The (free) course to get you started

Take the first step towards crafting a high-quality dissertation, thesis or research project with our free mini-course.

100% free – there’s absolutely no cost to enroll
– Easy to understand explanations and examples
– Extensive video, audio and text-based content
– Free downloadable templates and tools

The Perfect Starting Point

This flexible mini-course is built from a carefully curated selection of our best video and text content. Working through the course content, you’ll learn:

  1. How to find a high-quality research topic
  2. How to develop a convincing research proposal
  3. How to craft a high-quality introduction and literature review
  4. How to choose a suitable methodology and present your results
  5. How to polish your dissertation or thesis for the highest marks

You can start wherever makes sense for you, and you can work at your own pace. While you will get the maximum benefit from working through all the content in order, you’re welcome to skip around.

What It Covers

Below you’ll find an overview of the course curriculum. To view more detail, simply click to expand the respective section.

Part 1: Topic Ideation & Proposal

In this section, we lay the foundations for a strong dissertation by exploring the topic ideation and proposal development stages.


  1. Dissertation 101: What you need to know
  2. How to find a high-quality research topic
  3. Topic ideation and refinement: 5 time-saving tips
  4. Research aims, objectives and questions (the golden thread)
  5. Research proposal 101: What you need to know
  6. How to write a research proposal
  7. Common mistakes in the proposal stage
  8. Research proposal template (Download)
Part 2: Starting Your Dissertation Or Thesis

In this section, we move onto the dissertation/thesis document itself. We consider the broader structure of the document, as well as the first chapter – the introduction.


  1. How to structure your dissertation or thesis
  2. Introduction chapter 101 – Why, what and how
  3. Delimitations and limitations
  4. Common mistakes in the introduction chapter
  5. Dissertation/thesis template (Download)
Part 3: Crafting Your Literature Review

In this section, we explore the all-important literature review chapter, as well as the broader literature review process.


  1. Literature review 101: What you need to know
  2. How to write a literature review: big-picture process
  3. How to find high-quality literature (quickly)
  4. How to review journal articles efficiently
  5. Literature review Excel template (Download)
  6. How to structure the literature review chapter
  7. Literature review chapter template (Download)
  8. Common mistakes in the literature review
  9. Tips & tools to fast-track your literature review
Part 4: Designing Your Methodology

In this section, we dive into the complex world of research methodology to demystify this often-intimidating aspect of research.

  1. Research methodology & design 101
  2. Qualitative vs quantitative research
  3. How to choose a research methodology
  4. Saunder’s research onion: Overview
  5. How to write the methodology chapter/section
  6. Sampling methods and strategies
  7. Qualitative data collection and analysis
  8. Quantitative data collection and analysis
  9. How to write the methodology chapter
  10. Methodology chapter template (Download)
  11. Common mistakes in the methodology chapter
  12. Avoiding bias in your research
Part 5: Presenting Your Results

With the methodology out of the way, we move onto the results and discussion chapters in this section. We consider important matters for both qualitative and quantitative projects.

  1. The results chapter: Qualitative
  2. The results chapter: Quantitative
  3. Common mistakes in the results chapter
  4. The discussion chapter 101: What, why & how
  5. Common mistakes in the discussion chapter
  6. Discussion chapter template (Download)
Part 6: Wrapping Up

In this section, we move on to the final chapter in the typical dissertation – the conclusion chapter. We also discuss some other important considerations to help ensure that you present a strong document.

  1. The conclusion chapter 101: What, why and how
  2. Research limitations and implications
  3. Common mistakes in the conclusion chapter
  4. Conclusion chapter template (Download)
  5. The abstract 101: What, why and how
  6. Writing the abstract: 5 common mistakes to avoid
  7. Defending your dissertation or thesis
  8. Referencing: How to use Mendeley & Zotero
  9. Referencing: 7 common mistakes to avoid
Part 7: General Tips & Tools

In this final section, we discuss a mixed bag to help you approach your dissertation/thesis writing in the most efficient way possible.

  1. Essential apps for the research journey
  2. Descriptive vs analytical writing
  3. How to reduce word count
  4. How to craft strong arguments in your dissertation
  5. How to choose the right charts and graphs
  6. Academic misconduct

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Awards and accreditations

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this course really free?

Yes. There is no cost to enroll in the course or use any of the course resources. All content is free to access, whenever you need it.

Is there a set schedule for the course?

No. You can complete the course at your own pace and select whichever lessons are most relevant to you.

Does this course involve tests and/or exams?

No. As a flexible mini-course, there are no tests or exams. Please consider our paid courses if you are looking for an assessed course.

Can I get a certificate of completion?

No. Since the mini-course is completely flexible and there are no tests/assessments, we cannot issue a certificate of completion. If you’re looking for a certificate program, please consider our paid courses.

Can I access the templates without doing the course?
Is this the same as the "Work Smarter Not Harder" ebook?

We unbundled the ebook a few years ago to make the content more accessible and digestible for first-time researchers. This course draws on much of the original content and is far more comprehensive than the ebook.

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