Delightful dissertation do’s and don’t’s!

This time last year, I wrote this blog as a final year student that was currently in the depths of dissertation despair (we love a bit of alliteration)!

I feel like now I’ve graduated, I can be even more honest and reflective of my dissertation writing experience. And it’s safe to say *drumroll please*… dissertations are TOUGH (shock I know)! Although that’s a blatantly obvious statement, it’s also one of the most honest, as I really struggled to admit I was finding it so tough at the time. Everyone, or most people at least, will put up a front of “yeh, it’s going ok thanks” or “I’ve just got these bits to do and re-edit”, and I was no different to this. There’s also the stock response you get from people if you do actually say you’re struggling… “Ah, you’ll get there in the end” or “You’ll look back when it’s completed and think that wasn’t so bad”… Yeh, cheers for that! Sometimes you don’t want to hear all that, you just need someone to appreciate how you’re feeling and be there for you to share your concerns when ready.

But there WILL be a turning point. For me it happened around the end of February. It got to the point where I’d had enough of delaying things, or letting myself feel overwhelmed with it all – I was out for a drink with a mate at the time and was fed up of thinking about it, so decided to leave early and head back home to crack on! I forced myself to then set up a daily routine when not at work or in Uni – I’d spend at least 3 hours (with breaks) working on a different section. I would even play the exact same song before each time I sat down to work which would get me motivated to carry on… The song is a bit random and embarrassing, so I won’t reveal it – but it really did the trick!

Writing this blog shortly after that day helped a lot too. It was almost a bit of self-therapy, as I realised I was actually guilty of many of the “DON’TS” I was suggesting! So now, 12 months later, there’s a whole new wave of students that may in the same position I was in 12 months ago – that deadline is looming for the biggest piece of work you will do at undergraduate level. So, we thought it might be nice to share my attempted words of wisdom again, and see if it helps any of you get through. Best of luck everyone! Joe

DO… Focus on a topic that interests you. Your research should highlight your passion and interest in this particular area.

DON’T… Select something you have no clue about, but you think it will impress whoever is marking it!

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DO… Meet up with your tutor/dissertation supervisor as often as possible. They’re here to help you along the way and give advice, so take advantage of it!

DON’T… Ignore your emails if said tutor contacts to get an update or wants to share some useful information!

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DO… Make notes whenever you see, hear, or think of something that will help with or add to your work. On your phone, piece of paper, even the back of your hand, get it written down!

DON’T… Let something useful be forgotten about.

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DO… Set yourself MANAGEABLE deadlines – it helps to break down something that first feels overwhelming.

DON’T… Keep putting bits of research or writing off – it will most likely come back and haunt you!

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DO… Allow your research to evolve. It really is a continuous process, and parts of it WILL change.

DON’T… Be rigid in your framework, because having something too specific in your head will quickly make that exact type of theory and literature very difficult to source.

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DO… Create the reference lists as you go along. I personally could never leave my bibliography and references until last.

DON’T… Just scribble down the name of a book or website that’s been used – you’ll only have to re-visit this and reference properly, and it will become very time consuming.

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DO… Take regular breaks from it all. Dissertations are obviously a big deal, but they shouldn’t become the focus of all your time.

DON’T… Allow yourself to get bogged down by it. Believe it or not, it should also be a fairly enjoyable process, writing about something you have a genuine interest or passion about!

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DO… Remember, this is one of the last, if not the last, large piece of work you’ll undertake for your degree – the end is in sight!

DON’T… Panic! You got this!

you can do it