Get motivated! ('Why do I write this paper?")
This is a basic question with a not-so-basic answer. In order for a job to be done well ? and your dissertation paper is, in fact, a job to be performed ? you should give yourself time to figure out why you will do it and get yourself motivated. No motivation ? no job quality, any professional can confirm that. Here are some possible answers to the motivational question:
- Because it is a must ? if you do not do it, you do not graduate;
- Because, if done with responsibility, it is an excellent opportunity to stand out from the crowd and your peers ? the Marketing job market gets busier with every day;
- Because you can practice your research skills while being directed and supervised by professionals (eg. your university professors);
- Because it could be a starting point for your career.
We all know the more you think about it, the more answers you can find. Once you have your motivational level raised, you will surely want to start your paper right away.
Choose your subject ("What should I write about?")
Allow yourself plenty of time to think what subject you would like to pick for your paper. In some cases, your professors already have a list of subjects from where you can choose one but sometimes they would happily accept your own subject, providing it is of interest and you convince them of your reasons. Consider the following, before you go for a subject or another:
- "Marketing" is a broad field ? which of its aspects do you feel more interested into, and more comfortable discussing about? Do you recall any particular course / chapter / subject that raised your interest at a time?
- Why would your subject be of importance and who would be your auditorium?
- Is your subject researchable? Is there any academic literature base on the subject?
- Do you think you can come up with a personal contribution to the subject?
- Do you see yourself developing that topic further on?
- Can you name at least a couple of persons who can guide you? Would they be willing to do that for you?
Documentation, documentation and... documentation
"Documentation" is a magic key for any successful paper. Student or acknowledged professional, once you made up your mind about the subject of the paper, most of your efforts will be directed (or should be directed) towards documentation. Depending on your subject, on your knowledge and your search capabilities, you might want to start with this even 1 ? 2 years prior to raduation date, in order to have enough time to collect and review as much information as possible.
Major information resources: libraries, bookshops, internet, newspapers and magazines (consider subscribing to main specialized magazines in your field!), university printings, company exhibitions and presentations.
Build your paper
You do not have to review the whole documentation before you start to lay the bricks of your paper. Usually, such works are done using the "top-down" strategy, meaning you start with the major lines and then you develop the minor ones. You can compare this strategy with the action of drawing a tree: you might want first to draw the tree trunk, then the major branches, you will draw then some smaller branches growing from the big ones, and at the end you draw the leaves and flowers.
Therefore, once you are clear with the subject and the basics of your paper ? the trunk of the tree, you can start organizing your chapters ? the major branches. Generally, you wont have less than 3 main chapters and more than 6 ? 7: remember your paper has to offer a valuable content but in the same time it has some space limits (for example you could be told not to exceed 70 pages including the appendix and graphics).
As you go on with your documentation, you will probably feel the need to reorganize the chapters and subchapters several times ? this is the way of any good writing, so don't be afraid of doing it as long as you stick to your subject and your chapters are part of a whole, "flowing" one from each other. Consult with you supervisor for any major changes, and ask directions if you feel the documentation is overwhelming, it becomes difficult to discern from the large amount of information and you feel like losing your coherency.
As a future Marketing professional, creativity is a basic skill as well as analytical thinking: you should prove them by including your own comments, opinions and conclusions upon the subject and not limit yourself to present only what other people said. Be critical to yourself and to others. Don't be afraid to bring out your own vision ? that's what counts the most!
Your paper is an academic piece of work, and so it should look and feel like. Give a lot of attention to your writing style:
- language issues ? keep an academic and formal style, with no colloquial expressions and no slang terms. Be very precise and avoid hypes (yes, yes, we know it's hard to do it especially when you're a Marketing or Advertising professional-to-be) and irrational use of superlatives ("the best", "the greatest", "the most"? ).
For a professional look, avoid using vague expressions such as "some authors say?", be specific and precise! A common mistake is to assume some things are obvious or known: no, they're not obvious to everyone, so you have to justify your statements (okay? except maybe if you're saying that "1+1=2"...)
- grammar issues ? nothing can cut enthusiasm for a paper more than poor spelling and grammar! Check ? check ? check and check again your grammar before submitting your work: make use of the grammar facilities included in the word processors, ask your friends to proofread your paper, use dictionaries and grammar books every time you're unsure about something.
- layout and other issues: keep a professional clean simple layout, and stick to one font type (eg. Arial, Times New Roman or Verdana). Unless you're asked to submit your paper in another layout, you might want to leave 3 cm (1,2 in) edges on both left and right side, use line spacing at 1.5 and font sizes 10 to 12 (depending on the font type) for normal text, with chapter title sized at 14. Double check your quotations to be acknowledged, and make sure the tables and drawings are numbered correctly.
Take a final look at your work and ask yourself if you're feeling proud of it. If the answer is a strong "yes!", you're probably ready to present it.
Presentation ? the final torment!
Let's not forget these guidelines were written especially for Marketing students. For you, the presentation of your paper should count much more than for other students, since it is a way to promote yourself and your work. If you fail at marketing your own person, how can you be successful in marketing something / someone else? This is the reason why you should dedicate a lot of time and energy to this apparently insignificant last issue.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that since your paper content is great, it will speak for yourself. It will not! You have to bring out the strengths of the paper and try to minimize its weaknesses, if any. Treat your paper like it is a new product that needs to be launched, and your teachers are the consumers. Make them "buy" your paper, make them enthusiastic about it!
Start your presentation with an introduction of how the paper subject attracted you, then shortly point the elements of novelty you bring in. After that, you can proceed with the content briefing: keep short and very objective. Talk loud and clear and note people's attention level: try to keep them awake but if you see them drowsing, you can refresh the atmosphere by changing your tonality or inserting a joke.
At the end, don't forget to conclude: a paper with no conclusion is an unfinished pointless paper!
Sustain your speech with a proper visual support: in most cases, a projector would do a great job. Be careful of how you build your slides: use 80% drawings and figures and only 20% text, as the human eye and brain respond much better to suggestive drawings instead of regular boring text. Pay attention to coherency: your presentation must flow and your ideas must have continuity. Practice your speech at home or in front of your friends, ask for comments and critics.
Otilia Otlacan is a young certified professional with expertise in e-Marketing and e-Business, currently working as independent consultant and e-publisher. She developed and teach her own online course in "Principles of e-Marketing" and is also a volunteer Economics teacher.
You can contact her via her personal website at BRAINmarketing.net or check out her latest developing Marketing resources project at TeaWithEdge.com