Objective: To understand how to research and write a scientific dissertation.
You will research and present a dissertation on a topic of your choice using two sources of information:
1. Peer reviewed scientific journals containing the most recent (last 10-15 years) primary literature. Primary literature must form at least 80% of your total number of references
2. Books and secondary journals (i.e. review articles) – these should be used sparingly and you should have no more 20% of your total number of references from secondary sources
· Search, compare and evaluate primary literature and scientific publications for critical review.
· Examine scientific argument, formulate and present a balanced argument and summation
· Identify, synthesise and evaluate ethical issues pertinent in the topic area
· Critically evaluate these issues and formulate potential solutions as applied to the topic area
It is particularly important that you learn how to use primary literature, and the skills that you learn in this exercise will be particularly useful if you carry out a research project in year 4 or when you prepare reports and proposals in future employment.
At least 80% of your references must come from primary literature, other sources such as books, secondary journals such as Sports Medicine etc. can only be used sparingly. Internet sources are not generally acceptable, exceptions to this may be made in the case of dissertations that reference government agency publications, such as SEPA or DEFRA or international agencies such as FAO or WHO.
What is a dissertation?
In relation to what you are required to produce it is a detailed review of the primary literature relating to a topic. It differs from an essay in that it follows a more rigid structure requiring substantiation of facts by the use of references that are cited in the text and listed at the end of the dissertation. On completion, the dissertation should resemble a review paper, as would be published in a scientific journal. A good way to get an understanding of what it is you are trying to produce is to find a review article for your chosen topic and have a look at how that is written.
What is primary literature?
Primary literature is the first published outcome of original research. This is usually presented in articles and conference proceedings. These may be in traditional paper journals or peer reviewed journals you will find online. These articles contain original data and have been “peer-reviewed” i.e., refereed by at least two reputable scientists familiar with the area being researched.
Secondary literature is published information that an author selects from primary sources. It is at least one step removed from primary literature. This type of literature is usually that found in books and review papers. You are producing secondary literature in that you are preparing a review of primary sources.
Your choice of topic needs to be well defined. If it is too wide you will be swamped with information, if it is too narrow it may be difficult to find sufficient information, if it is too vague you will have great difficulty in using the various online journal search engines to locate the information you want.
Your dissertation should be 2000 ± 10% words in length. Dissertations that deviate from this by more than 10% will be penalised. You should aim to include information from around 20-25 journal articles.
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