It is almost possible to achieve a 2.1 if your work is marked by significant errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar. For this reason you should proofread each chapter carefully as you complete it, and also proofread the entire work as a whole. It is helpful to get another person to look over the dissertation, as you yourself can overlook small errors simply because of your familiarity with it. For a 2.1 you need to ensure that the work is error-free, and also that the written expression is fluent and accurate.
These two points are both fundamental to 2.1-quality work. In the first case, you must ensure that your points are made with precision, referring to specific data or theories in detail. It is not sufficient to vaguely summarise a theory or method; rather you must explicitly state its nature and relevance to your broader point. Secondly, although your work needs to provide detailed precision, you must do so in a way that is concise and to the point. Try to avoid overly wordy descriptions, and revise your writing frequently to eliminate unnecessary phrases.
A key difference between a 2.2 dissertation and a 2.1 dissertation is the amount of research it demonstrates. For a 2.1 you will need to convince examiners that you have undertaken a somewhat lengthy research process and not simply compiled information in a casual or hurried manner. A good way to do this is to use a wide variety of source material and refer to it frequently throughout your writing.
The best dissertations demonstrate a consistent viewpoint on the part of the author. In the early stages of planning your dissertation you should consider what specific angle you will take on your topic, and try to develop an overall argument that can be carried throughout each chapter. This will help you to be more critical in your writing, and avoid an overly vague treatment of the topic. For a 2.1 mark, it is very important to make sure that all of your points support this overarching theme, rather than simply referring to it at the beginning and end of the dissertation.
Many students end up with a 2.2 mark simply because they don’t allow themselves enough time for writing and re-writing. To increase the likelihood of earning a 2.1, prepare your first draft early in your schedule. You can then show this full draft to tutors and they will provide you with feedback related to your overall ideas rather than just one or two chapters. This can greatly enhance your work overall because it will give you better insight into the expectations of examiners.
David Brigden and Graham Lamont, 2010. Planning Dissertations. Available: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/subjects/medev/Planning_dissertations. Last accessed 08 Apr 2013.
Open University Course Team, 2008. Thinking Critically. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
Kjell Erik Rudestam, 2007. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. 3rd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.