Writing a Human Geography Dissertation

Now with just one term left of my undergrad degree, I’ve just finished the research for my dissertation titled: How do international students at the University of Sussex make their home in the UK? I conducted interviews with international students as well as creating a survey on Survey Monkey and got a good number of responses. It’s now time for the hard bit; the write up. Whilst 10,000 words seems like a mountain to climb right now, I’ve had useful advice from tutors and previous students on how to break it down into manageable sections.

One tutor recommended “How to do your dissertation in geography and related disciplines” (Parsons and Knight, 2nd ed.)


and another recommended “Study skills for geography, earth & environmental science students” (Kneale, 3rd ed.).


I found this book useful as it contained a clear structure plan, detailing how many words should be used in each chapter and how to define each section. It also explained the difference between an empirical thesis and a theoretical one with my area of work lying between the two. My subject involves using theories of culture, transnationalism and home whilst my research analysis will involve graphs and statistics as well as interview transcripts. It also involves a LOT of reading for the literature review which makes up about a third of the entire project. I’ve been finding resources for this by using library search, tutor recommendations, and work I’ve studied over the last year in terms of culture and ethnicity. I was concerned about how to structure the literature review as well as the other sections so I attended a library skills session on “How to write your dissertation”. It gave good general information however it was not specifically directed to geography students so I asked my tutor for further advice on structuring and what each chapter should contain.

Coming up in the next few weeks is my individual project review which involves presenting a two-page report and bibliography of my reading so far to my dissertation tutor. It will be a good opportunity to analyse and present my research up to now and will make up 10% of my total grade. In the meantime I’m going to be continuing my reading for the literature review as well as working on my structure, looking at previous students’ dissertations and reading through the recommended study skills books.

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