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How to do your Dissertation in Geography
and Related Disciplines (3rd ed).

Tony Parsons and Peter G. Knight
Scheduled for publication by Routledge in 2015

Link: Details of this book on the publisher's web site


In writing the first edition of this book we hoped that it might prove useful to students who had to write a dissertation, and it turned out that a lot of students found that it was. This was a good thing, of course, but unfortunately it meant that the first edition was still being widely used years later even after we knew that parts of it had fallen out of date. For that reason we revised the text and produced a second edition.  After a few years, the same thing happened again, and so now, twenty years after the first edition was published, we are pleased to present this new, third edition.  As with our previous revision we have taken advice from users of the book (both students and lecturers), and kept the overall format of the book unchanged. It didn’t seem to be seriously broken, so we didn’t see any reason to try and fix it (sound advice when you are reviewing your own dissertations). However we have re-written a number of sections and added some new material. We no longer refer to students using carrier pigeons to keep in touch with their supervisors when they are in the field, or to different ways of sharpening feathers to conserve ink when illuminating your final manuscript. Time has moved on.

During that time we have marked, and supervised, a lot of dissertations. We knew when we wrote the first edition of this book that it was biased towards physical geography.  In subsequent editions we have reduced this bias and in this edition give more consideration to a wider range of approaches from across the discipline. Perhaps as a result of writing the previous editions, when we’ve been marking dissertations we have taken greater note of the things we don’t like to see. During the decades since we wrote the first edition, we’ve seen a lot of things that we haven’t liked, so we’ve taken the opportunity to advise against them here! 

Some things have changed a lot since we wrote the first edition. For example the internet, electronic journals, and even the virtually ubiquitous use of word processing for student assignments are innovations that the first edition didn’t account for. Our advice about employing a typist to produce your text, for example, now seems a little fuddy duddy, and in the new edition has, with other fuddy duddy material that we identified, been gracefully retired in favour of more relevant advice about electronic submission, online resources, social media, and issues of that nature.  Styles of teaching and examining have also changed. For example, in the first edition we had a number of boxes designed to alert you to some of the searching and difficult questions your examiners could expect you to be able to answer in your viva exam.  Vivas are now so much less common than they used to be that we have taken out most of that material. We are very grateful to the reviewers who made many helpful suggestions about how to improve the book, and we have tried to take all of their suggestions on board. In some areas all the reviewers gave the same advice for this new edition. For example they all suggested that we say more on topics such as mobile technologies and GIS. We have tried to do as they suggested. In other areas, different referees said different things. For example some of them thought Eric was very helpful whereas others found him nothing but annoying. One thought we should cut out the section on logic in research design, another thought it was one of the most useful parts of the book. In those cases, as you may have to when writing your dissertation, we have accepted that we will not be able to please every reader in every aspect of the book, so we have done our best to make the book as helpful and user-friendly as we can. We hope it works for you.

One thing in particular remains unchanged from the first edition: our sincere hope that if you have to write a dissertation, this book will help. Good luck!

Tony and Peter