Most students in their last year write a dissertation, this is more than just another assignment or essay, it is a piece of work that requires a substantial amount of time for preparing, researching and writing. It is also a piece of work that you should be proud of. I have just recently submitted mine and wanted to share with you some of the lessons I have learnt along the way.
Each student will take a different approach when planning their dissertation, as they will be doing something totally different especially as it is intended to be an original piece of work. As there is an unlimited amount of topics in which you can choose from, I would recommend choosing a topic that you are highly interested in and believe needs addressing in the future, perhaps it could be good to choose something that has possibly affected you in some way too or relates to an organisation that you may want to work for after graduating.
The importance of making small and regular goals, or deadlines, will become very clear when writing. I found this very useful when writing mine as it kept me motivated and on track. Despite this though, I often found myself pushing back deadlines because I came unstuck or had hit a wall in my work. So you do need to be flexible when making these deadlines and not get too down when goals are not first met.
Working with your supervisor
Overcoming the difficult times was something I found easier to do when helped by my tutor. This sounds like common sense, however some of my friends did not work closely with their tutor during writing their dissertation. You need to know what your tutor expects from you and what to expect from your tutor. I regularly met up with mine for reassurance, or for guidance, and soon whatever I was having trouble with had gone.
Take on board your feedback
Working closely with your tutor also ensures that you receive feedback regularly, whether this is positive or negative. It is also worth pointing out that criticism needs to be taken well. This can be a difficult skill, but I often expected criticism rather than hearing a positive piece of feedback, so I never reacted badly to this. You just need to realise that all feedback whether positive or negative, helps.
During the course of writing your dissertation there will definitely be times when you want to quit and throw it away, just keep at it and breathe. Remember what you’re doing and what it is for. Like I said at the beginning, you should see it as something to be proud of.
Write small draft chapters
I would say it is best to write up a draft copy of each chapter rather than write up a full draft of a dissertation to show your tutor. This allows your tutor to specify the feedback on each chapter, plus this gives yourself a better chance of understanding what the feedback means because it’s broken down.
Ask others for help
There is nothing stopping you from asking someone other than your tutor to look at your work as well. Ask a couple of friends or family to read through it, as a fresh perspective and a fresh mind will pick up on slight mistakes you have missed and give you advice on things.
Read, read, read!
Read lots of books, journals, articles etc. Anything that is relevant read it. There is probably something in there that you can relate to or use. It help inform your thinking and ultimately what you write.
Recreate & give yourself mini rewards
Don’t forget about giving yourself time off, as long as it is at the right times. You cannot write your dissertation in one sitting, nor a chapter. Reward yourself when you have made an argument or filled x amount of tables in. Remember that you need time away from your dissertation to socialise, relax, eat etc. The standard of your work will benefit from this. However, don’t take too long a break so that you lose the motivation to carry on working later. You have to complete it sometime and don’t keep pushing it back and back.
There will be times when your friends are going off to do something exciting and in reality you just can’t afford to join them – accept this and crack on. This is your dissertation; you need to put more effort and commitment in to this than any other piece of work to date. Deliver something worthy of the hard work your putting in.
Allow time for editing & printing
Finally, give yourself enough time to edit, print and bind, don’t be falling at the last hurdle. It will take you much longer than you think!
Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate!
- If you have completed your dissertation, what advice would you add to this?
By Jordan Winter
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