Dissertation help

  • Examples of MA/PhD education dissertations are kept in the closed-access Library Store. (Undergraduate dissertations are kept by School of Education administrators). You can look at them in the Library but not take them away.

    • First go to LibrarySearchand type your search term(s) into the box (we only keep information about the author, title and degree level in the LibrarySearch record so keep the search simple - e.g. 'classroom behaviour' or 'MA education').
    • In the search results page, go to Formats in the menu on the left and tick "Thesis/dissertation" (you may have to open up All Formats in order to see this).
    • Make sure "Oxford Brookes University" is ticked under "Library" in the left-hand menu.
    • This will limit your results to only theses/dissertations from Oxford Brookes.
    • Scroll through the results and make a note of the titles and authors' names of any that interest you. Check the location to see if they are at Harcourt Hill.
    • Take up to four requests to the Library counter and staff will fetch them for you.

    Why do you need to do a literature search? Firstly, it helps you choose the topic you want to write about. Secondly, it helps you to identify the core research and main ideas associated with your topic. Thirdly, it enables you to build on the work that has been done before by other researchers.

    Your dissertation or research assignment will be a lot less stressful if you plan your search first; you may find our Finding journal articles worksheet helpful for this.

    • Define your area of study and identify the keywords for your search.
    • Consult encyclopaedias, dictionaries, guides or handbooks available in the Quick Reference area of the Library at the shelfmarks for Education (ie around 370)
    • Create your list of keywords and think of as many alternative ways of describing them (synonyms) as you can, as well as broader and narrower terms.

    Example: Literacy difficulties of boys in primary school

    This can be broken down into the following concepts or elements:

    • literacy
    • boys
    • primary
    • school

    From these concepts the following list of keywords can be identified:

    • literacy, reading, writing, spelling
    • boys, male, males
    • primary, elementary, key stage 1, key stage 2
    • school, schools, classroom

    You can then use these keywords to search catalogues and databases (see below)

    • LibrarySearch gives details of all items held in the Library. To find information on your topic, either do a keyword search, or use the Search Index - Subject option on LibrarySearch Advanced Search.
    • Books - books include textbooks, monographs and reports, and can be found via the "Books and E-books" tab on LibrarySearch on the Library home page. Remember books can also provide useful bibliographies which give you more references to follow up.
    • Encyclopaedias - provide useful summaries and overviews and can be a good starting point. They can be found via LibrarySearch or in some cases online.
    • Journals - a vital resource for reports of research, current information on specific topics, recent developments and reviews. Browse key journal titles for your topic in the Library or online (find them via LibrarySearch using the Journals by Title tab on the Library home page).
    • Journal articles and research reports can be found via databases. Databases can be searched by keywords and usually also have a thesaurus (the list of search terms used to identify the subject of the articles) which can provide useful ideas for alternative keywords. You can watch our short video on Finding journal articles with the Education databases, and use our worksheet on Finding journal articles to help you do a good database search. A list of the most useful databases for education can be found on our main Education Subject Help page (click on the Databases section).
    • Statistics and government publications can also be useful.
    • Web sites of charities, organisations, Government and university bodies which commission or carry out research can be a useful source of research reports. We have links to many such web sites available from our main Education Subject Help page (click on the Web Sites section)

    Keeping track of everything that you read is really important so that you can acknowledge other people's ideas and avoid accusations of plagiarism.

    EndNote is software which will store all your references in a personal library, and can then be used with Word to create correct references in BrookesHarvard style in your assignments. The Web version (EndNote Basic) is free, available from anywhere, and you can continue to use it after you leave Brookes. 

    Cite Them Right Online is a Web site giving guidance on how to reference (cite) many different types of resources; its Harvard guidance is compatible with the recommended Brookes version of Harvard and the BrookesHarvard style in EndNote. If you'd rather have a print referencing guide, you can borrow Cite Them Right as a book from the Library or, for the most common types of reference, use our print guide to Harvard referencing.

    • Interlibrary Loans

    Books and journal articles which are not available through the Brookes Library may be available via the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. There is a charge for this (currently £3.00 per item). Copies of journal articles may be delivered electronically if you wish; otherwise photocopies are posted to you or sent to the Brookes Library site of your choice.

    • Using other Libraries

    If you cannot find what you are looking for in the Brookes Library or you want to access a Library close to where you are living (for example when you are away from Brookes during the vacation or on School Based Training) you might want to see what other Libraries are available to you. Find more information about this here.

    The following books all available from the Library would make a useful starting point.

    • Carter, C (2018) Successful dissertations : the complete guide for education, childhood and early childhood studies students (2nd ed.) London: Bloomsbury - available in the Library at 808.066372 SUC
    • O'Hara, M. (2011) Successful dissertations: the complete guide for education, childhood and early childhood studies students. London: Continuum (e-book) - also available in the Library at 808.066372/SUC
    • Buckler, S. and Walliman, N.  (2016) Your dissertation in education (2nd ed.) London: SAGE. In the Library at 808.06637/WAL
    • Thomas, G. (2017) How to do your research project: a guide for students in education and applied social sciences (3rd  edn.) London: SAGE. In the Library at 300.72/THO
    • Bell, J. (2018) Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers (7th ed.) Maidenhead: Open University Press (print and e-book)
    • Face-to-Face

    If you have worked through this information and are still confused or have got stuck please feel free to make an appointment to see your Academic Liaison Librarian. Our contact details may be found here.