Writing Qualitative Dissertations

A fine update and expansion of the original volume....All inquirers struggle with common questions. What am I writing? Who am I writing for? How am I supposed to write this? Why should I do it anyhow? This book reveals the experiences of novice researchers as they grapple with these questions on their journeys through particular inquiries....In this second edition novices' concerns are conceptual as well as logistical. Meloy demonstrates how research is political, social, cultural, and personal, as well as theoretical and practical. Her participants provide insights into both the challenges and the satisfactions of qualitative inquiry....In addition to being an empathetic representation of novice inquiry, it is also a fine instructional guide. Its organization and focus convey the crucial decision points in research with examples of how people have made those decisions. It is a fine supplement to those textbooks that discuss decision alternatives but offer less guidance to threading a way through them.

Judith Preissle
University of Georgia

For graduate students seeking advice on the art and science of preparing a dissertation, this book offers a medley of testimonials to the process as part rite of passage, part finding one's voice, part bildungs roman, part socio-political act, part intellectual adventure.
Thomas A. Schwandt
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Read more

I’m often asked how to structure a qualitative dissertation and I find that seeing other dissertations can help to 1) recognise the structural similarities and writing conventions, and 2) recognise that all dissertations are slightly different and it’s perfectly ok to do your own thing too.  So I recently went on the hunt for some examples of qualitative psychology Masters theses to help MSc Media Psychology students in writing up their qualitative research.

I found a few qualitative psychology Masters theses online (see below) but PhD theses and undergraduate dissertations seem more available electronically (I’ve also included some examples of each below).  Perhaps there is gap for an online hub of Masters projects? If you know of one, I’d love to hear about it.


  • Conroy, M. (2010) A Qualitative Study of the Psychological Impact of Unemployment on Individuals, Dublin Institute of Technology.  Submitted for the award of Masters in Child, Family and Community Studies
  • Heinze, I. (2011) Making Sense of the Social Aspects of Business Failure,The University of Edinburgh*, Submitted for the award of Master of Science in Psychological Research Methods
  • Lyon, T. (2011) Beyond the future: Fortune telling as constituted in the media,The University of Edinburgh*, Submitted for the award of MSc in the History and Theory of Psychology

*Found via the University of Edinburgh’s search option for Psychology Masters thesis collection here.


  • Brown, P. (2005) Life in dispersal: narratives of asylum, identity and community, Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield (Phil just happens to be my PhD supervisor!)
  • Chernicoff, E. (2002) Becoming Visible : A Qualitative Analysis of Female to Male Transsexuals’ Coming Out Experiences, PhD thesis, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Clements, A. (2012) Commitment in students training for caring professions: a focus on student nurses’ experience of support, PhD thesis, University of Bedfordshire (a mixed methods example)
  • Howarth, C. (2000) “So, you’re from Brixton?”: Towards a social psychology of community. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

LSE Theses Online and the Open University’s Open Research Online are both fab repositories. Registering for the British Library’s Electronic Thesis Service EThoS is also a must.

Undergraduate dissertations:

  • Foskett, E. (2012) A discourse analysis using feminist strands of thought to analyse advertisements, Download from the MMU Psychology Dissertations Journal here.
  • Walker, S. (2012) “Follow, follow?”: A thematic analysis of how geographical location, social intensity & masculinity are predictors for ‘casting’ nationality with football, Download from the MMU Psychology Dissertations Journal here

Media Psychology:

Whilst searching, I also found a Masters dissertation on social media’s role in branding which applies cultivation theory…might be of interest to our MSc Media Psych students.

Quite a few of the dissertations uploaded to the MMU Psychology Dissertations Journal are also media related.  You can search the Journal here.

Get Writing

It’s great to see how others have conquered the challenges of writing up but there does come a point where you need to stop looking at other people’s work and focus on writing your own work in your own way.  Good luck!

P.S. Don’t forget to adhere to your University’s specific guidance on writing up dissertations and theses too!

Thanks to @DrAClements, @ClareUytman, @ej_odwyer, @spatialsyndave, @drshroyer, @cyberandrew, @marcdonncadh, @paulbyrneuk, @DrSharronH, @GalvinMary, @VickiMcDermott for their retweets and suggestions which informed this post.

This post was originally published on the Media Psychology UK blog.  


Tags: writing
Posted in Learning, PhD, psychology, qualitative

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