Dissertation series: Choosing a topic

Hi everyone,

if you study at an English university, for most┬ádegrees you will have to write a dissertation in your final year.┬áThe length of a dissertation is generally around 10,000-12,000 words at undergraduate level and counts for one module per semester in your final year, so 30 credits or 15 ECTS. I decided to do a “dissertation series” on my blog, so you get an idea of the entire process!

At Surrey, the way you choose and write your dissertation depends on the course you are doing. In some subjects, like law or computer science, you choose your topic yourself with the help of a supervisor. I study Biochemistry and for us it worked a bit differently. In the second week of the semester, we got a list with around 230 topics in different research areas. We also received a document containing abstracts for every project, written by the project supervisor. This way you could easily filter all the available projects depending on whether you wanted to do a lab based/data analysis/grant proposal project or which area of research interests you e.g. cancer research, molecular biology, sleep research etc.

One very important aspect to consider next to the topic and the type of project is the supervisor. I emailed all supervisors with interesting topics, who I hadn’t met before in lectures or tutorials. This gives you a very good idea of how organised and responsive the particular supervisor is. We then had to submit a choice of eight projects. Following this, the module supervisor allocated all projects so everyone would receive one of their eight choices.

After you get your projects, its up to you to contact your supervisor and get things started! However, we also have regular lectures for this module which cover health and safety, literature research strategies, statistics, referencing etc. I hope you find this series interesting – I plan to write more posts about my project, dissertation writing and balancing dissertation with other modules.

Have a wonderful day!