Get off to a good start

Get the basics right: what's required?

There are different ways to approach social science research, different ways to do a dissertation, and specific requirements differ across departments. Be sure you have all the basic information about what is required and when it is required in your department.

You can find this information from your dissertation supervisor, course convenor for dissertations, academic mentor, or other staff in your department. You can also check Moodle or your departmental handbook.

  • What is the word limit? Is there a penalty for exceeding the limit? Are footnotes included in this count? Are appendices allowed?
  • When is the last day you can submit your dissertation?
  • Are formal research proposal(s) required? If so, when?
  • Is there a preferred style of referencing (eg, APA, Harvard, MLA)? Are there specific formatting requirements?
  • How many hard copies are required? Is an electronic version required?
  • Is collecting your own data required? Optional? Or is primary research discouraged?
  • When are departmental workshops or information sessions taking place?
  • When is the latest you can meet with your dissertation supervisor?


Inspiration from those who've been there.

An excellent source of ideas and guidance on ways to approach your dissertation is past dissertations from your department. Explore past dissertations and ask yourself

  • What kind of research topics and questions do past students explore? 
  • How is theory used to shape and inform research questions? 
  • What kinds of methods are used to collect and analyse data? 
  • What are the various ways to structure the dissertations you have reviewed?
  • What are the main similarities you notice across past dissertations?  Differences?
  • Which dissertation(s) do you prefer?  Why?


Events and resources

Write your research proposal

Diversify your thinking to get research ideas

How to get started on your dissertation

SAGE Research Online Project Planner (log in using your LSE account) 


What next?

What kind of research story do you want to tell?

Are you considering using primary or secondary data?  How will you get and use your data?

How can you make sure your drafts, files, and data remain safe and useable throughout your entire research project? Are there ethical considerations?