Dissertations that are based on a quantitative research design attempt to answer at least one quantitative research question. However, there is more than one type of quantitative research question that you can attempt to answer [see the article, , for a more comprehensive look at these types of quantitative research question].
Dissertations usually have a long lead in time so it is essential that you think about the various stages of work that need to be undertaken and get into good habits early on in the process, for example with keeping records of searches undertaken, ideas that crop up and material to be sought after and incorporated.
You might want to devise a schedule of work from start to finish, perhaps in discussion with your supervisor or tutor, or monthly plans. Nearer the deadline you may wish to use weekly schedules to keep you on track.
If you are undertaking empirical work your planning will need to be even more detailed so that you are aware of slippage that may affect completion of the research.
Your will need to allow time for the following:
There are two groups of variables that you need to know about: categorical variables and continuous variables. We use the word groups of variables because both categorical and continuous variables include additional types of variables. Categorical variables, also known as qualitative (or discrete) variables, can be further classified a being nominal, dichotomous or ordinal. On the other hand, continuous variables, also known as quantitative variables, can be further classified a being either interval or ratio. For example, the variable gender (male or female) in the Facebook example is a dichotomous variable. When performing quantitative analysis on the data you collect during the dissertation process, you need to understand what type of categorical or continuous variables you are measuring.
These three approaches to examining the variables you are interested in (i.e., describing, comparing and relating) are addressed by setting descriptive, comparative or relationship-based research questions. Understanding the difference between these three types of quantitative research question is important for a number of reasons. For example:
A variable is not only something that we measure, but also something that we can manipulate and something we can control for. For this reason, we distinguish between independent and dependent variables. An independent variable, sometimes called an experimental or predictor variable, is a variable that is being manipulated in an experiment in order to observe the effect on a dependent variable, sometimes called an outcome variable. Understanding which of the variables you are studying are the independent, dependent and control variables is necessary in order to know how to structure and write up your research questions.
The typical length of a bibliography for a dissertation would include anything between 25-50 references. For example, there are, to varying degrees, references to:
Note: When you refer directly to the work of an author in your dissertation, it is especially important to record the details precisely, to ensure that it is accurately referenced and to avoid the risk of plagiarism (for more information see the section on plagiarism).
The process of thinking about the dissertation topic and methods is an evolving one. It may help to get some form of personal recording of the ideas, links and resources that you come across in the initial thinking and information-gathering stages. Do not simply rely on your memory to store all the strands of information you come across. A key part of success in dissertation-writing is being organised and systematic in your approach and the earlier you can adopt this, the better.
This type of note-taking may link into the writing of other learning logs or personal development planning you are doing already within your degree.
You might want to keep a record of:
Inspiration can come from many places when looking for a dissertation topic.
The topic you select needs to be one that can be addressed in an appropriately academic manner within the time constraints of the dissertation.
Usually dissertations are undertaken in the final year of a three-year degree. If this is the case for you then you should begin the process during your second year. If you have module options in Year 3 you may decide your dissertation topic before confirming these modules.
If your dissertation is attempting to answer one or more quantitative research questions, there are a number of factors you need to think about before getting started. These factors include: (a) the types of quantitative research questions you are trying to answer; (b) the variables you want to measure, manipulate and/or control; (c) how you should structure your research questions; and (d) whether you should use research questions as opposed to research hypotheses. Understanding these factors is important before reading some of the other articles on quantitative research questions on this website, which go into each factor in more detail.
Quantitative research questions and research hypotheses are designed to accomplish different tasks. Sometimes dissertations should include both although this is not always the case. This section of the article briefly discusses the difference between quantitative research questions and research hypotheses and when to use both (as opposed to just one or the other).
During the first 2 years of the degree, I had often chosen topics related to female offending. Because of this, I felt I had useful background knowledge.
Reading journal articles over the summer to look at the type of research that was being done in the topic area.
Interest in the issues, personal experience of the issues, the desire to be able to make a difference. There have been areas of my degree which have looked at my chosen subject area, so my ability to tackle the subject has been heightened.
I have been working myself on subject areas, reading around my chosen subject areas and trying to work out how my dissertation can be put to good use, rather than being marked and filed away to be forgotten about.
(Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University)
It's been a valuable experience for me it's so different from other stuff. With other essays you can rush them if you have to ... but this is so much work, you can't rush it. It demands more. (Todd, Bannister and Clegg, 2004, p340)