Topic of Dissertation – start of something new

Dear all,

I have just submitted my topic of Dissertation; that’s why I was too busy to compose a new post last week.

To me, a topic of Dissertation is the first point of my big part of master student’s life.

Two weeks ago, in Research method class, the lecturer asked us about our topics, then he wanted us to “fly” our topic to him.

“Fly”? Yes, it was “fly”. He let us write topics on paper then fold it as a plane throwing to him. It was kind of interesting to me. Flying my paper plane at that time was like I was ready for doing my dissertation. So nervous but also excited!


(Source: Internet)

However, I recognised that there was just one-third of students having a topic in their heads. So I hope you all should think about it from very first month of the first semester. Because you need to do many things to get a good topic.

Firstly, what is dissertation?

It is interesting that, in the UK, a dissertation is required for completing students’ Master’s degree while a thesis is for PhD. Nevertheless, in the USA, a thesis is written for a Master’s degree and a dissertation is written for a PhD.

Besides, to people who have never written an academic writing (like me), it is tough to understand clearly about many styles of writing. You can meet some requirement about submitting essay style, report style and must-see dissertation style. Following is the table showing what is the difference between them which my lovely English tutor, Ms Rowcroft, taught me in Academic Writing for Management student.

Essay/Report Dissertation
Topic Choice: Usually decided by a lecturer Decided by you!

Research :

Usually not necessary, reading literature and citing from this is enough Often necessary (need to read literature and cite from it and do some practical research)
Layout: Usually one document without section headings for an essay, and headings for a report. Must includes different sections with specific headings, e.g. Literature Review etc.
Value in Credits: Usually about 10% or less your Masters degree Usually about 40% of your

Masters degree

Length: Usually about 3,000 words max. Usually around 15,000 words max.
Time to


Usually about one month Usually three or more months towards the end of your Masters programme

(Sources: Ms Rowcroft, EAP Teaching Fellow & Coordinator; University of Surrey)

Secondly, let think about why university wants you to write a dissertation.

Your dissertation will show not only your understanding of your modules but also your mastery of academic skills. Moreover, it demonstrates that you can conduct researches and work independently. Remember that you may not do only one research in your lives, and this dissertation will be your remarkable experience of organising a project and managing your time effectively

Thirdly, let talk about key steps of writing a dissertation.

  1. Read well your department’s guidelines on dissertations
  2. Choose the topic which you want => Especially to people who wanna do research relating to their hometown, you will always find that there isn’t already specific research on your home context for many topics such as these, but instead you need to look at the literature for transferable concepts. I suspect you will have looked at this in research methods; I am referring to the literature relating to the theory that could apply to explaining your issue, or examples from other locations. You can see when you are reading a journal article that the references in the literature review rarely are peculiar to the place where the issue will be tested, but they come from a broader range of sources.
  3. Formulate research questions/hypotheses => It depends on what research method which you choose
  4. Decide on the research approach and data collection methods
  5. Work out a timetable for the research
  6. Write a research proposal
  7. Write the literature review
  8. Carry out research
  9. Write up the dissertation

Frankly, there are two kinds of the dissertation which Surrey gave us: traditional and applied one. I would like to talk more about applied dissertation which may be interesting to some of you. It is an alternative to the traditional dissertation and gives you the opportunity to work in close collaboration with an industry organisation to address a real world problem they are facing. While you gain access to resources and data unavailable to most traditional dissertation students, you must also be committed to delivering high-quality research for the organisation.  If you are interested in them, I encourage you to review these opportunities and then submit a CV and cover letter (on surreylearn – if you are a student of University of Surrey).

Honestly, I chose to write a traditional dissertation while many friends of me tried to submit an applied one. To me, it depends on what kind of topic areas you are interested in. So I just pass the (2) and waiting for feedback then I can move on to next steps. However, I know most of the people may be stuck in this stage. I think I will change a little bit of my topic to make it better (specific, not too narrow, clear and concise and realistic to investigate and answer).

But don’t forget the topic of dissertation needs to be…

  • Something you can research
  • Something that really interests you
  • Something that is relevant to your subject and is of interest and significance to others.

However, the most important thing of this process is keeping yourselves healthy. Do not be like me, having the flu as well as doing essays and thinking about my topic was such so bad. Love yourselves and study in the right way!


(My Xmas gift from Thai classmate, P’ Mona <3 She said: “Get better soon ^^ Merry Xmas and Happy new year!”)

Finally, I hope this post can help you to understand a little bit more about the dissertation.

Merry Xmas and Happy new year.


P.s/ Lịch cho 03 tuần nghỉ lễ của mình full nhưng là full các buổi họp nhóm và chuẩn bị cho viết essay nộp ngay khi đi học lại. Một Xmas bận rộn và khá cô đơn vì bạn bè hầu như đều đi chơi hết. Thôi, ráng lên ^^ Chờ Easter đi chơi bù ahihi.