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Newcastle University

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Subject support guide

Your subject-specific guide to using library resources.

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Dissertations and research projects

A dissertation or research project will be one of the biggest pieces of independent work you’ll ever do. It’s therefore essential that you plan well and devote sufficient time to it. Read on to find out more…

Choosing a research topic

You are going to be spending a lot of time working on your project, so it’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in your subject. If you’re allocated a project, you’ll need to make the research your own and learn to understand why it’s worthwhile. If you’re encouraged to choose your own topic, it makes sense to pick a topic you’re really enthusiastic about. What subjects have you enjoyed the most on your course? Has anything you’ve learned about really caught your attention or inspired you?

Investigating a topic that you genuinely enjoy will make your work go far smoother. Our Proposal Planner tool allows you to explore your topic on your own terms, focus on one do-able aspect of it, and help you develop clarity and ownership over it.

   Dissertation and Research Project Proposal Planner

Your dissertation tutor or supervisor will be able to give you guidance on choosing your research topic, refining your initial ideas, and suggesting key reading in your subject.

Literature reviews

Compared to essays and assignments, a dissertation or research project will be a real step-up in terms of scale and content. From choosing a topic and coming up with a title to finding information and writing up, you’ll need to commit a lot of time to it. So where do you start?

One of the most important parts of a dissertation or research project happens right at the start – the literature review! A literature review is a written summary of research on a subject or topic of interest. In it, you’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the information you’ve found, and describe why you think it’s important. You might also want to discuss gaps in the literature – gaps that your own research will attempt to fill.

  Check out our Literature reviews video for an overview of this topic...

Why is a literature review important?

When academics and industry professionals conduct research, they usually publish that work in books, journal articles, and conference proceedings. For the most part, this is the “literature” you need to find and review. A literature review sets the scene for your work. It places your research in context, and shows how it relates to and builds upon the work of others. It’s also your chance to tell people why your work matters, why it’s relevant, and how it contributes original research to your field.

Importantly, a literature review also helps you find out how to do research. It shows which research methods have worked in the past, and which ones have not. This can be a big help when planning your own research strategy.