Research

 
Starting your research is undoubtedly, one of the more challenging aspects of your dissertation. You've pretty much decided on the topic,or at least the area of focus, and have a good idea of how you are going to go about answering the question you've set yourself. But getting that all important research done is going to make or break the success of your dissertation outcome. If we consider an effective strategy we can simply the research into manageable chunks or steps.

 
Let's break this down into steps:
 
 
Step 1 : Literature review -identify your 'Anchor Authors'
 
A literature review assesses books and research papers within a given field- you should have, as part of your planning, worked out who the major 'thought- leaders' are within the specified field of interest and we can refer to these authors as your 'anchor authors' Your anchor authors will be the authors you refer back to throughout your dissertation to support your writing. If you are yet to work out who the thought leaders then pay particular attention to example set out below.
 
 
Step 2: Refer to your anchor authors' sources
 
A simple yet effective technique is to look at the bibliography of your anchor authors' sources. If you thought leader believes that their sources are good enough, surely they're good enough for your research piece- think of it like social media, and your author has simply 'liked' or 'retweeted' other academics work- so use it your advantage
 
 
 
Step 3 : Look out for opposing opinions
 
When reading your anchor authors it's likely, within their writing, that they will have included an opposing opinion to their own - this is critical in an academic research piece since it acknowledges and considers other's work and opinions. Read these opposing opinions and use them as resources. Being able to critically reflect on your hypothesis is the difference between an OK dissertation and a clear level 6 undergraduate piece - or put another way, the ability to show that you have a critical approach to academic research places you within the 1st class degree territory.

 
Example
Let's suppose that your dissertation question is :
 
'Which techniques are most effective in managing challenging behaviour amongst patients with mental health issues?'
 
Now our first steps would be finding our anchor authors - and we could do a simple google search or we could google scholar. If we merely cut and paste this question into google scholar (Link here) there are over 52,000 results .... try it!
 
Now google is fantastic at sorting by relevance so the top picks i.e those appearing on the 1st page, are likely to be the most relevant and 'trustworthy' according to google's own algorithm. This is not to say that these are the only authors and indeed the best authors, but they will be cited and peer reviewed and provides an excellent starting point.
 
Now look at the authors appearing in this search, do they appear across numerous research papers?The more they appear in- the higher the probability that their work has been cited by others in the field and it therefore increases their chances as being viewed as a 'thought- leader' in this specific field.
 
Now look at the references you anchor authors have made - can you identify opposing opinions- if so read their work and find who opposed their research and so on.... it really is like a social media web only in the context of academia.
 
You MUST however, also consult your own Universities' library and perhaps most importantly, speak with your dissertation supervisor- they will have views on the subject and should be able to identify who are the thought leaders in your particular area of interest.
 
 

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