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Don't panic: guide to being a QMU student: Dissertation

The The Guide to Being a QMU Student by Ellie Pullar & Bianca Petrone


This section is not a full guide to the dissertation, but it will provide you with little hints and tips on how to complete it. First things first, attend all the dissertation classes, they have a step-by-step guide to the dissertation and for us they were only once every couple weeks, so it’s worth making the effort. Even if you feel ahead or behind for the upcoming class still attend it’s a good excuse to get away from studying for a couple hours. Anyway, besides us nagging you to go to class here are some useful hints and tips to make your dissertation go as smoothly as possible.

Choosing your topic

Even though it’s summer we all know that Scotland experiences some rain, on those miserable days take some time to think about what you are interested in and how you can relate it to your degree. For example, I have an interest in crime and historical events that impact the world, and I have an interest in and studied tourism, so I found dark tourism as a topic that I had a great deal of interest in, and it was relevant to my degree. It is also vital that you make sure your topic has enough research as it is necessary for completing the literature review and ultimately the whole dissertation.


The first big task after completing your proposal is getting your ethical approval for research. It’s going to be pretty smooth sailing for most of you getting your ethics applications passed through BEaMethics but it is so long and tedious to get it done. Start it as soon as you get it as soon as you get accepted you can start gathering data and getting a move on with the dissertation. If your proposal is rock solid, you can copy and paste most of the information into the form making the process easier.

Data collection

Collecting data is the part that takes the longest, even if you think you’ve got a million people to answer your survey or be part of an interview reality is most won’t. There are two research methods to choose from, qualitative and quantitative. Most people that choose qualitative conduct interviews and those who choose quantitative conduct surveys. No matter which you choose the process is long and people will reject you and your research but power through.


Analysis is difficult but not impossible. For quantitative data, you can either put the responses into SPSS or if you use survey monkey it analyses the data for you. If you leave your analysis till the last minute, you will be stressed and you will most likely make mistakes which can set you back and might even have to restart.

Qualitative is not a walk in the park either, transcribing can take hours so start early. You then must read and re-read the transcription to interpret the data into codes to analyse it. It is crucial that you take your time with your data and review it numerous times because there is a chance that your qualitative analysis will contain subjectivity (both internally and externally, at levels acceptable to your theoretical approach). It can mean the difference between discovering an interesting hidden element that you'd never even considered including in your project and facing accusations of being lazy or biased.

Writing up

10,000 words is a lot, and it is a lot but it’s not an impossible task, you can absolutely do it. We have broken it down into sections and which order you are best writing them. It is not a strict guide but it’s the most common way people write the sections: starting with the easiest.

Abstract: Seventh

Acknowledgements: Last

Introduction: Fourth

Method: First

Data Analysis: Second

Results: Third

Discussion: Fifth

Conclusion and Recommendations: Sixth

References: Ongoing throughout process


Formatting the dissertation at the end will take time, along with proof reading. For me, this took a couple of days and I stupidly left it till the last minute, it was so stressful and I do not recommend doing that. Formatting refers to page numbers, margins, table of contents and figures, text styles and fonts, references and general presentation of the document. I know it seems like a waste of your time, but it can add some marks and make it better for your supervisor and second marker reading it. Save time at the end of the dissertation to do all your formatting as it makes for a piece of work to be proud of.



Working with your supervisor is essential, they want you to do well and are there to help you. You are only allowed an hour of face-to-face time with your supervisor each semester, we choose to do 2 half hour meetings, so make sure to get all your questions to ask prior to your short meeting. My supervisor got us all together for an initial meeting, she explained how she did her supervising. Every supervisor is different but listen to your supervisor and work together with them. Their feedback might be hard to take but they give it to make you better and can make your dissertation better.