Your guide to writing a Social Work thesis

Social Work Thesis Writing Guide

A Thesis is an assignment you can really get your teeth into. If approached properly it can represent the peak of your Social Work course, as it allows you to really get your claws into something that you are actively interested in. In a Thesis you do not have the subject and reading list dictated; you have complete control. However, with this control comes the capacity to make errors of judgment over the scope of the project and the level of research required. Guidance is vital at all parts of the Thesis process. The essence of writing a Thesis is at first proposing an area of research that by its nature hasn’t been done before. Therefore, you will find yourself at some stage attempting to gauge the amount of work to be done without much to guide you. The amount of time to take and transcribe an interview or construct and distribute a questionnaire (for example) can be quite considerable. In order to pitch your Thesis subject appropriately, look at other studies and see how much research they have done to get an idea of a suitable scope for your work.

Social Work Thesis Proposal, and Title

First, you need a Research Proposal and Thesis title. This will involve completing a certain amount of background reading and establishing the research methodology that you can use. In many cases a Research Proposal will be used as the basis for discussion with a professor who will probably make suggestions for further improvement, so be prepared to be flexible. It is difficult to pitch a Thesis idea that is not too complicated, and the process is like sculpting – you gradually shape the idea until you find it fits what is demanded by the Thesis specifications.

Reading and Literature Review

Second, you need to complete a great deal of general and specialist reading. Often you will be given less guidance with this than with other areas so it is important to trace the subject through the research. Start with a more general text and see what books are referenced. Follow up the references and see which works appear more frequently. You can also use search engines and resources such as Jstor, Questia and Google Books but remember these are not complete reference bodies and you should never rely on them exclusively.

Conducting Your Research

Third, conduct your research. Every Thesis must comprise a certain amount of original research rather than simply a synthesis of the literature surrounding the subject. You use your own research to challenge accepted ideas or establish new evidence to support theories. This is the most important part of the Thesis and you should construct your research timetable very effectively. Research is very time consuming and you should make allowances for problems to arise that you have not foreseen when proposing your Thesis. Generally this will consist of qualitative or quantitative research techniques or in some cases a combination of the two. Both these research techniques are very demanding on the time you have available so do not consider one or the other to be an easy way out. Remember if you are interviewing you also need time to transcribe the interview and analyze the text. If you are using quantitative techniques you need time to input the data and use statistical representations of your results. If you are not already adept in using computer programs for this purpose, this will take much longer than you might predict. Remember to plan effectively and work consistently to a schedule.

Writing Up Your Thesis

Fourth, writing-up the Thesis is a slow and laborious process, and you can often go through several different drafts before the finished product. In general the longer the piece of work, the more writing is usually completed and the more is thrown away. You should expect to go over the word limit and then whittle the finished product down. This will allow you to cut out the dead wood and make every paragraph in the Thesis is relevant to the question you are aiming to answer.

Referencing Your Thesis

Finally, make sure you use the correct referencing style and make sure your bibliography is accurate. Losing marks for errors of presentation when you have conducted an excellent piece of research can be soul destroying and it is worth making sure your Thesis is exactly what the house-style demands. This can be a very uninspiring part of the process but it is worth getting right.

In short, a successful Thesis is effectively planned, executed to timetable and written up over a reasonable timeframe.

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