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Report and dissertation writing

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The first step in your report or dissertation is always the idea. This may be provided to you in the form of a statement from your lecturer or you may be asked to tackle something of your own creation. It's always important to understand what the statement is inferring as it's this understanding that'll inform your research.

Here are two key tips and four steps to help you with planning a report or dissertation, each with an excerpt from a SAGE Study Skills book


Self-assessment Sheet


Trying to put yourself in the shoes of your grader can help you pick up some important marks. Download and use the self-assessment sheet to grade your own work before you hand it in.



Plan better

Plan Better

Laying out a solid plan is key to good time management, alongside maintaining motivation and discipline.

dissertation planning




Step 1 - incubate your idea


Originality is key here. Your report will build on what's already been said but it can't simply regurgitate this. It must agree, disagree, criticise, and dissect what's come before to form your argument. Find out how to Get a Better Grade with the help of this extract on originality.

Get a better grade


Step 2 - research, research, research


Research isn't just about getting information to write – you'll review literature and explore existing research to understand your topic. This is a process that'll be continuous throughout but you'll do the bulk of it before you start writing. Once you start writing you'll find the need to research further to help articulate your point. Use our guide for searching the literature to help you develop the skills you need to research.

Research away



Step 3 - write, write, write


Right, now it's time to write. You need to focus and figure out what works for you.

Once you've done that you'll be able to sit down and write. Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield have written a comprehensive guide to writing great essays, which you can access and use. Planning is key in this section!

Great essay writing


Step 4 - formatting and finalising


So you've done your incubating, research, and the majority of your writing. Now's the time to make your work look presentable. Some people do this as they write while others leave it to the end. Good presentation and good English contribute to your grade, so read the extract below on presentation and academic conventions to get this final step right.




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Using a wealth of examples, Alex Osmond tackles one of the most challenging aspects of academic writing: keeping things short, simple and clear. Just because the subject is difficult, he says, it doesn't mean the writing has to be difficult too.


Tips taken from: Get a Better Grade, Essential Study Skills, Doing Your Social Science Dissertation, and Your Undergraduate Dissertation