Writing a dissertation can be daunting, taxing, and all-around not fun. But as we draw close to the end of term, here are our top tips for getting those dissertations done!
1. Try to stop procrastinating
Easier said than done, we know. But the sooner you respond to any comments from your supervisor, of finish the latest draft, wherever you are in the process, the better. If you need help with not procrastinating, try and schedule your time, or download apps which stop you from using your social media, like 1-3-5 list or Offtime.
2. If you get stuck, move on
If you’re writing your Lit Review and have rewritten that same sentence 13 times – move on. Go and edit another chapter or work on your conclusion or anything else. Come back to it later with a fresh mind, and you’ll be more likely to get it done.
3. Take regular breaks, but make sure you go back
Our brains cannot work flat out for 6 – 12 hours a day, despite what most students seem to try. So make sure you take regular breaks, even if that’s to walk to the local corner shop and buy some more 37p energy drink. But similarly, make sure you go back. It can be very easy to turn a ‘break’ into the rest of the day. And then you’ve messed up.
4. Talk through your ideas
A lot of the time, dissertation ideas can make perfect sense in our heads, but translating them to academic written work can be well, near on impossible. If you talk through your ideas with a friend, family member, tutor or partner, you are more likely to be able to get your head around the ideas, structure them, and figure out what you actually want to say.
5. Make a schedule
Decide from here on out when you will do dissertation work, and what you will do in that time. If you have 4 weeks left until it is due, schedule out the slots on each day that you will be dedicated to the work, and exactly what you want to get done then. Otherwise, you will ignore the more difficult parts until the last minute, and then you have to stress out!
6. Do your references as you go
Everyone says it. But it really does make life so much easier. If you leave your references until the end, you spend your last day before the deadline traipsing through thousands of words to put in hundreds of references, and you are almost guaranteeing that you will miss one or two. Save yourself the trouble and do it as you go.
7. Bookmarks will save your life
As we write essays and dissertations, we often find ourselves needing a specific quote or reference that we hadn’t previously thought about or planned. We turn to google, find it, and move on.
Bookmark those pages. In fact, bookmark any page you use. They will all be needed on your bibliography, and the more you use, the better your bibliography will look. So create a folder of bookmarks titled ‘Dissertation’, and get adding.
8. Don’t compare
If your friends are also working on their dissertations, try to avoid asking how many words they’ve got, or where they’re at. You will just end up paranoid, and that is not what you want. Plus, different courses, universities and even people do dissertations differently. If you’re a maths student and you ask your English and creative writing friend how many words they’re on, and they say 8,000 – remember that half of that is creative writing!
It’s safer to just not compare.
9. First draft not a final draft
When you first get near the total word count and send it over to your supervisor to take a look, you’re going to be excitedly anticipating their response. You feel they’ll praise you, it’ll be perfect, and you’re pretty much done.
It isn’t finished. Nowhere near, in fact. It is a first draft, not a final draft – knowing the difference will save you some heartache.
10. Take time off when you need it
Whilst we are in the final push towards dissertation deadlines, it is important to not burn out. If that means an evening off a week – take it. You need to look after yourself too, otherwise, there’s no point in finishing the dissertation!
If you are struggling with your dissertation, remember that your supervisor is there for a reason, and your course leader will also be available to chat through things. Reach out!