1. Choosing the wrong topic
Getting the topic right is the key to a good dissertation
The topic should be relevant, relate very clearly to your subject, and chosen because you have an interest in it. For literature-based dissertations, there should be enough original research for you to use to analyze the topic.
It is not enough to just pick a subject you are interested in. You need to be interested or you will not be able to commit to a longer essay like a dissertation. But the topic also has to be one which is very relevant to your subject or area of study. Too broad a topic means you cannot answer the question in enough detail. To narrow a topic means you cannot explore enough research or enough issues about the subject. For example, “an exploration of Shakespeare’s plays” is too broad, but “The characteristics of Shakespeare’s minor characters in Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet” may be too narrow. But it has to be a topic that you can realistically get the original research or supporting information for.
2. Not setting a question or title
A good dissertation has a proper question or title, which tells the reader exactly what the dissertation is about
The question or title is the basis of the dissertation. The focus of the dissertation is answering this question or problem raised in the title. Every part of the dissertation will be defined by this question.
The question is the issue the writer comes back to, over and over again, when writing the dissertation. It defines what information the writer will need to write the dissertation, and how that information will be analyzed. It sets the tone for what kinds of conclusions will be reached through this dissertation. And it shows the reader what the point is, and what relevance it has for them.
3. Not answering the question
One of the most frequent mistakes is not to answer the question.
Because the question really defines the dissertation, it is the glue that holds the different parts of the dissertation together. It is what makes the dissertation make sense. Too many writers try to write a dissertation, and then go off on a tangent and waste valuable words on side issues that don’t really answer the question.
Answering the question should be foremost in the mind of the dissertation writer. Every section of the dissertation should relate clearly to the question, and if the writer can refer to the question or the key words from the question or title in each sub-heading, this is a good idea.
A dissertation based on the wrong kind of material or research will not make the grade.
You have to select the right kinds of information and sources for your dissertation. A literature-based dissertation is usually based on original research published in peer-reviewed journals. A research based dissertation uses the right kind of primary research, making sure it will answer the question.
5. Referencing errors
Errors in the citation of references in the text or the reference list are a common mistake that is easily rectified.
Every dissertation requires a certain number of references, from primary or secondary sources. Citing these correctly means using the right style, such as Harvard or APA referencing style, and citing the references according to this style, within the text of the essay and within the bibliography at the end of the dissertation. Errors include incorrect format, but another error is missing references – citations that appear in the text, but are missing from the reference list.
The easy way to ensure that you avoid such errors is to keep your reference list up to date from the beginning, and every time you find a new reference or citation, add it to the list before you use it. This does two things – it means you won’t lose any references and it means you practice citing references correctly from the beginning. A big error which frequently occurs is the failure to include your reference list. Without this, you could fail outright.