How to write your dissertation

January27

The dissertation should be your own work and not simply a collection of parts of papers from the literature. Plagiarism, whether from journals, books or internet sources, will be severely punished and will result in an automatic failure (see section on plagarism)

You should read as many primary references (i.e. original papers as opposed to reviews and books) as possible and base your dissertation on these sources. When you have assembled the information for your dissertation you should plan its presentation: this is most easily accomplished by dividing your dissertation into sections, each with its own heading. Where appropriate each section is further divided into sub–sections each with its sub–heading.

Always remember that your dissertation has to be read and understood by other people and that this process is easier the greater the structure given to the dissertation. You should write in good grammatical English using paragraphs, as appropriate. The dissertation should be divided into sections. All dissertations must have

(i)                A Title Page giving the title of the project, your name, department; the date; type of project.

(ii)              This should be followed by a Contents Page listing the headings (and sub-headings) of the sections of the project dissertation and the appropriate page numbers. The dissertation should be paginated in a single sequence from start to finish numbering each page.

(iii)             Although usually the last part to be drafted, an Abstract (one page maximum) should be included before the main text. The abstract is designed to summarise the work that follows. It should briefly underline the importance of the work and the aims of the project, summarise succinctly but accurately what is contained in the dissertation and dissertation the principal conclusions. It must be self-contained and you should not cross-reference to the main text or to the references. Abbreviations should not be used in the abstract.

(iv)            It is often convenient to have a Glossary or Abbreviation Section on conventions used such as abbreviations, nomenclature — especially the numbering system used — and any other items which are used repeatedly in the dissertation but which a non-expert reader (e.g. another third year student) would not be familiar with.

(v)              The Introduction should cover the general background to the area of work which is covered by the project. This section may only need references to appropriate reviews and/or books.

(vi)            In the Main Review the references should be mainly to the original literature. It is usually best to subdivide the review into separate sections each with its own heading. This helps the reader identify the content matter and from the contents page the logic of the dissertation is apparent. If you use scanned material of, for example, structures, graphs or diagrams the origin of the material should be indicated with a reference number, usually in the legend. Chemical formulae should be numbered with Arabic numbers (not Roman). As they are time consuming to draw it is best not to repeat more formulae than necessary and just use the appropriate formula numbers. All chemical structures should be drawn using ChemDraw or other appropriate chemical drawing package. In the text, the reference is indicated by a superscript number which corresponds to the numbered list of references given at the end of the dissertation. References must be presented sequentially through the dissertation, starting with reference 1. If it is necessary to quote a reference more than once the number assigned to it the first time is re-used, ie. the list of references should not contain duplicates. The reference number should be placed after the statement or sentence to which it applies.

(vii)           The Conclusions section is not a summary of the work (this is the role of the Abstract). It should contain the key pieces of knowledge that you are trying to impart and an overall conclusions. It may also contain an indication of future work.

(viii)         The last section of the project dissertation should be the References numbered in order. This must follow the Royal Society of Chemistry style. Note that the references will be those used in all previous sections — introduction and review. The sources of all information used should be indicated by means of references. Where only a secondary source has been consulted this should be quoted in the reference list together with the appropriate primary source. It is assumed that unless otherwise stated a reference covers all of the material presented until a new reference is cited.  A leaflet on citing references in Chemistry is available below; use it!

Format & Typing

It is important that your dissertation is easy to read. It should be word-processed with one-and-a-half-spaced typescript, and printed (single-sided) with adequate margins (2.50 cm) to permit binding. The recommended font is Times New Roman Size 12 and the pages must be numbered. It is best not to repeat more structures than necessary and instead to subsequently refer to the appropriate identifying numbers.

Proof-Reading

Dissertations are expected to be virtually error-free; a dissertation containing several errors per page is completely unacceptable. You should certainly use the spell-checker built into the word-processing package to catch simple typographical errors, but you also need to carefully read through the report to catch other types of error. You will almost certainly need to carry out this proof-reading several times. You are strongly recommended to print out the final draft of the dissertation as it much easier to spot errors when reading a paper copy than on screen. 

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