Starting A Dissertation

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Many students try to make their research fit into the IMRAD format, when it is not appropriate to do so.

I can be easy to feel ‘blocked’ if you are a non scientist trying to separate out the discussion from the rest of what you are writing.

An ethnographer might devote a chapter to each theory they have built from observation.

Likewise a historian may break the thesis up into time periods and do critique and evaluation throughout the whole.

On Twitter this week two people asked me for advice for starting the discussion chapter of their thesis / dissertation (I’m going to use the word thesis from now on because I am Australian).

I didn’t feel up to answering in 140 characters or less, so I promised a post on it today.

You need to keep in mind that the IMRAD structure is best used to write up empirical research work (the type where you collect data of some kind).

In the past I have referred to the IMRAD formula as the ‘dead hand of the thesis genre’; a phrase I picked up from my colleague Dr Robyn Barnacle.

The content is normally stylized into five chapters, repetitive in some sections from dissertation to dissertation.

A lengthy dissertation may have more than five chapters, but regardless, most universities limit the total number of pages to 350 due to microfilming and binding considerations in libraries in those institutions requiring hard copies.


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