Construction dissertation guide part 1 - Choosing a subject and preparing a proposal
The first, and perhaps most difficult step is deciding the subject. The subject will usually be inspired by an aspect of your studies that you feel particularly interested in, although it will need to be informed by a lot of research, as well as discussing options with lecturers and looking at past dissertation subjects.
The subject will need to be based around a problem of some kind that your research will be able to explore in depth. It could be part of a course module that you have found particularly interesting, or, if you have worked in the industry, there could be something you experienced during this time that you could use to build ideas.Read the industry press and news sites to keep informed about what is energising debate.
Once you have a basic idea, set about narrowing it down to a specific aspect of the problem that is likely to be manageable. Read around the subject and think about which part is the most interesting or suitable. Make sure you select a subject that will allow you to gain access existing literature and to sources of data to inform your research.
The dissertation proposal is a short document produced once the subject has been selected (although the precise focus or scope of the research will still be refined after this point). It may contain the following sections:
 Working title
A concise subject summary and focus for the research. The purpose of the title is to identify in plain language what is being studied.
An overview of the problem to be researched and the main issues to be addressed. This is similar to what will later become the abstract.
Usually one sentence that condenses the overall purpose of the research and what it hopes to achieve.
These are sub-aims that can be listed as an extension of the overarching aim statement. These clarify the aspects of the study that will be addressed.
This is a theory that your dissertation should set out to test or validate. The conclusion will aim to determine whether the hypothesis has been proven or not. If the subject of your dissertation cannot be expressed as a hypothesis then formulate some key questions which provide the research with direction.
 Outline methodology
This briefly describes the means by which you will carry out your research for example, literature review, surveys, site visits, interviews, and so on.
 Initial references
This lists the details of the main reference sources that will be used. At this stage it is sufficient to include those which have informed the research and led to the proposal.
 Work plan
A simple chart or timetable that highlights key points of progress over the following weeks.
Continue to the next stage: Literature review.
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