The Conclusion Chapter
Conclusions, Limitations, Recommendations, and Further Work for Master’s Dissertations. After writing a lengthy dissertation, it is best to make sure that there is nothing missing at the end. In The Conclusion Chapter there are four separate sections.. Usually these items all appear in the final chapter of the research dissertation e.g.
Chapter 7 Conclusions, Research Limitations, Recommendations, and Further Work
- 7.1 Conclusions
- 7.2 Research Limitations
- 7.3 Recommendations
- 7.4 Further Work
This blog will explain the potential contents for each of these sections, and provides examples of each. Here is a short video clip on the subject.
The Conclusion Chapter
The most important thing in this section is that it should contain nothing new. The conclusion is merely a gathering together of the information previously stated in the dissertation. For this reason, it is unlikely that there will be any citations/references as this is your own conclusions to your own dissertation.
Please consider that your dissertation will be read by other people as well as your project supervisor. There should be a second assessor, and the dissertation may also be seen by an internal moderator and an external examiner. These people (especially the moderator and external examiner) may just read the abstract, the introduction, and the conclusion chapter. This is why the conclusion chapter needs to stand alone, and be very clear about the outcomes from the research.
My biggest tip for this section is to repeat the objectives, and comment on each and every one of them. Add information to each objective as follows:
- Was the objective was met
- Was it fully met or partially met?
- Where in the dissertation is there evidence to show that the objective has been met?
- If it was not fully met, why not? (This is a good pointer to possible limitations or further work)
I recommend that each objective is taken in turn, and could become a paragraph or two – even up to a page. And this is for each objective.
I wrote a previous blog which suggested the use of 6-9 objectives, therefore, this conclusion then becomes several pages of work just summarising the objectives.
I am amazed that students can write their conclusions without mention of the original research objectives.
Now would also be a good place to repeat the research AIM statement and conclude if it has been fully met or otherwise.
Limitations of the Research
Your research will not have been perfect for many reasons. It is a good honest academic process to bring any limitations into the open, and to not try to hide things. Omitting a limitations section will suggest that you didn’t think about it at all, and that you consider your research to be perfect. Adding lots of limitations will demonstrate that you are a critical thinker, and that you fully understand the extent and capability of your own research.
Possible reasons for limitations in your research may include:
- Time – only having 4-6 months to write the dissertation and collect data (N.B. Running out of time is not a good limitation)
- Budget – inability to collect data first hand
- Access to appropriate interviewees
- Limited to the number of questionnaires returned
- Limited in the scope of the work achieved
- Cultural reasons
This section of the dissertation still allows you to discuss and debate the findings of your research in the context of these acknowledged limitations. There is scope in this section to continue demonstrating the ability to critically evaluate, in this case, critical evaluation your own research work.
Recommendations in the Dissertation
These will be recommendations made as a direct result of the research. What will happen next? The recommendations may be for a client/customer, particularly if your research is suggested by your sponsoring company. Therefore, this section should contain:
- Suggestions for change
- Recommendations for new implementations of tools/processes/methods
- Advice for further communication of the research findings
All of these are as a result of your completed research work. It is good practise to make a note of where the recommendations came from within the dissertation, so you should refer back to the appropriate place in the literature review, or data analysis, or discussion chapters. Help the reader by indicating the source of your recommendation.
Edit September 2019:
If your dissertation looked at a particular company please also include actions the business or organisation should take as a result of your research. This is the “So What?” of your research and is not trivial. You may have to make some generic suggestions for the industry sector, but do include some information of what could/should change as a result of your research.
Edit November 2020:
I have an updated blog looking at the Discussion, Recommendations, and Limitations sub-chapters.
Further Work in your Dissertation
This is work that needs further research, aimed at other students/academics to potentially look at in the future. It may arise because of unmet objectives, or of items uncovered in the research that were not part of your own research objectives.
This section is for research that you have not done, but could be performed by others. This could be a deeper investigation into your own findings, or new areas for research. It is again good practise to make a note of where this idea for further research came from within the dissertation.
Don’t Wait Until the End to Start This Chapter!
Write these sections as you go along. Many of the points that you will put in these sections will arise as you write the literature review or the research methodology. Certainly, the discussion areas should be suggesting the conclusions and recommendations, and areas for further work.
Writing the conclusion chapter is not a simple process, and should be more than a few sides of A4 paper. Set up the headings early on in your research work and add notes throughout the research period to help you take your dissertation from an aim through to a satisfactory academic conclusion.