Introduction > Writing Scientifically > Final Year Dissertation

Final Year Dissertation

BooksYour final year dissertation (sometimes called a 'thesis' or 'final year research project') is often seen as the culmination of your university career and is your chance to demonstrate the extent of your knowledge and skills. Many students find the thought of writing a dissertation intimidating but in reality if you plan your writing it shouldn't be daunting and some students even find it enjoyable! If you break down your dissertation, you’ll find that it will contain roughly the same sections as a lab report.

Title page: short and snappy but informative

Abstract: a brief overview of your dissertation, including general background information (justify your research), your hypotheses, the main results and conclusion(s); it shouldn't normally exceed one page. This is often the trickiest section to write as there's a lot to cover in very few words. For this reason it can be a good idea to leave writing this section until the very end when you'll probably have a much clearer picture in your mind of the research you've done

Acknowledgements: people who have helped you throughout your research project, including your supervisor, sponsors, technicians, classmates, etc. These are sometimes put at the end of the dissertation so check with your supervisor

Contents page: including main sections and subsections, followed by list of figures, list of tables and list of plates

Introduction: extensive literature review on your subject to 'set the scene' for your research project. It should clearly state your research aims and hypotheses

Materials and methods: explains what you've done and how you've done it in as much detail as possible, including suppliers of equipment, machinery used, environmental conditions, etc. It should contain enough detail to allow someone to replicate your research (and results)

Click to play PodcastDr Julian Park, Senior Lecturer at the University of Reading, discusses the Materials and Methods section in more detail

Results: including statistical analyses and graphs, plates, tables, etc. Avoid discussing your results here, but stick with the facts

Discussion: are your results similar to previous research? If not, why are they different - have the authors used different raw materials, procedures, environmental conditions?

Conclusion(s): what are the main outcomes from your research? Has your research contributed new information?

Future work
: what else can be done to explore your research topic further?

References: a detailed list of the primary/secondary literature you consulted

Appendix: data/information/figures that add value to your dissertation but are not necessary in the body of the text.

Before you start writing your thesis, plan it carefully and timetable which sections you will write and when. It can be easier to write individual sections as you go along, rather than leaving it all to the end. Check the word limit you need to be adhering to as these may differ depending on your discipline/departmental policy.
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