Dissertations are one of the hardest parts of a degree. They can be daunting, and stressful, so much so that people often end up leaving them until the last minute. If you’ve done exactly that, then here are some tips on how to write your dissertation in a week.
1. Get dressed
You’re going to be at home, working, for a week. Your first choice might be to sit at your desk in PJs, or trackies, with no bra and big fluffy socks, but we can’t stress how little that will help. Scientists have looked into the effects of our wardrobe on our work, even more so since the beginning of the pandemic. Turns out that dressing as we would for a lecture, a business meeting or work helps us get into the right mindset. We associate these clothes with a certain activity, and so end up being more productive.
So, each day that you’re planning on working, make sure you get dressed and ready like you would if you were going into university or into work. That way you’re going to have a much better separation between the time you’re working on your dissertation and the time you’re supposed to be resting or sleeping.
2. Set up your desk
Most university accommodation or student rental properties come with a desk. Whilst you might have been using this for makeup, gaming or anything but studying for the past year, now is time to make it work as a desk. Clear off the top of your desk, wipe it down, and make sure that you have space for everything you’ll be needing. That includes:
- space for a textbook
- a drink
- your laptop or tablet
- a notepad
- pencil case
Make sure that you set this up, and that each day before you go to bed, you tidy it up again. That way, when you get up to carry on working again, you don’t have to stress about all of that first thing.
3. Do a big food shop
So, you’ve got a week left. But before we crackdown on the dissertation itself, you need to make sure you’re stocked up. That means a trip to Tesco or whichever supermarket you prefer! Stock up on protein-rich, slow-release carb-based meals that are relatively easy to make, as well as any brain food or study snacks that you usually rely on. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to avoid too much sugar, alcohol or greasy and fatty foods – so save the weekly dominos order for next week, and try and eat from your kitchen every day.
One of the best things to do to make sure you’re eating enough across this last week is to meal plan. Write down what you’re going to have for at least 2 out of 3 of your meals each day, and then when you head to the shop make sure you buy all the ingredients you need. Our favourite Brain Food meals include omelettes, chicken and broccoli parm pasta, smoothie bowls, tuna mayonnaise and jacket potato. Check out some more easy ideas here.
4. Plan, plan, and plan some more
One of the most crucial things with writing a dissertation, regardless of how long you have to write the whole thing, is that you have a plan. In fact, with less time to write, this is even more important! Make sure you know what each chapter of your dissertation is going to be about, and bullet point what you need to include in each one. Bonus points if you have titles for the chapters too! It’s also a good idea to plan out how much of your dissertation you want to get done each day. So if you’ve got 5 chapters and 7 days, try and limit your writing to a chapter a day, leaving yourself a day’s wiggle room and a day to proofread.
5. Let your friends know
You’re about to become a temporary recluse, so it’s worth letting your friends and your flatmates know. That way they won’t worry if they don’t hear from you for a week, and are also less likely to tempt you away from your work via drinks invites or bizarre Tik Toks.
If you don’t trust yourself to avoid social media, you could also ask your closest friend to log into your socials and change your password to something you don’t know for the week. But make sure you trust them 100%, otherwise, this could be a risky choice.
6. Keep yourself going
Everyone has their own methods of keeping themselves awake, and realistically, none of them are that healthy. Our bodies need sleep for a reason, but sometimes we have to fight the urge to sleep in order to get things done – like our dissertation. So make sure you’ve got enough of whatever it is you need to keep you going. Some people use dark chocolate, banana, green tea, almonds, or just plain old caffeine. Whatever you find works for you.
7. Don’t forget to sleep
Having said that, you do still need to sleep. But don’t feel like you have to follow any normal sleep schedule. For this week, allow yourself to sleep whenever you feel you need to. If it gets to midnight but you’re still on a roll, keep going. Likewise, if it gets to 3 pm but you’re suddenly really tired, sleep. As long as you don’t oversleep and take away from your working time, any sleep schedule works.
A lot of people doing their dissertation in a week will end up sleeping from 5 pm until 2 am, and then hit up the university library whilst it’s mostly empty. Just find a pattern that works for you, and stick to it as best you can!
8. Find some tunes
Do you work best with music? Then be sure to find or make a long enough playlist before you start working. Whether that’s a new playlist each day, or one really long playlist for the week. This will stop you from pausing your workflow to find better tunes and will give you some good music to motivate you throughout the week.
Just make sure that your playlist isn’t going to distract you! If you find that lyrics are pulling your focus away from the work itself, why not try some classical music or soundtracks? You could even try some Vitamin String Quartet, a classical music group that covers popular music.
9. Don’t be a perfectionist
One of the things you need to accept going into this week is that your dissertation might not be completely perfect. So when you’re writing, try not to edit too much. One of the traps when writing long projects is going back rather than forwards, and we don’t have the time for that this week! Set aside a day or so for proofreading at the end of the week, and try to avoid editing too much during the week.
10. Read around
If you start hitting writing blocks, you can read other peoples’ dissertations through websites like JStor, or by asking your tutor for other people’s dissertations from previous years. You can also use the time to read around your topic, getting more ideas or fleshing out the ones you already have. That way, rather than procrastinating your dissertation because you’ve hit a block, you can keep working towards your goal.
11. Give yourself some breaks
Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to make sure you take some breaks. Whilst we don’t advise hours on end binge-watching the latest Netflix show, splitting an episode across the day and watching it in 10 or 20-minute chunks isn’t so bad. Likewise, letting yourself have a nice, hot, 30-minute shower or a walk around the area is crucial. Your body and your brain both need breaks, so don’t overwork yourself!
Writing your dissertation can be daunting, overwhelming and incredibly stressful. However, you just have to hold on to the thought that soon, it will all be over. If you’re in need of some inspiration then click here to see what it’s like to finally submit your dissertation.