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Developing a bibliography

Your supervisor should be able to give you some suggestions to help you start gathering together a list of articles and books to consult. But then it’s over to you, and there are several ways you can look for more material:

  • Use LibrarySearch and LibrarySearch+ to find records of books, ebooks, journal articles, film, etc., either using the names of authors or topics as keywords, or using subject headings (often more effective). This will usually generate far too many records, but if you sift through patiently you should be able to create a list of promising titles to follow up. With LibrarySearch+ you may find that you can access the full text of a publication directly.
  • Supplement these searches with some forays into electronic archives such as Jstor, an online index such as the MLA International Bibliography, or WorldCat, an online catalogue of major libraries around the world. Other indexes/databases that might be useful are Literature Online and Scopus. These and other specialist bibliographic sources are available via the Libraries Gateway  
  • You should also try a series of searches on the internet via Google or another search engine, as this may throw up bibliographies that someone has already compiled on the topic, online articles which are not in print, and material on Google Books (very useful in deciding whether the book is worth searching for in a library). Searching via Google is a more random affair, but for very contemporary topics it can yield useful results – for example, for reviews of films too recent to appear in published journals or books.

Every book or article you read will have a bibliography of its own, so check it carefully for ideas of where to look next.

Making notes on books or articles

When to stop reading

Search form

how to do reading for dissertation

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  • 1. Approaching the dissertation
  • 2. Initial ideas and finding a supervisor
  • 3. Getting the most from your supervisor
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Study Skills

Research skills.

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Note making for dissertations: First steps into writing

how to do reading for dissertation

Note making (as opposed to note taking) is an active practice of recording relevant parts of reading for your research as well as your reflections and critiques of those studies. Note making, therefore, is a pre-writing exercise that helps you to organise your thoughts prior to writing. In this module, we will cover:

  • The difference between note taking and note making
  • Seven tips for good note making
  • Strategies for structuring your notes and asking critical questions
  • Different styles of note making

To complete this section, you will need:

how to do reading for dissertation

  • Approximately 20-30 minutes.
  • Access to the internet. All the resources used here are available freely.
  • Some equipment for jotting down your thoughts, a pen and paper will do, or your phone or another electronic device.

Note taking v note making

When you think about note taking, what comes to mind? Perhaps trying to record everything said in a lecture? Perhaps trying to write down everything included in readings required for a course?

  • Note taking is a passive process. When you take notes, you are often trying to record everything that you are reading or listening to. However, you may have noticed that this takes a lot of effort and often results in too many notes to be useful.  
  • Note making , on the other hand, is an active practice, based on the needs and priorities of your project. Note making is an opportunity for you to ask critical questions of your readings and to synthesise ideas as they pertain to your research questions. Making notes is a pre-writing exercise that develops your academic voice and makes writing significantly easier.

Seven tips for effective note making

Note making is an active process based on the needs of your research. This video contains seven tips to help you make brilliant notes from articles and books to make the most of the time you spend reading and writing.

  • Transcript of Seven Tips for Effective Notemaking

Question prompts for strategic note making

You might consider structuring your notes to answer the following questions. Remember that note making is based on your needs, so not all of these questions will apply in all cases. You might try answering these questions using the note making styles discussed in the next section.

  • Question prompts for strategic note making
  • Background question prompts
  • Critical question prompts
  • Synthesis question prompts

Answer these six questions to frame your reading and provide context.

  • What is the context in which the text was written? What came before it? Are there competing ideas?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • How is the writing organised?
  • What are the author’s methods?
  • What is the author’s key argument and conclusions?

Answer these six questions to determine your critical perspectivess and develop your academic voice.

  • What are the most interesting/compelling ideas (to you) in this study?
  • Why do you find them interesting? How do they relate to your study?
  • What questions do you have about the study?
  • What could it cover better? How could it have defended its research better?
  • What are the implications of the study? (Look not just to the conclusions but also to definitions and models)
  • Are there any gaps in the study? (Look not just at conclusions but definitions, literature review, methodology)

Answer these five questions to compare aspects of various studies (such as for a literature review. 

  • What are the similarities and differences in the literature?
  • Critically analyse the strengths, limitations, debates and themes that emerg from the literature.
  • What would you suggest for future research or practice?
  • Where are the gaps in the literature? What is missing? Why?
  • What new questions should be asked in this area of study?

Styles of note making

photo of a mind map on a wall

  • Linear notes . Great for recording thoughts about your readings. [video]
  • Mind mapping : Great for thinking through complex topics. [video]

Further sites that discuss techniques for note making:

  • Note-taking techniques
  • Common note-taking methods
  • Strategies for effective note making  

Did you know?

how to do reading for dissertation

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Academic Skills and Writing Development

Study tips and reflections from newcastle university's academic skills team.

Academic Skills and Writing Development

Dissertation Toolkit: A Lens for Critical Reading

Getting to grips with the literature on your topic is one of the earliest stages of the dissertation. Among other things, the existing scholarship helps you explore different perspectives, interpret your findings, build your own argument and position yourself in a debate. Immersing yourself in the literature is a great way to get to know the subject, but it can also be overwhelming – you can become so swamping with what everyone else has ever said on the topic that there’s no room for you to know what you think!

The danger here is that you can become too descriptive. In losing your own unique perspective, the literature review can just become a collage of what other people have said. You end up just describing what your reader can go read for themselves if they want, and not adding much of yourself. It’s your dissertation and yours is the voice we’re interested in, so avoid it becoming a catalogue of ‘Scholar X says this, Scholar Y says that’, and foreground your own views!

In this post, we’ll look at how you can read with an active and critical eye, questioning what you read so that you don’t lose sight of your own agenda. We’ll look at three things to bear in mind about critical reading:

  • Evaluating research on its own terms – testing its validity
  • Understanding research in relation to other scholarship- its place in the debate
  • Critiquing research in relation to what you want to do – its relevance and usefulness

1/ In the first place, critical reading means taking a journal article or book etc and asking specific questions about it on its own to evaluate its validity. This is tricky – you have to have a good understanding of things like research methodology to answer questions like ‘was the sample size large enough?’ or ‘was the use of this theory appropriate?’ It’s important to remember that while you need to critique each source you’re using to test its quality, you’re not necessarily looking to find fault with it . Agreeing with it is as critical a standpoint as disagreeing. And it’s not black and white- you might be less convinced by one aspect, but still find valuable elements elsewhere.

2/ Of course, you can only read one thing at a time. However, what you’re also doing is contributing each thing you read to your own mental map of the literature. If you read each source in isolation, without thinking about how it relates to everything else you’ve read, it will again lead you to very descriptive writing, which doesn’t build an argument or position you in a debate, but instead just catalogues each text in turn. Think about how each text relates to others – Can you see scholars who disagree with each other, or take up positions which are mutually exclusive? Can you see clusters of scholars who agree with each other- a school of thought? Can you track the development of an idea over time, seeing how it’s been refined or adapted for other contexts? Can you see scholars approaching the same topic from different perspectives, perhaps different subject backgrounds? Are these approaches complementary?

3/ Finally, you need to remember your own agenda. Academic writing is by nature very persuasive. It’s easy to get sucked into the agenda of the scholar writing a particular article or book – for them, this is the most important thing you can read on the topic. Of course it is – to them! But they’re not writing to help you solve your dissertation question, they’ve got their own agenda which may or may not be useful to you. So try to keep in mind your own research aim when reading – yes, the information may well be interesting, but is it relevant or useful to you? This is no reflection on the research itself – it may be the best journal article in the world on that topic, but if it doesn’t help you further your research goals, then it’s not relevant!

  Your note-taking strategies can also help to support this kind of critical reading. Instead of copying down or highlighting what the text says (it’ll still be there, so there is often little need to ‘capture’ the text in this way!) think about how you can use your notes to respond to the text in the three ways described above, whether it’s annotating your response in the margin, devising a system of note-taking that provides you space to look at all three aspects, or even the folders or categories (keywords and tags) that you’re saving the information in!

We’ve developed a resource that might help you think of the kinds of question you might ask in all three categories, which you can download here: Three Domains of Critical Reading

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Think of yourself as a member of a jury, listening to a lawyer who is presenting an opening argument. You'll want to know very soon whether the lawyer believes the accused to be guilty or not guilty, and how the lawyer plans to convince you. Readers of academic essays are like jury members: before they have read too far, they want to know what the essay argues as well as how the writer plans to make the argument. After reading your thesis statement, the reader should think, "This essay is going to try to convince me of something. I'm not convinced yet, but I'm interested to see how I might be."

An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion. (Superlatives like "the best" almost always lead to trouble. It's impossible to weigh every "thing" that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn't that be "the best thing"?)

A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.

Steps in Constructing a Thesis

First, analyze your primary sources.  Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis.)

Once you have a working thesis, write it down.  There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration. And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely. You probably will not be able to write out a final-draft version of your thesis the first time you try, but you'll get yourself on the right track by writing down what you have.

Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction.  A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.

Anticipate the counterarguments.  Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you'll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counterargument. If yours doesn't, then it's not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument.)

This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a "soft-on-crime" image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counterargument, you'll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.

Some Caveats and Some Examples

A thesis is never a question.  Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question ("Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?") is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water.

A thesis is never a list.  "For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" does a good job of "telegraphing" the reader what to expect in the essay—a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons. However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn't advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important.

A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational.  An ineffective thesis would be, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil." This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading.

An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim.  "While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline" is an effective thesis sentence that "telegraphs," so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, "Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim."

A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible.  Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions. For example, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite's inability to address the economic concerns of the people" is more powerful than "Communism collapsed due to societal discontent."

Copyright 1999, Maxine Rodburg and The Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University


Dissertations and major projects

  • Planning your dissertation
  • Researching your dissertation
  • Managing your data
  • Introduction

Managing your time

Structuring your dissertation, keeping going, finishing off and checking through, useful links for dissertations and major projects.

  • Study Advice Helping students to achieve study success with guides, video tutorials, seminars and one-to-one advice sessions.
  • Maths Support A guide to Maths Support resources which may help if you're finding any mathematical or statistical topic difficult during the transition to University study.
  • Academic writing LibGuide Expert guidance on punctuation, grammar, writing style and proof-reading.
  • Guide to citing references Includes guidance on why, when and how to use references correctly in your academic writing.
  • The Final Chapter An excellent guide from the University of Leeds on all aspects of research projects
  • Royal Literary Fund: Writing a Literature Review A guide to writing literature reviews from the Royal Literary Fund
  • Academic Phrasebank Use this site for examples of linking phrases and ways to refer to sources.

Writing up your dissertation makes it sound like this is the last big step that you do, but it is a good idea to start writing as you go along, as the writing process will help clarify your thinking. It is also reassuring to have some words down on the page. You may have other coursework due so it is important to protect your dissertation writing time.

The guidance on this page takes you through the whole writing process from managing your time to those crucial mark-gaining final checks.

how to do reading for dissertation

Plan an overall work schedule

Break down your dissertation into stages and  plan backwards from your deadline  to fit them all in.

  • Start with your literature review
  • Think about your methodology
  • Identify primary sources
  • Identify secondary sources, if appropriate
  • Write as you go along
  • Organise and analyse your material
  • Redraft / check / proofread

Do a little bit on a regular basis

  • Decide in advance when you're going to work on your dissertation – set aside time each week or have a particular day to work on it
  • Give yourself a specific task to do in that time
  • Do difficult tasks at the times of day you work best
  • Do easy tasks when you're tired / less motivated
  • Managing time for your dissertation (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Managing time for your dissertation (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.

It's a good idea to  write an overall plan  outlining what you need to cover in each chapter.

Think of a dissertation like a series of linked essays; each chapter is self-contained and has its own purpose, but they all connect together to contribute to the argument of your dissertation.

The chapters don't have to all be the same length – some can be longer because they are more detailed (like the literature review) and others can be shorter because they are summarising and finalising information (like the conclusion).

  • Structuring your dissertation (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Structuring your dissertation (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.

how to do reading for dissertation

Write up as you go along . It is much easier to keep track of how your ideas develop and writing helps clarify your thinking. It also saves having to churn out 1000s of words at the end.

You don't have to start with the introduction  – start at the chapter that seems the easiest to write – this could be the literature review or methodology, for example. Alternatively you may prefer to write the introduction first, so you can get your ideas straight. Decide what will suit your ways of working best - then do it.

Think of each chapter as an essay in itself  – it should have a clear introduction and conclusion. Use the conclusion to link back to the overall research question.

Think of the main argument of your dissertation as a river , and each chapter is a tributary feeding into this. The individual chapters will contain their own arguments, and go their own way, but they all contribute to the main flow.

Write a chapter, read it and do a redraft - then move on. This stops you from getting bogged down in one chapter.

Write your references properly  and in full from the beginning. Consider using a reference management tool such as EndNote or Mendeley to store the details of the materials you will want to use and to add them to your text.

Keep your word count in mind  – be ruthless and don't write anything that isn't relevant. It's often easier to add information, than have to cut down a long chapter that you've slaved over for hours.

Save your work!  Remember to save your work frequently to somewhere you can access it easily. It's a good idea to at least save a copy to a cloud-based service like Google Docs or Dropbox so that you can access it from any computer - if you only save to your own PC, laptop or tablet, you could lose everything if you lose or break your device.

  • Writing up your dissertation (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Writing up your dissertation (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.
  • Literature reviews LibGuide Expert guidance on researching and writing your literature review.
  • Doing your literature review (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Doing your literature review (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.
  • Managing references An overview of different systems for managing your references.

After the initial enthusiasm wears off, it can be hard to keep motivated – it's also natural to feel confused and overwhelmed at points throughout your dissertation; this is all part of sustaining a longer project. Here are some suggestions to keep you going:

Break down large, unappealing tasks  into smaller bearable ones. Molehills are always easier to climb than mountains!

Give yourself rewards  when you've completed tasks - these might range from a cup of coffee, to an exercise session, or a night out.

If you're not in a good thinking mood,  do more straightforward tasks  like compiling the bibliography or doing the title page.

If you're feeling confused about what you're doing,  try writing a short paragraph  summarising what your research is about. This can help you find a focus again.

If you're feeling overwhelmed,  try identifying the one thing that you need to do next ; often this will logically lead to further steps, and you'll be able to get started again.

Talk to friends or your supervisor about what you're doing ; explaining where you are in your project and how it's going can help clarify your thinking.

how to do reading for dissertation

General principles are:

  • Double-space your writing, do not have narrow margins, and print on one side of the page only.
  • Use a font that is legible and looks professional (Comic Sans is not appropriate!).
  • Check what should be included in cover pages and headers and footers (e.g. page numbers).
  • Have a clear Table of Contents to help your reader, and a separate List of Illustrations or tables if appropriate.
  • Consider what information should be put in Appendices and check that you have referred to the appropriate appendix in your text.

If you're trying to track down that missing reference for your bibliography, you can always ask your Academic Liaison Librarian  for help finding it.

Undergraduate dissertations are usually 'soft bound'. This means having a soft card cover, with the pages joined together with comb, spiral, or thermal binding. You can get this done at many print shops, often while you wait.

If you choose to get your work hard bound, it can take a few days (more at busy times), so check with the printers / stationers beforehand.

  • Finishing your dissertation (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
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How to write an undergraduate university dissertation

Writing a dissertation is a daunting task, but these tips will help you prepare for all the common challenges students face before deadline day.

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Grace McCabe

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Writing a dissertation is one of the most challenging aspects of university. However, it is the chance for students to demonstrate what they have learned during their degree and to explore a topic in depth.

In this article, we look at 10 top tips for writing a successful dissertation and break down how to write each section of a dissertation in detail.

10 tips for writing an undergraduate dissertation

1. Select an engaging topic Choose a subject that aligns with your interests and allows you to showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired through your degree.

2. Research your supervisor Undergraduate students will often be assigned a supervisor based on their research specialisms. Do some research on your supervisor and make sure that they align with your dissertation goals.

3. Understand the dissertation structure Familiarise yourself with the structure (introduction, review of existing research, methodology, findings, results and conclusion). This will vary based on your subject.

4. Write a schedule As soon as you have finalised your topic and looked over the deadline, create a rough plan of how much work you have to do and create mini-deadlines along the way to make sure don’t find yourself having to write your entire dissertation in the final few weeks.

5. Determine requirements Ensure that you know which format your dissertation should be presented in. Check the word count and the referencing style.

6. Organise references from the beginning Maintain an alphabetically arranged reference list or bibliography in the designated style as you do your reading. This will make it a lot easier to finalise your references at the end.

7. Create a detailed plan Once you have done your initial research and have an idea of the shape your dissertation will take, write a detailed essay plan outlining your research questions, SMART objectives and dissertation structure.

8. Keep a dissertation journal Track your progress, record your research and your reading, and document challenges. This will be helpful as you discuss your work with your supervisor and organise your notes.

9. Schedule regular check-ins with your supervisor Make sure you stay in touch with your supervisor throughout the process, scheduling regular meetings and keeping good notes so you can update them on your progress.

10. Employ effective proofreading techniques Ask friends and family to help you proofread your work or use different fonts to help make the text look different. This will help you check for missing sections, grammatical mistakes and typos.

What is a dissertation?

A dissertation is a long piece of academic writing or a research project that you have to write as part of your undergraduate university degree.

It’s usually a long essay in which you explore your chosen topic, present your ideas and show that you understand and can apply what you’ve learned during your studies. Informally, the terms “dissertation” and “thesis” are often used interchangeably.

How do I select a dissertation topic?

First, choose a topic that you find interesting. You will be working on your dissertation for several months, so finding a research topic that you are passionate about and that demonstrates your strength in your subject is best. You want your topic to show all the skills you have developed during your degree. It would be a bonus if you can link your work to your chosen career path, but it’s not necessary.

Second, begin by exploring relevant literature in your field, including academic journals, books and articles. This will help you identify gaps in existing knowledge and areas that may need further exploration. You may not be able to think of a truly original piece of research, but it’s always good to know what has already been written about your chosen topic.

Consider the practical aspects of your chosen topic, ensuring that it is possible within the time frame and available resources. Assess the availability of data, research materials and the overall practicality of conducting the research.

When picking a dissertation topic, you also want to try to choose something that adds new ideas or perspectives to what’s already known in your field. As you narrow your focus, remember that a more targeted approach usually leads to a dissertation that’s easier to manage and has a bigger impact. Be ready to change your plans based on feedback and new information you discover during your research.

How to work with your dissertation supervisor?

Your supervisor is there to provide guidance on your chosen topic, direct your research efforts, and offer assistance and suggestions when you have queries. It’s crucial to establish a comfortable and open line of communication with them throughout the process. Their knowledge can greatly benefit your work. Keep them informed about your progress, seek their advice, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

1. Keep them updated Regularly tell your supervisor how your work is going and if you’re having any problems. You can do this through emails, meetings or progress reports.

2. Plan meetings Schedule regular meetings with your supervisor. These can be in person or online. These are your time to discuss your progress and ask for help.

3. Share your writing Give your supervisor parts of your writing or an outline. This helps them see what you’re thinking so they can advise you on how to develop it.

5. Ask specific questions When you need help, ask specific questions instead of general ones. This makes it easier for your supervisor to help you.

6. Listen to feedback Be open to what your supervisor says. If they suggest changes, try to make them. It makes your dissertation better and shows you can work together.

7. Talk about problems If something is hard or you’re worried, talk to your supervisor about it. They can give you advice or tell you where to find help.

8. Take charge Be responsible for your work. Let your supervisor know if your plans change, and don’t wait if you need help urgently.

Remember, talking openly with your supervisor helps you both understand each other better, improves your dissertation and ensures that you get the support you need.

How to write a successful research piece at university How to choose a topic for your dissertation Tips for writing a convincing thesis

How do I plan my dissertation?

It’s important to start with a detailed plan that will serve as your road map throughout the entire process of writing your dissertation. As Jumana Labib, a master’s student at the University of Manchester  studying digital media, culture and society, suggests: “Pace yourself – definitely don’t leave the entire thing for the last few days or weeks.”

Decide what your research question or questions will be for your chosen topic.

Break that down into smaller SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) objectives.

Speak to your supervisor about any overlooked areas.

Create a breakdown of chapters using the structure listed below (for example, a methodology chapter).

Define objectives, key points and evidence for each chapter.

Define your research approach (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods).

Outline your research methods and analysis techniques.

Develop a timeline with regular moments for review and feedback.

Allocate time for revision, editing and breaks.

Consider any ethical considerations related to your research.

Stay organised and add to your references and bibliography throughout the process.

Remain flexible to possible reviews or changes as you go along.

A well thought-out plan not only makes the writing process more manageable but also increases the likelihood of producing a high-quality piece of research.

How to structure a dissertation?

The structure can depend on your field of study, but this is a rough outline for science and social science dissertations:

Introduce your topic.

Complete a source or literature review.

Describe your research methodology (including the methods for gathering and filtering information, analysis techniques, materials, tools or resources used, limitations of your method, and any considerations of reliability).

Summarise your findings.

Discuss the results and what they mean.

Conclude your point and explain how your work contributes to your field.

On the other hand, humanities and arts dissertations often take the form of an extended essay. This involves constructing an argument or exploring a particular theory or analysis through the analysis of primary and secondary sources. Your essay will be structured through chapters arranged around themes or case studies.

All dissertations include a title page, an abstract and a reference list. Some may also need a table of contents at the beginning. Always check with your university department for its dissertation guidelines, and check with your supervisor as you begin to plan your structure to ensure that you have the right layout.

How long is an undergraduate dissertation?

The length of an undergraduate dissertation can vary depending on the specific guidelines provided by your university and your subject department. However, in many cases, undergraduate dissertations are typically about 8,000 to 12,000 words in length.

“Eat away at it; try to write for at least 30 minutes every day, even if it feels relatively unproductive to you in the moment,” Jumana advises.

How do I add references to my dissertation?

References are the section of your dissertation where you acknowledge the sources you have quoted or referred to in your writing. It’s a way of supporting your ideas, evidencing what research you have used and avoiding plagiarism (claiming someone else’s work as your own), and giving credit to the original authors.

Referencing typically includes in-text citations and a reference list or bibliography with full source details. Different referencing styles exist, such as Harvard, APA and MLA, each favoured in specific fields. Your university will tell you the preferred style.

Using tools and guides provided by universities can make the referencing process more manageable, but be sure they are approved by your university before using any.

How do I write a bibliography or list my references for my dissertation?

The requirement of a bibliography depends on the style of referencing you need to use. Styles such as OSCOLA or Chicago may not require a separate bibliography. In these styles, full source information is often incorporated into footnotes throughout the piece, doing away with the need for a separate bibliography section.

Typically, reference lists or bibliographies are organised alphabetically based on the author’s last name. They usually include essential details about each source, providing a quick overview for readers who want more information. Some styles ask that you include references that you didn’t use in your final piece as they were still a part of the overall research.

It is important to maintain this list as soon as you start your research. As you complete your research, you can add more sources to your bibliography to ensure that you have a comprehensive list throughout the dissertation process.

How to proofread an undergraduate dissertation?

Throughout your dissertation writing, attention to detail will be your greatest asset. The best way to avoid making mistakes is to continuously proofread and edit your work.

Proofreading is a great way to catch any missing sections, grammatical errors or typos. There are many tips to help you proofread:

Ask someone to read your piece and highlight any mistakes they find.

Change the font so you notice any mistakes.

Format your piece as you go, headings and sections will make it easier to spot any problems.

Separate editing and proofreading. Editing is your chance to rewrite sections, add more detail or change any points. Proofreading should be where you get into the final touches, really polish what you have and make sure it’s ready to be submitted.

Stick to your citation style and make sure every resource listed in your dissertation is cited in the reference list or bibliography.

How to write a conclusion for my dissertation?

Writing a dissertation conclusion is your chance to leave the reader impressed by your work.

Start by summarising your findings, highlighting your key points and the outcome of your research. Refer back to the original research question or hypotheses to provide context to your conclusion.

You can then delve into whether you achieved the goals you set at the beginning and reflect on whether your research addressed the topic as expected. Make sure you link your findings to existing literature or sources you have included throughout your work and how your own research could contribute to your field.

Be honest about any limitations or issues you faced during your research and consider any questions that went unanswered that you would consider in the future. Make sure that your conclusion is clear and concise, and sum up the overall impact and importance of your work.

Remember, keep the tone confident and authoritative, avoiding the introduction of new information. This should simply be a summary of everything you have already said throughout the dissertation.

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  • Dissertation

What Is a Dissertation? | 5 Essential Questions to Get Started

Published on 26 March 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 5 May 2022.

A dissertation is a large research project undertaken at the end of a degree. It involves in-depth consideration of a problem or question chosen by the student. It is usually the largest (and final) piece of written work produced during a degree.

The length and structure of a dissertation vary widely depending on the level and field of study. However, there are some key questions that can help you understand the requirements and get started on your dissertation project.

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Table of contents

When and why do you have to write a dissertation, who will supervise your dissertation, what type of research will you do, how should your dissertation be structured, what formatting and referencing rules do you have to follow, frequently asked questions about dissertations.

A dissertation, sometimes called a thesis, comes at the end of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. It is a larger project than the other essays you’ve written, requiring a higher word count and a greater depth of research.

You’ll generally work on your dissertation during the final year of your degree, over a longer period than you would take for a standard essay . For example, the dissertation might be your main focus for the last six months of your degree.

Why is the dissertation important?

The dissertation is a test of your capacity for independent research. You are given a lot of autonomy in writing your dissertation: you come up with your own ideas, conduct your own research, and write and structure the text by yourself.

This means that it is an important preparation for your future, whether you continue in academia or not: it teaches you to manage your own time, generate original ideas, and work independently.

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During the planning and writing of your dissertation, you’ll work with a supervisor from your department. The supervisor’s job is to give you feedback and advice throughout the process.

The dissertation supervisor is often assigned by the department, but you might be allowed to indicate preferences or approach potential supervisors. If so, try to pick someone who is familiar with your chosen topic, whom you get along with on a personal level, and whose feedback you’ve found useful in the past.

How will your supervisor help you?

Your supervisor is there to guide you through the dissertation project, but you’re still working independently. They can give feedback on your ideas, but not come up with ideas for you.

You may need to take the initiative to request an initial meeting with your supervisor. Then you can plan out your future meetings and set reasonable deadlines for things like completion of data collection, a structure outline, a first chapter, a first draft, and so on.

Make sure to prepare in advance for your meetings. Formulate your ideas as fully as you can, and determine where exactly you’re having difficulties so you can ask your supervisor for specific advice.

Your approach to your dissertation will vary depending on your field of study. The first thing to consider is whether you will do empirical research , which involves collecting original data, or non-empirical research , which involves analysing sources.

Empirical dissertations (sciences)

An empirical dissertation focuses on collecting and analysing original data. You’ll usually write this type of dissertation if you are studying a subject in the sciences or social sciences.

  • What are airline workers’ attitudes towards the challenges posed for their industry by climate change?
  • How effective is cognitive behavioural therapy in treating depression in young adults?
  • What are the short-term health effects of switching from smoking cigarettes to e-cigarettes?

There are many different empirical research methods you can use to answer these questions – for example, experiments , observations, surveys , and interviews.

When doing empirical research, you need to consider things like the variables you will investigate, the reliability and validity of your measurements, and your sampling method . The aim is to produce robust, reproducible scientific knowledge.

Non-empirical dissertations (arts and humanities)

A non-empirical dissertation works with existing research or other texts, presenting original analysis, critique and argumentation, but no original data. This approach is typical of arts and humanities subjects.

  • What attitudes did commentators in the British press take towards the French Revolution in 1789–1792?
  • How do the themes of gender and inheritance intersect in Shakespeare’s Macbeth ?
  • How did Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia influence nineteenth century utopian socialist thought?

The first steps in this type of dissertation are to decide on your topic and begin collecting your primary and secondary sources .

Primary sources are the direct objects of your research. They give you first-hand evidence about your subject. Examples of primary sources include novels, artworks and historical documents.

Secondary sources provide information that informs your analysis. They describe, interpret, or evaluate information from primary sources. For example, you might consider previous analyses of the novel or author you are working on, or theoretical texts that you plan to apply to your primary sources.

Dissertations are divided into chapters and sections. Empirical dissertations usually follow a standard structure, while non-empirical dissertations are more flexible.

Structure of an empirical dissertation

Empirical dissertations generally include these chapters:

  • Introduction : An explanation of your topic and the research question(s) you want to answer.
  • Literature review : A survey and evaluation of previous research on your topic.
  • Methodology : An explanation of how you collected and analysed your data.
  • Results : A brief description of what you found.
  • Discussion : Interpretation of what these results reveal.
  • Conclusion : Answers to your research question(s) and summary of what your findings contribute to knowledge in your field.

Sometimes the order or naming of chapters might be slightly different, but all of the above information must be included in order to produce thorough, valid scientific research.

Other dissertation structures

If your dissertation doesn’t involve data collection, your structure is more flexible. You can think of it like an extended essay – the text should be logically organised in a way that serves your argument:

  • Introduction: An explanation of your topic and the question(s) you want to answer.
  • Main body: The development of your analysis, usually divided into 2–4 chapters.
  • Conclusion: Answers to your research question(s) and summary of what your analysis contributes to knowledge in your field.

The chapters of the main body can be organised around different themes, time periods, or texts. Below you can see some example structures for dissertations in different subjects.

  • Political philosophy

This example, on the topic of the British press’s coverage of the French Revolution, shows how you might structure each chapter around a specific theme.

Example of a dissertation structure in history

This example, on the topic of Plato’s and More’s influences on utopian socialist thought, shows a different approach to dividing the chapters by theme.

Example of a dissertation structure in political philosophy

This example, a master’s dissertation on the topic of how writers respond to persecution, shows how you can also use section headings within each chapter. Each of the three chapters deals with a specific text, while the sections are organised thematically.

Example of a dissertation structure in literature

Like other academic texts, it’s important that your dissertation follows the formatting guidelines set out by your university. You can lose marks unnecessarily over mistakes, so it’s worth taking the time to get all these elements right.

Formatting guidelines concern things like:

  • line spacing
  • page numbers
  • punctuation
  • title pages
  • presentation of tables and figures

If you’re unsure about the formatting requirements, check with your supervisor or department. You can lose marks unnecessarily over mistakes, so it’s worth taking the time to get all these elements right.

How will you reference your sources?

Referencing means properly listing the sources you cite and refer to in your dissertation, so that the reader can find them. This avoids plagiarism by acknowledging where you’ve used the work of others.

Keep track of everything you read as you prepare your dissertation. The key information to note down for a reference is:

  • The publication date
  • Page numbers for the parts you refer to (especially when using direct quotes)

Different referencing styles each have their own specific rules for how to reference. The most commonly used styles in UK universities are listed below.

You can use the free APA Reference Generator to automatically create and store your references.

APA Reference Generator

The words ‘ dissertation ’ and ‘thesis’ both refer to a large written research project undertaken to complete a degree, but they are used differently depending on the country:

  • In the UK, you write a dissertation at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a thesis to complete a PhD.
  • In the US, it’s the other way around: you may write a thesis at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a dissertation to complete a PhD.

The main difference is in terms of scale – a dissertation is usually much longer than the other essays you complete during your degree.

Another key difference is that you are given much more independence when working on a dissertation. You choose your own dissertation topic , and you have to conduct the research and write the dissertation yourself (with some assistance from your supervisor).

Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:

  • An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000–15,000 words
  • A master’s dissertation is typically 12,000–50,000 words
  • A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000–100,000 words

However, none of these are strict guidelines – your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.

At the bachelor’s and master’s levels, the dissertation is usually the main focus of your final year. You might work on it (alongside other classes) for the entirety of the final year, or for the last six months. This includes formulating an idea, doing the research, and writing up.

A PhD thesis takes a longer time, as the thesis is the main focus of the degree. A PhD thesis might be being formulated and worked on for the whole four years of the degree program. The writing process alone can take around 18 months.

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Dissertation Explained: A Grad Student’s Guide

Updated: August 7, 2023

Published: March 10, 2020


Higher education is filled with milestones. When completing your PhD , you will be required to complete a dissertation. Even if you’ve heard this word thrown around before, you still may be questioning “What is a dissertation?” It’s a common question, especially for those considering to join or are already in a graduate program. As such, here’s everything you need to know about dissertations.

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a written document that details research. A dissertation also signifies the completion of your PhD program. It is required to earn a PhD degree, which stands for Doctor of Philosophy.

A PhD is created from knowledge acquired from:

1. Coursework:

A PhD program consists of academic courses that are usually small in size and challenging in content. Most PhD courses consist of a high amount and level of reading and writing per week. These courses will help prepare you for your dissertation as they will teach research methodology.

2. Research:

For your dissertation, it is likely that you will have the choice between performing your own research on a subject , or expanding on existing research. Likely, you will complete a mixture of the two. For those in the hard sciences, you will perform research in a lab. For those in humanities and social sciences, research may mean gathering data from surveys or existing research.

3. Analysis:

Once you have collected the data you need to prove your point, you will have to analyze and interpret the information. PhD programs will prepare you for how to conduct analysis, as well as for how to position your research into the existing body of work on the subject matter.

4. Support:

The process of writing and completing a dissertation is bigger than the work itself. It can lead to research positions within the university or outside companies. It may mean that you will teach and share your findings with current undergraduates, or even be published in academic journals. How far you plan to take your dissertation is your choice to make and will require the relevant effort to accomplish your goals.

Moving from Student to Scholar

In essence, a dissertation is what moves a doctoral student into becoming a scholar. Their research may be published, shared, and used as educational material moving forwards.

Thesis vs. Dissertation

Basic differences.

Grad students may conflate the differences between a thesis and a dissertation.

Simply put, a thesis is what you write to complete a master’s degree. It summarizes existing research and signifies that you understand the subject matter deeply.

On the other hand, a dissertation is the culmination of a doctoral program. It will likely require your own research and it can contribute an entirely new idea into your field.

Structural Differences

When it comes to the structure, a thesis and dissertation are also different. A thesis is like the research papers you complete during undergraduate studies. A thesis displays your ability to think critically and analyze information. It’s less based on research that you’ve completed yourself and more about interpreting and analyzing existing material. They are generally around 100 pages in length.

A dissertation is generally two to three times longer compared to a thesis. This is because the bulk of the information is garnered from research you’ve performed yourself. Also, if you are providing something new in your field, it means that existing information is lacking. That’s why you’ll have to provide a lot of data and research to back up your claims.

Your Guide: Structuring a Dissertation

Dissertation length.

The length of a dissertation varies between study level and country. At an undergraduate level, this is more likely referred to as a research paper, which is 10,000 to 12,000 words on average. At a master’s level, the word count may be 15,000 to 25,000, and it will likely be in the form of a thesis. For those completing their PhD, then the dissertation could be 50,000 words or more.

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Format of the dissertation.

Here are the items you must include in a dissertation. While the format may slightly vary, here’s a look at one way to format your dissertation:

1. Title page:

This is the first page which includes: title, your name, department, degree program, institution, and submission date. Your program may specify exactly how and what they want you to include on the title page.

2. Acknowledgements:

This is optional, but it is where you can express your gratitude to those who have helped you complete your dissertation (professors, research partners, etc.).

3. Abstract:

The abstract is about 150-300 words and summarizes what your research is about. You state the main topic, the methods used, the main results, and your conclusion.

4. Table of Contents

Here, you list the chapter titles and pages to serve as a wayfinding tool for your readers.

5. List of Figures and Tables:

This is like the table of contents, but for graphs and figures.

6. List of Abbreviations:

If you’ve constantly abbreviated words in your content, define them in a list at the beginning.

7. Glossary:

In highly specialized work, it’s likely that you’ve used words that most people may not understand, so a glossary is where you define these terms.

8. Introduction:

Your introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance. It’s where readers will understand what they expect to gain from your dissertation.

9. Literature Review / Theoretical Framework:

Based on the research you performed to create your own dissertation, you’ll want to summarize and address the gaps in what you researched.

10. Methodology

This is where you define how you conducted your research. It offers credibility for you as a source of information. You should give all the details as to how you’ve conducted your research, including: where and when research took place, how it was conducted, any obstacles you faced, and how you justified your findings.

11. Results:

This is where you share the results that have helped contribute to your findings.

12. Discussion:

In the discussion section, you explain what these findings mean to your research question. Were they in line with your expectations or did something jump out as surprising? You may also want to recommend ways to move forward in researching and addressing the subject matter.

13. Conclusion:

A conclusion ties it all together and summarizes the answer to the research question and leaves your reader clearly understanding your main argument.

14. Reference List:

This is the equivalent to a works cited or bibliography page, which documents all the sources you used to create your dissertation.

15. Appendices:

If you have any information that was ancillary to creating the dissertation, but doesn’t directly fit into its chapters, then you can add it in the appendix.

Drafting and Rewriting

As with any paper, especially one of this size and importance, the writing requires a process. It may begin with outlines and drafts, and even a few rewrites. It’s important to proofread your dissertation for both grammatical mistakes, but also to ensure it can be clearly understood.

It’s always useful to read your writing out loud to catch mistakes. Also, if you have people who you trust to read it over — like a peer, family member, mentor, or professor — it’s very helpful to get a second eye on your work.

How is it Different from an Essay?

There are a few main differences between a dissertation and an essay. For starters, an essay is relatively short in comparison to a dissertation, which includes your own body of research and work. Not only is an essay shorter, but you are also likely given the topic matter of an essay. When it comes to a dissertation, you have the freedom to construct your own argument, conduct your own research, and then prove your findings.

Types of Dissertations

You can choose what type of dissertation you complete. Often, this depends on the subject and doctoral degree, but the two main types are:

This relies on conducting your own research.


This relies on studying existing research to support your argument.

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More things you should know.

A dissertation is certainly no easy feat. Here’s a few more things to remember before you get started writing your own:

1. Independent by Nature:

The process of completing a dissertation is self-directed, and therefore can feel overwhelming. However, if you approach it like the new experience that it is with an open-mind and willingness to learn, you will make it through!

2. Seek Support:

There are countless people around to offer support. From professors to peers, you can always ask for help throughout the process.

3. Writing Skills:

The process of writing a dissertation will further hone your writing skills which will follow you throughout your life. These skills are highly transferable on the job, from having the ability to communicate to also developing analytical and critical thinking skills.

4. Time Management:

You can work backwards from the culmination of your program to break down this gargantuan task into smaller pieces. That way, you can manage your time to chip away at the task throughout the length of the program.

5. Topic Flexibility:

It’s okay to change subject matters and rethink the point of your dissertation. Just try as much as possible to do this early in the process so you don’t waste too much time and energy.

The Wrap Up

A dissertation marks the completion of your doctoral program and moves you from being a student to being a scholar. While the process is long and requires a lot of effort and energy, you have the power to lend an entirely new research and findings into your field of expertise.

As always, when in the thick of things, remember why you started. Completing both your dissertation and PhD is a commendable accomplishment.

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Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

The sun is shining but many students won't see the daylight. Because it's that time of year again – dissertation time.

Luckily for me, my D-Day (dissertation hand-in day) has already been and gone. But I remember it well.

The 10,000-word spiral-bound paper squatted on my desk in various forms of completion was my Allied forces; the history department in-tray was my Normandy. And when Eisenhower talked about a "great crusade toward which we have striven these many months", he was bang on.

I remember first encountering the Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook, feeling my heart sink at how long the massive file took to download, and began to think about possible (but in hindsight, wildly over-ambitious) topics. Here's what I've learned since, and wish I'd known back then…

1 ) If your dissertation supervisor isn't right, change. Mine was brilliant. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else – providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it. In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email. They are your lifeline and your best chance of success.

2 ) If you mention working on your dissertation to family, friends or near-strangers, they will ask you what it's about, and they will be expecting a more impressive answer than you can give. So prepare for looks of confusion and disappointment. People anticipate grandeur in history dissertation topics – war, genocide, the formation of modern society. They don't think much of researching an obscure piece of 1970s disability legislation. But they're not the ones marking it.

3 ) If they ask follow-up questions, they're probably just being polite.

4 ) Do not ask friends how much work they've done. You'll end up paranoid – or they will. Either way, you don't have time for it.

5 ) There will be one day during the process when you will freak out, doubt your entire thesis and decide to start again from scratch. You might even come up with a new question and start working on it, depending on how long the breakdown lasts. You will at some point run out of steam and collapse in an exhausted, tear-stained heap. But unless there are serious flaws in your work (unlikely) and your supervisor recommends starting again (highly unlikely), don't do it. It's just panic, it'll pass.

6 ) A lot of the work you do will not make it into your dissertation. The first few days in archives, I felt like everything I was unearthing was a gem, and when I sat down to write, it seemed as if it was all gold. But a brutal editing down to the word count has left much of that early material at the wayside.

7 ) You will print like you have never printed before. If you're using a university or library printer, it will start to affect your weekly budget in a big way. If you're printing from your room, "paper jam" will come to be the most dreaded two words in the English language.

8 ) Your dissertation will interfere with whatever else you have going on – a social life, sporting commitments, societies, other essay demands. Don't even try and give up biscuits for Lent, they'll basically become their own food group when you're too busy to cook and desperate for sugar.

9 ) Your time is not your own. Even if you're super-organised, plan your time down to the last hour and don't have a single moment of deadline panic, you'll still find that thoughts of your dissertation will creep up on you when you least expect it. You'll fall asleep thinking about it, dream about it and wake up thinking about. You'll feel guilty when you're not working on it, and mired in self-doubt when you are.

10 ) Finishing it will be one of the best things you've ever done. It's worth the hard work to know you've completed what's likely to be your biggest, most important, single piece of work. Be proud of it.

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How To Write The Results/Findings Chapter

For quantitative studies (dissertations & theses).

By: Derek Jansen (MBA). Expert Reviewed By: Kerryn Warren (PhD) | July 2021

So, you’ve completed your quantitative data analysis and it’s time to report on your findings. But where do you start? In this post, we’ll walk you through the results chapter (also called the findings or analysis chapter), step by step, so that you can craft this section of your dissertation or thesis with confidence. If you’re looking for information regarding the results chapter for qualitative studies, you can find that here .

The results & analysis section in a dissertation

Overview: Quantitative Results Chapter

  • What exactly the results/findings/analysis chapter is
  • What you need to include in your results chapter
  • How to structure your results chapter
  • A few tips and tricks for writing top-notch chapter

What exactly is the results chapter?

The results chapter (also referred to as the findings or analysis chapter) is one of the most important chapters of your dissertation or thesis because it shows the reader what you’ve found in terms of the quantitative data you’ve collected. It presents the data using a clear text narrative, supported by tables, graphs and charts. In doing so, it also highlights any potential issues (such as outliers or unusual findings) you’ve come across.

But how’s that different from the discussion chapter?

Well, in the results chapter, you only present your statistical findings. Only the numbers, so to speak – no more, no less. Contrasted to this, in the discussion chapter , you interpret your findings and link them to prior research (i.e. your literature review), as well as your research objectives and research questions . In other words, the results chapter presents and describes the data, while the discussion chapter interprets the data.

Let’s look at an example.

In your results chapter, you may have a plot that shows how respondents to a survey  responded: the numbers of respondents per category, for instance. You may also state whether this supports a hypothesis by using a p-value from a statistical test. But it is only in the discussion chapter where you will say why this is relevant or how it compares with the literature or the broader picture. So, in your results chapter, make sure that you don’t present anything other than the hard facts – this is not the place for subjectivity.

It’s worth mentioning that some universities prefer you to combine the results and discussion chapters. Even so, it is good practice to separate the results and discussion elements within the chapter, as this ensures your findings are fully described. Typically, though, the results and discussion chapters are split up in quantitative studies. If you’re unsure, chat with your research supervisor or chair to find out what their preference is.

The results and discussion chapter are typically split

What should you include in the results chapter?

Following your analysis, it’s likely you’ll have far more data than are necessary to include in your chapter. In all likelihood, you’ll have a mountain of SPSS or R output data, and it’s your job to decide what’s most relevant. You’ll need to cut through the noise and focus on the data that matters.

This doesn’t mean that those analyses were a waste of time – on the contrary, those analyses ensure that you have a good understanding of your dataset and how to interpret it. However, that doesn’t mean your reader or examiner needs to see the 165 histograms you created! Relevance is key.

How do I decide what’s relevant?

At this point, it can be difficult to strike a balance between what is and isn’t important. But the most important thing is to ensure your results reflect and align with the purpose of your study .  So, you need to revisit your research aims, objectives and research questions and use these as a litmus test for relevance. Make sure that you refer back to these constantly when writing up your chapter so that you stay on track.

There must be alignment between your research aims objectives and questions

As a general guide, your results chapter will typically include the following:

  • Some demographic data about your sample
  • Reliability tests (if you used measurement scales)
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Inferential statistics (if your research objectives and questions require these)
  • Hypothesis tests (again, if your research objectives and questions require these)

We’ll discuss each of these points in more detail in the next section.

Importantly, your results chapter needs to lay the foundation for your discussion chapter . This means that, in your results chapter, you need to include all the data that you will use as the basis for your interpretation in the discussion chapter.

For example, if you plan to highlight the strong relationship between Variable X and Variable Y in your discussion chapter, you need to present the respective analysis in your results chapter – perhaps a correlation or regression analysis.

Need a helping hand?

how to do reading for dissertation

How do I write the results chapter?

There are multiple steps involved in writing up the results chapter for your quantitative research. The exact number of steps applicable to you will vary from study to study and will depend on the nature of the research aims, objectives and research questions . However, we’ll outline the generic steps below.

Step 1 – Revisit your research questions

The first step in writing your results chapter is to revisit your research objectives and research questions . These will be (or at least, should be!) the driving force behind your results and discussion chapters, so you need to review them and then ask yourself which statistical analyses and tests (from your mountain of data) would specifically help you address these . For each research objective and research question, list the specific piece (or pieces) of analysis that address it.

At this stage, it’s also useful to think about the key points that you want to raise in your discussion chapter and note these down so that you have a clear reminder of which data points and analyses you want to highlight in the results chapter. Again, list your points and then list the specific piece of analysis that addresses each point. 

Next, you should draw up a rough outline of how you plan to structure your chapter . Which analyses and statistical tests will you present and in what order? We’ll discuss the “standard structure” in more detail later, but it’s worth mentioning now that it’s always useful to draw up a rough outline before you start writing (this advice applies to any chapter).

Step 2 – Craft an overview introduction

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, you should start your quantitative results chapter by providing a brief overview of what you’ll do in the chapter and why . For example, you’d explain that you will start by presenting demographic data to understand the representativeness of the sample, before moving onto X, Y and Z.

This section shouldn’t be lengthy – a paragraph or two maximum. Also, it’s a good idea to weave the research questions into this section so that there’s a golden thread that runs through the document.

Your chapter must have a golden thread

Step 3 – Present the sample demographic data

The first set of data that you’ll present is an overview of the sample demographics – in other words, the demographics of your respondents.

For example:

  • What age range are they?
  • How is gender distributed?
  • How is ethnicity distributed?
  • What areas do the participants live in?

The purpose of this is to assess how representative the sample is of the broader population. This is important for the sake of the generalisability of the results. If your sample is not representative of the population, you will not be able to generalise your findings. This is not necessarily the end of the world, but it is a limitation you’ll need to acknowledge.

Of course, to make this representativeness assessment, you’ll need to have a clear view of the demographics of the population. So, make sure that you design your survey to capture the correct demographic information that you will compare your sample to.

But what if I’m not interested in generalisability?

Well, even if your purpose is not necessarily to extrapolate your findings to the broader population, understanding your sample will allow you to interpret your findings appropriately, considering who responded. In other words, it will help you contextualise your findings . For example, if 80% of your sample was aged over 65, this may be a significant contextual factor to consider when interpreting the data. Therefore, it’s important to understand and present the demographic data.

Communicate the data

 Step 4 – Review composite measures and the data “shape”.

Before you undertake any statistical analysis, you’ll need to do some checks to ensure that your data are suitable for the analysis methods and techniques you plan to use. If you try to analyse data that doesn’t meet the assumptions of a specific statistical technique, your results will be largely meaningless. Therefore, you may need to show that the methods and techniques you’ll use are “allowed”.

Most commonly, there are two areas you need to pay attention to:

#1: Composite measures

The first is when you have multiple scale-based measures that combine to capture one construct – this is called a composite measure .  For example, you may have four Likert scale-based measures that (should) all measure the same thing, but in different ways. In other words, in a survey, these four scales should all receive similar ratings. This is called “ internal consistency ”.

Internal consistency is not guaranteed though (especially if you developed the measures yourself), so you need to assess the reliability of each composite measure using a test. Typically, Cronbach’s Alpha is a common test used to assess internal consistency – i.e., to show that the items you’re combining are more or less saying the same thing. A high alpha score means that your measure is internally consistent. A low alpha score means you may need to consider scrapping one or more of the measures.

#2: Data shape

The second matter that you should address early on in your results chapter is data shape. In other words, you need to assess whether the data in your set are symmetrical (i.e. normally distributed) or not, as this will directly impact what type of analyses you can use. For many common inferential tests such as T-tests or ANOVAs (we’ll discuss these a bit later), your data needs to be normally distributed. If it’s not, you’ll need to adjust your strategy and use alternative tests.

To assess the shape of the data, you’ll usually assess a variety of descriptive statistics (such as the mean, median and skewness), which is what we’ll look at next.

Descriptive statistics

Step 5 – Present the descriptive statistics

Now that you’ve laid the foundation by discussing the representativeness of your sample, as well as the reliability of your measures and the shape of your data, you can get started with the actual statistical analysis. The first step is to present the descriptive statistics for your variables.

For scaled data, this usually includes statistics such as:

  • The mean – this is simply the mathematical average of a range of numbers.
  • The median – this is the midpoint in a range of numbers when the numbers are arranged in order.
  • The mode – this is the most commonly repeated number in the data set.
  • Standard deviation – this metric indicates how dispersed a range of numbers is. In other words, how close all the numbers are to the mean (the average).
  • Skewness – this indicates how symmetrical a range of numbers is. In other words, do they tend to cluster into a smooth bell curve shape in the middle of the graph (this is called a normal or parametric distribution), or do they lean to the left or right (this is called a non-normal or non-parametric distribution).
  • Kurtosis – this metric indicates whether the data are heavily or lightly-tailed, relative to the normal distribution. In other words, how peaked or flat the distribution is.

A large table that indicates all the above for multiple variables can be a very effective way to present your data economically. You can also use colour coding to help make the data more easily digestible.

For categorical data, where you show the percentage of people who chose or fit into a category, for instance, you can either just plain describe the percentages or numbers of people who responded to something or use graphs and charts (such as bar graphs and pie charts) to present your data in this section of the chapter.

When using figures, make sure that you label them simply and clearly , so that your reader can easily understand them. There’s nothing more frustrating than a graph that’s missing axis labels! Keep in mind that although you’ll be presenting charts and graphs, your text content needs to present a clear narrative that can stand on its own. In other words, don’t rely purely on your figures and tables to convey your key points: highlight the crucial trends and values in the text. Figures and tables should complement the writing, not carry it .

Depending on your research aims, objectives and research questions, you may stop your analysis at this point (i.e. descriptive statistics). However, if your study requires inferential statistics, then it’s time to deep dive into those .

Dive into the inferential statistics

Step 6 – Present the inferential statistics

Inferential statistics are used to make generalisations about a population , whereas descriptive statistics focus purely on the sample . Inferential statistical techniques, broadly speaking, can be broken down into two groups .

First, there are those that compare measurements between groups , such as t-tests (which measure differences between two groups) and ANOVAs (which measure differences between multiple groups). Second, there are techniques that assess the relationships between variables , such as correlation analysis and regression analysis. Within each of these, some tests can be used for normally distributed (parametric) data and some tests are designed specifically for use on non-parametric data.

There are a seemingly endless number of tests that you can use to crunch your data, so it’s easy to run down a rabbit hole and end up with piles of test data. Ultimately, the most important thing is to make sure that you adopt the tests and techniques that allow you to achieve your research objectives and answer your research questions .

In this section of the results chapter, you should try to make use of figures and visual components as effectively as possible. For example, if you present a correlation table, use colour coding to highlight the significance of the correlation values, or scatterplots to visually demonstrate what the trend is. The easier you make it for your reader to digest your findings, the more effectively you’ll be able to make your arguments in the next chapter.

make it easy for your reader to understand your quantitative results

Step 7 – Test your hypotheses

If your study requires it, the next stage is hypothesis testing. A hypothesis is a statement , often indicating a difference between groups or relationship between variables, that can be supported or rejected by a statistical test. However, not all studies will involve hypotheses (again, it depends on the research objectives), so don’t feel like you “must” present and test hypotheses just because you’re undertaking quantitative research.

The basic process for hypothesis testing is as follows:

  • Specify your null hypothesis (for example, “The chemical psilocybin has no effect on time perception).
  • Specify your alternative hypothesis (e.g., “The chemical psilocybin has an effect on time perception)
  • Set your significance level (this is usually 0.05)
  • Calculate your statistics and find your p-value (e.g., p=0.01)
  • Draw your conclusions (e.g., “The chemical psilocybin does have an effect on time perception”)

Finally, if the aim of your study is to develop and test a conceptual framework , this is the time to present it, following the testing of your hypotheses. While you don’t need to develop or discuss these findings further in the results chapter, indicating whether the tests (and their p-values) support or reject the hypotheses is crucial.

Step 8 – Provide a chapter summary

To wrap up your results chapter and transition to the discussion chapter, you should provide a brief summary of the key findings . “Brief” is the keyword here – much like the chapter introduction, this shouldn’t be lengthy – a paragraph or two maximum. Highlight the findings most relevant to your research objectives and research questions, and wrap it up.

Some final thoughts, tips and tricks

Now that you’ve got the essentials down, here are a few tips and tricks to make your quantitative results chapter shine:

  • When writing your results chapter, report your findings in the past tense . You’re talking about what you’ve found in your data, not what you are currently looking for or trying to find.
  • Structure your results chapter systematically and sequentially . If you had two experiments where findings from the one generated inputs into the other, report on them in order.
  • Make your own tables and graphs rather than copying and pasting them from statistical analysis programmes like SPSS. Check out the DataIsBeautiful reddit for some inspiration.
  • Once you’re done writing, review your work to make sure that you have provided enough information to answer your research questions , but also that you didn’t include superfluous information.

If you’ve got any questions about writing up the quantitative results chapter, please leave a comment below. If you’d like 1-on-1 assistance with your quantitative analysis and discussion, check out our hands-on coaching service , or book a free consultation with a friendly coach.

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Defending Your Dissertation: A Guide

A woman in front of a bookshelf speaking to a laptop

Written by Luke Wink-Moran | Photo by insta_photos

Dissertation defenses are daunting, and no wonder; it’s not a “dissertation discussion,” or a “dissertation dialogue.” The name alone implies that the dissertation you’ve spent the last x number of years working on is subject to attack. And if you don’t feel trepidation for semantic reasons, you might be nervous because you don’t know what to expect. Our imaginations are great at making The Unknown scarier than reality. The good news is that you’ll find in this newsletter article experts who can shed light on what dissertations defenses are really like, and what you can do to prepare for them.

The first thing you should know is that your defense has already begun. It started the minute you began working on your dissertation— maybe even in some of the classes you took beforehand that helped you formulate your ideas. This, according to Dr. Celeste Atkins, is why it’s so important to identify a good mentor early in graduate school.

“To me,” noted Dr. Atkins, who wrote her dissertation on how sociology faculty from traditionally marginalized backgrounds teach about privilege and inequality, “the most important part of the doctoral journey was finding an advisor who understood and supported what I wanted from my education and who was willing to challenge me and push me, while not delaying me.  I would encourage future PhDs to really take the time to get to know the faculty before choosing an advisor and to make sure that the members of their committee work well together.”

Your advisor will be the one who helps you refine arguments and strengthen your work so that by the time it reaches your dissertation committee, it’s ready. Next comes the writing process, which many students have said was the hardest part of their PhD. I’ve included this section on the writing process because this is where you’ll create all the material you’ll present during your defense, so it’s important to navigate it successfully. The writing process is intellectually grueling, it eats time and energy, and it’s where many students find themselves paddling frantically to avoid languishing in the “All-But-Dissertation” doldrums. The writing process is also likely to encroach on other parts of your life. For instance, Dr. Cynthia Trejo wrote her dissertation on college preparation for Latin American students while caring for a twelve-year-old, two adult children, and her aging parents—in the middle of a pandemic. When I asked Dr. Trejo how she did this, she replied:

“I don’t take the privilege of education for granted. My son knew I got up at 4:00 a.m. every morning, even on weekends, even on holidays; and it’s a blessing that he’s seen that work ethic and that dedication and the end result.”

Importantly, Dr. Trejo also exercised regularly and joined several online writing groups at UArizona. She mobilized her support network— her partner, parents, and even friends from high school to help care for her son.

The challenges you face during the writing process can vary by discipline. Jessika Iwanski is an MD/PhD student who in 2022 defended her dissertation on genetic mutations in sarcomeric proteins that lead to severe, neonatal dilated cardiomyopathy. She described her writing experience as “an intricate process of balancing many things at once with a deadline (defense day) that seems to be creeping up faster and faster— finishing up experiments, drafting the dissertation, preparing your presentation, filling out all the necessary documents for your defense and also, for MD/PhD students, beginning to reintegrate into the clinical world (reviewing your clinical knowledge and skill sets)!”

But no matter what your unique challenges are, writing a dissertation can take a toll on your mental health. Almost every student I spoke with said they saw a therapist and found their sessions enormously helpful. They also looked to the people in their lives for support. Dr. Betsy Labiner, who wrote her dissertation on Interiority, Truth, and Violence in Early Modern Drama, recommended, “Keep your loved ones close! This is so hard – the dissertation lends itself to isolation, especially in the final stages. Plus, a huge number of your family and friends simply won’t understand what you’re going through. But they love you and want to help and are great for getting you out of your head and into a space where you can enjoy life even when you feel like your dissertation is a flaming heap of trash.”

While you might sometimes feel like your dissertation is a flaming heap of trash, remember: a) no it’s not, you brilliant scholar, and b) the best dissertations aren’t necessarily perfect dissertations. According to Dr. Trejo, “The best dissertation is a done dissertation.” So don’t get hung up on perfecting every detail of your work. Think of your dissertation as a long-form assignment that you need to finish in order to move onto the next stage of your career. Many students continue revising after graduation and submit their work for publication or other professional objectives.

When you do finish writing your dissertation, it’s time to schedule your defense and invite friends and family to the part of the exam that’s open to the public. When that moment comes, how do you prepare to present your work and field questions about it?

“I reread my dissertation in full in one sitting,” said Dr. Labiner. “During all my time writing it, I’d never read more than one complete chapter at a time! It was a huge confidence boost to read my work in full and realize that I had produced a compelling, engaging, original argument.”

There are many other ways to prepare: create presentation slides and practice presenting them to friends or alone; think of questions you might be asked and answer them; think about what you want to wear or where you might want to sit (if you’re presenting on Zoom) that might give you a confidence boost. Iwanksi practiced presenting with her mentor and reviewed current papers to anticipate what questions her committee might ask.  If you want to really get in the zone, you can emulate Dr. Labiner and do a full dress rehearsal on Zoom the day before your defense.

But no matter what you do, you’ll still be nervous:

“I had a sense of the logistics, the timing, and so on, but I didn’t really have clear expectations outside of the structure. It was a sort of nebulous three hours in which I expected to be nauseatingly terrified,” recalled Dr. Labiner.

“I expected it to be terrifying, with lots of difficult questions and constructive criticism/comments given,” agreed Iwanski.

“I expected it to be very scary,” said Dr. Trejo.

“I expected it to be like I was on trial, and I’d have to defend myself and prove I deserved a PhD,” said Dr Atkins.

And, eventually, inexorably, it will be time to present.  

“It was actually very enjoyable” said Iwanski. “It was more of a celebration of years of work put into this project—not only by me but by my mentor, colleagues, lab members and collaborators! I felt very supported by all my committee members and, rather than it being a rapid fire of questions, it was more of a scientific discussion amongst colleagues who are passionate about heart disease and muscle biology.”

“I was anxious right when I logged on to the Zoom call for it,” said Dr. Labiner, “but I was blown away by the number of family and friends that showed up to support me. I had invited a lot of people who I didn’t at all think would come, but every single person I invited was there! Having about 40 guests – many of them joining from different states and several from different countries! – made me feel so loved and celebrated that my nerves were steadied very quickly. It also helped me go into ‘teaching mode’ about my work, so it felt like getting to lead a seminar on my most favorite literature.”

“In reality, my dissertation defense was similar to presenting at an academic conference,” said Dr. Atkins. “I went over my research in a practiced and organized way, and I fielded questions from the audience.

“It was a celebration and an important benchmark for me,” said Dr. Trejo. “It was a pretty happy day. Like the punctuation at the end of your sentence: this sentence is done; this journey is done. You can start the next sentence.”

If you want to learn more about dissertations in your own discipline, don’t hesitate to reach out to graduates from your program and ask them about their experiences. If you’d like to avail yourself of some of the resources that helped students in this article while they wrote and defended their dissertations, check out these links:

The Graduate Writing Lab

The Writing Skills Improvement Program

Campus Health Counseling and Psych Services

To revisit this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories .

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Amanda Hoover

Students Are Likely Writing Millions of Papers With AI

Illustration of four hands holding pencils that are connected to a central brain

Students have submitted more than 22 million papers that may have used generative AI in the past year, new data released by plagiarism detection company Turnitin shows.

A year ago, Turnitin rolled out an AI writing detection tool that was trained on its trove of papers written by students as well as other AI-generated texts. Since then, more than 200 million papers have been reviewed by the detector, predominantly written by high school and college students. Turnitin found that 11 percent may contain AI-written language in 20 percent of its content, with 3 percent of the total papers reviewed getting flagged for having 80 percent or more AI writing. (Turnitin is owned by Advance, which also owns Condé Nast, publisher of WIRED.) Turnitin says its detector has a false positive rate of less than 1 percent when analyzing full documents.

ChatGPT’s launch was met with knee-jerk fears that the English class essay would die . The chatbot can synthesize information and distill it near-instantly—but that doesn’t mean it always gets it right. Generative AI has been known to hallucinate , creating its own facts and citing academic references that don’t actually exist. Generative AI chatbots have also been caught spitting out biased text on gender and race . Despite those flaws, students have used chatbots for research, organizing ideas, and as a ghostwriter . Traces of chatbots have even been found in peer-reviewed, published academic writing .

Teachers understandably want to hold students accountable for using generative AI without permission or disclosure. But that requires a reliable way to prove AI was used in a given assignment. Instructors have tried at times to find their own solutions to detecting AI in writing, using messy, untested methods to enforce rules , and distressing students. Further complicating the issue, some teachers are even using generative AI in their grading processes.

Detecting the use of gen AI is tricky. It’s not as easy as flagging plagiarism, because generated text is still original text. Plus, there’s nuance to how students use gen AI; some may ask chatbots to write their papers for them in large chunks or in full, while others may use the tools as an aid or a brainstorm partner.

Students also aren't tempted by only ChatGPT and similar large language models. So-called word spinners are another type of AI software that rewrites text, and may make it less obvious to a teacher that work was plagiarized or generated by AI. Turnitin’s AI detector has also been updated to detect word spinners, says Annie Chechitelli, the company’s chief product officer. It can also flag work that was rewritten by services like spell checker Grammarly, which now has its own generative AI tool . As familiar software increasingly adds generative AI components, what students can and can’t use becomes more muddled.

Detection tools themselves have a risk of bias. English language learners may be more likely to set them off; a 2023 study found a 61.3 percent false positive rate when evaluating Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams with seven different AI detectors. The study did not examine Turnitin’s version. The company says it has trained its detector on writing from English language learners as well as native English speakers. A study published in October found that Turnitin was among the most accurate of 16 AI language detectors in a test that had the tool examine undergraduate papers and AI-generated papers.

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Schools that use Turnitin had access to the AI detection software for a free pilot period, which ended at the start of this year. Chechitelli says a majority of the service’s clients have opted to purchase the AI detection. But the risks of false positives and bias against English learners have led some universities to ditch the tools for now. Montclair State University in New Jersey announced in November that it would pause use of Turnitin’s AI detector. Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University did the same last summer.

“This is hard. I understand why people want a tool,” says Emily Isaacs, executive director of the Office of Faculty Excellence at Montclair State. But Isaacs says the university is concerned about potentially biased results from AI detectors, as well as the fact that the tools can’t provide confirmation the way they can with plagiarism. Plus, Montclair State doesn’t want to put a blanket ban on AI, which will have some place in academia. With time and more trust in the tools, the policies could change. “It’s not a forever decision, it’s a now decision,” Isaacs says.

Chechitelli says the Turnitin tool shouldn’t be the only consideration in passing or failing a student. Instead, it’s a chance for teachers to start conversations with students that touch on all of the nuance in using generative AI. “People don’t really know where that line should be,” she says.

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Who likes authoritarianism, and how do they want to change their government?

While most people see representative democracy as a good way to govern their country , large shares of the public in many countries are open to nondemocratic alternatives.

This Pew Research Center analysis on views of authoritarianism uses data from nationally representative surveys conducted in 24 countries across North America, Europe, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. All responses are weighted to be representative of the adult population in each country.

For non-U.S. data, this analysis draws on nationally representative surveys of 27,285 adults conducted from Feb. 20 to May 22, 2023. All surveys were conducted over the phone with adults in Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Surveys were conducted face-to-face with adults in Argentina, Brazil, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland and South Africa. In Australia, we used a mixed-mode probability-based online panel. Read more about international survey methodology .

In the U.S., we surveyed 3,576 adults from March 20 to 26, 2023. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

We measure support for authoritarianism by looking at the share who said at least one of the following systems of government would be a good way of governing their country:

  • A system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts (“authoritarian leader”)
  • A system in which the military rules the country (“military rule”)

We also draw upon the results of an open-ended question: “What do you think would help improve the way democracy in our country is working?” Researchers examined random samples of English responses, machine-translated non-English responses and responses translated by a professional translation firm to develop a codebook for the main topics mentioned across the 24 countries.

In this analysis, we focus on only two of these final codes: support for nondemocratic alternatives (coded in “Other” in the primary analysis) and change leadership. A forthcoming report will share more details on the coding process and the many other solutions people offered.

Bar chart showing that a median of 31% across 24 nations say an authoritarian system, including rule by a strong leader or the military, would be a good way of governing their country. Support tends to be higher in middle-income countries, and is highest in India, Indonesia and Mexico

Indeed, a median of 31% across 24 nations are supportive of authoritarian systems, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey . The survey asked about two authoritarian models of government: a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts (“authoritarian leader”) and a system in which the military rules the country (“military rule”).

The share of the public that supports at least one of these models ranges from 85% in India to 8% in Sweden. It tends to be higher in middle-income countries than high-income countries. It also tends to be higher in surveyed countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa or Latin America than in Europe and North America.

Who supports authoritarian systems?

In most of the 18 countries where we asked about ideology, people on the ideological right are more likely than those in the center or on the left to support authoritarian systems. For example, South Koreans on the right (49%) are nearly twice as likely as those on the left (28%) to support authoritarian systems. Meanwhile, 36% of centrists in South Korea support such systems.

Dot plot chart showing that in most of 18 countries surveyed, people on the ideological right are more likely than those in the center or on the left to support rule by a strong leader or the military

Across Europe, people who have favorable views of right-wing populist parties are also especially likely to support authoritarianism. In Germany, for example, 37% of those who have a favorable view of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) support these nondemocratic ways of governing, compared with 13% who have an unfavorable view of the AfD.

People with lower incomes also tend to be more supportive of authoritarian systems than those with higher incomes. This relationship exists in both high-income and middle-income countries (as defined by the World Bank ). For example, 47% of those with incomes below the median in the United Kingdom support authoritarian systems, compared with 27% of those with incomes at or above the median.

In a few countries, older and younger adults differ in their support for authoritarian systems. For example, 38% of Americans under age 30 support these nondemocratic alternatives, compared with 29% of those ages 50 to 64 and 26% of those 65 and older. In India and Australia, the pattern is similar. But in Greece, Japan and South Korea, older adults are more supportive of authoritarian systems than younger ones.

How does support for authoritarian systems relate to views of democracy?

A 2019 Center survey asked respondents to rate the importance of democratic values including a fair judiciary system, gender equality, regular elections, free speech, press freedom, freedom on the internet, and the ability for human rights organizations and opposition parties to operate freely. Across each of these dimensions, countries with smaller shares of people who say these values are important in their country have higher numbers who support rule by a strong leader or the military. 

A scatter plot showing that more people support authoritarian forms of government in countries where fewer say it is important that opposition parties can operate freely.

For example, in countries where fewer people say it is important that opposition parties can operate freely, there is more support for authoritarian systems of government. Indonesia displays this relationship well. Indonesians are the least likely of the 24 countries surveyed in 2023 to see free opposition parties as important in their country (47%). They are also among the most supportive of authoritarian systems (77%). 

On the other end of the scale, Swedes have one of the highest shares saying free opposition parties are important (93%) but the lowest share who support rule by a strong leader or the military (8%).

Across the surveyed countries, there is a similarly strong negative relationship between authoritarianism and the other democratic values.

What do those who support authoritarian systems think would fix their democracy?

We also asked an open-ended question about what would help improve the way democracy in their country is working. Notably, despite the relatively high support in some places for nondemocratic options, few people suggest overturning their system and replacing it with a nondemocratic alternative. Only in Greece, Israel and Spain did 1% volunteer this as their solution.

Among the small subset of respondents who did call for replacing their democracy with another system, the new system they would install varies:

  • Military rule: “Declare martial law and let the military take control.” – Man, 68, Greece
  • Expert rule: “By having experts on democracy to guide us who are not interested in politics.” – Woman, 30, Kenya
  • Autocracy: “Completely change the system to one where a strong leader rules the affairs here and is not subordinate to courts that were not elected nor represent the people.” – Man, 41, Israel
  • Theocracy: “It must be replaced by a theocracy. People should first live according to godly standards and love their neighbors, then you get a good society. Democracy, after all, is standing up for one’s own interests.” – Man, 63, Netherlands
  • Anarchy: “A society should be built that does not need a leader.” – Man, 28, India
  • Revolution: “It would take a coup d’etat. After peace we need war, after war there will be reconstruction. We need to reset all privileges and start over in full respect of people.” – Man, 63, Italy

Still, those who support authoritarian systems and those who do not differ on which solutions they think will help fix their democracy.

First, supporters of authoritarianism are much less likely than nonsupporters to offer any solution or idea in about half the countries polled.

Second, in some countries, those who support authoritarian systems are more likely than nonsupporters to mention economic issues. For example, two people who support authoritarian systems in the UK and Australia both focused on personal economic struggles and nonresponsive politicians:

  • “They need to listen to the working class and the poorer classes. They should not think about profit first and instead focus more on homeless people and the veterans. We should use the money we pay in taxes for the NHS and emergency services and do more for families – affordable resources for child care, more affordable housing …” – Woman, 31, UK
  • “If the government actually took notice of how most people in Australia are having to live on limited savings. People living on pensions are struggling to even eat due to the low payments. People on pensions, especially disability pensions, are struggling to make ends meet. Most are living under the poverty line but the government just ignores this.” – Woman, 50, Australia

Third, in Brazil and Kenya, those who support authoritarian systems of government are more likely than nonsupporters to suggest a total change of leadership. In Brazil, for example, authoritarian-system supporters are about twice as likely as nonsupporters to want to replace President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or other governing officials in Brazil.

People expressed such sentiments as “Get President Lula and his gang out of power” and “Change current governors and start all over again.”

The opposite is true in Israel, though: Those who do not support authoritarian systems are more likely to call for leadership changes. (The survey was conducted during a wave of protests against judicial reform and prior to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.)

These nonsupporters argued that democracy in Israel would be improved if they “prevented Bibi Netanyahu, who has been accused of crimes, from being elected as prime minister or to any other public position” or by “Removing the dictator Netanyahu from his seat.”

  • Authoritarianism
  • Political Ideals & Systems

Support for democracy is strong in Hong Kong and Taiwan

How the political typology groups compare, many across the globe are dissatisfied with how democracy is working, facts on foreign students in the u.s., how countries around the world view democracy, military rule and other political systems, most popular.

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Israel Launched Missiles as Well as Drones at Iran, Officials Say

Though it was not immediately clear if the missiles struck targets inside Iran, their use would mean more sophisticated firepower was involved in the attack than first reported.

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A jet warplane with its landing gear down flies through a clear sky.

By Farnaz Fassihi and Eric Schmitt

  • April 19, 2024

Israeli warplanes fired missiles on Iran during a retaliatory strike early Friday morning, one Western official and two Iranian officials said, suggesting that the attack included more advanced firepower than initial reports indicated.

It was not immediately clear the types of missiles used, from where they were fired, whether any were intercepted by Iran’s defenses or where they landed.

The Western official and the Iranian officials requested anonymity to discuss classified information.

Previously, Iranian officials said Friday’s attack on a military base in central Iran was conducted by small aerial drones, most likely launched from inside Iranian territory. A separate group of small drones, they said soon after the attack, was shot down in the region of Tabriz, roughly 500 miles north of Isfahan.

Israel has not publicly claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack and would not comment on the use of planes or missiles.

Israel’s strike came in response to an Iranian attack last weekend in which Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. A majority of the weapons used in that salvo were fired from Iranian territory and intercepted by Israel and its allies before causing any damage.

By contrast, the Iranian officials said, Iran’s military did not detect anything entering Iran’s airspace on Friday, including drones, missiles and aircraft. Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported that no missile attacks occurred and that Iran’s air defense system was not activated.

Iran’s decision to launch its strike primarily from its own soil last week was perceived by Israel as an escalation in the countries’ long-simmering shadow war. The Iranians believe the large salvo is helping with deterrence. Throughout the yearslong conflict, the two countries have traded clandestine attacks, including targeted assassinations, cyberattacks and conventional strikes conducted from and within third countries.

Iran’s attack last week was itself prompted by an Israeli strike on April 1, in which Israeli aircraft killed several Iranian armed forces commanders in Syria.

By using drones seemingly launched from inside Iran’s territory rather than its own, Israel hinted at a willingness to turn down the temperature on the conflict while also demonstrating an ability to conduct attacks that Iran could not detect.

One Iranian official, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said that even though the strike did little damage, the likelihood that drones were fired from under Iran’s nose sent a message about Israel’s capabilities.

A guided missile fired from an undetected warplane, even if it landed outside Iranian territory, would most likely deliver a similar threat.

Officials from both countries remained largely quiet about Friday’s attack, a gesture that appeared aimed at de-escalating a conflict some fear could spiral into a broader regional war. Israel’s silence on the attack, an Iranian official said, would allow Tehran to treat the strike as it had comparable previous attacks and not prompt an immediate response.

Mahdi Mohammadi, a senior adviser to Iran’s Parliament speaker, said that Israel’s limited attack on Iran showed that Iran had achieved its goal of deterrence. Israel’s refusal to openly claim responsibility, he said, amounts to a victory for Iran.

Israel’s attack, he said on the messaging app Telegram, was meant to show that it had the “capability to access Iran but in practice it also showed that it has accepted that it should not repeat its miscalculation.”

Farnaz Fassihi is the United Nations bureau chief for The Times, leading coverage of the organization, and also covers Iran and the shadow war between Iran and Israel. She is based in New York. More about Farnaz Fassihi

Eric Schmitt is a national security correspondent for The Times, focusing on U.S. military affairs and counterterrorism issues overseas, topics he has reported on for more than three decades. More about Eric Schmitt


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What to Do When Your Team Blames You

  • Dina Denham Smith
  • Ron Carucci

how to do reading for dissertation

Fair or not, you need to work through the experience while keeping important relationships intact.

When you’re a manager, at some point, regardless of how the circumstances arise, your team will blame you for something that’s making them unhappy, whether you have control over it or not. Being accused by your team of failing them in some way induces a threat state in your brain, impairing your ability to think clearly and triggering a variety of cognitive distortions and defensive behaviors. The authors offer several strategies to help you work through the experience while keeping important relationships intact.

Paul, an executive coaching client, reached out distraught, asking for guidance after a painful team meeting. During a routine project review, his employee, Elena, expressed concerns about the team’s heavy workload, exclaiming: “Six months ago we laid off more than half of the team, but you never reduced the workload the way you promised. We’re all working day and night, and you don’t seem to care.”

how to do reading for dissertation

  • Dina Denham Smith is an executive coach to senior leaders at world-leading brands such as Adobe, Netflix, PwC, Dropbox, Stripe, and numerous high-growth companies. A former business executive herself, she is the founder and CEO of Cognitas , and helps leaders and their teams reach new heights of success. Connect with her on LinkedIn .
  • Ron Carucci is co-founder and managing partner at  Navalent , working with CEOs and executives pursuing transformational change. He is the bestselling author of eight books, including To Be Honest and Rising to Power . Connect with him on Linked In at  RonCarucci , and download his free “How Honest is My Team?” assessment.

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