One of the highlights or perhaps scariest things about your final year at uni (or even your final piece of work for your masters) is the dissertation. But fear not! Dissertations are actually your friend, you will love it and cherish it and actually be so flipping proud of yourself when you see it all bound and printed and ready for hand in! In fact, when you read this I’ll have just handed my masters dissertation in!
There are definitely some phases you’ll go through when writing it. It’ll probably go something like this.
Oh cool, my own piece of research for the year!
Erm, what the **** am I doing…
I can’t do this….
I’d rather do anything but this right now…
I can’t do it!
Oh wait, I have no choice, I *have* to do it.
I don’t know what I was so worried about I can do it!
Oh, what will my supervisor say? I don’t think it’s any good, what if I have to write it all over again?
Oh… You mean it’s actually OK!
I CAN DO THIS
Oh wow, look at this piece of work. I did it all myself. Look how pretty it looks, all 50 pages of it beautifully bound.
Ok, so maybe it won’t go like that for everyone, but it has definitely been a bit like that for me! You will definitely feel love and hate towards it! Now for some of my tips for dissertation writing 🙂
1. Plan, plan, plan and plan some more!
Yes, planning is so important! It’ll really help you write clearly and concisely if you have a good idea of what you’re going to put in and where. It’ll also stop you repeating yourself.
2. Keep a separate dissertation notebook/file
A separate notebook dedicated to your dissertation will allow you to keep everything in one place. It’ll also mean you know where everything is! Plus some universities actually require you to hand in your dissertation notebook for marking.
3. Set achievable targets
Don’t set yourself too much to do in one go. You’ll only get annoyed if you can’t achieve it. Sometimes baby steps are better for dissertations. You’re less likely to make a mistake if you take it a little at a time.
4. Make use of family, friends and your supervisor
They’ll help you make it the best it can be. OK maybe not your family and friends, but if they’re willing to read it give it to them. They may pick up small typos/errors that you keep overlooking.
5. Print a copy to proofread
I know a lot of places these days don’t require you to hand in a physical copy of your work, but I still am! You’re more likely to spot mistakes and errors if you print a copy off to read.
6. Check your references
Don’t get accused of plagiarism! Some people like to use EndNote or other softwares. I just do it all manually! I don’t trust the softwares. Then go through your work checking every reference in the reference list has been cited and that every citation in text has one in the reference list.
7. Take a break from it
Sometimes it is important to put it away for a few days and come back to it another time. You will get sick of it! In fact you’ll get so used to it you’ll know exactly where everything sits on the page that when you make a change you wonder what you’ve done wrong to make a sentence shift down the page!
8. Keep reading
Make an early start on your reading, that way you’ll have all the literature there for you when you actually start to write. It’ll make your life so much easier! Also keep reading until you can’t find any more papers. Don’t just stop because the paper isn’t accessible. Get inter-library loans if you think the paper is relevant.
9. Stay in contact with your supervisor
Your supervisor is there to help you. Ask them questions, no matter how stupid you think the question is. Find out if/when they’re away and when they want a draft of your work by. Contacting them is important!
10. Don’t panic
Your dissertation isn’t worth getting upset over. It is supposed to be fun, not stressful!
So there are just a few of my tips for writing a dissertation! Does this bring back memories? Are you starting your dissertation soon? I hope everyone starting theirs this year has fun!