent and data protection. Lastly, addressing any limitations or challenges encountered during the research process is crucial. By meticulously outlining these elements, the methodology chapter legitimizes the study and ensures its replicability, offering other researchers a roadmap to understand and potentially emulate the process.

It's crucial to explain this, as it gives your work a sense of credibility, and also ensures its replicability, offering other researchers a roadmap to understand and potentially emulate the process. That is why any doctoral dissertation writing service you take help from puts special focus on this part.

If the introduction chapter is the start of your dissertation text, the results chapter is the culmination. This is where you present all your data and original research analysis. What you write here must be something you can stand by in your dissertation defense.

The way you present your findings is important too. You should include individual findings and carefully analyze them if you're working on an empirical dissertation. In the case of a non-empirical dissertation, you may structure your results based on themes and trends.

Be sure to proofread your text for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Taking feedback from a professor is always a good idea before formulating the final results.

The discussion section of your dissertation discusses the results you've achieved. You may ask questions like how the data fits into the larger research theme, how it changes the way a problem is perceived, and what it means overall for the topic.

Write this section as transparently as possible. Talk about any surprises you found along the way and any concerns you have regarding the findings. Critical thinking is a major part of academic writing, so inviting your readers to discuss your work openly is encouraged.

The conclusion must tie all your text together and bring it to a close. Just as the introduction is important, so are the concluding remarks. It should not talk about any new research or findings but rather reiterate the core concepts of your dissertation. It must also reevaluate the statement or question you've worked on.

The conclusion of any paper is the last thing people usually read. This is what should separate your work from other dissertations and leave a lasting impression on your readers. Be sure to talk about the final results here briefly and stress why your dissertation was conducted and how it was important for the subject.

Bibliography

The bibliography of a dissertation lists all relevant citations of sources you've analyzed in your research process. This is the part even an avid essay writer usually shies away from, but it's not that difficult. Simply follow the format prescribed by your university and write down every website, paper, book, etc. that you've studied.

Glossary, List of Abbreviations, Figures, and Tables

To make your dissertation more understandable, it’s crucial to provide visual elements and supporting information. The glossary refers to a list of all technical terms that should be defined for readers. Many departments have terminologies that the general public isn't familiar with, so defending them is important. A list of abbreviations similarly describes common terms. Both these may be placed at the start of your paper.

When you write a dissertation, it's inevitable that you'll use figures and tables too. Figures may include images, graphs, and charts. All these must be listed at the beginning of your document as this is a requirement of all comprehensive exams. Label them along with their page numbers to make it easier to find them.

Appendices should be placed at the end of your dissertation text and include any helpful materials that may further enhance your study. These are non-essential pieces of information that are still connected to the topic. Examples include maps, transcripts of interviews, etc.

Citations and Referencing

No matter what you're writing, you must give credit when using other people's thoughts or research. If you don't do that, your work will be accused of plagiarism. This is a surefire way of ruining your dissertation and losing your grades. To avoid this, you may take notes of your sources on a piece of paper to create a record of your references. A reference list is crucial to provide evidence regarding your claims.

The way you cite a resource depends on which format you've been asked to follow. The most common ones include the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles. Each has its own unique rules, but they essentially require you to mention the name of the source material (book, article, paper), the writer/s, where it is published, the date of publishing, and the date you last accessed it in the case of an online source.

This does become a tiring process, especially when you have to write a very long dissertation paper. Luckily, many tools and various citations generator exist to do this for you. You may simply add a link to your source, and such services will give you a properly formatted citation to include in your paper.

Strategies for Overcoming Writer's Block and Managing Stress

Coming up with a good topic, conducting a literature review, and crafting a great dissertation depends often on how well you can manage stress. Knowing that this task may shape your entire career definitely causes anxiety, so it's vital to practice self-care and ask for help when needed.

You can easily ask a professional to “write a dissertation for me ” and guide them through the process. If you're finding it difficult to focus on your dissertation and it's affecting other classes, it may help to ask someone else to write some of it for you. This would give you some peace of mind to focus on other aspects of your final exam, leading to a better overall result.

Look for Dissertation Examples

To help yourself write a dissertation, check out other dissertation examples before starting. This is an effective way to learn how things like literature reviews work and how an interesting dissertation proposal plan is made. They'll also show you how to cite resources and label images the right way. Make this an integral part of your process, and you'll find it much easier to craft your dissertation.

More than just a spell check

Editors on PapersOwl can edit your paper and give recommendations on how to improve your writing:

  • Punctuation
  • Sentence structure
  • Academic style

You're Now Ready for Top Dissertation Writing!

With all the tips in this comprehensive guide, you now know how to write a dissertation that stands out. Just hearing the word 'dissertation' often causes anxiety among students, but it's not that difficult once you know how to go about it.

Start with choosing a topic that you find intriguing, gather your data in a structured manner, conduct a thorough literature review, analyze everything carefully, and formulate your results. That's essentially all you must do for a good dissertation project. Be sure to follow the requirements regarding citations and formatting, and a high grade is all but guaranteed!

How many references should a dissertation have?

How many chapters should a dissertation have, how long is a dissertation, was this article helpful, thanks for your feedback.

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Dr. Caroline Phd

I have always been a bit of a polymath – I loved going through encyclopedias, learning interesting facts about the world around us. Even when it was time to choose my major, I struggled a lot, as I wanted to learn everything about everything.

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How to write a masters dissertation or thesis: top tips.

How to write a masters dissertation

It is completely normal to find the idea of writing a masters thesis or dissertation slightly daunting, even for students who have written one before at undergraduate level. Though, don’t feel put off by the idea. You’ll have plenty of time to complete it, and plenty of support from your supervisor and peers.

One of the main challenges that students face is putting their ideas and findings into words. Writing is a skill in itself, but with the right advice, you’ll find it much easier to get into the flow of writing your masters thesis or dissertation.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation or thesis for your masters degree, with top tips to consider at each stage in the process.

1. Understand your dissertation (or thesis) topic

There are slight differences between theses and dissertations , although both require a high standard of writing skill and knowledge in your topic. They are also formatted very similarly.

At first, writing a masters thesis can feel like running a 100m race – the course feels very quick and like there is not as much time for thinking! However, you’ll usually have a summer semester dedicated to completing your dissertation – giving plenty of time and space to write a strong academic piece.

By comparison, writing a PhD thesis can feel like running a marathon, working on the same topic for 3-4 years can be laborious. But in many ways, the approach to both of these tasks is quite similar.

Before writing your masters dissertation, get to know your research topic inside out. Not only will understanding your topic help you conduct better research, it will also help you write better dissertation content.

Also consider the main purpose of your dissertation. You are writing to put forward a theory or unique research angle – so make your purpose clear in your writing.

Top writing tip: when researching your topic, look out for specific terms and writing patterns used by other academics. It is likely that there will be a lot of jargon and important themes across research papers in your chosen dissertation topic. 

2. Structure your dissertation or thesis

Writing a thesis is a unique experience and there is no general consensus on what the best way to structure it is. 

As a postgraduate student , you’ll probably decide what kind of structure suits your research project best after consultation with your supervisor. You’ll also have a chance to look at previous masters students’ theses in your university library.

To some extent, all postgraduate dissertations are unique. Though they almost always consist of chapters. The number of chapters you cover will vary depending on the research. 

A masters dissertation or thesis organised into chapters would typically look like this: 

Write down your structure and use these as headings that you’ll write for later on.

Top writing tip : ease each chapter together with a paragraph that links the end of a chapter to the start of a new chapter. For example, you could say something along the lines of “in the next section, these findings are evaluated in more detail”. This makes it easier for the reader to understand each chapter and helps your writing flow better.

3. Write up your literature review

One of the best places to start when writing your masters dissertation is with the literature review. This involves researching and evaluating existing academic literature in order to identify any gaps for your own research.

Many students prefer to write the literature review chapter first, as this is where several of the underpinning theories and concepts exist. This section helps set the stage for the rest of your dissertation, and will help inform the writing of your other dissertation chapters.

What to include in your literature review

The literature review chapter is more than just a summary of existing research, it is an evaluation of how this research has informed your own unique research.

Demonstrate how the different pieces of research fit together. Are there overlapping theories? Are there disagreements between researchers?

Highlight the gap in the research. This is key, as a dissertation is mostly about developing your own unique research. Is there an unexplored avenue of research? Has existing research failed to disprove a particular theory?

Back up your methodology. Demonstrate why your methodology is appropriate by discussing where it has been used successfully in other research.

4. Write up your research

Your research is the heart and soul of your dissertation. Conducting your actual research is a whole other topic in itself, but it’s important to consider that your research design will heavily influence the way you write your final dissertation.

For instance, a more theoretical-based research topic might encompass more writing from a philosophical perspective. Qualitative data might require a lot more evaluation and discussion than quantitative research. 

Methodology chapter

The methodology chapter is all about how you carried out your research and which specific techniques you used to gather data. You should write about broader methodological approaches (e.g. qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods), and then go into more detail about your chosen data collection strategy. 

Data collection strategies include things like interviews, questionnaires, surveys, content analyses, discourse analyses and many more.

Data analysis and findings chapters

The data analysis or findings chapter should cover what you actually discovered during your research project. It should be detailed, specific and objective (don’t worry, you’ll have time for evaluation later on in your dissertation)

Write up your findings in a way that is easy to understand. For example, if you have a lot of numerical data, this could be easier to digest in tables.

This will make it easier for you to dive into some deeper analysis in later chapters. Remember, the reader will refer back to your data analysis section to cross-reference your later evaluations against your actual findings – so presenting your data in a simple manner is beneficial.

Think about how you can segment your data into categories. For instance, it can be useful to segment interview transcripts by interviewee. 

Top writing tip : write up notes on how you might phrase a certain part of the research. This will help bring the best out of your writing. There is nothing worse than when you think of the perfect way to phrase something and then you completely forget it.

5. Discuss and evaluate

Once you’ve presented your findings, it’s time to evaluate and discuss them.

It might feel difficult to differentiate between your findings and discussion sections, because you are essentially talking about the same data. The easiest way to remember the difference is that your findings simply present the data, whereas your discussion tells the story of this data.

Your evaluation breaks the story down, explaining the key findings, what went well and what didn’t go so well.

In your discussion chapter, you’ll have chance to expand on the results from your findings section. For example, explain what certain numbers mean and draw relationships between different pieces of data.

Top writing tip: don’t be afraid to point out the shortcomings of your research. You will receive higher marks for writing objectively. For example, if you didn’t receive as many interview responses as expected, evaluate how this has impacted your research and findings. Don’t let your ego get in the way!

6. Write your introduction

Your introduction sets the scene for the rest of your masters dissertation. You might be wondering why writing an introduction isn't at the start of our step-by-step list, and that’s because many students write this chapter last.

Here’s what your introduction chapter should cover:

Problem statement

Research question

Significance of your research

This tells the reader what you’ll be researching as well as its importance. You’ll have a good idea of what to include here from your original dissertation proposal , though it’s fairly common for research to change once it gets started.

Writing or at least revisiting this section last can be really helpful, since you’ll have a more well-rounded view of what your research actually covers once it has been completed and written up.

How to write a masters dissertation

Masters dissertation writing tips

When to start writing your thesis or dissertation.

When you should start writing your masters thesis or dissertation depends on the scope of the research project and the duration of your course. In some cases, your research project may be relatively short and you may not be able to write much of your thesis before completing the project. 

But regardless of the nature of your research project and of the scope of your course, you should start writing your thesis or at least some of its sections as early as possible, and there are a number of good reasons for this:

Academic writing is about practice, not talent. The first steps of writing your dissertation will help you get into the swing of your project. Write early to help you prepare in good time.

Write things as you do them. This is a good way to keep your dissertation full of fresh ideas and ensure that you don’t forget valuable information.

The first draft is never perfect. Give yourself time to edit and improve your dissertation. It’s likely that you’ll need to make at least one or two more drafts before your final submission.

Writing early on will help you stay motivated when writing all subsequent drafts.

Thinking and writing are very connected. As you write, new ideas and concepts will come to mind. So writing early on is a great way to generate new ideas.

How to improve your writing skills

The best way of improving your dissertation or thesis writing skills is to:

 Finish the first draft of your masters thesis as early as possible and send it to your supervisor for revision. Your supervisor will correct your draft and point out any writing errors. This process will be repeated a few times which will help you recognise and correct writing mistakes yourself as time progresses.

If you are not a native English speaker, it may be useful to ask your English friends to read a part of your thesis and warn you about any recurring writing mistakes. Read our section on English language support for more advice. 

Most universities have writing centres that offer writing courses and other kinds of support for postgraduate students. Attending these courses may help you improve your writing and meet other postgraduate students with whom you will be able to discuss what constitutes a well-written thesis.

Read academic articles and search for writing resources on the internet. This will help you adopt an academic writing style, which will eventually become effortless with practice.

Keep track of your bibliography 

When studying for your masters dissertation, you will need to develop an efficient way of organising your bibliography – this will prevent you from getting lost in large piles of data that you’ll need to write your dissertation. 

The easiest way to keep the track of all the articles you have read for your research is to create a database where you can summarise each article/chapter into a few most important bullet points to help you remember their content. 

Another useful tool for doing this effectively is to learn how to use specific reference management software (RMS) such as EndNote. RMS is relatively simple to use and saves a lot of time when it comes to organising your bibliography. This may come in very handy, especially if your reference section is suspiciously missing two hours before you need to submit your dissertation! 

Avoid accidental plagiarism

Plagiarism may cost you your postgraduate degree and it is important that you consciously avoid it when writing your thesis or dissertation. 

Occasionally, postgraduate students commit plagiarism unintentionally. This can happen when sections are copy and pasted from journal articles they are citing instead of simply rephrasing them. Whenever you are presenting information from another academic source, make sure you reference the source and avoid writing the statement exactly as it is written in the original paper.

What kind of format should your thesis have?

How to write a masters dissertation

Read your university’s guidelines before you actually start writing your thesis so you don’t have to waste time changing the format further down the line. However in general, most universities will require you to use 1.5-2 line spacing, font size 12 for text, and to print your thesis on A4 paper. These formatting guidelines may not necessarily result in the most aesthetically appealing thesis, however beauty is not always practical, and a nice looking thesis can be a more tiring reading experience for your postgrad examiner .

When should I submit my thesis?

The length of time it takes to complete your MSc or MA thesis will vary from student to student. This is because people work at different speeds, projects vary in difficulty, and some projects encounter more problems than others. 

Obviously, you should submit your MSc thesis or MA thesis when it is finished! Every university will say in its regulations that it is the student who must decide when it is ready to submit. 

However, your supervisor will advise you whether your work is ready and you should take their advice on this. If your supervisor says that your work is not ready, then it is probably unwise to submit it. Usually your supervisor will read your final thesis or dissertation draft and will let you know what’s required before submitting your final draft.

Set yourself a target for completion. This will help you stay on track and avoid falling behind. You may also only have funding for the year, so it is important to ensure you submit your dissertation before the deadline – and also ensure you don’t miss out on your graduation ceremony ! 

To set your target date, work backwards from the final completion and submission date, and aim to have your final draft completed at least three months before that final date.

Don’t leave your submission until the last minute – submit your work in good time before the final deadline. Consider what else you’ll have going on around that time. Are you moving back home? Do you have a holiday? Do you have other plans?

If you need to have finished by the end of June to be able to go to a graduation ceremony in July, then you should leave a suitable amount of time for this. You can build this into your dissertation project planning at the start of your research.

It is important to remember that handing in your thesis or dissertation is not the end of your masters program . There will be a period of time of one to three months between the time you submit and your final day. Some courses may even require a viva to discuss your research project, though this is more common at PhD level . 

If you have passed, you will need to make arrangements for the thesis to be properly bound and resubmitted, which will take a week or two. You may also have minor corrections to make to the work, which could take up to a month or so. This means that you need to allow a period of at least three months between submitting your thesis and the time when your program will be completely finished. Of course, it is also possible you may be asked after the viva to do more work on your thesis and resubmit it before the examiners will agree to award the degree – so there may be an even longer time period before you have finished.

How do I submit the MA or MSc dissertation?

Most universities will have a clear procedure for submitting a masters dissertation. Some universities require your ‘intention to submit’. This notifies them that you are ready to submit and allows the university to appoint an external examiner.

This normally has to be completed at least three months before the date on which you think you will be ready to submit.

When your MA or MSc dissertation is ready, you will have to print several copies and have them bound. The number of copies varies between universities, but the university usually requires three – one for each of the examiners and one for your supervisor.

However, you will need one more copy – for yourself! These copies must be softbound, not hardbound. The theses you see on the library shelves will be bound in an impressive hardback cover, but you can only get your work bound like this once you have passed. 

You should submit your dissertation or thesis for examination in soft paper or card covers, and your university will give you detailed guidance on how it should be bound. They will also recommend places where you can get the work done.

The next stage is to hand in your work, in the way and to the place that is indicated in your university’s regulations. All you can do then is sit and wait for the examination – but submitting your thesis is often a time of great relief and celebration!

Some universities only require a digital submission, where you upload your dissertation as a file through their online submission system.

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Dissertation Writing

Nova A.

Learn the Basics of Dissertation Writing in Simple Steps

10 min read

Published on: Oct 28, 2021

Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023

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Are you struggling with writing your dissertation? Or are you just starting out and looking for some guidance?

Don't worry, you're not alone. Writing a dissertation can be a daunting task, but fear not!    This ultimate guide to dissertation writing is exactly what you need. With practical tips and guidance, this blog will help you produce your best possible work. 

Whether you're a first-time dissertation writer or a seasoned pro, this guide has something for everyone. 

So keep reading and get ready to become a dissertation writing expert.

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What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is like the ultimate research project you'll tackle during your postgraduate studies. You'll dive deep into a topic, gather tons of information, analyze data, and share your findings with the academic world.

Think of a dissertation as a long and detailed essay that you're writing to show off your skills and knowledge. But it's not just about recalling information. You'll need to bring something new to the table, like an innovative idea, a fresh perspective, or a unique way of looking at the topic.

It's a challenging and rewarding experience that requires a lot of time and dedication. But in the end, you'll emerge as an expert in your field with new insights and a sense of accomplishment.

Dissertation Vs. Thesis

Dissertations and theses are both academic papers that are used to showcase a student's research and writing skills. Although both are common projects in colleges and universities, the main difference between the two is their purpose and scope.

A thesis is typically associated with a master's degree program and requires the graduate student to conduct original research on a specific topic. 

On the other hand, a dissertation is typically required for a doctoral degree and is a more extensive and in-depth study of a topic. It requires the student to conduct original research, analyze the results, and make contributions to their field of study. It typically requires a longer period of time to finalise than a thesis.

Want to learn more about how the two differ? Check out this insightful read on the difference between dissertation and thesis writing !

What is the Dissertation Proposal Process?

The dissertation proposal process is the first step toward completing your dissertation. It's an opportunity to present your research idea and get feedback from the committee members.

The process usually involves writing a proposal document that outlines your research question, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes. You'll need to provide a literature review, which is a summary of existing research on your topic.

Your supervisor or committee members will review your proposal and give you feedback on how to improve it. You might need to make revisions or adjustments to your proposal based on their feedback.

Once your proposal is approved, you can move forward with conducting your research and writing your dissertation. This process helps you to refine your research idea and ensure that you're on the right track before diving into your project.

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Dissertation Structure 

When it comes to structuring your dissertation, the approach may vary based on your field and discipline. 

For instance, if you're in humanities, your dissertation may resemble an essay with evidence from sources supporting different perspectives. This may not work for complex theoretical concepts that need a thorough understanding before starting research.

On the other hand, writing a dissertation in the field of science can be challenging. Following your field's requirements and structure is important.

However, here is a general structure for a dissertation

Learn more about structuring your dissertations with this in-depth read on dissertation structure !

How to Write a Dissertation? 

Writing a dissertation is never easy, but it becomes even more challenging when you're unsure what your final paper will look like. But, with careful planning and organization skills, anything is possible! 

Here’s how you can write a dissertation section by section:

Dissertation Title Page

The dissertation title page should include your name, institution, degree program, submission date, and the title of your dissertation. 

It is important to follow the formatting guidelines of your institution, including font size and style.

The abstract is a concise summary of your entire dissertation. It should include the research problem, research methods, major findings, and implications of the study. 

The abstract should be brief and provide an overview of your research for readers who may not have time to read the full dissertation.

The abstract of the paper should answer these questions: 

  • What did the writer do with the paper?
  • What is the aim of your paper?
  • What were the results and implications?

Table of Contents

The table of contents lists all the sections of your dissertation in order, including chapter titles, subheadings, and page numbers. This section helps readers navigate your dissertation and find the information they need quickly.

Introduction

The introduction sets the stage for your dissertation. It should include:

  • A clear statement of the research problem
  • The significance of the study
  • Research questions or hypotheses
  • A brief overview of the research methods used

The introduction should provide enough information to engage the reader and make them interested in the research.

Literature Review

The literature review provides a comprehensive analysis of previous research and relevant literature in your field. 

It should identify gaps in the literature and show how your research addresses those gaps. You should critically evaluate and synthesize the literature to develop a theoretical framework for your study.

Methodology

The methodology section explains the research methods used in your study. 

It should include a clear description of your research design, data collection procedures, and data analysis techniques. You should justify the research methods chosen and explain how they address the research questions or hypotheses.

The results section presents your findings in a clear and concise manner. You should include both quantitative and qualitative data and use tables, graphs, and charts to illustrate the results. 

You should also provide a clear explanation of the findings and how they relate to the research questions or hypotheses. Think of the best ways in which you want to present your data!

The results of the research can be given in the following way:

  • Beginning with an overview of what was found, followed by details.  
  • Moving immediately to a section detailing each result.
  • How will you organize the results?
  • What will the balance be between word space across all findings in your paper?

The discussion section interprets your findings and compares them to previous research. 

You should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your study and discuss their implications. You should also provide recommendations for future research.

The conclusion should summarize your research findings and their implications. You should restate the research problem, research questions, or hypotheses and provide a clear answer to the research questions or hypotheses. 

You should also discuss the practical implications of your research and provide recommendations for future research.

Bibliography or Reference List

The bibliography or reference list includes all sources cited in your dissertation. You should use a consistent citation style, such as APA or MLA, and list the sources in alphabetical order.

The appendices include any additional materials that support your dissertation, such as survey instruments, interview transcripts, or additional data tables. 

You should label and number each appendix and refer to them in the text of your dissertation as necessary.

Dissertation Examples

Understanding the dissertation process will be difficult if you have not gone through examples before. 

The examples provided below are a great way to get started with your dissertation.

Sample Dissertation Overview

Dissertation Writing Sample

Dissertation Topics

The right topic can make or break your dissertation. It is one of the most important elements in any writing, and coming up with a good one isn't easy. There are so many factors to consider! 

The writer should choose a topic they are interested in to research it more deeply.

If you are still trying to decide on your topic, take a look at this list of dissertation topics.

  • Issues with Foreign Exchange Systems
  • The psychology of customers
  • Examine the intersection of ecology and arts.
  • Strategies for Treating Infectious Cysts
  • How to control illegal immigration?
  • Renewable energy in home design.
  • Economic Recession and Small Business
  • What is the role of foreign direct investment?
  • Social Media Requires New Marketing Strategies
  • Discuss the ethics of automated vehicles.

Need more topics for your writing a dissertation? Check out these interesting and unique dissertation topic ideas for inspiration!

Dissertation Writing Tips

The average student has trouble writing a dissertation for many reasons. The main reason is that they don't have enough time to complete it. 

But it's essential to plan well in advance if you want your dissertation completed on time. The task cannot be done within a few hours, so dedicating this free-up space will help tremendously later!

Follow these tips to speed up the writing process and write a professional dissertation quickly!

  • Carefully pick your topic: Pick a topic that you are passionate about and is relevant to your field of study. Research thoroughly to ensure that it is not too broad or too narrow.
  • Understand the requirements: Carefully read the guidelines and requirements provided by your institution. Ensure you understand what is expected of you in terms of structure, formatting, and content.
  • Create a clear structure: Establish a clear structure and steps in dissertation writing to create a timeline to help you meet your deadlines. Set achievable goals for each chapter and section, and ensure that your writing flows logically.
  • Write as you research: Don't wait until the end to start writing. Begin writing as soon as you have gathered enough information for each section. Writing as you go will help you stay on track and ensure that you don't forget important details.
  • Keep exploring the research question: Question everything, even your own assumptions, and findings. Be willing to change direction or adjust your research methods if necessary.
  • Edit with just as much care: Editing is a crucial part of the writing process. Take the time to proofread your work, check for grammatical errors, and ensure that your writing is clear and concise. Consider seeking the help of a professional editor or a final dissertation writing checklist to make sure you’ve covered all that's necessary.

Following these tips will make your research project more effective and impressive.

You are now equipped with valuable tips on how to write a dissertation successfully. However, if you are still struggling, don't worry! 

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Plus, our AI essay generator ensures you get the best quality work at an affordable price. 

Our clients always get 100% original and plagiarism-free pieces of work. From our paper writing service , you’ll always get high-quality dissertations written by the top experts.

So, why wait? Place your order today and get one step closer to achieving your academic goals.

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As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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How to Write a Dissertation in Ten Days or Less

Published by Owen Ingram at January 27th, 2023 , Revised On October 9, 2023

Can you Complete your Dissertation in Ten Days?

Most students struggle at some point with deadlines, and we regularly get asked questions such as ‘Can you write a dissertation in a month?’ and ‘Can you write a dissertation in three days?’ We do not judge why you are in this situation, we’re here to help you get your dissertation done. The answer to the questions is yes. But of course, the less time you have, the more pressure you are under.

extension to your deadline

How Long Does it Take to Write a 10,000-word Dissertation?

This is a common question, as is “How long does it take to write a 7,000-word dissertation?” There is no figure in hours or days that answers this; it differs for everyone.  “Is it possible to write a 10,000-word dissertation in two days?” Well, yes. But you will only find out if you can do it when the two days are up. You need to get started immediately, follow our advice and use our dissertation guides . But we are not claiming it’s easy.

Can I Complete my Dissertation in 3 Days? How Fast do I Need to Write?

If you have to produce 10,000 words in ten days, you have to average 1,000 a day. If you have two days, then 5,000 per day and if you work on it for 12 hours each of those days, you need to turn out 417 words per hour. A tall order, but it can be done. Do not let panic or pressure overwhelm you; and remember, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for help . You can stop asking your friends ‘How quickly can you write a dissertation?’ You are going to show them how quickly.

Can I Really Produce 10,000 Words in a Week?

How long d oes it take to write a 10k word dissertation? To give you some perspective, most people speak this many words in a day with no effort. You probably have more than enough words in your notes. It will make a big difference if you have your research project results analysis done already. If this is the case, you ‘only’ need to write them up. If you already made a good start but you are having trouble progressing, maybe you just need to focus on writing up your findings or certain chapters or areas.

You might think your notes are messy and disorganised or that they lack the right academic sound. Regardless, do not think of this task as producing all 10,000 words, rather, it is laying out your notes, organising them, and giving them a more formal, academic tone.

Can you Write a Dissertation in a Day?

Can you write a dissertation in a day? This is surely the most demanding academic writing challenge. It means 100% focus and work: Type up your notes, ensuring they have an academic/formal tone to them. Keep going, section by section and as it grows, you will start to see your dissertation appear.

Preparing to Write your Dissertation Fast

Prepare to start work.

You know your subject well, and you have probably written many essays on it by now. The main difference is that this assignment is longer. So, let’s get started. You need to prepare well; normal life can be suspended for the time you will spend working. The first preparations to make concern you and where you are going to work.

Distractions and Interruptions

Turn off your phone and avoid TV. If you are really serious, you will really do it. When you procrastinate or allow yourself to be distracted, what do you do? Gaming? Staring out of the window? Baking? Make these things difficult or impossible to do. Be aware of something called productive procrastination. This is when you do something productive but it’s not what you are meant to be doing. Do not mistake activity for productivity. When you find yourself vacuuming around your desk, snap out of it.

I’m Writing my Dissertation all Week. Quiet, Please

Some people can work with music playing, and some need silence. Listening to words, whether sung or spoken, can distract you when producing text. If there is something that will help you, such as instrumental music, use it. Make sure everyone knows what you are doing and ask them to leave you alone (except for bringing you food and drinks). Can someone else handle your duties and obligations for a while?

Create a Work Area

Set up a workplace and de-clutter it. Remove irrelevant books and anything you can fiddle with. Gather all your materials: this means textbooks, notes on paper and in digital form. Your research is likely over, but you will need everything to hand.

Give all materials specific places and keep them there. As you use them, you will remember where they are. Putting them down in different places will mean time lost looking for them, which will add frustration to the work.

Do All of your Legwork Before Starting

Getting up and walking away from the desk unnecessarily uses time you do not have. Do not let shopping trips interrupt your work. If you do not have enough food and supplies in before starting, get them first. Certain foods/snacks can help get you through, maybe you can suspend your usual health regime for a while. You need to feel comfortable in this. But do not overdo the caffeine or sugar .

Make a Work Schedule

Look ahead at your available time and make a schedule. If you work 21 hours on the first day, you might find yourself burnt out the next day. Sleep when you have to, work when you feel good. How long can you realistically work each day? Be careful not to create an unrealistic schedule, you will not keep up to it and will become demoralised. Remember that writing the dissertation is only 1% of your entire course; it is acceptable to get help at this late stage.

Where to Start

Start here – write an outline.

As well as a work schedule, you need a dissertation structure . You may be tempted to think that making an outline for your dissertation is extra work, that it would be quicker to just start writing. That would be like going on a driving tour to every European country with no plan. Without regular destinations, you will drift about aimlessly.

You can save time by focussing only on the main parts of the dissertation. If you run out of time, it will be better if the parts not completed are the less significant ones, although ideally nothing should be left unfinished. This is an exercise in prioritisation: Write the most valuable, points-scoring parts first.

Sacrifices May be Necessary

With a tight time limit, you might have to make sacrifices. People with the luxury of time will spend a day or more on just the table of contents or references section . You might not have this option. The focus has to be on the rapid production of text and its quality; things like detailed formatting and page layout will be secondary.

Prioritising your Order of Work

In the detailed plan below, skip the greyed-out parts to start with. You can use this to create an outline by adding a note under each part of the different sections stating what you are going to include there. This is where the job starts to appear less daunting; 10,000 now becomes 2,000 for this section, 1,000 for that section… The mountain becomes a set of smaller hills. And the introduction section can be written after the body, it is easier and quicker that way.

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Writing the Dissertation Body

When you have an outline, you need to put some meat on those bones and build a body. Working from start to finish may be best (skipping the introduction), but the order you work in is your choice. If your notes are not in order, a quick way to identify notes that apply to the different sections is to mark them with different coloured highlighters as in the table above. This will draw your eyes to the relevant notes quickly. You can do this on your computer screen by highlighting similarly.

After the main body, the introduction is next. This will be easier to write because all the information will be fresh in your mind. What next? The appendices or the parts at the front? This should be your decision based on remaining time.

Good Practices for Writing your Dissertation

Ignore spelling and grammar.

Do not pay attention to spelling, grammar, and language rules at this stage. Attending to spelling and grammatical details as you work will distract you and spoil your flow. Spelling and grammatical mistakes do not matter in a work in progress. You can turn checking functions off until you reach the editing and proofreading stage. Concentrate only on writing up your notes, do not switch between tasks.

Attend to One Part of the Dissertation at a Time

Constantly switching between research, writing, and tidying up the reference section is inefficient. Each time you switch, your mind needs time to catch up then settle into that activity. By focussing, we mean you should do all the analysis in one session until it is finished, all the writing of major sections in another, and sorting out the reference section can be done in one sitting. Less switching saves time and usually turns out a better job.

Take Regular Short Breaks

Take Regular Short Breaks

Save and Back up Routinely

When you leave the desk, click to save your work. Also do this after any burst of writing, and at regular intervals. Back up your work on another drive too. This is one of the most important things you will write. Treat it as the valuable document that it is.

For when you resume work, make sure you know where you left off, highlight it if that helps. When you come back to your work the next day, sometimes you can’t remember where you were; it can be difficult to resume the same line of thought. A habit of Ernest Hemingway was to leave an unfinished sentence to come back to so that he could…

Have a Strict but Simple Method of Noting Sources

Every time you quote or paraphrase something, note the source. Use a simple referencing technique while writing that does not demand much time. One such method is for the first in-text reference, just put (1) after the quote, use (2) for the second and so on. Start a list of sources that correspond to each number. You could highlight the numbers in a specific colour so you can attend to them later and not miss any. Missing just one reference, even accidentally, will still count as plagiarism . Before you start, be absolutely clear whether you are including a reference list or bibliography . Completing your list according to the required style ( Harvard , Chicago, etc.) can be done in one session.

Get a Qualified Appraisal of your Work

You will need someone to read your finished work. Having it read by someone unfamiliar with the subject and the structure of dissertations will be unproductive. Ideally it should be someone who understands the topic. And these days that person need not be physically present; you can email your draft to someone to get an opinion on changes & improvements .

Writing your Dissertation in Days

We are not going to sugar-coat the task of producing a dissertation in days rather than months and weeks. It is not easy, and regardless of what caused you to have such a short time remaining, it puts all your work in jeopardy. When someone asks us “Can I complete my dissertation in three days?” we have to answer yes, you can, but… It depends on the individual, how much work you have done so far, your personal circumstances, your other obligations, how much of those three days can you dedicate to the task.

How to Write a Dissertation Fast Checklist

Frequently asked questions, can i write my dissertation in under a week.

The short answer is yes but there are several factors to consider that may help or hinder you. Few people have the support around them to allow them to drop all commitments and focus on just one task. Also, few people will have taken on such a large a task in such a short time before, and might become overwhelmed.

The dissertation is where your study course culminates; all the time, effort, and expense you have invested should come to fruition here. This might not be a good time for  maybe I can do it . Maybe you can make it to the bank before it closes. No? Oh, well, you can go tomorrow. Maybe I can write 10,000 words in a week. If the answer is no, the consequences are more serious.

This guide and all the other  dissertation guides  on this site are here to help you with every aspect of dissertation writing. You can also contact us directly through the chat box or Whatsapp.

I have to write my dissertation in three days. Where do I start?

Start by getting organised. Gather all the materials you need, create a work area, get rid of distractions, and if possible, delegate any obligations or chores to someone else for the duration. Then read this guide from the start. If you need further help when you are deep into the writing, just ask us. We exist just for this purpose. Our team and expert writers have handled almost every kind of dissertation emergency.

Can I do my research, analysis, and write my dissertation in ten days?

The more time you have, the better. But carrying out the research and analysis in such a short time will be very demanding. It can be done though; our team can do this in under a week. You would need a great level of support around you and an impressive level of determination and focus. If you supply the determination, we can provide the support .

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Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to write a dissertation.

At the bachelor’s and master’s levels, the dissertation is usually the main focus of your final year. You might work on it (alongside other classes) for the entirety of the final year, or for the last six months. This includes formulating an idea, doing the research, and writing up.

A PhD thesis takes a longer time, as the thesis is the main focus of the degree. A PhD thesis might be being formulated and worked on for the whole four years of the degree program. The writing process alone can take around 18 months.

Frequently asked questions: Knowledge Base

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research. Developing your methodology involves studying the research methods used in your field and the theories or principles that underpin them, in order to choose the approach that best matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. interviews, experiments , surveys , statistical tests ).

In a dissertation or scientific paper, the methodology chapter or methods section comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion .

Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to test a hypothesis by systematically collecting and analysing data, while qualitative methods allow you to explore ideas and experiences in depth.

Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:

  • Reliability refers to the  consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
  • Validity   refers to the  accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).

If you are doing experimental research , you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research.

For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarise yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a dissertation , thesis, research paper , or proposal .

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your  dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

Harvard referencing uses an author–date system. Sources are cited by the author’s last name and the publication year in brackets. Each Harvard in-text citation corresponds to an entry in the alphabetised reference list at the end of the paper.

Vancouver referencing uses a numerical system. Sources are cited by a number in parentheses or superscript. Each number corresponds to a full reference at the end of the paper.

A Harvard in-text citation should appear in brackets every time you quote, paraphrase, or refer to information from a source.

The citation can appear immediately after the quotation or paraphrase, or at the end of the sentence. If you’re quoting, place the citation outside of the quotation marks but before any other punctuation like a comma or full stop.

In Harvard referencing, up to three author names are included in an in-text citation or reference list entry. When there are four or more authors, include only the first, followed by ‘ et al. ’

A bibliography should always contain every source you cited in your text. Sometimes a bibliography also contains other sources that you used in your research, but did not cite in the text.

MHRA doesn’t specify a rule about this, so check with your supervisor to find out exactly what should be included in your bibliography.

Footnote numbers should appear in superscript (e.g. 11 ). You can use the ‘Insert footnote’ button in Word to do this automatically; it’s in the ‘References’ tab at the top.

Footnotes always appear after the quote or paraphrase they relate to. MHRA generally recommends placing footnote numbers at the end of the sentence, immediately after any closing punctuation, like this. 12

In situations where this might be awkward or misleading, such as a long sentence containing multiple quotations, footnotes can also be placed at the end of a clause mid-sentence, like this; 13 note that they still come after any punctuation.

When a source has two or three authors, name all of them in your MHRA references . When there are four or more, use only the first name, followed by ‘and others’:

Note that in the bibliography, only the author listed first has their name inverted. The names of additional authors and those of translators or editors are written normally.

A citation should appear wherever you use information or ideas from a source, whether by quoting or paraphrasing its content.

In Vancouver style , you have some flexibility about where the citation number appears in the sentence – usually directly after mentioning the author’s name is best, but simply placing it at the end of the sentence is an acceptable alternative, as long as it’s clear what it relates to.

In Vancouver style , when you refer to a source with multiple authors in your text, you should only name the first author followed by ‘et al.’. This applies even when there are only two authors.

In your reference list, include up to six authors. For sources with seven or more authors, list the first six followed by ‘et al.’.

The words ‘ dissertation ’ and ‘thesis’ both refer to a large written research project undertaken to complete a degree, but they are used differently depending on the country:

  • In the UK, you write a dissertation at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a thesis to complete a PhD.
  • In the US, it’s the other way around: you may write a thesis at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a dissertation to complete a PhD.

The main difference is in terms of scale – a dissertation is usually much longer than the other essays you complete during your degree.

Another key difference is that you are given much more independence when working on a dissertation. You choose your own dissertation topic , and you have to conduct the research and write the dissertation yourself (with some assistance from your supervisor).

Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:

  • An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000–15,000 words
  • A master’s dissertation is typically 12,000–50,000 words
  • A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000–100,000 words

However, none of these are strict guidelines – your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.

References should be included in your text whenever you use words, ideas, or information from a source. A source can be anything from a book or journal article to a website or YouTube video.

If you don’t acknowledge your sources, you can get in trouble for plagiarism .

Your university should tell you which referencing style to follow. If you’re unsure, check with a supervisor. Commonly used styles include:

  • Harvard referencing , the most commonly used style in UK universities.
  • MHRA , used in humanities subjects.
  • APA , used in the social sciences.
  • Vancouver , used in biomedicine.
  • OSCOLA , used in law.

Your university may have its own referencing style guide.

If you are allowed to choose which style to follow, we recommend Harvard referencing, as it is a straightforward and widely used style.

To avoid plagiarism , always include a reference when you use words, ideas or information from a source. This shows that you are not trying to pass the work of others off as your own.

You must also properly quote or paraphrase the source. If you’re not sure whether you’ve done this correctly, you can use the Scribbr Plagiarism Checker to find and correct any mistakes.

In Harvard style , when you quote directly from a source that includes page numbers, your in-text citation must include a page number. For example: (Smith, 2014, p. 33).

You can also include page numbers to point the reader towards a passage that you paraphrased . If you refer to the general ideas or findings of the source as a whole, you don’t need to include a page number.

When you want to use a quote but can’t access the original source, you can cite it indirectly. In the in-text citation , first mention the source you want to refer to, and then the source in which you found it. For example:

It’s advisable to avoid indirect citations wherever possible, because they suggest you don’t have full knowledge of the sources you’re citing. Only use an indirect citation if you can’t reasonably gain access to the original source.

In Harvard style referencing , to distinguish between two sources by the same author that were published in the same year, you add a different letter after the year for each source:

  • (Smith, 2019a)
  • (Smith, 2019b)

Add ‘a’ to the first one you cite, ‘b’ to the second, and so on. Do the same in your bibliography or reference list .

To create a hanging indent for your bibliography or reference list :

  • Highlight all the entries
  • Click on the arrow in the bottom-right corner of the ‘Paragraph’ tab in the top menu.
  • In the pop-up window, under ‘Special’ in the ‘Indentation’ section, use the drop-down menu to select ‘Hanging’.
  • Then close the window with ‘OK’.

Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:

  • A reference list only includes sources cited in the text – every entry corresponds to an in-text citation .
  • A bibliography also includes other sources which were consulted during the research but not cited.

It’s important to assess the reliability of information found online. Look for sources from established publications and institutions with expertise (e.g. peer-reviewed journals and government agencies).

The CRAAP test (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose) can aid you in assessing sources, as can our list of credible sources . You should generally avoid citing websites like Wikipedia that can be edited by anyone – instead, look for the original source of the information in the “References” section.

You can generally omit page numbers in your in-text citations of online sources which don’t have them. But when you quote or paraphrase a specific passage from a particularly long online source, it’s useful to find an alternate location marker.

For text-based sources, you can use paragraph numbers (e.g. ‘para. 4’) or headings (e.g. ‘under “Methodology”’). With video or audio sources, use a timestamp (e.g. ‘10:15’).

In the acknowledgements of your thesis or dissertation, you should first thank those who helped you academically or professionally, such as your supervisor, funders, and other academics.

Then you can include personal thanks to friends, family members, or anyone else who supported you during the process.

Yes, it’s important to thank your supervisor(s) in the acknowledgements section of your thesis or dissertation .

Even if you feel your supervisor did not contribute greatly to the final product, you still should acknowledge them, if only for a very brief thank you. If you do not include your supervisor, it may be seen as a snub.

The acknowledgements are generally included at the very beginning of your thesis or dissertation, directly after the title page and before the abstract .

In a thesis or dissertation, the acknowledgements should usually be no longer than one page. There is no minimum length.

You may acknowledge God in your thesis or dissertation acknowledgements , but be sure to follow academic convention by also thanking the relevant members of academia, as well as family, colleagues, and friends who helped you.

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract   in the table of contents.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  • Apply heading styles throughout the document.
  • In the references section in the ribbon, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Click the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents.
  • Select which levels of headings you would like to include in the table of contents.

Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.

The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction.

An abbreviation is a shortened version of an existing word, such as Dr for Doctor. In contrast, an acronym uses the first letter of each word to create a wholly new word, such as UNESCO (an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Your dissertation sometimes contains a list of abbreviations .

As a rule of thumb, write the explanation in full the first time you use an acronym or abbreviation. You can then proceed with the shortened version. However, if the abbreviation is very common (like UK or PC), then you can just use the abbreviated version straight away.

Be sure to add each abbreviation in your list of abbreviations !

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation, you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimising confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

A list of abbreviations is a list of all the abbreviations you used in your thesis or dissertation. It should appear at the beginning of your document, immediately after your table of contents . It should always be in alphabetical order.

Fishbone diagrams have a few different names that are used interchangeably, including herringbone diagram, cause-and-effect diagram, and Ishikawa diagram.

These are all ways to refer to the same thing– a problem-solving approach that uses a fish-shaped diagram to model possible root causes of problems and troubleshoot solutions.

Fishbone diagrams (also called herringbone diagrams, cause-and-effect diagrams, and Ishikawa diagrams) are most popular in fields of quality management. They are also commonly used in nursing and healthcare, or as a brainstorming technique for students.

Some synonyms and near synonyms of among include:

  • In the company of
  • In the middle of
  • Surrounded by

Some synonyms and near synonyms of between  include:

  • In the space separating
  • In the time separating

In spite of   is a preposition used to mean ‘ regardless of ‘, ‘notwithstanding’, or ‘even though’.

It’s always used in a subordinate clause to contrast with the information given in the main clause of a sentence (e.g., ‘Amy continued to watch TV, in spite of the time’).

Despite   is a preposition used to mean ‘ regardless of ‘, ‘notwithstanding’, or ‘even though’.

It’s used in a subordinate clause to contrast with information given in the main clause of a sentence (e.g., ‘Despite the stress, Joe loves his job’).

‘Log in’ is a phrasal verb meaning ‘connect to an electronic device, system, or app’. The preposition ‘to’ is often used directly after the verb; ‘in’ and ‘to’ should be written as two separate words (e.g., ‘ log in to the app to update privacy settings’).

‘Log into’ is sometimes used instead of ‘log in to’, but this is generally considered incorrect (as is ‘login to’).

Some synonyms and near synonyms of ensure include:

  • Make certain

Some synonyms and near synonyms of assure  include:

Rest assured is an expression meaning ‘you can be certain’ (e.g., ‘Rest assured, I will find your cat’). ‘Assured’ is the adjectival form of the verb assure , meaning ‘convince’ or ‘persuade’.

Some synonyms and near synonyms for council include:

There are numerous synonyms and near synonyms for the two meanings of counsel :

AI writing tools can be used to perform a variety of tasks.

Generative AI writing tools (like ChatGPT ) generate text based on human inputs and can be used for interactive learning, to provide feedback, or to generate research questions or outlines.

These tools can also be used to paraphrase or summarise text or to identify grammar and punctuation mistakes. Y ou can also use Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool , summarising tool , and grammar checker , which are designed specifically for these purposes.

Using AI writing tools (like ChatGPT ) to write your essay is usually considered plagiarism and may result in penalisation, unless it is allowed by your university. Text generated by AI tools is based on existing texts and therefore cannot provide unique insights. Furthermore, these outputs sometimes contain factual inaccuracies or grammar mistakes.

However, AI writing tools can be used effectively as a source of feedback and inspiration for your writing (e.g., to generate research questions ). Other AI tools, like grammar checkers, can help identify and eliminate grammar and punctuation mistakes to enhance your writing.

The Scribbr Knowledge Base is a collection of free resources to help you succeed in academic research, writing, and citation. Every week, we publish helpful step-by-step guides, clear examples, simple templates, engaging videos, and more.

The Knowledge Base is for students at all levels. Whether you’re writing your first essay, working on your bachelor’s or master’s dissertation, or getting to grips with your PhD research, we’ve got you covered.

As well as the Knowledge Base, Scribbr provides many other tools and services to support you in academic writing and citation:

  • Create your citations and manage your reference list with our free Reference Generators in APA and MLA style.
  • Scan your paper for in-text citation errors and inconsistencies with our innovative APA Citation Checker .
  • Avoid accidental plagiarism with our reliable Plagiarism Checker .
  • Polish your writing and get feedback on structure and clarity with our Proofreading & Editing services .

Yes! We’re happy for educators to use our content, and we’ve even adapted some of our articles into ready-made lecture slides .

You are free to display, distribute, and adapt Scribbr materials in your classes or upload them in private learning environments like Blackboard. We only ask that you credit Scribbr for any content you use.

We’re always striving to improve the Knowledge Base. If you have an idea for a topic we should cover, or you notice a mistake in any of our articles, let us know by emailing [email protected] .

The consequences of plagiarism vary depending on the type of plagiarism and the context in which it occurs. For example, submitting a whole paper by someone else will have the most severe consequences, while accidental citation errors are considered less serious.

If you’re a student, then you might fail the course, be suspended or expelled, or be obligated to attend a workshop on plagiarism. It depends on whether it’s your first offence or you’ve done it before.

As an academic or professional, plagiarising seriously damages your reputation. You might also lose your research funding or your job, and you could even face legal consequences for copyright infringement.

Paraphrasing without crediting the original author is a form of plagiarism , because you’re presenting someone else’s ideas as if they were your own.

However, paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you correctly reference the source . This means including an in-text referencing and a full reference , formatted according to your required citation style (e.g., Harvard , Vancouver ).

As well as referencing your source, make sure that any paraphrased text is completely rewritten in your own words.

Accidental plagiarism is one of the most common examples of plagiarism . Perhaps you forgot to cite a source, or paraphrased something a bit too closely. Maybe you can’t remember where you got an idea from, and aren’t totally sure if it’s original or not.

These all count as plagiarism, even though you didn’t do it on purpose. When in doubt, make sure you’re citing your sources . Also consider running your work through a plagiarism checker tool prior to submission, which work by using advanced database software to scan for matches between your text and existing texts.

Scribbr’s Plagiarism Checker takes less than 10 minutes and can help you turn in your paper with confidence.

The accuracy depends on the plagiarism checker you use. Per our in-depth research , Scribbr is the most accurate plagiarism checker. Many free plagiarism checkers fail to detect all plagiarism or falsely flag text as plagiarism.

Plagiarism checkers work by using advanced database software to scan for matches between your text and existing texts. Their accuracy is determined by two factors: the algorithm (which recognises the plagiarism) and the size of the database (with which your document is compared).

To avoid plagiarism when summarising an article or other source, follow these two rules:

  • Write the summary entirely in your own words by   paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
  • Reference the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.

Plagiarism can be detected by your professor or readers if the tone, formatting, or style of your text is different in different parts of your paper, or if they’re familiar with the plagiarised source.

Many universities also use   plagiarism detection software like Turnitin’s, which compares your text to a large database of other sources, flagging any similarities that come up.

It can be easier than you think to commit plagiarism by accident. Consider using a   plagiarism checker prior to submitting your essay to ensure you haven’t missed any citations.

Some examples of plagiarism include:

  • Copying and pasting a Wikipedia article into the body of an assignment
  • Quoting a source without including a citation
  • Not paraphrasing a source properly (e.g. maintaining wording too close to the original)
  • Forgetting to cite the source of an idea

The most surefire way to   avoid plagiarism is to always cite your sources . When in doubt, cite!

Global plagiarism means taking an entire work written by someone else and passing it off as your own. This can include getting someone else to write an essay or assignment for you, or submitting a text you found online as your own work.

Global plagiarism is one of the most serious types of plagiarism because it involves deliberately and directly lying about the authorship of a work. It can have severe consequences for students and professionals alike.

Verbatim plagiarism means copying text from a source and pasting it directly into your own document without giving proper credit.

If the structure and the majority of the words are the same as in the original source, then you are committing verbatim plagiarism. This is the case even if you delete a few words or replace them with synonyms.

If you want to use an author’s exact words, you need to quote the original source by putting the copied text in quotation marks and including an   in-text citation .

Patchwork plagiarism , also called mosaic plagiarism, means copying phrases, passages, or ideas from various existing sources and combining them to create a new text. This includes slightly rephrasing some of the content, while keeping many of the same words and the same structure as the original.

While this type of plagiarism is more insidious than simply copying and pasting directly from a source, plagiarism checkers like Turnitin’s can still easily detect it.

To avoid plagiarism in any form, remember to reference your sources .

Yes, reusing your own work without citation is considered self-plagiarism . This can range from resubmitting an entire assignment to reusing passages or data from something you’ve handed in previously.

Self-plagiarism often has the same consequences as other types of plagiarism . If you want to reuse content you wrote in the past, make sure to check your university’s policy or consult your professor.

If you are reusing content or data you used in a previous assignment, make sure to cite yourself. You can cite yourself the same way you would cite any other source: simply follow the directions for the citation style you are using.

Keep in mind that reusing prior content can be considered self-plagiarism , so make sure you ask your instructor or consult your university’s handbook prior to doing so.

Most institutions have an internal database of previously submitted student assignments. Turnitin can check for self-plagiarism by comparing your paper against this database. If you’ve reused parts of an assignment you already submitted, it will flag any similarities as potential plagiarism.

Online plagiarism checkers don’t have access to your institution’s database, so they can’t detect self-plagiarism of unpublished work. If you’re worried about accidentally self-plagiarising, you can use Scribbr’s Self-Plagiarism Checker to upload your unpublished documents and check them for similarities.

Plagiarism has serious consequences and can be illegal in certain scenarios.

While most of the time plagiarism in an undergraduate setting is not illegal, plagiarism or self-plagiarism in a professional academic setting can lead to legal action, including copyright infringement and fraud. Many scholarly journals do not allow you to submit the same work to more than one journal, and if you do not credit a coauthor, you could be legally defrauding them.

Even if you aren’t breaking the law, plagiarism can seriously impact your academic career. While the exact consequences of plagiarism vary by institution and severity, common consequences include a lower grade, automatically failing a course, academic suspension or probation, and even expulsion.

Self-plagiarism means recycling work that you’ve previously published or submitted as an assignment. It’s considered academic dishonesty to present something as brand new when you’ve already gotten credit and perhaps feedback for it in the past.

If you want to refer to ideas or data from previous work, be sure to cite yourself.

Academic integrity means being honest, ethical, and thorough in your academic work. To maintain academic integrity, you should avoid misleading your readers about any part of your research and refrain from offences like plagiarism and contract cheating, which are examples of academic misconduct.

Academic dishonesty refers to deceitful or misleading behavior in an academic setting. Academic dishonesty can occur intentionally or unintentionally, and it varies in severity.

It can encompass paying for a pre-written essay, cheating on an exam, or committing plagiarism . It can also include helping others cheat, copying a friend’s homework answers, or even pretending to be sick to miss an exam.

Academic dishonesty doesn’t just occur in a classroom setting, but also in research and other academic-adjacent fields.

Consequences of academic dishonesty depend on the severity of the offence and your institution’s policy. They can range from a warning for a first offence to a failing grade in a course to expulsion from your university.

For those in certain fields, such as nursing, engineering, or lab sciences, not learning fundamentals properly can directly impact the health and safety of others. For those working in academia or research, academic dishonesty impacts your professional reputation, leading others to doubt your future work.

Academic dishonesty can be intentional or unintentional, ranging from something as simple as claiming to have read something you didn’t to copying your neighbour’s answers on an exam.

You can commit academic dishonesty with the best of intentions, such as helping a friend cheat on a paper. Severe academic dishonesty can include buying a pre-written essay or the answers to a multiple-choice test, or falsifying a medical emergency to avoid taking a final exam.

Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s work as your own without giving proper credit to the original author. In academic writing, plagiarism involves using words, ideas, or information from a source without including a citation .

Plagiarism can have serious consequences , even when it’s done accidentally. To avoid plagiarism, it’s important to keep track of your sources and cite them correctly.

Common knowledge does not need to be cited. However, you should be extra careful when deciding what counts as common knowledge.

Common knowledge encompasses information that the average educated reader would accept as true without needing the extra validation of a source or citation.

Common knowledge should be widely known, undisputed, and easily verified. When in doubt, always cite your sources.

Most online plagiarism checkers only have access to public databases, whose software doesn’t allow you to compare two documents for plagiarism.

However, in addition to our Plagiarism Checker , Scribbr also offers an Self-Plagiarism Checker . This is an add-on tool that lets you compare your paper with unpublished or private documents. This way you can rest assured that you haven’t unintentionally plagiarised or self-plagiarised .

Compare two sources for plagiarism

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The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts, and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyse a large amount of readily available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how they are generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).

In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .

In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.

In mixed methods research , you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question .

Data collection is the systematic process by which observations or measurements are gathered in research. It is used in many different contexts by academics, governments, businesses, and other organisations.

There are various approaches to qualitative data analysis , but they all share five steps in common:

  • Prepare and organise your data.
  • Review and explore your data.
  • Develop a data coding system.
  • Assign codes to the data.
  • Identify recurring themes.

The specifics of each step depend on the focus of the analysis. Some common approaches include textual analysis , thematic analysis , and discourse analysis .

There are five common approaches to qualitative research :

  • Grounded theory involves collecting data in order to develop new theories.
  • Ethnography involves immersing yourself in a group or organisation to understand its culture.
  • Narrative research involves interpreting stories to understand how people make sense of their experiences and perceptions.
  • Phenomenological research involves investigating phenomena through people’s lived experiences.
  • Action research links theory and practice in several cycles to drive innovative changes.

Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics. It is used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses , by calculating how likely it is that a pattern or relationship between variables could have arisen by chance.

Operationalisation means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioural avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalise the variables that you want to measure.

Triangulation in research means using multiple datasets, methods, theories and/or investigators to address a research question. It’s a research strategy that can help you enhance the validity and credibility of your findings.

Triangulation is mainly used in qualitative research , but it’s also commonly applied in quantitative research . Mixed methods research always uses triangulation.

These are four of the most common mixed methods designs :

  • Convergent parallel: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time and analysed separately. After both analyses are complete, compare your results to draw overall conclusions. 
  • Embedded: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time, but within a larger quantitative or qualitative design. One type of data is secondary to the other.
  • Explanatory sequential: Quantitative data is collected and analysed first, followed by qualitative data. You can use this design if you think your qualitative data will explain and contextualise your quantitative findings.
  • Exploratory sequential: Qualitative data is collected and analysed first, followed by quantitative data. You can use this design if you think the quantitative data will confirm or validate your qualitative findings.

An observational study could be a good fit for your research if your research question is based on things you observe. If you have ethical, logistical, or practical concerns that make an experimental design challenging, consider an observational study. Remember that in an observational study, it is critical that there be no interference or manipulation of the research subjects. Since it’s not an experiment, there are no control or treatment groups either.

The key difference between observational studies and experiments is that, done correctly, an observational study will never influence the responses or behaviours of participants. Experimental designs will have a treatment condition applied to at least a portion of participants.

Exploratory research explores the main aspects of a new or barely researched question.

Explanatory research explains the causes and effects of an already widely researched question.

Experimental designs are a set of procedures that you plan in order to examine the relationship between variables that interest you.

To design a successful experiment, first identify:

  • A testable hypothesis
  • One or more independent variables that you will manipulate
  • One or more dependent variables that you will measure

When designing the experiment, first decide:

  • How your variable(s) will be manipulated
  • How you will control for any potential confounding or lurking variables
  • How many subjects you will include
  • How you will assign treatments to your subjects

There are four main types of triangulation :

  • Data triangulation : Using data from different times, spaces, and people
  • Investigator triangulation : Involving multiple researchers in collecting or analysing data
  • Theory triangulation : Using varying theoretical perspectives in your research
  • Methodological triangulation : Using different methodologies to approach the same topic

Triangulation can help:

  • Reduce bias that comes from using a single method, theory, or investigator
  • Enhance validity by approaching the same topic with different tools
  • Establish credibility by giving you a complete picture of the research problem

But triangulation can also pose problems:

  • It’s time-consuming and labour-intensive, often involving an interdisciplinary team.
  • Your results may be inconsistent or even contradictory.

A confounding variable , also called a confounder or confounding factor, is a third variable in a study examining a potential cause-and-effect relationship.

A confounding variable is related to both the supposed cause and the supposed effect of the study. It can be difficult to separate the true effect of the independent variable from the effect of the confounding variable.

In your research design , it’s important to identify potential confounding variables and plan how you will reduce their impact.

In a between-subjects design , every participant experiences only one condition, and researchers assess group differences between participants in various conditions.

In a within-subjects design , each participant experiences all conditions, and researchers test the same participants repeatedly for differences between conditions.

The word ‘between’ means that you’re comparing different conditions between groups, while the word ‘within’ means you’re comparing different conditions within the same group.

A quasi-experiment is a type of research design that attempts to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. The main difference between this and a true experiment is that the groups are not randomly assigned.

In experimental research, random assignment is a way of placing participants from your sample into different groups using randomisation. With this method, every member of the sample has a known or equal chance of being placed in a control group or an experimental group.

Quasi-experimental design is most useful in situations where it would be unethical or impractical to run a true experiment .

Quasi-experiments have lower internal validity than true experiments, but they often have higher external validity  as they can use real-world interventions instead of artificial laboratory settings.

Within-subjects designs have many potential threats to internal validity , but they are also very statistically powerful .

Advantages:

  • Only requires small samples
  • Statistically powerful
  • Removes the effects of individual differences on the outcomes

Disadvantages:

  • Internal validity threats reduce the likelihood of establishing a direct relationship between variables
  • Time-related effects, such as growth, can influence the outcomes
  • Carryover effects mean that the specific order of different treatments affect the outcomes

Yes. Between-subjects and within-subjects designs can be combined in a single study when you have two or more independent variables (a factorial design). In a mixed factorial design, one variable is altered between subjects and another is altered within subjects.

In a factorial design, multiple independent variables are tested.

If you test two variables, each level of one independent variable is combined with each level of the other independent variable to create different conditions.

While a between-subjects design has fewer threats to internal validity , it also requires more participants for high statistical power than a within-subjects design .

  • Prevents carryover effects of learning and fatigue.
  • Shorter study duration.
  • Needs larger samples for high power.
  • Uses more resources to recruit participants, administer sessions, cover costs, etc.
  • Individual differences may be an alternative explanation for results.

Samples are used to make inferences about populations . Samples are easier to collect data from because they are practical, cost-effective, convenient, and manageable.

Probability sampling means that every member of the target population has a known chance of being included in the sample.

Probability sampling methods include simple random sampling , systematic sampling , stratified sampling , and cluster sampling .

In non-probability sampling , the sample is selected based on non-random criteria, and not every member of the population has a chance of being included.

Common non-probability sampling methods include convenience sampling , voluntary response sampling, purposive sampling , snowball sampling , and quota sampling .

In multistage sampling , or multistage cluster sampling, you draw a sample from a population using smaller and smaller groups at each stage.

This method is often used to collect data from a large, geographically spread group of people in national surveys, for example. You take advantage of hierarchical groupings (e.g., from county to city to neighbourhood) to create a sample that’s less expensive and time-consuming to collect data from.

Sampling bias occurs when some members of a population are systematically more likely to be selected in a sample than others.

Simple random sampling is a type of probability sampling in which the researcher randomly selects a subset of participants from a population . Each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. Data are then collected from as large a percentage as possible of this random subset.

The American Community Survey  is an example of simple random sampling . In order to collect detailed data on the population of the US, the Census Bureau officials randomly select 3.5 million households per year and use a variety of methods to convince them to fill out the survey.

If properly implemented, simple random sampling is usually the best sampling method for ensuring both internal and external validity . However, it can sometimes be impractical and expensive to implement, depending on the size of the population to be studied,

If you have a list of every member of the population and the ability to reach whichever members are selected, you can use simple random sampling.

Cluster sampling is more time- and cost-efficient than other probability sampling methods , particularly when it comes to large samples spread across a wide geographical area.

However, it provides less statistical certainty than other methods, such as simple random sampling , because it is difficult to ensure that your clusters properly represent the population as a whole.

There are three types of cluster sampling : single-stage, double-stage and multi-stage clustering. In all three types, you first divide the population into clusters, then randomly select clusters for use in your sample.

  • In single-stage sampling , you collect data from every unit within the selected clusters.
  • In double-stage sampling , you select a random sample of units from within the clusters.
  • In multi-stage sampling , you repeat the procedure of randomly sampling elements from within the clusters until you have reached a manageable sample.

Cluster sampling is a probability sampling method in which you divide a population into clusters, such as districts or schools, and then randomly select some of these clusters as your sample.

The clusters should ideally each be mini-representations of the population as a whole.

In multistage sampling , you can use probability or non-probability sampling methods.

For a probability sample, you have to probability sampling at every stage. You can mix it up by using simple random sampling , systematic sampling , or stratified sampling to select units at different stages, depending on what is applicable and relevant to your study.

Multistage sampling can simplify data collection when you have large, geographically spread samples, and you can obtain a probability sample without a complete sampling frame.

But multistage sampling may not lead to a representative sample, and larger samples are needed for multistage samples to achieve the statistical properties of simple random samples .

In stratified sampling , researchers divide subjects into subgroups called strata based on characteristics that they share (e.g., race, gender, educational attainment).

Once divided, each subgroup is randomly sampled using another probability sampling method .

You should use stratified sampling when your sample can be divided into mutually exclusive and exhaustive subgroups that you believe will take on different mean values for the variable that you’re studying.

Using stratified sampling will allow you to obtain more precise (with lower variance ) statistical estimates of whatever you are trying to measure.

For example, say you want to investigate how income differs based on educational attainment, but you know that this relationship can vary based on race. Using stratified sampling, you can ensure you obtain a large enough sample from each racial group, allowing you to draw more precise conclusions.

Yes, you can create a stratified sample using multiple characteristics, but you must ensure that every participant in your study belongs to one and only one subgroup. In this case, you multiply the numbers of subgroups for each characteristic to get the total number of groups.

For example, if you were stratifying by location with three subgroups (urban, rural, or suburban) and marital status with five subgroups (single, divorced, widowed, married, or partnered), you would have 3 × 5 = 15 subgroups.

There are three key steps in systematic sampling :

  • Define and list your population , ensuring that it is not ordered in a cyclical or periodic order.
  • Decide on your sample size and calculate your interval, k , by dividing your population by your target sample size.
  • Choose every k th member of the population as your sample.

Systematic sampling is a probability sampling method where researchers select members of the population at a regular interval – for example, by selecting every 15th person on a list of the population. If the population is in a random order, this can imitate the benefits of simple random sampling .

Populations are used when a research question requires data from every member of the population. This is usually only feasible when the population is small and easily accessible.

A statistic refers to measures about the sample , while a parameter refers to measures about the population .

A sampling error is the difference between a population parameter and a sample statistic .

There are eight threats to internal validity : history, maturation, instrumentation, testing, selection bias , regression to the mean, social interaction, and attrition .

Internal validity is the extent to which you can be confident that a cause-and-effect relationship established in a study cannot be explained by other factors.

Attrition bias is a threat to internal validity . In experiments, differential rates of attrition between treatment and control groups can skew results.

This bias can affect the relationship between your independent and dependent variables . It can make variables appear to be correlated when they are not, or vice versa.

The external validity of a study is the extent to which you can generalise your findings to different groups of people, situations, and measures.

The two types of external validity are population validity (whether you can generalise to other groups of people) and ecological validity (whether you can generalise to other situations and settings).

There are seven threats to external validity : selection bias , history, experimenter effect, Hawthorne effect , testing effect, aptitude-treatment, and situation effect.

Attrition bias can skew your sample so that your final sample differs significantly from your original sample. Your sample is biased because some groups from your population are underrepresented.

With a biased final sample, you may not be able to generalise your findings to the original population that you sampled from, so your external validity is compromised.

Construct validity is about how well a test measures the concept it was designed to evaluate. It’s one of four types of measurement validity , which includes construct validity, face validity , and criterion validity.

There are two subtypes of construct validity.

  • Convergent validity : The extent to which your measure corresponds to measures of related constructs
  • Discriminant validity: The extent to which your measure is unrelated or negatively related to measures of distinct constructs

When designing or evaluating a measure, construct validity helps you ensure you’re actually measuring the construct you’re interested in. If you don’t have construct validity, you may inadvertently measure unrelated or distinct constructs and lose precision in your research.

Construct validity is often considered the overarching type of measurement validity ,  because it covers all of the other types. You need to have face validity , content validity, and criterion validity to achieve construct validity.

Statistical analyses are often applied to test validity with data from your measures. You test convergent validity and discriminant validity with correlations to see if results from your test are positively or negatively related to those of other established tests.

You can also use regression analyses to assess whether your measure is actually predictive of outcomes that you expect it to predict theoretically. A regression analysis that supports your expectations strengthens your claim of construct validity .

Face validity is about whether a test appears to measure what it’s supposed to measure. This type of validity is concerned with whether a measure seems relevant and appropriate for what it’s assessing only on the surface.

Face validity is important because it’s a simple first step to measuring the overall validity of a test or technique. It’s a relatively intuitive, quick, and easy way to start checking whether a new measure seems useful at first glance.

Good face validity means that anyone who reviews your measure says that it seems to be measuring what it’s supposed to. With poor face validity, someone reviewing your measure may be left confused about what you’re measuring and why you’re using this method.

It’s often best to ask a variety of people to review your measurements. You can ask experts, such as other researchers, or laypeople, such as potential participants, to judge the face validity of tests.

While experts have a deep understanding of research methods , the people you’re studying can provide you with valuable insights you may have missed otherwise.

There are many different types of inductive reasoning that people use formally or informally.

Here are a few common types:

  • Inductive generalisation : You use observations about a sample to come to a conclusion about the population it came from.
  • Statistical generalisation: You use specific numbers about samples to make statements about populations.
  • Causal reasoning: You make cause-and-effect links between different things.
  • Sign reasoning: You make a conclusion about a correlational relationship between different things.
  • Analogical reasoning: You make a conclusion about something based on its similarities to something else.

Inductive reasoning is a bottom-up approach, while deductive reasoning is top-down.

Inductive reasoning takes you from the specific to the general, while in deductive reasoning, you make inferences by going from general premises to specific conclusions.

In inductive research , you start by making observations or gathering data. Then, you take a broad scan of your data and search for patterns. Finally, you make general conclusions that you might incorporate into theories.

Inductive reasoning is a method of drawing conclusions by going from the specific to the general. It’s usually contrasted with deductive reasoning, where you proceed from general information to specific conclusions.

Inductive reasoning is also called inductive logic or bottom-up reasoning.

Deductive reasoning is a logical approach where you progress from general ideas to specific conclusions. It’s often contrasted with inductive reasoning , where you start with specific observations and form general conclusions.

Deductive reasoning is also called deductive logic.

Deductive reasoning is commonly used in scientific research, and it’s especially associated with quantitative research .

In research, you might have come across something called the hypothetico-deductive method . It’s the scientific method of testing hypotheses to check whether your predictions are substantiated by real-world data.

A dependent variable is what changes as a result of the independent variable manipulation in experiments . It’s what you’re interested in measuring, and it ‘depends’ on your independent variable.

In statistics, dependent variables are also called:

  • Response variables (they respond to a change in another variable)
  • Outcome variables (they represent the outcome you want to measure)
  • Left-hand-side variables (they appear on the left-hand side of a regression equation)

An independent variable is the variable you manipulate, control, or vary in an experimental study to explore its effects. It’s called ‘independent’ because it’s not influenced by any other variables in the study.

Independent variables are also called:

  • Explanatory variables (they explain an event or outcome)
  • Predictor variables (they can be used to predict the value of a dependent variable)
  • Right-hand-side variables (they appear on the right-hand side of a regression equation)

A correlation is usually tested for two variables at a time, but you can test correlations between three or more variables.

On graphs, the explanatory variable is conventionally placed on the x -axis, while the response variable is placed on the y -axis.

  • If you have quantitative variables , use a scatterplot or a line graph.
  • If your response variable is categorical, use a scatterplot or a line graph.
  • If your explanatory variable is categorical, use a bar graph.

The term ‘ explanatory variable ‘ is sometimes preferred over ‘ independent variable ‘ because, in real-world contexts, independent variables are often influenced by other variables. This means they aren’t totally independent.

Multiple independent variables may also be correlated with each other, so ‘explanatory variables’ is a more appropriate term.

The difference between explanatory and response variables is simple:

  • An explanatory variable is the expected cause, and it explains the results.
  • A response variable is the expected effect, and it responds to other variables.

There are 4 main types of extraneous variables :

  • Demand characteristics : Environmental cues that encourage participants to conform to researchers’ expectations
  • Experimenter effects : Unintentional actions by researchers that influence study outcomes
  • Situational variables : Eenvironmental variables that alter participants’ behaviours
  • Participant variables : Any characteristic or aspect of a participant’s background that could affect study results

An extraneous variable is any variable that you’re not investigating that can potentially affect the dependent variable of your research study.

A confounding variable is a type of extraneous variable that not only affects the dependent variable, but is also related to the independent variable.

‘Controlling for a variable’ means measuring extraneous variables and accounting for them statistically to remove their effects on other variables.

Researchers often model control variable data along with independent and dependent variable data in regression analyses and ANCOVAs . That way, you can isolate the control variable’s effects from the relationship between the variables of interest.

Control variables help you establish a correlational or causal relationship between variables by enhancing internal validity .

If you don’t control relevant extraneous variables , they may influence the outcomes of your study, and you may not be able to demonstrate that your results are really an effect of your independent variable .

A control variable is any variable that’s held constant in a research study. It’s not a variable of interest in the study, but it’s controlled because it could influence the outcomes.

In statistics, ordinal and nominal variables are both considered categorical variables .

Even though ordinal data can sometimes be numerical, not all mathematical operations can be performed on them.

In scientific research, concepts are the abstract ideas or phenomena that are being studied (e.g., educational achievement). Variables are properties or characteristics of the concept (e.g., performance at school), while indicators are ways of measuring or quantifying variables (e.g., yearly grade reports).

The process of turning abstract concepts into measurable variables and indicators is called operationalisation .

There are several methods you can use to decrease the impact of confounding variables on your research: restriction, matching, statistical control, and randomisation.

In restriction , you restrict your sample by only including certain subjects that have the same values of potential confounding variables.

In matching , you match each of the subjects in your treatment group with a counterpart in the comparison group. The matched subjects have the same values on any potential confounding variables, and only differ in the independent variable .

In statistical control , you include potential confounders as variables in your regression .

In randomisation , you randomly assign the treatment (or independent variable) in your study to a sufficiently large number of subjects, which allows you to control for all potential confounding variables.

A confounding variable is closely related to both the independent and dependent variables in a study. An independent variable represents the supposed cause , while the dependent variable is the supposed effect . A confounding variable is a third variable that influences both the independent and dependent variables.

Failing to account for confounding variables can cause you to wrongly estimate the relationship between your independent and dependent variables.

To ensure the internal validity of your research, you must consider the impact of confounding variables. If you fail to account for them, you might over- or underestimate the causal relationship between your independent and dependent variables , or even find a causal relationship where none exists.

Yes, but including more than one of either type requires multiple research questions .

For example, if you are interested in the effect of a diet on health, you can use multiple measures of health: blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, pulse, and many more. Each of these is its own dependent variable with its own research question.

You could also choose to look at the effect of exercise levels as well as diet, or even the additional effect of the two combined. Each of these is a separate independent variable .

To ensure the internal validity of an experiment , you should only change one independent variable at a time.

No. The value of a dependent variable depends on an independent variable, so a variable cannot be both independent and dependent at the same time. It must be either the cause or the effect, not both.

You want to find out how blood sugar levels are affected by drinking diet cola and regular cola, so you conduct an experiment .

  • The type of cola – diet or regular – is the independent variable .
  • The level of blood sugar that you measure is the dependent variable – it changes depending on the type of cola.

Determining cause and effect is one of the most important parts of scientific research. It’s essential to know which is the cause – the independent variable – and which is the effect – the dependent variable.

Quantitative variables are any variables where the data represent amounts (e.g. height, weight, or age).

Categorical variables are any variables where the data represent groups. This includes rankings (e.g. finishing places in a race), classifications (e.g. brands of cereal), and binary outcomes (e.g. coin flips).

You need to know what type of variables you are working with to choose the right statistical test for your data and interpret your results .

Discrete and continuous variables are two types of quantitative variables :

  • Discrete variables represent counts (e.g., the number of objects in a collection).
  • Continuous variables represent measurable amounts (e.g., water volume or weight).

You can think of independent and dependent variables in terms of cause and effect: an independent variable is the variable you think is the cause , while a dependent variable is the effect .

In an experiment, you manipulate the independent variable and measure the outcome in the dependent variable. For example, in an experiment about the effect of nutrients on crop growth:

  • The  independent variable  is the amount of nutrients added to the crop field.
  • The  dependent variable is the biomass of the crops at harvest time.

Defining your variables, and deciding how you will manipulate and measure them, is an important part of experimental design .

Including mediators and moderators in your research helps you go beyond studying a simple relationship between two variables for a fuller picture of the real world. They are important to consider when studying complex correlational or causal relationships.

Mediators are part of the causal pathway of an effect, and they tell you how or why an effect takes place. Moderators usually help you judge the external validity of your study by identifying the limitations of when the relationship between variables holds.

If something is a mediating variable :

  • It’s caused by the independent variable
  • It influences the dependent variable
  • When it’s taken into account, the statistical correlation between the independent and dependent variables is higher than when it isn’t considered

A confounder is a third variable that affects variables of interest and makes them seem related when they are not. In contrast, a mediator is the mechanism of a relationship between two variables: it explains the process by which they are related.

A mediator variable explains the process through which two variables are related, while a moderator variable affects the strength and direction of that relationship.

When conducting research, collecting original data has significant advantages:

  • You can tailor data collection to your specific research aims (e.g., understanding the needs of your consumers or user testing your website).
  • You can control and standardise the process for high reliability and validity (e.g., choosing appropriate measurements and sampling methods ).

However, there are also some drawbacks: data collection can be time-consuming, labour-intensive, and expensive. In some cases, it’s more efficient to use secondary data that has already been collected by someone else, but the data might be less reliable.

A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. They are often quantitative in nature. Structured interviews are best used when:

  • You already have a very clear understanding of your topic. Perhaps significant research has already been conducted, or you have done some prior research yourself, but you already possess a baseline for designing strong structured questions.
  • You are constrained in terms of time or resources and need to analyse your data quickly and efficiently
  • Your research question depends on strong parity between participants, with environmental conditions held constant

More flexible interview options include semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

The interviewer effect is a type of bias that emerges when a characteristic of an interviewer (race, age, gender identity, etc.) influences the responses given by the interviewee.

There is a risk of an interviewer effect in all types of interviews , but it can be mitigated by writing really high-quality interview questions.

A semi-structured interview is a blend of structured and unstructured types of interviews. Semi-structured interviews are best used when:

  • You have prior interview experience. Spontaneous questions are deceptively challenging, and it’s easy to accidentally ask a leading question or make a participant uncomfortable.
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature. Participant answers can guide future research questions and help you develop a more robust knowledge base for future research.

An unstructured interview is the most flexible type of interview, but it is not always the best fit for your research topic.

Unstructured interviews are best used when:

  • You are an experienced interviewer and have a very strong background in your research topic, since it is challenging to ask spontaneous, colloquial questions
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature. While you may have developed hypotheses, you are open to discovering new or shifting viewpoints through the interview process.
  • You are seeking descriptive data, and are ready to ask questions that will deepen and contextualise your initial thoughts and hypotheses
  • Your research depends on forming connections with your participants and making them feel comfortable revealing deeper emotions, lived experiences, or thoughts

The four most common types of interviews are:

  • Structured interviews : The questions are predetermined in both topic and order.
  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, but other questions aren’t planned.
  • Unstructured interviews : None of the questions are predetermined.
  • Focus group interviews : The questions are presented to a group instead of one individual.

A focus group is a research method that brings together a small group of people to answer questions in a moderated setting. The group is chosen due to predefined demographic traits, and the questions are designed to shed light on a topic of interest. It is one of four types of interviews .

Social desirability bias is the tendency for interview participants to give responses that will be viewed favourably by the interviewer or other participants. It occurs in all types of interviews and surveys , but is most common in semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

Social desirability bias can be mitigated by ensuring participants feel at ease and comfortable sharing their views. Make sure to pay attention to your own body language and any physical or verbal cues, such as nodding or widening your eyes.

This type of bias in research can also occur in observations if the participants know they’re being observed. They might alter their behaviour accordingly.

As a rule of thumb, questions related to thoughts, beliefs, and feelings work well in focus groups . Take your time formulating strong questions, paying special attention to phrasing. Be careful to avoid leading questions , which can bias your responses.

Overall, your focus group questions should be:

  • Open-ended and flexible
  • Impossible to answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (questions that start with ‘why’ or ‘how’ are often best)
  • Unambiguous, getting straight to the point while still stimulating discussion
  • Unbiased and neutral

The third variable and directionality problems are two main reasons why correlation isn’t causation .

The third variable problem means that a confounding variable affects both variables to make them seem causally related when they are not.

The directionality problem is when two variables correlate and might actually have a causal relationship, but it’s impossible to conclude which variable causes changes in the other.

Controlled experiments establish causality, whereas correlational studies only show associations between variables.

  • In an experimental design , you manipulate an independent variable and measure its effect on a dependent variable. Other variables are controlled so they can’t impact the results.
  • In a correlational design , you measure variables without manipulating any of them. You can test whether your variables change together, but you can’t be sure that one variable caused a change in another.

In general, correlational research is high in external validity while experimental research is high in internal validity .

A correlation coefficient is a single number that describes the strength and direction of the relationship between your variables.

Different types of correlation coefficients might be appropriate for your data based on their levels of measurement and distributions . The Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (Pearson’s r ) is commonly used to assess a linear relationship between two quantitative variables.

A correlational research design investigates relationships between two variables (or more) without the researcher controlling or manipulating any of them. It’s a non-experimental type of quantitative research .

A correlation reflects the strength and/or direction of the association between two or more variables.

  • A positive correlation means that both variables change in the same direction.
  • A negative correlation means that the variables change in opposite directions.
  • A zero correlation means there’s no relationship between the variables.

Longitudinal studies can last anywhere from weeks to decades, although they tend to be at least a year long.

The 1970 British Cohort Study , which has collected data on the lives of 17,000 Brits since their births in 1970, is one well-known example of a longitudinal study .

Longitudinal studies are better to establish the correct sequence of events, identify changes over time, and provide insight into cause-and-effect relationships, but they also tend to be more expensive and time-consuming than other types of studies.

Longitudinal studies and cross-sectional studies are two different types of research design . In a cross-sectional study you collect data from a population at a specific point in time; in a longitudinal study you repeatedly collect data from the same sample over an extended period of time.

Cross-sectional studies cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship or analyse behaviour over a period of time. To investigate cause and effect, you need to do a longitudinal study or an experimental study .

Cross-sectional studies are less expensive and time-consuming than many other types of study. They can provide useful insights into a population’s characteristics and identify correlations for further research.

Sometimes only cross-sectional data are available for analysis; other times your research question may only require a cross-sectional study to answer it.

A hypothesis states your predictions about what your research will find. It is a tentative answer to your research question that has not yet been tested. For some research projects, you might have to write several hypotheses that address different aspects of your research question.

A hypothesis is not just a guess. It should be based on existing theories and knowledge. It also has to be testable, which means you can support or refute it through scientific research methods (such as experiments, observations, and statistical analysis of data).

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (‘ x affects y because …’).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses. In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

Individual Likert-type questions are generally considered ordinal data , because the items have clear rank order, but don’t have an even distribution.

Overall Likert scale scores are sometimes treated as interval data. These scores are considered to have directionality and even spacing between them.

The type of data determines what statistical tests you should use to analyse your data.

A Likert scale is a rating scale that quantitatively assesses opinions, attitudes, or behaviours. It is made up of four or more questions that measure a single attitude or trait when response scores are combined.

To use a Likert scale in a survey , you present participants with Likert-type questions or statements, and a continuum of items, usually with five or seven possible responses, to capture their degree of agreement.

A questionnaire is a data collection tool or instrument, while a survey is an overarching research method that involves collecting and analysing data from people using questionnaires.

A true experiment (aka a controlled experiment) always includes at least one control group that doesn’t receive the experimental treatment.

However, some experiments use a within-subjects design to test treatments without a control group. In these designs, you usually compare one group’s outcomes before and after a treatment (instead of comparing outcomes between different groups).

For strong internal validity , it’s usually best to include a control group if possible. Without a control group, it’s harder to be certain that the outcome was caused by the experimental treatment and not by other variables.

An experimental group, also known as a treatment group, receives the treatment whose effect researchers wish to study, whereas a control group does not. They should be identical in all other ways.

In a controlled experiment , all extraneous variables are held constant so that they can’t influence the results. Controlled experiments require:

  • A control group that receives a standard treatment, a fake treatment, or no treatment
  • Random assignment of participants to ensure the groups are equivalent

Depending on your study topic, there are various other methods of controlling variables .

Questionnaires can be self-administered or researcher-administered.

Self-administered questionnaires can be delivered online or in paper-and-pen formats, in person or by post. All questions are standardised so that all respondents receive the same questions with identical wording.

Researcher-administered questionnaires are interviews that take place by phone, in person, or online between researchers and respondents. You can gain deeper insights by clarifying questions for respondents or asking follow-up questions.

You can organise the questions logically, with a clear progression from simple to complex, or randomly between respondents. A logical flow helps respondents process the questionnaire easier and quicker, but it may lead to bias. Randomisation can minimise the bias from order effects.

Closed-ended, or restricted-choice, questions offer respondents a fixed set of choices to select from. These questions are easier to answer quickly.

Open-ended or long-form questions allow respondents to answer in their own words. Because there are no restrictions on their choices, respondents can answer in ways that researchers may not have otherwise considered.

Naturalistic observation is a qualitative research method where you record the behaviours of your research subjects in real-world settings. You avoid interfering or influencing anything in a naturalistic observation.

You can think of naturalistic observation as ‘people watching’ with a purpose.

Naturalistic observation is a valuable tool because of its flexibility, external validity , and suitability for topics that can’t be studied in a lab setting.

The downsides of naturalistic observation include its lack of scientific control , ethical considerations , and potential for bias from observers and subjects.

You can use several tactics to minimise observer bias .

  • Use masking (blinding) to hide the purpose of your study from all observers.
  • Triangulate your data with different data collection methods or sources.
  • Use multiple observers and ensure inter-rater reliability.
  • Train your observers to make sure data is consistently recorded between them.
  • Standardise your observation procedures to make sure they are structured and clear.

The observer-expectancy effect occurs when researchers influence the results of their own study through interactions with participants.

Researchers’ own beliefs and expectations about the study results may unintentionally influence participants through demand characteristics .

Observer bias occurs when a researcher’s expectations, opinions, or prejudices influence what they perceive or record in a study. It usually affects studies when observers are aware of the research aims or hypotheses. This type of research bias is also called detection bias or ascertainment bias .

Data cleaning is necessary for valid and appropriate analyses. Dirty data contain inconsistencies or errors , but cleaning your data helps you minimise or resolve these.

Without data cleaning, you could end up with a Type I or II error in your conclusion. These types of erroneous conclusions can be practically significant with important consequences, because they lead to misplaced investments or missed opportunities.

Data cleaning involves spotting and resolving potential data inconsistencies or errors to improve your data quality. An error is any value (e.g., recorded weight) that doesn’t reflect the true value (e.g., actual weight) of something that’s being measured.

In this process, you review, analyse, detect, modify, or remove ‘dirty’ data to make your dataset ‘clean’. Data cleaning is also called data cleansing or data scrubbing.

Data cleaning takes place between data collection and data analyses. But you can use some methods even before collecting data.

For clean data, you should start by designing measures that collect valid data. Data validation at the time of data entry or collection helps you minimize the amount of data cleaning you’ll need to do.

After data collection, you can use data standardisation and data transformation to clean your data. You’ll also deal with any missing values, outliers, and duplicate values.

Clean data are valid, accurate, complete, consistent, unique, and uniform. Dirty data include inconsistencies and errors.

Dirty data can come from any part of the research process, including poor research design , inappropriate measurement materials, or flawed data entry.

Random assignment is used in experiments with a between-groups or independent measures design. In this research design, there’s usually a control group and one or more experimental groups. Random assignment helps ensure that the groups are comparable.

In general, you should always use random assignment in this type of experimental design when it is ethically possible and makes sense for your study topic.

Random selection, or random sampling , is a way of selecting members of a population for your study’s sample.

In contrast, random assignment is a way of sorting the sample into control and experimental groups.

Random sampling enhances the external validity or generalisability of your results, while random assignment improves the internal validity of your study.

To implement random assignment , assign a unique number to every member of your study’s sample .

Then, you can use a random number generator or a lottery method to randomly assign each number to a control or experimental group. You can also do so manually, by flipping a coin or rolling a die to randomly assign participants to groups.

Exploratory research is often used when the issue you’re studying is new or when the data collection process is challenging for some reason.

You can use exploratory research if you have a general idea or a specific question that you want to study but there is no preexisting knowledge or paradigm with which to study it.

Exploratory research is a methodology approach that explores research questions that have not previously been studied in depth. It is often used when the issue you’re studying is new, or the data collection process is challenging in some way.

Explanatory research is used to investigate how or why a phenomenon occurs. Therefore, this type of research is often one of the first stages in the research process , serving as a jumping-off point for future research.

Explanatory research is a research method used to investigate how or why something occurs when only a small amount of information is available pertaining to that topic. It can help you increase your understanding of a given topic.

Blinding means hiding who is assigned to the treatment group and who is assigned to the control group in an experiment .

Blinding is important to reduce bias (e.g., observer bias , demand characteristics ) and ensure a study’s internal validity .

If participants know whether they are in a control or treatment group , they may adjust their behaviour in ways that affect the outcome that researchers are trying to measure. If the people administering the treatment are aware of group assignment, they may treat participants differently and thus directly or indirectly influence the final results.

  • In a single-blind study , only the participants are blinded.
  • In a double-blind study , both participants and experimenters are blinded.
  • In a triple-blind study , the assignment is hidden not only from participants and experimenters, but also from the researchers analysing the data.

Many academic fields use peer review , largely to determine whether a manuscript is suitable for publication. Peer review enhances the credibility of the published manuscript.

However, peer review is also common in non-academic settings. The United Nations, the European Union, and many individual nations use peer review to evaluate grant applications. It is also widely used in medical and health-related fields as a teaching or quality-of-care measure.

Peer assessment is often used in the classroom as a pedagogical tool. Both receiving feedback and providing it are thought to enhance the learning process, helping students think critically and collaboratively.

Peer review can stop obviously problematic, falsified, or otherwise untrustworthy research from being published. It also represents an excellent opportunity to get feedback from renowned experts in your field.

It acts as a first defence, helping you ensure your argument is clear and that there are no gaps, vague terms, or unanswered questions for readers who weren’t involved in the research process.

Peer-reviewed articles are considered a highly credible source due to this stringent process they go through before publication.

In general, the peer review process follows the following steps:

  • First, the author submits the manuscript to the editor.
  • Reject the manuscript and send it back to author, or
  • Send it onward to the selected peer reviewer(s)
  • Next, the peer review process occurs. The reviewer provides feedback, addressing any major or minor issues with the manuscript, and gives their advice regarding what edits should be made.
  • Lastly, the edited manuscript is sent back to the author. They input the edits, and resubmit it to the editor for publication.

Peer review is a process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Utilising rigorous criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decide whether to accept each submission for publication.

For this reason, academic journals are often considered among the most credible sources you can use in a research project – provided that the journal itself is trustworthy and well regarded.

Anonymity means you don’t know who the participants are, while confidentiality means you know who they are but remove identifying information from your research report. Both are important ethical considerations .

You can only guarantee anonymity by not collecting any personally identifying information – for example, names, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, physical characteristics, photos, or videos.

You can keep data confidential by using aggregate information in your research report, so that you only refer to groups of participants rather than individuals.

Research misconduct means making up or falsifying data, manipulating data analyses, or misrepresenting results in research reports. It’s a form of academic fraud.

These actions are committed intentionally and can have serious consequences; research misconduct is not a simple mistake or a point of disagreement but a serious ethical failure.

Research ethics matter for scientific integrity, human rights and dignity, and collaboration between science and society. These principles make sure that participation in studies is voluntary, informed, and safe.

Ethical considerations in research are a set of principles that guide your research designs and practices. These principles include voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, potential for harm, and results communication.

Scientists and researchers must always adhere to a certain code of conduct when collecting data from others .

These considerations protect the rights of research participants, enhance research validity , and maintain scientific integrity.

A systematic review is secondary research because it uses existing research. You don’t collect new data yourself.

The two main types of social desirability bias are:

  • Self-deceptive enhancement (self-deception): The tendency to see oneself in a favorable light without realizing it.
  • Impression managemen t (other-deception): The tendency to inflate one’s abilities or achievement in order to make a good impression on other people.

Demand characteristics are aspects of experiments that may give away the research objective to participants. Social desirability bias occurs when participants automatically try to respond in ways that make them seem likeable in a study, even if it means misrepresenting how they truly feel.

Participants may use demand characteristics to infer social norms or experimenter expectancies and act in socially desirable ways, so you should try to control for demand characteristics wherever possible.

Response bias refers to conditions or factors that take place during the process of responding to surveys, affecting the responses. One type of response bias is social desirability bias .

When your population is large in size, geographically dispersed, or difficult to contact, it’s necessary to use a sampling method .

This allows you to gather information from a smaller part of the population, i.e. the sample, and make accurate statements by using statistical analysis. A few sampling methods include simple random sampling , convenience sampling , and snowball sampling .

Stratified and cluster sampling may look similar, but bear in mind that groups created in cluster sampling are heterogeneous , so the individual characteristics in the cluster vary. In contrast, groups created in stratified sampling are homogeneous , as units share characteristics.

Relatedly, in cluster sampling you randomly select entire groups and include all units of each group in your sample. However, in stratified sampling, you select some units of all groups and include them in your sample. In this way, both methods can ensure that your sample is representative of the target population .

A sampling frame is a list of every member in the entire population . It is important that the sampling frame is as complete as possible, so that your sample accurately reflects your population.

Convenience sampling and quota sampling are both non-probability sampling methods. They both use non-random criteria like availability, geographical proximity, or expert knowledge to recruit study participants.

However, in convenience sampling, you continue to sample units or cases until you reach the required sample size.

In quota sampling, you first need to divide your population of interest into subgroups (strata) and estimate their proportions (quota) in the population. Then you can start your data collection , using convenience sampling to recruit participants, until the proportions in each subgroup coincide with the estimated proportions in the population.

Random sampling or probability sampling is based on random selection. This means that each unit has an equal chance (i.e., equal probability) of being included in the sample.

On the other hand, convenience sampling involves stopping people at random, which means that not everyone has an equal chance of being selected depending on the place, time, or day you are collecting your data.

Stratified sampling and quota sampling both involve dividing the population into subgroups and selecting units from each subgroup. The purpose in both cases is to select a representative sample and/or to allow comparisons between subgroups.

The main difference is that in stratified sampling, you draw a random sample from each subgroup ( probability sampling ). In quota sampling you select a predetermined number or proportion of units, in a non-random manner ( non-probability sampling ).

Snowball sampling is best used in the following cases:

  • If there is no sampling frame available (e.g., people with a rare disease)
  • If the population of interest is hard to access or locate (e.g., people experiencing homelessness)
  • If the research focuses on a sensitive topic (e.g., extra-marital affairs)

Snowball sampling relies on the use of referrals. Here, the researcher recruits one or more initial participants, who then recruit the next ones. 

Participants share similar characteristics and/or know each other. Because of this, not every member of the population has an equal chance of being included in the sample, giving rise to sampling bias .

Snowball sampling is a non-probability sampling method , where there is not an equal chance for every member of the population to be included in the sample .

This means that you cannot use inferential statistics and make generalisations – often the goal of quantitative research . As such, a snowball sample is not representative of the target population, and is usually a better fit for qualitative research .

Snowball sampling is a non-probability sampling method . Unlike probability sampling (which involves some form of random selection ), the initial individuals selected to be studied are the ones who recruit new participants.

Because not every member of the target population has an equal chance of being recruited into the sample, selection in snowball sampling is non-random.

Reproducibility and replicability are related terms.

  • Reproducing research entails reanalysing the existing data in the same manner.
  • Replicating (or repeating ) the research entails reconducting the entire analysis, including the collection of new data . 
  • A successful reproduction shows that the data analyses were conducted in a fair and honest manner.
  • A successful replication shows that the reliability of the results is high.

The reproducibility and replicability of a study can be ensured by writing a transparent, detailed method section and using clear, unambiguous language.

Convergent validity and discriminant validity are both subtypes of construct validity . Together, they help you evaluate whether a test measures the concept it was designed to measure.

  • Convergent validity indicates whether a test that is designed to measure a particular construct correlates with other tests that assess the same or similar construct.
  • Discriminant validity indicates whether two tests that should not be highly related to each other are indeed not related

You need to assess both in order to demonstrate construct validity. Neither one alone is sufficient for establishing construct validity.

Construct validity has convergent and discriminant subtypes. They assist determine if a test measures the intended notion.

Content validity shows you how accurately a test or other measurement method taps  into the various aspects of the specific construct you are researching.

In other words, it helps you answer the question: “does the test measure all aspects of the construct I want to measure?” If it does, then the test has high content validity.

The higher the content validity, the more accurate the measurement of the construct.

If the test fails to include parts of the construct, or irrelevant parts are included, the validity of the instrument is threatened, which brings your results into question.

Construct validity refers to how well a test measures the concept (or construct) it was designed to measure. Assessing construct validity is especially important when you’re researching concepts that can’t be quantified and/or are intangible, like introversion. To ensure construct validity your test should be based on known indicators of introversion ( operationalisation ).

On the other hand, content validity assesses how well the test represents all aspects of the construct. If some aspects are missing or irrelevant parts are included, the test has low content validity.

Face validity and content validity are similar in that they both evaluate how suitable the content of a test is. The difference is that face validity is subjective, and assesses content at surface level.

When a test has strong face validity, anyone would agree that the test’s questions appear to measure what they are intended to measure.

For example, looking at a 4th grade math test consisting of problems in which students have to add and multiply, most people would agree that it has strong face validity (i.e., it looks like a math test).

On the other hand, content validity evaluates how well a test represents all the aspects of a topic. Assessing content validity is more systematic and relies on expert evaluation. of each question, analysing whether each one covers the aspects that the test was designed to cover.

A 4th grade math test would have high content validity if it covered all the skills taught in that grade. Experts(in this case, math teachers), would have to evaluate the content validity by comparing the test to the learning objectives.

  • Discriminant validity indicates whether two tests that should not be highly related to each other are indeed not related. This type of validity is also called divergent validity .

Criterion validity and construct validity are both types of measurement validity . In other words, they both show you how accurately a method measures something.

While construct validity is the degree to which a test or other measurement method measures what it claims to measure, criterion validity is the degree to which a test can predictively (in the future) or concurrently (in the present) measure something.

Construct validity is often considered the overarching type of measurement validity . You need to have face validity , content validity , and criterion validity in order to achieve construct validity.

Attrition refers to participants leaving a study. It always happens to some extent – for example, in randomised control trials for medical research.

Differential attrition occurs when attrition or dropout rates differ systematically between the intervention and the control group . As a result, the characteristics of the participants who drop out differ from the characteristics of those who stay in the study. Because of this, study results may be biased .

Criterion validity evaluates how well a test measures the outcome it was designed to measure. An outcome can be, for example, the onset of a disease.

Criterion validity consists of two subtypes depending on the time at which the two measures (the criterion and your test) are obtained:

  • Concurrent validity is a validation strategy where the the scores of a test and the criterion are obtained at the same time
  • Predictive validity is a validation strategy where the criterion variables are measured after the scores of the test

Validity tells you how accurately a method measures what it was designed to measure. There are 4 main types of validity :

  • Construct validity : Does the test measure the construct it was designed to measure?
  • Face validity : Does the test appear to be suitable for its objectives ?
  • Content validity : Does the test cover all relevant parts of the construct it aims to measure.
  • Criterion validity : Do the results accurately measure the concrete outcome they are designed to measure?

Convergent validity shows how much a measure of one construct aligns with other measures of the same or related constructs .

On the other hand, concurrent validity is about how a measure matches up to some known criterion or gold standard, which can be another measure.

Although both types of validity are established by calculating the association or correlation between a test score and another variable , they represent distinct validation methods.

The purpose of theory-testing mode is to find evidence in order to disprove, refine, or support a theory. As such, generalisability is not the aim of theory-testing mode.

Due to this, the priority of researchers in theory-testing mode is to eliminate alternative causes for relationships between variables . In other words, they prioritise internal validity over external validity , including ecological validity .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria are typically presented and discussed in the methodology section of your thesis or dissertation .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria are predominantly used in non-probability sampling . In purposive sampling and snowball sampling , restrictions apply as to who can be included in the sample .

Scope of research is determined at the beginning of your research process , prior to the data collection stage. Sometimes called “scope of study,” your scope delineates what will and will not be covered in your project. It helps you focus your work and your time, ensuring that you’ll be able to achieve your goals and outcomes.

Defining a scope can be very useful in any research project, from a research proposal to a thesis or dissertation . A scope is needed for all types of research: quantitative , qualitative , and mixed methods .

To define your scope of research, consider the following:

  • Budget constraints or any specifics of grant funding
  • Your proposed timeline and duration
  • Specifics about your population of study, your proposed sample size , and the research methodology you’ll pursue
  • Any inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Any anticipated control , extraneous , or confounding variables that could bias your research if not accounted for properly.

To make quantitative observations , you need to use instruments that are capable of measuring the quantity you want to observe. For example, you might use a ruler to measure the length of an object or a thermometer to measure its temperature.

Quantitative observations involve measuring or counting something and expressing the result in numerical form, while qualitative observations involve describing something in non-numerical terms, such as its appearance, texture, or color.

The Scribbr Reference Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js . It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.

You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Reference Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github .

To paraphrase effectively, don’t just take the original sentence and swap out some of the words for synonyms. Instead, try:

  • Reformulating the sentence (e.g., change active to passive , or start from a different point)
  • Combining information from multiple sentences into one
  • Leaving out information from the original that isn’t relevant to your point
  • Using synonyms where they don’t distort the meaning

The main point is to ensure you don’t just copy the structure of the original text, but instead reformulate the idea in your own words.

Plagiarism means using someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own. Paraphrasing means putting someone else’s ideas into your own words.

So when does paraphrasing count as plagiarism?

  • Paraphrasing is plagiarism if you don’t properly credit the original author.
  • Paraphrasing is plagiarism if your text is too close to the original wording (even if you cite the source). If you directly copy a sentence or phrase, you should quote it instead.
  • Paraphrasing  is not plagiarism if you put the author’s ideas completely into your own words and properly reference the source .

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: ‘This is a quote’ (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarises other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA  recommends retaining the citations as part of the quote:

  • Smith states that ‘the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus’ (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase ‘as cited in’ in your citation.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate ‘block’ of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

APA uses block quotes for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Common examples of primary sources include interview transcripts , photographs, novels, paintings, films, historical documents, and official statistics.

Anything you directly analyze or use as first-hand evidence can be a primary source, including qualitative or quantitative data that you collected yourself.

Common examples of secondary sources include academic books, journal articles , reviews, essays , and textbooks.

Anything that summarizes, evaluates or interprets primary sources can be a secondary source. If a source gives you an overview of background information or presents another researcher’s ideas on your topic, it is probably a secondary source.

To determine if a source is primary or secondary, ask yourself:

  • Was the source created by someone directly involved in the events you’re studying (primary), or by another researcher (secondary)?
  • Does the source provide original information (primary), or does it summarize information from other sources (secondary)?
  • Are you directly analyzing the source itself (primary), or only using it for background information (secondary)?

Some types of sources are nearly always primary: works of art and literature, raw statistical data, official documents and records, and personal communications (e.g. letters, interviews ). If you use one of these in your research, it is probably a primary source.

Primary sources are often considered the most credible in terms of providing evidence for your argument, as they give you direct evidence of what you are researching. However, it’s up to you to ensure the information they provide is reliable and accurate.

Always make sure to properly cite your sources to avoid plagiarism .

A fictional movie is usually a primary source. A documentary can be either primary or secondary depending on the context.

If you are directly analysing some aspect of the movie itself – for example, the cinematography, narrative techniques, or social context – the movie is a primary source.

If you use the movie for background information or analysis about your topic – for example, to learn about a historical event or a scientific discovery – the movie is a secondary source.

Whether it’s primary or secondary, always properly cite the movie in the citation style you are using. Learn how to create an MLA movie citation or an APA movie citation .

Articles in newspapers and magazines can be primary or secondary depending on the focus of your research.

In historical studies, old articles are used as primary sources that give direct evidence about the time period. In social and communication studies, articles are used as primary sources to analyse language and social relations (for example, by conducting content analysis or discourse analysis ).

If you are not analysing the article itself, but only using it for background information or facts about your topic, then the article is a secondary source.

In academic writing , there are three main situations where quoting is the best choice:

  • To analyse the author’s language (e.g., in a literary analysis essay )
  • To give evidence from primary sources
  • To accurately present a precise definition or argument

Don’t overuse quotes; your own voice should be dominant. If you just want to provide information from a source, it’s usually better to paraphrase or summarise .

Your list of tables and figures should go directly after your table of contents in your thesis or dissertation.

Lists of figures and tables are often not required, and they aren’t particularly common. They specifically aren’t required for APA Style, though you should be careful to follow their other guidelines for figures and tables .

If you have many figures and tables in your thesis or dissertation, include one may help you stay organised. Your educational institution may require them, so be sure to check their guidelines.

Copyright information can usually be found wherever the table or figure was published. For example, for a diagram in a journal article , look on the journal’s website or the database where you found the article. Images found on sites like Flickr are listed with clear copyright information.

If you find that permission is required to reproduce the material, be sure to contact the author or publisher and ask for it.

A list of figures and tables compiles all of the figures and tables that you used in your thesis or dissertation and displays them with the page number where they can be found.

APA doesn’t require you to include a list of tables or a list of figures . However, it is advisable to do so if your text is long enough to feature a table of contents and it includes a lot of tables and/or figures .

A list of tables and list of figures appear (in that order) after your table of contents, and are presented in a similar way.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. Your glossary only needs to include terms that your reader may not be familiar with, and is intended to enhance their understanding of your work.

Definitional terms often fall into the category of common knowledge , meaning that they don’t necessarily have to be cited. This guidance can apply to your thesis or dissertation glossary as well.

However, if you’d prefer to cite your sources , you can follow guidance for citing dictionary entries in MLA or APA style for your glossary.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, an index is a list of the contents of your work organised by page number.

Glossaries are not mandatory, but if you use a lot of technical or field-specific terms, it may improve readability to add one to your thesis or dissertation. Your educational institution may also require them, so be sure to check their specific guidelines.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, dictionaries are more general collections of words.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation should include your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:

  • Your instructor requires one, or
  • Your paper is a group project

In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation, such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work based on existing research, a conceptual framework allows you to draw your own conclusions, mapping out the variables you may use in your study and the interplay between them.

A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You’ll likely need both in your dissertation .

A theoretical framework can sometimes be integrated into a  literature review chapter , but it can also be included as its own chapter or section in your dissertation . As a rule of thumb, if your research involves dealing with a lot of complex theories, it’s a good idea to include a separate theoretical framework chapter.

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarises the contents of your paper.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis or paper.

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

The abstract appears on its own page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

A noun is a word that represents a person, thing, concept, or place (e.g., ‘John’, ‘house’, ‘affinity’, ‘river’). Most sentences contain at least one noun or pronoun .

Nouns are often, but not always, preceded by an article (‘the’, ‘a’, or ‘an’) and/or another determiner such as an adjective.

There are many ways to categorize nouns into various types, and the same noun can fall into multiple categories or even change types depending on context.

Some of the main types of nouns are:

  • Common nouns and proper nouns
  • Countable and uncountable nouns
  • Concrete and abstract nouns
  • Collective nouns
  • Possessive nouns
  • Attributive nouns
  • Appositive nouns
  • Generic nouns

Pronouns are words like ‘I’, ‘she’, and ‘they’ that are used in a similar way to nouns . They stand in for a noun that has already been mentioned or refer to yourself and other people.

Pronouns can function just like nouns as the head of a noun phrase and as the subject or object of a verb. However, pronouns change their forms (e.g., from ‘I’ to ‘me’) depending on the grammatical context they’re used in, whereas nouns usually don’t.

Common nouns are words for types of things, people, and places, such as ‘dog’, ‘professor’, and ‘city’. They are not capitalised and are typically used in combination with articles and other determiners.

Proper nouns are words for specific things, people, and places, such as ‘Max’, ‘Dr Prakash’, and ‘London’. They are always capitalised and usually aren’t combined with articles and other determiners.

A proper adjective is an adjective that was derived from a proper noun and is therefore capitalised .

Proper adjectives include words for nationalities, languages, and ethnicities (e.g., ‘Japanese’, ‘Inuit’, ‘French’) and words derived from people’s names (e.g., ‘Bayesian’, ‘Orwellian’).

The names of seasons (e.g., ‘spring’) are treated as common nouns in English and therefore not capitalised . People often assume they are proper nouns, but this is an error.

The names of days and months, however, are capitalised since they’re treated as proper nouns in English (e.g., ‘Wednesday’, ‘January’).

No, as a general rule, academic concepts, disciplines, theories, models, etc. are treated as common nouns , not proper nouns , and therefore not capitalised . For example, ‘five-factor model of personality’ or ‘analytic philosophy’.

However, proper nouns that appear within the name of an academic concept (such as the name of the inventor) are capitalised as usual. For example, ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution’ or ‘ Student’s t table ‘.

Collective nouns are most commonly treated as singular (e.g., ‘the herd is grazing’), but usage differs between US and UK English :

  • In US English, it’s standard to treat all collective nouns as singular, even when they are plural in appearance (e.g., ‘The Rolling Stones is …’). Using the plural form is usually seen as incorrect.
  • In UK English, collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural depending on context. It’s quite common to use the plural form, especially when the noun looks plural (e.g., ‘The Rolling Stones are …’).

The plural of “crisis” is “crises”. It’s a loanword from Latin and retains its original Latin plural noun form (similar to “analyses” and “bases”). It’s wrong to write “crisises”.

For example, you might write “Several crises destabilized the regime.”

Normally, the plural of “fish” is the same as the singular: “fish”. It’s one of a group of irregular plural nouns in English that are identical to the corresponding singular nouns (e.g., “moose”, “sheep”). For example, you might write “The fish scatter as the shark approaches.”

If you’re referring to several species of fish, though, the regular plural “fishes” is often used instead. For example, “The aquarium contains many different fishes , including trout and carp.”

The correct plural of “octopus” is “octopuses”.

People often write “octopi” instead because they assume that the plural noun is formed in the same way as Latin loanwords such as “fungus/fungi”. But “octopus” actually comes from Greek, where its original plural is “octopodes”. In English, it instead has the regular plural form “octopuses”.

For example, you might write “There are four octopuses in the aquarium.”

The plural of “moose” is the same as the singular: “moose”. It’s one of a group of plural nouns in English that are identical to the corresponding singular nouns. So it’s wrong to write “mooses”.

For example, you might write “There are several moose in the forest.”

Bias in research affects the validity and reliability of your findings, leading to false conclusions and a misinterpretation of the truth. This can have serious implications in areas like medical research where, for example, a new form of treatment may be evaluated.

Observer bias occurs when the researcher’s assumptions, views, or preconceptions influence what they see and record in a study, while actor–observer bias refers to situations where respondents attribute internal factors (e.g., bad character) to justify other’s behaviour and external factors (difficult circumstances) to justify the same behaviour in themselves.

Response bias is a general term used to describe a number of different conditions or factors that cue respondents to provide inaccurate or false answers during surveys or interviews . These factors range from the interviewer’s perceived social position or appearance to the the phrasing of questions in surveys.

Nonresponse bias occurs when the people who complete a survey are different from those who did not, in ways that are relevant to the research topic. Nonresponse can happen either because people are not willing or not able to participate.

In research, demand characteristics are cues that might indicate the aim of a study to participants. These cues can lead to participants changing their behaviors or responses based on what they think the research is about.

Demand characteristics are common problems in psychology experiments and other social science studies because they can bias your research findings.

Demand characteristics are a type of extraneous variable that can affect the outcomes of the study. They can invalidate studies by providing an alternative explanation for the results.

These cues may nudge participants to consciously or unconsciously change their responses, and they pose a threat to both internal and external validity . You can’t be sure that your independent variable manipulation worked, or that your findings can be applied to other people or settings.

You can control demand characteristics by taking a few precautions in your research design and materials.

Use these measures:

  • Deception: Hide the purpose of the study from participants
  • Between-groups design : Give each participant only one independent variable treatment
  • Double-blind design : Conceal the assignment of groups from participants and yourself
  • Implicit measures: Use indirect or hidden measurements for your variables

Some attrition is normal and to be expected in research. However, the type of attrition is important because systematic research bias can distort your findings. Attrition bias can lead to inaccurate results because it affects internal and/or external validity .

To avoid attrition bias , applying some of these measures can help you reduce participant dropout (attrition) by making it easy and appealing for participants to stay.

  • Provide compensation (e.g., cash or gift cards) for attending every session
  • Minimise the number of follow-ups as much as possible
  • Make all follow-ups brief, flexible, and convenient for participants
  • Send participants routine reminders to schedule follow-ups
  • Recruit more participants than you need for your sample (oversample)
  • Maintain detailed contact information so you can get in touch with participants even if they move

If you have a small amount of attrition bias , you can use a few statistical methods to try to make up for this research bias .

Multiple imputation involves using simulations to replace the missing data with likely values. Alternatively, you can use sample weighting to make up for the uneven balance of participants in your sample.

Placebos are used in medical research for new medication or therapies, called clinical trials. In these trials some people are given a placebo, while others are given the new medication being tested.

The purpose is to determine how effective the new medication is: if it benefits people beyond a predefined threshold as compared to the placebo, it’s considered effective.

Although there is no definite answer to what causes the placebo effect , researchers propose a number of explanations such as the power of suggestion, doctor-patient interaction, classical conditioning, etc.

Belief bias and confirmation bias are both types of cognitive bias that impact our judgment and decision-making.

Confirmation bias relates to how we perceive and judge evidence. We tend to seek out and prefer information that supports our preexisting beliefs, ignoring any information that contradicts those beliefs.

Belief bias describes the tendency to judge an argument based on how plausible the conclusion seems to us, rather than how much evidence is provided to support it during the course of the argument.

Positivity bias is phenomenon that occurs when a person judges individual members of a group positively, even when they have negative impressions or judgments of the group as a whole. Positivity bias is closely related to optimism bias , or the e xpectation that things will work out well, even if rationality suggests that problems are inevitable in life.

Perception bias is a problem because it prevents us from seeing situations or people objectively. Rather, our expectations, beliefs, or emotions interfere with how we interpret reality. This, in turn, can cause us to misjudge ourselves or others. For example, our prejudices can interfere with whether we perceive people’s faces as friendly or unfriendly.

There are many ways to categorize adjectives into various types. An adjective can fall into one or more of these categories depending on how it is used.

Some of the main types of adjectives are:

  • Attributive adjectives
  • Predicative adjectives
  • Comparative adjectives
  • Superlative adjectives
  • Coordinate adjectives
  • Appositive adjectives
  • Compound adjectives
  • Participial adjectives
  • Proper adjectives
  • Denominal adjectives
  • Nominal adjectives

Cardinal numbers (e.g., one, two, three) can be placed before a noun to indicate quantity (e.g., one apple). While these are sometimes referred to as ‘numeral adjectives ‘, they are more accurately categorised as determiners or quantifiers.

Proper adjectives are adjectives formed from a proper noun (i.e., the name of a specific person, place, or thing) that are used to indicate origin. Like proper nouns, proper adjectives are always capitalised (e.g., Newtonian, Marxian, African).

The cost of proofreading depends on the type and length of text, the turnaround time, and the level of services required. Most proofreading companies charge per word or page, while freelancers sometimes charge an hourly rate.

For proofreading alone, which involves only basic corrections of typos and formatting mistakes, you might pay as little as £0.01 per word, but in many cases, your text will also require some level of editing , which costs slightly more.

It’s often possible to purchase combined proofreading and editing services and calculate the price in advance based on your requirements.

Then and than are two commonly confused words . In the context of ‘better than’, you use ‘than’ with an ‘a’.

  • Julie is better than Jesse.
  • I’d rather spend my time with you than with him.
  • I understand Eoghan’s point of view better than Claudia’s.

Use to and used to are commonly confused words . In the case of ‘used to do’, the latter (with ‘d’) is correct, since you’re describing an action or state in the past.

  • I used to do laundry once a week.
  • They used to do each other’s hair.
  • We used to do the dishes every day .

There are numerous synonyms and near synonyms for the various meanings of “ favour ”:

There are numerous synonyms and near synonyms for the two meanings of “ favoured ”:

No one (two words) is an indefinite pronoun meaning ‘nobody’. People sometimes mistakenly write ‘noone’, but this is incorrect and should be avoided. ‘No-one’, with a hyphen, is also acceptable in UK English .

Nobody and no one are both indefinite pronouns meaning ‘no person’. They can be used interchangeably (e.g., ‘nobody is home’ means the same as ‘no one is home’).

Some synonyms and near synonyms of  every time include:

  • Without exception

‘Everytime’ is sometimes used to mean ‘each time’ or ‘whenever’. However, this is incorrect and should be avoided. The correct phrase is every time   (two words).

Yes, the conjunction because is a compound word , but one with a long history. It originates in Middle English from the preposition “bi” (“by”) and the noun “cause”. Over time, the open compound “bi cause” became the closed compound “because”, which we use today.

Though it’s spelled this way now, the verb “be” is not one of the words that makes up “because”.

Yes, today is a compound word , but a very old one. It wasn’t originally formed from the preposition “to” and the noun “day”; rather, it originates from their Old English equivalents, “tō” and “dæġe”.

In the past, it was sometimes written as a hyphenated compound: “to-day”. But the hyphen is no longer included; it’s always “today” now (“to day” is also wrong).

Pathetic fallacy and appeal to pathos sound similar but they refer to entirely different things.

  • Pathetic fallacy is a figure of speech, at least in most contexts, and not a reasoning error. It refers to the attribution of human emotions to something non-human in novels or poems.
  • Appeal to pathos , on the other hand, is a logical fallacy in which the speaker or author takes advantage of emotions, like fear or love for one’s family, to convince their audience instead of using rational arguments.

In other words, pathetic fallacy and appeal to pathos both relate to pathos or emotion but to a different end.

IEEE citation format is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and used in their publications.

It’s also a widely used citation style for students in technical fields like electrical and electronic engineering, computer science, telecommunications, and computer engineering.

An IEEE in-text citation consists of a number in brackets at the relevant point in the text, which points the reader to the right entry in the numbered reference list at the end of the paper. For example, ‘Smith [1] states that …’

A location marker such as a page number is also included within the brackets when needed: ‘Smith [1, p. 13] argues …’

The IEEE reference page consists of a list of references numbered in the order they were cited in the text. The title ‘References’ appears in bold at the top, either left-aligned or centered.

The numbers appear in square brackets on the left-hand side of the page. The reference entries are indented consistently to separate them from the numbers. Entries are single-spaced, with a normal paragraph break between them.

If you cite the same source more than once in your writing, use the same number for all of the IEEE in-text citations for that source, and only include it on the IEEE reference page once. The source is numbered based on the first time you cite it.

For example, the fourth source you cite in your paper is numbered [4]. If you cite it again later, you still cite it as [4]. You can cite different parts of the source each time by adding page numbers [4, p. 15].

A verb is a word that indicates a physical action (e.g., ‘drive’), a mental action (e.g., ‘think’) or a state of being (e.g., ‘exist’). Every sentence contains a verb.

Verbs are almost always used along with a noun or pronoun to describe what the noun or pronoun is doing.

There are many ways to categorize verbs into various types. A verb can fall into one or more of these categories depending on how it is used.

Some of the main types of verbs are:

  • Regular verbs
  • Irregular verbs
  • Transitive verbs
  • Intransitive verbs
  • Dynamic verbs
  • Stative verbs
  • Linking verbs
  • Auxiliary verbs
  • Modal verbs
  • Phrasal verbs

Regular verbs are verbs whose simple past and past participle are formed by adding the suffix ‘-ed’ (e.g., ‘walked’).

Irregular verbs are verbs that form their simple past and past participles in some way other than by adding the suffix ‘-ed’ (e.g., ‘sat’).

The indefinite articles a and an are used to refer to a general or unspecified version of a noun (e.g., a house). Which indefinite article you use depends on the pronunciation of the word that follows it.

  • A is used for words that begin with a consonant sound (e.g., a bear).
  • An is used for words that begin with a vowel sound (e.g., an eagle).

Indefinite articles can only be used with singular countable nouns . Like definite articles, they are a type of determiner .

Editing and proofreading are different steps in the process of revising a text.

Editing comes first, and can involve major changes to content, structure and language. The first stages of editing are often done by authors themselves, while a professional editor makes the final improvements to grammar and style (for example, by improving sentence structure and word choice ).

Proofreading is the final stage of checking a text before it is published or shared. It focuses on correcting minor errors and inconsistencies (for example, in punctuation and capitalization ). Proofreaders often also check for formatting issues, especially in print publishing.

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

  • Take a break : Set your work aside for at least a few hours so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Proofread a printout : Staring at a screen for too long can cause fatigue – sit down with a pen and paper to check the final version.
  • Use digital shortcuts : Take note of any recurring mistakes (for example, misspelling a particular word, switching between US and UK English , or inconsistently capitalizing a term), and use Find and Replace to fix it throughout the document.

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

There are many different routes to becoming a professional proofreader or editor. The necessary qualifications depend on the field – to be an academic or scientific proofreader, for example, you will need at least a university degree in a relevant subject.

For most proofreading jobs, experience and demonstrated skills are more important than specific qualifications. Often your skills will be tested as part of the application process.

To learn practical proofreading skills, you can choose to take a course with a professional organisation such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders . Alternatively, you can apply to companies that offer specialised on-the-job training programmes, such as the Scribbr Academy .

Though they’re pronounced the same, there’s a big difference in meaning between its and it’s .

  • ‘The cat ate its food’.
  • ‘It’s almost Christmas’.

Its and it’s are often confused, but its (without apostrophe) is the possessive form of ‘it’ (e.g., its tail, its argument, its wing). You use ‘its’ instead of ‘his’ and ‘her’ for neuter, inanimate nouns.

Then and than are two commonly confused words with different meanings and grammatical roles.

  • Then (pronounced with a short ‘e’ sound) refers to time. It’s often an adverb , but it can also be used as a noun meaning ‘that time’ and as an adjective referring to a previous status.
  • Than (pronounced with a short ‘a’ sound) is used for comparisons. Grammatically, it usually functions as a conjunction , but sometimes it’s a preposition .

Use to and used to are commonly confused words . In the case of ‘used to be’, the latter (with ‘d’) is correct, since you’re describing an action or state in the past.

  • I used to be the new coworker.
  • There used to be 4 cookies left.
  • We used to walk to school every day .

A grammar checker is a tool designed to automatically check your text for spelling errors, grammatical issues, punctuation mistakes , and problems with sentence structure . You can check out our analysis of the best free grammar checkers to learn more.

A paraphrasing tool edits your text more actively, changing things whether they were grammatically incorrect or not. It can paraphrase your sentences to make them more concise and readable or for other purposes. You can check out our analysis of the best free paraphrasing tools to learn more.

Some tools available online combine both functions. Others, such as QuillBot , have separate grammar checker and paraphrasing tools. Be aware of what exactly the tool you’re using does to avoid introducing unwanted changes.

Good grammar is the key to expressing yourself clearly and fluently, especially in professional communication and academic writing . Word processors, browsers, and email programs typically have built-in grammar checkers, but they’re quite limited in the kinds of problems they can fix.

If you want to go beyond detecting basic spelling errors, there are many online grammar checkers with more advanced functionality. They can often detect issues with punctuation , word choice, and sentence structure that more basic tools would miss.

Not all of these tools are reliable, though. You can check out our research into the best free grammar checkers to explore the options.

Our research indicates that the best free grammar checker available online is the QuillBot grammar checker .

We tested 10 of the most popular checkers with the same sample text (containing 20 grammatical errors) and found that QuillBot easily outperformed the competition, scoring 18 out of 20, a drastic improvement over the second-place score of 13 out of 20.

It even appeared to outperform the premium versions of other grammar checkers, despite being entirely free.

A teacher’s aide is a person who assists in teaching classes but is not a qualified teacher. Aide is a noun meaning ‘assistant’, so it will always refer to a person.

‘Teacher’s aid’ is incorrect.

A visual aid is an instructional device (e.g., a photo, a chart) that appeals to vision to help you understand written or spoken information. Aid is often placed after an attributive noun or adjective (like ‘visual’) that describes the type of help provided.

‘Visual aide’ is incorrect.

A job aid is an instructional tool (e.g., a checklist, a cheat sheet) that helps you work efficiently. Aid is a noun meaning ‘assistance’. It’s often placed after an adjective or attributive noun (like ‘job’) that describes the specific type of help provided.

‘Job aide’ is incorrect.

There are numerous synonyms for the various meanings of truly :

Yours truly is a phrase used at the end of a formal letter or email. It can also be used (typically in a humorous way) as a pronoun to refer to oneself (e.g., ‘The dinner was cooked by yours truly ‘). The latter usage should be avoided in formal writing.

It’s formed by combining the second-person possessive pronoun ‘yours’ with the adverb ‘ truly ‘.

Pathetic fallacy is not a logical fallacy . It is a literary device or figure of speech that often occurs in literature when a writer attributes human emotions to things that aren’t human, such as objects, the weather, or animals.

Pathetic fallacy is used to reflect a character’s emotions. For example, if a character has lost a loved one, they may hear “mournful” birdsong.

A pathetic fallacy can be a short phrase or a whole sentence and is often used in novels and poetry. Pathetic fallacies serve multiple purposes, such as:

  • Conveying the emotional state of the characters or the narrator
  • Creating an atmosphere or set the mood of a scene
  • Foreshadowing events to come
  • Giving texture and vividness to a piece of writing
  • Communicating emotion to the reader in a subtle way, by describing the external world.
  • Bringing inanimate objects to life so that they seem more relatable.

AMA citation format is a citation style designed by the American Medical Association. It’s frequently used in the field of medicine.

You may be told to use AMA style for your student papers. You will also have to follow this style if you’re submitting a paper to a journal published by the AMA.

An AMA in-text citation consists of the number of the relevant reference on your AMA reference page , written in superscript 1 at the point in the text where the source is used.

It may also include the page number or range of the relevant material in the source (e.g., the part you quoted 2(p46) ). Multiple sources can be cited at one point, presented as a range or list (with no spaces 3,5–9 ).

An AMA reference usually includes the author’s last name and initials, the title of the source, information about the publisher or the publication it’s contained in, and the publication date. The specific details included, and the formatting, depend on the source type.

References in AMA style are presented in numerical order (numbered by the order in which they were first cited in the text) on your reference page. A source that’s cited repeatedly in the text still only appears once on the reference page.

An AMA in-text citation just consists of the number of the relevant entry on your AMA reference page , written in superscript at the point in the text where the source is referred to.

You don’t need to mention the author of the source in your sentence, but you can do so if you want. It’s not an official part of the citation, but it can be useful as part of a signal phrase introducing the source.

On your AMA reference page , author names are written with the last name first, followed by the initial(s) of their first name and middle name if mentioned.

There’s a space between the last name and the initials, but no space or punctuation between the initials themselves. The names of multiple authors are separated by commas , and the whole list ends in a period, e.g., ‘Andreessen F, Smith PW, Gonzalez E’.

The names of up to six authors should be listed for each source on your AMA reference page , separated by commas . For a source with seven or more authors, you should list the first three followed by ‘ et al’ : ‘Isidore, Gilbert, Gunvor, et al’.

In the text, mentioning author names is optional (as they aren’t an official part of AMA in-text citations ). If you do mention them, though, you should use the first author’s name followed by ‘et al’ when there are three or more : ‘Isidore et al argue that …’

Note that according to AMA’s rather minimalistic punctuation guidelines, there’s no period after ‘et al’ unless it appears at the end of a sentence. This is different from most other styles, where there is normally a period.

Yes, you should normally include an access date in an AMA website citation (or when citing any source with a URL). This is because webpages can change their content over time, so it’s useful for the reader to know when you accessed the page.

When a publication or update date is provided on the page, you should include it in addition to the access date. The access date appears second in this case, e.g., ‘Published June 19, 2021. Accessed August 29, 2022.’

Don’t include an access date when citing a source with a DOI (such as in an AMA journal article citation ).

Some variables have fixed levels. For example, gender and ethnicity are always nominal level data because they cannot be ranked.

However, for other variables, you can choose the level of measurement . For example, income is a variable that can be recorded on an ordinal or a ratio scale:

  • At an ordinal level , you could create 5 income groupings and code the incomes that fall within them from 1–5.
  • At a ratio level , you would record exact numbers for income.

If you have a choice, the ratio level is always preferable because you can analyse data in more ways. The higher the level of measurement, the more precise your data is.

The level at which you measure a variable determines how you can analyse your data.

Depending on the level of measurement , you can perform different descriptive statistics to get an overall summary of your data and inferential statistics to see if your results support or refute your hypothesis .

Levels of measurement tell you how precisely variables are recorded. There are 4 levels of measurement, which can be ranked from low to high:

  • Nominal : the data can only be categorised.
  • Ordinal : the data can be categorised and ranked.
  • Interval : the data can be categorised and ranked, and evenly spaced.
  • Ratio : the data can be categorised, ranked, evenly spaced and has a natural zero.

Statistical analysis is the main method for analyzing quantitative research data . It uses probabilities and models to test predictions about a population from sample data.

The null hypothesis is often abbreviated as H 0 . When the null hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an equality symbol (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

The alternative hypothesis is often abbreviated as H a or H 1 . When the alternative hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an inequality symbol (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >).

As the degrees of freedom increase, Student’s t distribution becomes less leptokurtic , meaning that the probability of extreme values decreases. The distribution becomes more and more similar to a standard normal distribution .

When there are only one or two degrees of freedom , the chi-square distribution is shaped like a backwards ‘J’. When there are three or more degrees of freedom, the distribution is shaped like a right-skewed hump. As the degrees of freedom increase, the hump becomes less right-skewed and the peak of the hump moves to the right. The distribution becomes more and more similar to a normal distribution .

‘Looking forward in hearing from you’ is an incorrect version of the phrase looking forward to hearing from you . The phrasal verb ‘looking forward to’ always needs the preposition ‘to’, not ‘in’.

  • I am looking forward in hearing from you.
  • I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Some synonyms and near synonyms for the expression looking forward to hearing from you include:

  • Eagerly awaiting your response
  • Hoping to hear from you soon
  • It would be great to hear back from you
  • Thanks in advance for your reply

People sometimes mistakenly write ‘looking forward to hear from you’, but this is incorrect. The correct phrase is looking forward to hearing from you .

The phrasal verb ‘look forward to’ is always followed by a direct object, the thing you’re looking forward to. As the direct object has to be a noun phrase , it should be the gerund ‘hearing’, not the verb ‘hear’.

  • I’m looking forward to hear from you soon.
  • I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Traditionally, the sign-off Yours sincerely is used in an email message or letter when you are writing to someone you have interacted with before, not a complete stranger.

Yours faithfully is used instead when you are writing to someone you have had no previous correspondence with, especially if you greeted them as ‘ Dear Sir or Madam ’.

Just checking in   is a standard phrase used to start an email (or other message) that’s intended to ask someone for a response or follow-up action in a friendly, informal way. However, it’s a cliché opening that can come across as passive-aggressive, so we recommend avoiding it in favor of a more direct opening like “We previously discussed …”

In a more personal context, you might encounter “just checking in” as part of a longer phrase such as “I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing”. In this case, it’s not asking the other person to do anything but rather asking about their well-being (emotional or physical) in a friendly way.

“Earliest convenience” is part of the phrase at your earliest convenience , meaning “as soon as you can”. 

It’s typically used to end an email in a formal context by asking the recipient to do something when it’s convenient for them to do so.

ASAP is an abbreviation of the phrase “as soon as possible”. 

It’s typically used to indicate a sense of urgency in highly informal contexts (e.g., “Let me know ASAP if you need me to drive you to the airport”).

“ASAP” should be avoided in more formal correspondence. Instead, use an alternative like at your earliest convenience .

Some synonyms and near synonyms of the verb   compose   (meaning “to make up”) are:

People increasingly use “comprise” as a synonym of “compose.” However, this is normally still seen as a mistake, and we recommend avoiding it in your academic writing . “Comprise” traditionally means “to be made up of,” not “to make up.”

Some synonyms and near synonyms of the verb comprise are:

  • Be composed of
  • Be made up of

People increasingly use “comprise” interchangeably with “compose,” meaning that they consider words like “compose,” “constitute,” and “form” to be synonymous with “comprise.” However, this is still normally regarded as an error, and we advise against using these words interchangeably in academic writing .

A fallacy is a mistaken belief, particularly one based on unsound arguments or one that lacks the evidence to support it. Common types of fallacy that may compromise the quality of your research are:

  • Correlation/causation fallacy: Claiming that two events that occur together have a cause-and-effect relationship even though this can’t be proven
  • Ecological fallacy : Making inferences about the nature of individuals based on aggregate data for the group
  • The sunk cost fallacy : Following through on a project or decision because we have already invested time, effort, or money into it, even if the current costs outweigh the benefits
  • The base-rate fallacy : Ignoring base-rate or statistically significant information, such as sample size or the relative frequency of an event, in favor of  less relevant information e.g., pertaining to a single case, or a small number of cases
  • The planning fallacy : Underestimating the time needed to complete a future task, even when we know that similar tasks in the past have taken longer than planned

The planning fallacy refers to people’s tendency to underestimate the resources needed to complete a future task, despite knowing that previous tasks have also taken longer than planned.

For example, people generally tend to underestimate the cost and time needed for construction projects. The planning fallacy occurs due to people’s tendency to overestimate the chances that positive events, such as a shortened timeline, will happen to them. This phenomenon is called optimism bias or positivity bias.

Although both red herring fallacy and straw man fallacy are logical fallacies or reasoning errors, they denote different attempts to “win” an argument. More specifically:

  • A red herring fallacy refers to an attempt to change the subject and divert attention from the original issue. In other words, a seemingly solid but ultimately irrelevant argument is introduced into the discussion, either on purpose or by mistake.
  • A straw man argument involves the deliberate distortion of another person’s argument. By oversimplifying or exaggerating it, the other party creates an easy-to-refute argument and then attacks it.

The red herring fallacy is a problem because it is flawed reasoning. It is a distraction device that causes people to become sidetracked from the main issue and draw wrong conclusions.

Although a red herring may have some kernel of truth, it is used as a distraction to keep our eyes on a different matter. As a result, it can cause us to accept and spread misleading information.

The sunk cost fallacy and escalation of commitment (or commitment bias ) are two closely related terms. However, there is a slight difference between them:

  • Escalation of commitment (aka commitment bias ) is the tendency to be consistent with what we have already done or said we will do in the past, especially if we did so in public. In other words, it is an attempt to save face and appear consistent.
  • Sunk cost fallacy is the tendency to stick with a decision or a plan even when it’s failing. Because we have already invested valuable time, money, or energy, quitting feels like these resources were wasted.

In other words, escalating commitment is a manifestation of the sunk cost fallacy: an irrational escalation of commitment frequently occurs when people refuse to accept that the resources they’ve already invested cannot be recovered. Instead, they insist on more spending to justify the initial investment (and the incurred losses).

When you are faced with a straw man argument , the best way to respond is to draw attention to the fallacy and ask your discussion partner to show how your original statement and their distorted version are the same. Since these are different, your partner will either have to admit that their argument is invalid or try to justify it by using more flawed reasoning, which you can then attack.

The straw man argument is a problem because it occurs when we fail to take an opposing point of view seriously. Instead, we intentionally misrepresent our opponent’s ideas and avoid genuinely engaging with them. Due to this, resorting to straw man fallacy lowers the standard of constructive debate.

A straw man argument is a distorted (and weaker) version of another person’s argument that can easily be refuted (e.g., when a teacher proposes that the class spend more time on math exercises, a parent complains that the teacher doesn’t care about reading and writing).

This is a straw man argument because it misrepresents the teacher’s position, which didn’t mention anything about cutting down on reading and writing. The straw man argument is also known as the straw man fallacy .

A slippery slope argument is not always a fallacy.

  • When someone claims adopting a certain policy or taking a certain action will automatically lead to a series of other policies or actions also being taken, this is a slippery slope argument.
  • If they don’t show a causal connection between the advocated policy and the consequent policies, then they commit a slippery slope fallacy .

There are a number of ways you can deal with slippery slope arguments especially when you suspect these are fallacious:

  • Slippery slope arguments take advantage of the gray area between an initial action or decision and the possible next steps that might lead to the undesirable outcome. You can point out these missing steps and ask your partner to indicate what evidence exists to support the claimed relationship between two or more events.
  • Ask yourself if each link in the chain of events or action is valid. Every proposition has to be true for the overall argument to work, so even if one link is irrational or not supported by evidence, then the argument collapses.
  • Sometimes people commit a slippery slope fallacy unintentionally. In these instances, use an example that demonstrates the problem with slippery slope arguments in general (e.g., by using statements to reach a conclusion that is not necessarily relevant to the initial statement). By attacking the concept of slippery slope arguments you can show that they are often fallacious.

People sometimes confuse cognitive bias and logical fallacies because they both relate to flawed thinking. However, they are not the same:

  • Cognitive bias is the tendency to make decisions or take action in an illogical way because of our values, memory, socialization, and other personal attributes. In other words, it refers to a fixed pattern of thinking rooted in the way our brain works.
  • Logical fallacies relate to how we make claims and construct our arguments in the moment. They are statements that sound convincing at first but can be disproven through logical reasoning.

In other words, cognitive bias refers to an ongoing predisposition, while logical fallacy refers to mistakes of reasoning that occur in the moment.

An appeal to ignorance (ignorance here meaning lack of evidence) is a type of informal logical fallacy .

It asserts that something must be true because it hasn’t been proven false—or that something must be false because it has not yet been proven true.

For example, “unicorns exist because there is no evidence that they don’t.” The appeal to ignorance is also called the burden of proof fallacy .

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the person”) is a type of informal logical fallacy . Instead of arguing against a person’s position, an ad hominem argument attacks the person’s character or actions in an effort to discredit them.

This rhetorical strategy is fallacious because a person’s character, motive, education, or other personal trait is logically irrelevant to whether their argument is true or false.

Name-calling is common in ad hominem fallacy (e.g., “environmental activists are ineffective because they’re all lazy tree-huggers”).

Ad hominem is a persuasive technique where someone tries to undermine the opponent’s argument by personally attacking them.

In this way, one can redirect the discussion away from the main topic and to the opponent’s personality without engaging with their viewpoint. When the opponent’s personality is irrelevant to the discussion, we call it an ad hominem fallacy .

Ad hominem tu quoque (‘you too”) is an attempt to rebut a claim by attacking its proponent on the grounds that they uphold a double standard or that they don’t practice what they preach. For example, someone is telling you that you should drive slowly otherwise you’ll get a speeding ticket one of these days, and you reply “but you used to get them all the time!”

Argumentum ad hominem means “argument to the person” in Latin and it is commonly referred to as ad hominem argument or personal attack. Ad hominem arguments are used in debates to refute an argument by attacking the character of the person making it, instead of the logic or premise of the argument itself.

The opposite of the hasty generalization fallacy is called slothful induction fallacy or appeal to coincidence .

It is the tendency to deny a conclusion even though there is sufficient evidence that supports it. Slothful induction occurs due to our natural tendency to dismiss events or facts that do not align with our personal biases and expectations. For example, a researcher may try to explain away unexpected results by claiming it is just a coincidence.

To avoid a hasty generalization fallacy we need to ensure that the conclusions drawn are well-supported by the appropriate evidence. More specifically:

  • In statistics , if we want to draw inferences about an entire population, we need to make sure that the sample is random and representative of the population . We can achieve that by using a probability sampling method , like simple random sampling or stratified sampling .
  • In academic writing , use precise language and measured phases. Try to avoid making absolute claims, cite specific instances and examples without applying the findings to a larger group.
  • As readers, we need to ask ourselves “does the writer demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the situation or phenomenon that would allow them to make a generalization?”

The hasty generalization fallacy and the anecdotal evidence fallacy are similar in that they both result in conclusions drawn from insufficient evidence. However, there is a difference between the two:

  • The hasty generalization fallacy involves genuinely considering an example or case (i.e., the evidence comes first and then an incorrect conclusion is drawn from this).
  • The anecdotal evidence fallacy (also known as “cherry-picking” ) is knowing in advance what conclusion we want to support, and then selecting the story (or a few stories) that support it. By overemphasizing anecdotal evidence that fits well with the point we are trying to make, we overlook evidence that would undermine our argument.

Although many sources use circular reasoning fallacy and begging the question interchangeably, others point out that there is a subtle difference between the two:

  • Begging the question fallacy occurs when you assume that an argument is true in order to justify a conclusion. If something begs the question, what you are actually asking is, “Is the premise of that argument actually true?” For example, the statement “Snakes make great pets. That’s why we should get a snake” begs the question “are snakes really great pets?”
  • Circular reasoning fallacy on the other hand, occurs when the evidence used to support a claim is just a repetition of the claim itself.  For example, “People have free will because they can choose what to do.”

In other words, we could say begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.

Circular reasoning fallacy uses circular reasoning to support an argument. More specifically, the evidence used to support a claim is just a repetition of the claim itself. For example: “The President of the United States is a good leader (claim), because they are the leader of this country (supporting evidence)”.

An example of a non sequitur is the following statement:

“Giving up nuclear weapons weakened the United States’ military. Giving up nuclear weapons also weakened China. For this reason, it is wrong to try to outlaw firearms in the United States today.”

Clearly there is a step missing in this line of reasoning and the conclusion does not follow from the premise, resulting in a non sequitur fallacy .

The difference between the post hoc fallacy and the non sequitur fallacy is that post hoc fallacy infers a causal connection between two events where none exists, whereas the non sequitur fallacy infers a conclusion that lacks a logical connection to the premise.

In other words, a post hoc fallacy occurs when there is a lack of a cause-and-effect relationship, while a non sequitur fallacy occurs when there is a lack of logical connection.

An example of post hoc fallacy is the following line of reasoning:

“Yesterday I had ice cream, and today I have a terrible stomachache. I’m sure the ice cream caused this.”

Although it is possible that the ice cream had something to do with the stomachache, there is no proof to justify the conclusion other than the order of events. Therefore, this line of reasoning is fallacious.

Post hoc fallacy and hasty generalisation fallacy are similar in that they both involve jumping to conclusions. However, there is a difference between the two:

  • Post hoc fallacy is assuming a cause and effect relationship between two events, simply because one happened after the other.
  • Hasty generalisation fallacy is drawing a general conclusion from a small sample or little evidence.

In other words, post hoc fallacy involves a leap to a causal claim; hasty generalisation fallacy involves a leap to a general proposition.

The fallacy of composition is similar to and can be confused with the hasty generalization fallacy . However, there is a difference between the two:

  • The fallacy of composition involves drawing an inference about the characteristics of a whole or group based on the characteristics of its individual members.
  • The hasty generalization fallacy involves drawing an inference about a population or class of things on the basis of few atypical instances or a small sample of that population or thing.

In other words, the fallacy of composition is using an unwarranted assumption that we can infer something about a whole based on the characteristics of its parts, while the hasty generalization fallacy is using insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion.

The opposite of the fallacy of composition is the fallacy of division . In the fallacy of division, the assumption is that a characteristic which applies to a whole or a group must necessarily apply to the parts or individual members. For example, “Australians travel a lot. Gary is Australian, so he must travel a lot.”

Base rate fallacy can be avoided by following these steps:

  • Avoid making an important decision in haste. When we are under pressure, we are more likely to resort to cognitive shortcuts like the availability heuristic and the representativeness heuristic . Due to this, we are more likely to factor in only current and vivid information, and ignore the actual probability of something happening (i.e., base rate).
  • Take a long-term view on the decision or question at hand. Look for relevant statistical data, which can reveal long-term trends and give you the full picture.
  • Talk to experts like professionals. They are more aware of probabilities related to specific decisions.

Suppose there is a population consisting of 90% psychologists and 10% engineers. Given that you know someone enjoyed physics at school, you may conclude that they are an engineer rather than a psychologist, even though you know that this person comes from a population consisting of far more psychologists than engineers.

When we ignore the rate of occurrence of some trait in a population (the base-rate information) we commit base rate fallacy .

Cost-benefit fallacy is a common error that occurs when allocating sources in project management. It is the fallacy of assuming that cost-benefit estimates are more or less accurate, when in fact they are highly inaccurate and biased. This means that cost-benefit analyses can be useful, but only after the cost-benefit fallacy has been acknowledged and corrected for. Cost-benefit fallacy is a type of base rate fallacy .

In advertising, the fallacy of equivocation is often used to create a pun. For example, a billboard company might advertise their billboards using a line like: “Looking for a sign? This is it!” The word sign has a literal meaning as billboard and a figurative one as a sign from God, the universe, etc.

Equivocation is a fallacy because it is a form of argumentation that is both misleading and logically unsound. When the meaning of a word or phrase shifts in the course of an argument, it causes confusion and also implies that the conclusion (which may be true) does not follow from the premise.

The fallacy of equivocation is an informal logical fallacy, meaning that the error lies in the content of the argument instead of the structure.

Fallacies of relevance are a group of fallacies that occur in arguments when the premises are logically irrelevant to the conclusion. Although at first there seems to be a connection between the premise and the conclusion, in reality fallacies of relevance use unrelated forms of appeal.

For example, the genetic fallacy makes an appeal to the source or origin of the claim in an attempt to assert or refute something.

The ad hominem fallacy and the genetic fallacy are closely related in that they are both fallacies of relevance. In other words, they both involve arguments that use evidence or examples that are not logically related to the argument at hand. However, there is a difference between the two:

  • In the ad hominem fallacy , the goal is to discredit the argument by discrediting the person currently making the argument.
  • In the genetic fallacy , the goal is to discredit the argument by discrediting the history or origin (i.e., genesis) of an argument.

False dilemma fallacy is also known as false dichotomy, false binary, and “either-or” fallacy. It is the fallacy of presenting only two choices, outcomes, or sides to an argument as the only possibilities, when more are available.

The false dilemma fallacy works in two ways:

  • By presenting only two options as if these were the only ones available
  • By presenting two options as mutually exclusive (i.e., only one option can be selected or can be true at a time)

In both cases, by using the false dilemma fallacy, one conceals alternative choices and doesn’t allow others to consider the full range of options. This is usually achieved through an“either-or” construction and polarised, divisive language (“you are either a friend or an enemy”).

The best way to avoid a false dilemma fallacy is to pause and reflect on two points:

  • Are the options presented truly the only ones available ? It could be that another option has been deliberately omitted.
  • Are the options mentioned mutually exclusive ? Perhaps all of the available options can be selected (or be true) at the same time, which shows that they aren’t mutually exclusive. Proving this is called “escaping between the horns of the dilemma.”

Begging the question fallacy is an argument in which you assume what you are trying to prove. In other words, your position and the justification of that position are the same, only slightly rephrased.

For example: “All freshmen should attend college orientation, because all college students should go to such an orientation.”

The complex question fallacy and begging the question fallacy are similar in that they are both based on assumptions. However, there is a difference between them:

  • A complex question fallacy occurs when someone asks a question that presupposes the answer to another question that has not been established or accepted by the other person. For example, asking someone “Have you stopped cheating on tests?”, unless it has previously been established that the person is indeed cheating on tests, is a fallacy.
  • Begging the question fallacy occurs when we assume the very thing as a premise that we’re trying to prove in our conclusion. In other words, the conclusion is used to support the premises, and the premises prove the validity of the conclusion. For example: “God exists because the Bible says so, and the Bible is true because it is the word of God.”

In other words, begging the question is about drawing a conclusion based on an assumption, while a complex question involves asking a question that presupposes the answer to a prior question.

“ No true Scotsman ” arguments aren’t always fallacious. When there is a generally accepted definition of who or what constitutes a group, it’s reasonable to use statements in the form of “no true Scotsman”.

For example, the statement that “no true pacifist would volunteer for military service” is not fallacious, since a pacifist is, by definition, someone who opposes war or violence as a means of settling disputes.

No true Scotsman arguments are fallacious because instead of logically refuting the counterexample, they simply assert that it doesn’t count. In other words, the counterexample is rejected for psychological, but not logical, reasons.

The appeal to purity or no true Scotsman fallacy is an attempt to defend a generalisation about a group from a counterexample by shifting the definition of the group in the middle of the argument. In this way, one can exclude the counterexample as not being “true”, “genuine”, or “pure” enough to be considered as part of the group in question.

To identify an appeal to authority fallacy , you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the authority cited really a qualified expert in this particular area under discussion? For example, someone who has formal education or years of experience can be an expert.
  • Do experts disagree on this particular subject? If that is the case, then for almost any claim supported by one expert there will be a counterclaim that is supported by another expert. If there is no consensus, an appeal to authority is fallacious.
  • Is the authority in question biased? If you suspect that an expert’s prejudice and bias could have influenced their views, then the expert is not reliable and an argument citing this expert will be fallacious.To identify an appeal to authority fallacy, you ask yourself whether the authority cited is a qualified expert in the particular area under discussion.

Appeal to authority is a fallacy when those who use it do not provide any justification to support their argument. Instead they cite someone famous who agrees with their viewpoint, but is not qualified to make reliable claims on the subject.

Appeal to authority fallacy is often convincing because of the effect authority figures have on us. When someone cites a famous person, a well-known scientist, a politician, etc. people tend to be distracted and often fail to critically examine whether the authority figure is indeed an expert in the area under discussion.

The ad populum fallacy is common in politics. One example is the following viewpoint: “The majority of our countrymen think we should have military operations overseas; therefore, it’s the right thing to do.”

This line of reasoning is fallacious, because popular acceptance of a belief or position does not amount to a justification of that belief. In other words, following the prevailing opinion without examining the underlying reasons is irrational.

The ad populum fallacy plays on our innate desire to fit in (known as “bandwagon effect”). If many people believe something, our common sense tells us that it must be true and we tend to accept it. However, in logic, the popularity of a proposition cannot serve as evidence of its truthfulness.

Ad populum (or appeal to popularity) fallacy and appeal to authority fallacy are similar in that they both conflate the validity of a belief with its popular acceptance among a specific group. However there is a key difference between the two:

  • An ad populum fallacy tries to persuade others by claiming that something is true or right because a lot of people think so.
  • An appeal to authority fallacy tries to persuade by claiming a group of experts believe something is true or right, therefore it must be so.

To identify a false cause fallacy , you need to carefully analyse the argument:

  • When someone claims that one event directly causes another, ask if there is sufficient evidence to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. 
  • Ask if the claim is based merely on the chronological order or co-occurrence of the two events. 
  • Consider alternative possible explanations (are there other factors at play that could influence the outcome?).

By carefully analysing the reasoning, considering alternative explanations, and examining the evidence provided, you can identify a false cause fallacy and discern whether a causal claim is valid or flawed.

False cause fallacy examples include: 

  • Believing that wearing your lucky jersey will help your team win 
  • Thinking that everytime you wash your car, it rains
  • Claiming that playing video games causes violent behavior 

In each of these examples, we falsely assume that one event causes another without any proof.

The planning fallacy and procrastination are not the same thing. Although they both relate to time and task management, they describe different challenges:

  • The planning fallacy describes our inability to correctly estimate how long a future task will take, mainly due to optimism bias and a strong focus on the best-case scenario.
  • Procrastination refers to postponing a task, usually by focusing on less urgent or more enjoyable activities. This is due to psychological reasons, like fear of failure.

In other words, the planning fallacy refers to inaccurate predictions about the time we need to finish a task, while procrastination is a deliberate delay due to psychological factors.

A real-life example of the planning fallacy is the construction of the Sydney Opera House in Australia. When construction began in the late 1950s, it was initially estimated that it would be completed in four years at a cost of around $7 million.

Because the government wanted the construction to start before political opposition would stop it and while public opinion was still favorable, a number of design issues had not been carefully studied in advance. Due to this, several problems appeared immediately after the project commenced.

The construction process eventually stretched over 14 years, with the Opera House being completed in 1973 at a cost of over $100 million, significantly exceeding the initial estimates.

An example of appeal to pity fallacy is the following appeal by a student to their professor:

“Professor, please consider raising my grade. I had a terrible semester: my car broke down, my laptop got stolen, and my cat got sick.”

While these circumstances may be unfortunate, they are not directly related to the student’s academic performance.

While both the appeal to pity fallacy and   red herring fallacy can serve as a distraction from the original discussion topic, they are distinct fallacies. More specifically:

  • Appeal to pity fallacy attempts to evoke feelings of sympathy, pity, or guilt in an audience, so that they accept the speaker’s conclusion as truthful.
  • Red herring fallacy attempts to introduce an irrelevant piece of information that diverts the audience’s attention to a different topic.

Both fallacies can be used as a tool of deception. However, they operate differently and serve distinct purposes in arguments.

Argumentum ad misericordiam (Latin for “argument from pity or misery”) is another name for appeal to pity fallacy . It occurs when someone evokes sympathy or guilt in an attempt to gain support for their claim, without providing any logical reasons to support the claim itself. Appeal to pity is a deceptive tactic of argumentation, playing on people’s emotions to sway their opinion.

Yes, it’s quite common to start a sentence with a preposition, and there’s no reason not to do so.

For example, the sentence “ To many, she was a hero” is perfectly grammatical. It could also be rephrased as “She was a hero to  many”, but there’s no particular reason to do so. Both versions are fine.

Some people argue that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition , but that “rule” can also be ignored, since it’s not supported by serious language authorities.

Yes, it’s fine to end a sentence with a preposition . The “rule” against doing so is overwhelmingly rejected by modern style guides and language authorities and is based on the rules of Latin grammar, not English.

Trying to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition often results in very unnatural phrasings. For example, turning “He knows what he’s talking about ” into “He knows about what he’s talking” or “He knows that about which he’s talking” is definitely not an improvement.

No, ChatGPT is not a credible source of factual information and can’t be cited for this purpose in academic writing . While it tries to provide accurate answers, it often gets things wrong because its responses are based on patterns, not facts and data.

Specifically, the CRAAP test for evaluating sources includes five criteria: currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose . ChatGPT fails to meet at least three of them:

  • Currency: The dataset that ChatGPT was trained on only extends to 2021, making it slightly outdated.
  • Authority: It’s just a language model and is not considered a trustworthy source of factual information.
  • Accuracy: It bases its responses on patterns rather than evidence and is unable to cite its sources .

So you shouldn’t cite ChatGPT as a trustworthy source for a factual claim. You might still cite ChatGPT for other reasons – for example, if you’re writing a paper about AI language models, ChatGPT responses are a relevant primary source .

ChatGPT is an AI language model that was trained on a large body of text from a variety of sources (e.g., Wikipedia, books, news articles, scientific journals). The dataset only went up to 2021, meaning that it lacks information on more recent events.

It’s also important to understand that ChatGPT doesn’t access a database of facts to answer your questions. Instead, its responses are based on patterns that it saw in the training data.

So ChatGPT is not always trustworthy . It can usually answer general knowledge questions accurately, but it can easily give misleading answers on more specialist topics.

Another consequence of this way of generating responses is that ChatGPT usually can’t cite its sources accurately. It doesn’t really know what source it’s basing any specific claim on. It’s best to check any information you get from it against a credible source .

No, it is not possible to cite your sources with ChatGPT . You can ask it to create citations, but it isn’t designed for this task and tends to make up sources that don’t exist or present information in the wrong format. ChatGPT also cannot add citations to direct quotes in your text.

Instead, use a tool designed for this purpose, like the Scribbr Citation Generator .

But you can use ChatGPT for assignments in other ways, to provide inspiration, feedback, and general writing advice.

GPT  stands for “generative pre-trained transformer”, which is a type of large language model: a neural network trained on a very large amount of text to produce convincing, human-like language outputs. The Chat part of the name just means “chat”: ChatGPT is a chatbot that you interact with by typing in text.

The technology behind ChatGPT is GPT-3.5 (in the free version) or GPT-4 (in the premium version). These are the names for the specific versions of the GPT model. GPT-4 is currently the most advanced model that OpenAI has created. It’s also the model used in Bing’s chatbot feature.

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an AI research company. It started as a nonprofit company in 2015 but became for-profit in 2019. Its CEO is Sam Altman, who also co-founded the company. OpenAI released ChatGPT as a free “research preview” in November 2022. Currently, it’s still available for free, although a more advanced premium version is available if you pay for it.

OpenAI is also known for developing DALL-E, an AI image generator that runs on similar technology to ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is owned by OpenAI, the company that developed and released it. OpenAI is a company dedicated to AI research. It started as a nonprofit company in 2015 but transitioned to for-profit in 2019. Its current CEO is Sam Altman, who also co-founded the company.

In terms of who owns the content generated by ChatGPT, OpenAI states that it will not claim copyright on this content , and the terms of use state that “you can use Content for any purpose, including commercial purposes such as sale or publication”. This means that you effectively own any content you generate with ChatGPT and can use it for your own purposes.

Be cautious about how you use ChatGPT content in an academic context. University policies on AI writing are still developing, so even if you “own” the content, you’re often not allowed to submit it as your own work according to your university or to publish it in a journal.

ChatGPT is a chatbot based on a large language model (LLM). These models are trained on huge datasets consisting of hundreds of billions of words of text, based on which the model learns to effectively predict natural responses to the prompts you enter.

ChatGPT was also refined through a process called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF), which involves “rewarding” the model for providing useful answers and discouraging inappropriate answers – encouraging it to make fewer mistakes.

Essentially, ChatGPT’s answers are based on predicting the most likely responses to your inputs based on its training data, with a reward system on top of this to incentivise it to give you the most helpful answers possible. It’s a bit like an incredibly advanced version of predictive text. This is also one of ChatGPT’s limitations : because its answers are based on probabilities, they’re not always trustworthy .

OpenAI may store ChatGPT conversations for the purposes of future training. Additionally, these conversations may be monitored by human AI trainers.

Users can choose not to have their chat history saved. Unsaved chats are not used to train future models and are permanently deleted from ChatGPT’s system after 30 days.

The official ChatGPT app is currently only available on iOS devices. If you don’t have an iOS device, only use the official OpenAI website to access the tool. This helps to eliminate the potential risk of downloading fraudulent or malicious software.

ChatGPT conversations are generally used to train future models and to resolve issues/bugs. These chats may be monitored by human AI trainers.

However, users can opt out of having their conversations used for training. In these instances, chats are monitored only for potential abuse.

Yes, using ChatGPT as a conversation partner is a great way to practice a language in an interactive way.

Try using a prompt like this one:

“Please be my Spanish conversation partner. Only speak to me in Spanish. Keep your answers short (maximum 50 words). Ask me questions. Let’s start the conversation with the following topic: [conversation topic].”

Yes, there are a variety of ways to use ChatGPT for language learning , including treating it as a conversation partner, asking it for translations, and using it to generate a curriculum or practice exercises.

AI detectors aim to identify the presence of AI-generated text (e.g., from ChatGPT ) in a piece of writing, but they can’t do so with complete accuracy. In our comparison of the best AI detectors , we found that the 10 tools we tested had an average accuracy of 60%. The best free tool had 68% accuracy, the best premium tool 84%.

Because of how AI detectors work , they can never guarantee 100% accuracy, and there is always at least a small risk of false positives (human text being marked as AI-generated). Therefore, these tools should not be relied upon to provide absolute proof that a text is or isn’t AI-generated. Rather, they can provide a good indication in combination with other evidence.

Tools called AI detectors are designed to label text as AI-generated or human. AI detectors work by looking for specific characteristics in the text, such as a low level of randomness in word choice and sentence length. These characteristics are typical of AI writing, allowing the detector to make a good guess at when text is AI-generated.

But these tools can’t guarantee 100% accuracy. Check out our comparison of the best AI detectors to learn more.

You can also manually watch for clues that a text is AI-generated – for example, a very different style from the writer’s usual voice or a generic, overly polite tone.

Our research into the best summary generators (aka summarisers or summarising tools) found that the best summariser available in 2023 is the one offered by QuillBot.

While many summarisers just pick out some sentences from the text, QuillBot generates original summaries that are creative, clear, accurate, and concise. It can summarise texts of up to 1,200 words for free, or up to 6,000 with a premium subscription.

Try the QuillBot summarizer for free

Deep learning requires a large dataset (e.g., images or text) to learn from. The more diverse and representative the data, the better the model will learn to recognise objects or make predictions. Only when the training data is sufficiently varied can the model make accurate predictions or recognise objects from new data.

Deep learning models can be biased in their predictions if the training data consist of biased information. For example, if a deep learning model used for screening job applicants has been trained with a dataset consisting primarily of white male applicants, it will consistently favour this specific population over others.

A good ChatGPT prompt (i.e., one that will get you the kinds of responses you want):

  • Gives the tool a role to explain what type of answer you expect from it
  • Is precisely formulated and gives enough context
  • Is free from bias
  • Has been tested and improved by experimenting with the tool

ChatGPT prompts are the textual inputs (e.g., questions, instructions) that you enter into ChatGPT to get responses.

ChatGPT predicts an appropriate response to the prompt you entered. In general, a more specific and carefully worded prompt will get you better responses.

Yes, ChatGPT is currently available for free. You have to sign up for a free account to use the tool, and you should be aware that your data may be collected to train future versions of the model.

To sign up and use the tool for free, go to this page and click “Sign up”. You can do so with your email or with a Google account.

A premium version of the tool called ChatGPT Plus is available as a monthly subscription. It currently costs £16 and gets you access to features like GPT-4 (a more advanced version of the language model). But it’s optional: you can use the tool completely free if you’re not interested in the extra features.

You can access ChatGPT by signing up for a free account:

  • Follow this link to the ChatGPT website.
  • Click on “Sign up” and fill in the necessary details (or use your Google account). It’s free to sign up and use the tool.
  • Type a prompt into the chat box to get started!

A ChatGPT app is also available for iOS, and an Android app is planned for the future. The app works similarly to the website, and you log in with the same account for both.

According to OpenAI’s terms of use, users have the right to reproduce text generated by ChatGPT during conversations.

However, publishing ChatGPT outputs may have legal implications , such as copyright infringement.

Users should be aware of such issues and use ChatGPT outputs as a source of inspiration instead.

According to OpenAI’s terms of use, users have the right to use outputs from their own ChatGPT conversations for any purpose (including commercial publication).

However, users should be aware of the potential legal implications of publishing ChatGPT outputs. ChatGPT responses are not always unique: different users may receive the same response.

Furthermore, ChatGPT outputs may contain copyrighted material. Users may be liable if they reproduce such material.

ChatGPT can sometimes reproduce biases from its training data , since it draws on the text it has “seen” to create plausible responses to your prompts.

For example, users have shown that it sometimes makes sexist assumptions such as that a doctor mentioned in a prompt must be a man rather than a woman. Some have also pointed out political bias in terms of which political figures the tool is willing to write positively or negatively about and which requests it refuses.

The tool is unlikely to be consistently biased toward a particular perspective or against a particular group. Rather, its responses are based on its training data and on the way you phrase your ChatGPT prompts . It’s sensitive to phrasing, so asking it the same question in different ways will result in quite different answers.

Information extraction  refers to the process of starting from unstructured sources (e.g., text documents written in ordinary English) and automatically extracting structured information (i.e., data in a clearly defined format that’s easily understood by computers). It’s an important concept in natural language processing (NLP) .

For example, you might think of using news articles full of celebrity gossip to automatically create a database of the relationships between the celebrities mentioned (e.g., married, dating, divorced, feuding). You would end up with data in a structured format, something like MarriageBetween(celebrity 1 ,celebrity 2 ,date) .

The challenge involves developing systems that can “understand” the text well enough to extract this kind of data from it.

Knowledge representation and reasoning (KRR) is the study of how to represent information about the world in a form that can be used by a computer system to solve and reason about complex problems. It is an important field of artificial intelligence (AI) research.

An example of a KRR application is a semantic network, a way of grouping words or concepts by how closely related they are and formally defining the relationships between them so that a machine can “understand” language in something like the way people do.

A related concept is information extraction , concerned with how to get structured information from unstructured sources.

Yes, you can use ChatGPT to summarise text . This can help you understand complex information more easily, summarise the central argument of your own paper, or clarify your research question.

You can also use Scribbr’s free text summariser , which is designed specifically for this purpose.

Yes, you can use ChatGPT to paraphrase text to help you express your ideas more clearly, explore different ways of phrasing your arguments, and avoid repetition.

However, it’s not specifically designed for this purpose. We recommend using a specialised tool like Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool , which will provide a smoother user experience.

Yes, you use ChatGPT to help write your college essay by having it generate feedback on certain aspects of your work (consistency of tone, clarity of structure, etc.).

However, ChatGPT is not able to adequately judge qualities like vulnerability and authenticity. For this reason, it’s important to also ask for feedback from people who have experience with college essays and who know you well. Alternatively, you can get advice using Scribbr’s essay editing service .

No, having ChatGPT write your college essay can negatively impact your application in numerous ways. ChatGPT outputs are unoriginal and lack personal insight.

Furthermore, Passing off AI-generated text as your own work is considered academically dishonest . AI detectors may be used to detect this offense, and it’s highly unlikely that any university will accept you if you are caught submitting an AI-generated admission essay.

However, you can use ChatGPT to help write your college essay during the preparation and revision stages (e.g., for brainstorming ideas and generating feedback).

ChatGPT and other AI writing tools can have unethical uses. These include:

  • Reproducing biases and false information
  • Using ChatGPT to cheat in academic contexts
  • Violating the privacy of others by inputting personal information

However, when used correctly, AI writing tools can be helpful resources for improving your academic writing and research skills. Some ways to use ChatGPT ethically include:

  • Following your institution’s guidelines
  • Critically evaluating outputs
  • Being transparent about how you used the tool

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Yes, if your document is longer than 20,000 words, you will get a sample of approximately 2,000 words. This sample edit gives you a first impression of the editor’s editing style and a chance to ask questions and give feedback.

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You will receive the sample edit within 24 hours after placing your order. You then have 24 hours to let us know if you’re happy with the sample or if there’s something you would like the editor to do differently.

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We try our best to ensure that the same editor checks all the different sections of your document. When you upload a new file, our system recognizes you as a returning customer, and we immediately contact the editor who helped you before.

However, we cannot guarantee that the same editor will be available. Your chances are higher if

  • You send us your text as soon as possible and
  • You can be flexible about the deadline.

Please note that the shorter your deadline is, the lower the chance that your previous editor is not available.

If your previous editor isn’t available, then we will inform you immediately and look for another qualified editor. Fear not! Every Scribbr editor follows the  Scribbr Improvement Model  and will deliver high-quality work.

Yes, our editors also work during the weekends and holidays.

Because we have many editors available, we can check your document 24 hours per day and 7 days per week, all year round.

If you choose a 72 hour deadline and upload your document on a Thursday evening, you’ll have your thesis back by Sunday evening!

Yes! Our editors are all native speakers, and they have lots of experience editing texts written by ESL students. They will make sure your grammar is perfect and point out any sentences that are difficult to understand. They’ll also notice your most common mistakes, and give you personal feedback to improve your writing in English.

Every Scribbr order comes with our award-winning Proofreading & Editing service , which combines two important stages of the revision process.

For a more comprehensive edit, you can add a Structure Check or Clarity Check to your order. With these building blocks, you can customize the kind of feedback you receive.

You might be familiar with a different set of editing terms. To help you understand what you can expect at Scribbr, we created this table:

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When you place an order, you can specify your field of study and we’ll match you with an editor who has familiarity with this area.

However, our editors are language specialists, not academic experts in your field. Your editor’s job is not to comment on the content of your dissertation, but to improve your language and help you express your ideas as clearly and fluently as possible.

This means that your editor will understand your text well enough to give feedback on its clarity, logic and structure, but not on the accuracy or originality of its content.

Good academic writing should be understandable to a non-expert reader, and we believe that academic editing is a discipline in itself. The research, ideas and arguments are all yours – we’re here to make sure they shine!

After your document has been edited, you will receive an email with a link to download the document.

The editor has made changes to your document using ‘Track Changes’ in Word. This means that you only have to accept or ignore the changes that are made in the text one by one.

It is also possible to accept all changes at once. However, we strongly advise you not to do so for the following reasons:

  • You can learn a lot by looking at the mistakes you made.
  • The editors don’t only change the text – they also place comments when sentences or sometimes even entire paragraphs are unclear. You should read through these comments and take into account your editor’s tips and suggestions.
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You choose the turnaround time when ordering. We can return your dissertation within 24 hours , 3 days or 1 week . These timescales include weekends and holidays. As soon as you’ve paid, the deadline is set, and we guarantee to meet it! We’ll notify you by text and email when your editor has completed the job.

Very large orders might not be possible to complete in 24 hours. On average, our editors can complete around 13,000 words in a day while maintaining our high quality standards. If your order is longer than this and urgent, contact us to discuss possibilities.

Always leave yourself enough time to check through the document and accept the changes before your submission deadline.

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Methodology

  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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How To Write An A-Grade Literature Review

3 straightforward steps (with examples) + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | October 2019

Quality research is about building onto the existing work of others , “standing on the shoulders of giants”, as Newton put it. The literature review chapter of your dissertation, thesis or research project is where you synthesise this prior work and lay the theoretical foundation for your own research.

Long story short, this chapter is a pretty big deal, which is why you want to make sure you get it right . In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to write a literature review in three straightforward steps, so you can conquer this vital chapter (the smart way).

Overview: The Literature Review Process

  • Understanding the “ why “
  • Finding the relevant literature
  • Cataloguing and synthesising the information
  • Outlining & writing up your literature review
  • Example of a literature review

But first, the “why”…

Before we unpack how to write the literature review chapter, we’ve got to look at the why . To put it bluntly, if you don’t understand the function and purpose of the literature review process, there’s no way you can pull it off well. So, what exactly is the purpose of the literature review?

Well, there are (at least) four core functions:

  • For you to gain an understanding (and demonstrate this understanding) of where the research is at currently, what the key arguments and disagreements are.
  • For you to identify the gap(s) in the literature and then use this as justification for your own research topic.
  • To help you build a conceptual framework for empirical testing (if applicable to your research topic).
  • To inform your methodological choices and help you source tried and tested questionnaires (for interviews ) and measurement instruments (for surveys ).

Most students understand the first point but don’t give any thought to the rest. To get the most from the literature review process, you must keep all four points front of mind as you review the literature (more on this shortly), or you’ll land up with a wonky foundation.

Okay – with the why out the way, let’s move on to the how . As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I’ll break down into three steps:

  • Finding the most suitable literature
  • Understanding , distilling and organising the literature
  • Planning and writing up your literature review chapter

Importantly, you must complete steps one and two before you start writing up your chapter. I know it’s very tempting, but don’t try to kill two birds with one stone and write as you read. You’ll invariably end up wasting huge amounts of time re-writing and re-shaping, or you’ll just land up with a disjointed, hard-to-digest mess . Instead, you need to read first and distil the information, then plan and execute the writing.

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Step 1: Find the relevant literature

Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that’s relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal , you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.

Essentially, you need to be looking for any existing literature that potentially helps you answer your research question (or develop it, if that’s not yet pinned down). There are numerous ways to find relevant literature, but I’ll cover my top four tactics here. I’d suggest combining all four methods to ensure that nothing slips past you:

Method 1 – Google Scholar Scrubbing

Google’s academic search engine, Google Scholar , is a great starting point as it provides a good high-level view of the relevant journal articles for whatever keyword you throw at it. Most valuably, it tells you how many times each article has been cited, which gives you an idea of how credible (or at least, popular) it is. Some articles will be free to access, while others will require an account, which brings us to the next method.

Method 2 – University Database Scrounging

Generally, universities provide students with access to an online library, which provides access to many (but not all) of the major journals.

So, if you find an article using Google Scholar that requires paid access (which is quite likely), search for that article in your university’s database – if it’s listed there, you’ll have access. Note that, generally, the search engine capabilities of these databases are poor, so make sure you search for the exact article name, or you might not find it.

Method 3 – Journal Article Snowballing

At the end of every academic journal article, you’ll find a list of references. As with any academic writing, these references are the building blocks of the article, so if the article is relevant to your topic, there’s a good chance a portion of the referenced works will be too. Do a quick scan of the titles and see what seems relevant, then search for the relevant ones in your university’s database.

Method 4 – Dissertation Scavenging

Similar to Method 3 above, you can leverage other students’ dissertations. All you have to do is skim through literature review chapters of existing dissertations related to your topic and you’ll find a gold mine of potential literature. Usually, your university will provide you with access to previous students’ dissertations, but you can also find a much larger selection in the following databases:

  • Open Access Theses & Dissertations
  • Stanford SearchWorks

Keep in mind that dissertations and theses are not as academically sound as published, peer-reviewed journal articles (because they’re written by students, not professionals), so be sure to check the credibility of any sources you find using this method. You can do this by assessing the citation count of any given article in Google Scholar. If you need help with assessing the credibility of any article, or with finding relevant research in general, you can chat with one of our Research Specialists .

Alright – with a good base of literature firmly under your belt, it’s time to move onto the next step.

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Step 2: Log, catalogue and synthesise

Once you’ve built a little treasure trove of articles, it’s time to get reading and start digesting the information – what does it all mean?

While I present steps one and two (hunting and digesting) as sequential, in reality, it’s more of a back-and-forth tango – you’ll read a little , then have an idea, spot a new citation, or a new potential variable, and then go back to searching for articles. This is perfectly natural – through the reading process, your thoughts will develop , new avenues might crop up, and directional adjustments might arise. This is, after all, one of the main purposes of the literature review process (i.e. to familiarise yourself with the current state of research in your field).

As you’re working through your treasure chest, it’s essential that you simultaneously start organising the information. There are three aspects to this:

  • Logging reference information
  • Building an organised catalogue
  • Distilling and synthesising the information

I’ll discuss each of these below:

2.1 – Log the reference information

As you read each article, you should add it to your reference management software. I usually recommend Mendeley for this purpose (see the Mendeley 101 video below), but you can use whichever software you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, make sure you load EVERY article you read into your reference manager, even if it doesn’t seem very relevant at the time.

2.2 – Build an organised catalogue

In the beginning, you might feel confident that you can remember who said what, where, and what their main arguments were. Trust me, you won’t. If you do a thorough review of the relevant literature (as you must!), you’re going to read many, many articles, and it’s simply impossible to remember who said what, when, and in what context . Also, without the bird’s eye view that a catalogue provides, you’ll miss connections between various articles, and have no view of how the research developed over time. Simply put, it’s essential to build your own catalogue of the literature.

I would suggest using Excel to build your catalogue, as it allows you to run filters, colour code and sort – all very useful when your list grows large (which it will). How you lay your spreadsheet out is up to you, but I’d suggest you have the following columns (at minimum):

  • Author, date, title – Start with three columns containing this core information. This will make it easy for you to search for titles with certain words, order research by date, or group by author.
  • Categories or keywords – You can either create multiple columns, one for each category/theme and then tick the relevant categories, or you can have one column with keywords.
  • Key arguments/points – Use this column to succinctly convey the essence of the article, the key arguments and implications thereof for your research.
  • Context – Note the socioeconomic context in which the research was undertaken. For example, US-based, respondents aged 25-35, lower- income, etc. This will be useful for making an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Methodology – Note which methodology was used and why. Also, note any issues you feel arise due to the methodology. Again, you can use this to make an argument about gaps in the research.
  • Quotations – Note down any quoteworthy lines you feel might be useful later.
  • Notes – Make notes about anything not already covered. For example, linkages to or disagreements with other theories, questions raised but unanswered, shortcomings or limitations, and so forth.

If you’d like, you can try out our free catalog template here (see screenshot below).

Excel literature review template

2.3 – Digest and synthesise

Most importantly, as you work through the literature and build your catalogue, you need to synthesise all the information in your own mind – how does it all fit together? Look for links between the various articles and try to develop a bigger picture view of the state of the research. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What answers does the existing research provide to my own research questions ?
  • Which points do the researchers agree (and disagree) on?
  • How has the research developed over time?
  • Where do the gaps in the current research lie?

To help you develop a big-picture view and synthesise all the information, you might find mind mapping software such as Freemind useful. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of physical note-taking, investing in a large whiteboard might work for you.

Mind mapping is a useful way to plan your literature review.

Step 3: Outline and write it up!

Once you’re satisfied that you have digested and distilled all the relevant literature in your mind, it’s time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard). There are two steps here – outlining and writing:

3.1 – Draw up your outline

Having spent so much time reading, it might be tempting to just start writing up without a clear structure in mind. However, it’s critically important to decide on your structure and develop a detailed outline before you write anything. Your literature review chapter needs to present a clear, logical and an easy to follow narrative – and that requires some planning. Don’t try to wing it!

Naturally, you won’t always follow the plan to the letter, but without a detailed outline, you’re more than likely going to end up with a disjointed pile of waffle , and then you’re going to spend a far greater amount of time re-writing, hacking and patching. The adage, “measure twice, cut once” is very suitable here.

In terms of structure, the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you’ll lay out your review thematically (into themes) or chronologically (by date/period). The right choice depends on your topic, research objectives and research questions, which we discuss in this article .

Once that’s decided, you need to draw up an outline of your entire chapter in bullet point format. Try to get as detailed as possible, so that you know exactly what you’ll cover where, how each section will connect to the next, and how your entire argument will develop throughout the chapter. Also, at this stage, it’s a good idea to allocate rough word count limits for each section, so that you can identify word count problems before you’ve spent weeks or months writing!

PS – check out our free literature review chapter template…

3.2 – Get writing

With a detailed outline at your side, it’s time to start writing up (finally!). At this stage, it’s common to feel a bit of writer’s block and find yourself procrastinating under the pressure of finally having to put something on paper. To help with this, remember that the objective of the first draft is not perfection – it’s simply to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, after which you can refine them. The structure might change a little, the word count allocations might shift and shuffle, and you might add or remove a section – that’s all okay. Don’t worry about all this on your first draft – just get your thoughts down on paper.

start writing

Once you’ve got a full first draft (however rough it may be), step away from it for a day or two (longer if you can) and then come back at it with fresh eyes. Pay particular attention to the flow and narrative – does it fall fit together and flow from one section to another smoothly? Now’s the time to try to improve the linkage from each section to the next, tighten up the writing to be more concise, trim down word count and sand it down into a more digestible read.

Once you’ve done that, give your writing to a friend or colleague who is not a subject matter expert and ask them if they understand the overall discussion. The best way to assess this is to ask them to explain the chapter back to you. This technique will give you a strong indication of which points were clearly communicated and which weren’t. If you’re working with Grad Coach, this is a good time to have your Research Specialist review your chapter.

Finally, tighten it up and send it off to your supervisor for comment. Some might argue that you should be sending your work to your supervisor sooner than this (indeed your university might formally require this), but in my experience, supervisors are extremely short on time (and often patience), so, the more refined your chapter is, the less time they’ll waste on addressing basic issues (which you know about already) and the more time they’ll spend on valuable feedback that will increase your mark-earning potential.

Literature Review Example

In the video below, we unpack an actual literature review so that you can see how all the core components come together in reality.

Let’s Recap

In this post, we’ve covered how to research and write up a high-quality literature review chapter. Let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • It is essential to understand the WHY of the literature review before you read or write anything. Make sure you understand the 4 core functions of the process.
  • The first step is to hunt down the relevant literature . You can do this using Google Scholar, your university database, the snowballing technique and by reviewing other dissertations and theses.
  • Next, you need to log all the articles in your reference manager , build your own catalogue of literature and synthesise all the research.
  • Following that, you need to develop a detailed outline of your entire chapter – the more detail the better. Don’t start writing without a clear outline (on paper, not in your head!)
  • Write up your first draft in rough form – don’t aim for perfection. Remember, done beats perfect.
  • Refine your second draft and get a layman’s perspective on it . Then tighten it up and submit it to your supervisor.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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36 Comments

Phindile Mpetshwa

Thank you very much. This page is an eye opener and easy to comprehend.

Yinka

This is awesome!

I wish I come across GradCoach earlier enough.

But all the same I’ll make use of this opportunity to the fullest.

Thank you for this good job.

Keep it up!

Derek Jansen

You’re welcome, Yinka. Thank you for the kind words. All the best writing your literature review.

Renee Buerger

Thank you for a very useful literature review session. Although I am doing most of the steps…it being my first masters an Mphil is a self study and one not sure you are on the right track. I have an amazing supervisor but one also knows they are super busy. So not wanting to bother on the minutae. Thank you.

You’re most welcome, Renee. Good luck with your literature review 🙂

Sheemal Prasad

This has been really helpful. Will make full use of it. 🙂

Thank you Gradcoach.

Tahir

Really agreed. Admirable effort

Faturoti Toyin

thank you for this beautiful well explained recap.

Tara

Thank you so much for your guide of video and other instructions for the dissertation writing.

It is instrumental. It encouraged me to write a dissertation now.

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araz agha

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Suilabayuh Ngah

It is timely

It is very good video of guidance for writing a research proposal and a dissertation. Since I have been watching and reading instructions, I have started my research proposal to write. I appreciate to Mr Jansen hugely.

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I learn a lot from your videos. Very comprehensive and detailed.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. As a research student, you learn better with your learning tips in research

Uzma

I was really stuck in reading and gathering information but after watching these things are cleared thanks, it is so helpful.

Xaysukith thorxaitou

Really helpful, Thank you for the effort in showing such information

Sheila Jerome

This is super helpful thank you very much.

Mary

Thank you for this whole literature writing review.You have simplified the process.

Maithe

I’m so glad I found GradCoach. Excellent information, Clear explanation, and Easy to follow, Many thanks Derek!

You’re welcome, Maithe. Good luck writing your literature review 🙂

Anthony

Thank you Coach, you have greatly enriched and improved my knowledge

Eunice

Great piece, so enriching and it is going to help me a great lot in my project and thesis, thanks so much

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Thanks, Stephanie 🙂

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uku igeny

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Mthuthuzeli Vongo

Thank you so much Derek for such useful information on writing up a good literature review. I am at a stage where I need to start writing my one. My proposal was accepted late last year but I honestly did not know where to start

SEID YIMAM MOHAMMED (Technic)

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Norasyidah Mohd Yusoff

Very comprehensive and eye opener for me as beginner in postgraduate study. Well explained and easy to understand. Appreciate and good reference in guiding me in my research journey. Thank you

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quickest way to write a dissertation

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  1. How To Write A Thesis Statement (with Useful Steps and Tips) • 7ESL

    quickest way to write a dissertation

  2. How to Write a Good Dissertation: Full Guide for Beginners

    quickest way to write a dissertation

  3. How to Write a Dissertation

    quickest way to write a dissertation

  4. How to Write Dissertation Writing? A Step by Step Guide & Citations

    quickest way to write a dissertation

  5. How to write a dissertation introduction example. How to Write a

    quickest way to write a dissertation

  6. How to Write a Dissertation?

    quickest way to write a dissertation

VIDEO

  1. Way to dissertation by Dr. Wasundhara Bhad madam. Guidance for thesis writing

  2. write in a simple and easy way |write 'willingness' I'm cursive writing ✍️

  3. How to make Dissertation? Complete Details about Dissertation / Thesis for Bachelors/ Masters Degree

  4. How long should a literature review be in a dissertation proposal?

  5. How to write a dissertation or thesis Mainbody of #dissertation #thesis #project #educ #phd_entrance

  6. How To Write Top Grade Dissertation Fast and Effective (PROFESSORS ADVICE)

COMMENTS

  1. What Is a Dissertation?

    Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin. Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

  2. How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis

    The research process involves 4 key steps: Ask a very specific, well-articulated question (s) (your research topic) See what other researchers have said about it (if they've already answered it) If they haven't answered it adequately, undertake your own data collection and analysis in a scientifically rigorous fashion

  3. Getting Started

    Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started. The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working ...

  4. Dissertation Structure & Layout 101 (+ Examples)

    Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Literature review Chapter 3: Methodology Chapter 4: Results Chapter 5: Discussion Chapter 6: Conclusion Reference list Appendix As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure.

  5. How to Write a Dissertation

    The very first page of your document contains your dissertation's title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor's name, and the university's logo. Many programs have strict requirements for formatting the dissertation title page.

  6. 3 Ways to Write a Dissertation

    Method 1 Setting Yourself Up for Success 1 Embrace the purpose behind writing a dissertation. Writing a dissertation is an enormous task, so it's important to understand the purpose it is meant to serve. By understanding the larger goals of the exercise, you can more carefully craft your paper to demonstrate that you have achieved these goals. [2]

  7. The Complete Guide to Writing a Dissertation

    7 Consult your adviser. Your adviser is there to help you throughout the entire process of writing a dissertation. Feel free to ask them any questions you have, and regularly check in with them while you write the first draft. When your first draft is finished, ask your adviser to take a look at it.

  8. Dissertation layout and formatting

    Revised on February 20, 2019. The layout requirements for a dissertation are often determined by your supervisor or department. However, there are certain guidelines that are common to almost every program, such as including page numbers and a table of contents. If you are writing a paper in the MLA citation style, you can use our MLA format guide.

  9. How to Write a Dissertation

    Work a certain number of hours on your paper daily. Create a worksheet for your week. Work on your dissertation for time periods as brief as 45 minutes or less. Stick to the strategic dissertation timeline, so you don't have to do the catchup work. Meet your goals by prioritising your dissertation work.

  10. How to Write a Dissertation: Step-by-Step Guide

    In U.S. graduate education, master's students typically write theses, while doctoral students write dissertations. The terms are reversed in the British system. In the U.S., a dissertation is longer, more in-depth, and based on more research than a thesis. Doctoral candidates write a dissertation as the culminating research project of their degree.

  11. A Practical Guide to Dissertation Writing

    A thesis is typically a shorter research project written at the undergraduate or master's level, while a dissertation is a more comprehensive and in-depth original research project undertaken at the doctoral level. Tips for Writing Your Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Guide. Writing a dissertation is a challenging but rewarding endeavor.

  12. Writing a Perfect Dissertation or Thesis: Step-by-Step Guide

    Look for Dissertation Examples. To help yourself write a dissertation, check out other dissertation examples before starting. This is an effective way to learn how things like literature reviews work and how an interesting dissertation proposal plan is made. They'll also show you how to cite resources and label images the right way.

  13. How To Write A Dissertation

    Suggested Order For Writing: The easiest way to build a dissertation is inside-out. Begin by writing the chapters that describe your research (3, 4, and 5 in the above outline). Collect terms as they arise and keep a definition for each. Define each technical term, even if you use it in a conventional manner.

  14. How to Write a Dissertation or Masters Thesis

    1. Understand your dissertation (or thesis) topic There are slight differences between theses and dissertations, although both require a high standard of writing skill and knowledge in your topic. They are also formatted very similarly.

  15. Dissertation Writing

    Writing a dissertation can be a daunting task, but fear not! This ultimate guide to dissertation writing is exactly what you need. With practical tips and guidance, this blog will help you produce your best possible work. Whether you're a first-time dissertation writer or a seasoned pro, this guide has something for everyone.

  16. How to Write a Dissertation in Ten Days

    If you have to produce 10,000 words in ten days, you have to average 1,000 a day. If you have two days, then 5,000 per day and if you work on it for 12 hours each of those days, you need to turn out 417 words per hour. A tall order, but it can be done.

  17. How long does it take to write a dissertation?

    The words 'dissertation' and 'thesis' both refer to a large written research project undertaken to complete a degree, but they are used differently depending on the country: In the UK, you write a dissertation at the end of a bachelor's or master's degree, and you write a thesis to complete a PhD.

  18. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  19. How To Write A Literature Review (+ Free Template)

    Step 1: Find the relevant literature Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that's relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal, you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.

  20. How to Write a Good Dissertation: Samples & Structure

    1. What is the importance of choosing thе right dissеrtation topic? 2. How do I еnsurе thе quality and rеliability of my data when conducting research for my dissеrtation? 3. What is the significance of the lіtеrаturе rеviеw in a dissertation? 4. How can I effectively structure my dissertation for clarity and cohеrеncе? 4.

  21. Quickest Way To Write A Dissertation

    Quickest Way To Write A Dissertation - Essay Help. Level: College, University, High School, Master's, PHD, Undergraduate. ID 116648480. Finished paper. ... Quickest Way To Write A Dissertation, How To Write A Customers Receipt For A Casino Trip, Value Of Trees Essay For Class 9, Best Dissertation Hypothesis Ghostwriters Services Usa, Reflective ...

  22. Quickest Way To Write A Dissertation

    Quickest Way To Write A Dissertation - Avail our cheap essay writer service in just 4 simple steps To get a writer for me, you just must scroll through these 4 stages: Benny ... you are welcome! We are a legitimate professional writing service with student-friendly prices and with an aim to help you achieve academic excellence. To get an A on ...

  23. Quickest Way To Write A Dissertation

    Quickest Way To Write A Dissertation. Our Top Proficient Writers At Your Essays Service. ID 28506. 96. BA/MA/MBA/PhD writers. A writer who is an expert in the respective field of study will be assigned.