Although dissertations aren’t compulsory on every course, if you do choose to take on the mammoth 10,000-word essay then be warned: it’s quite an undertaking. Not to seem negative, but writing a dissertation is no mean feat; it requires planning, preparation, and dedication to complete to a high standard.
Thankfully, however, there are plenty of dissertation tips you can use to make sure your time is put to good use throughout the process. So, if you’re looking to avoid pulling multiple all-nighters on an energy drink diet as the deadline approaches, then be sure to read the advice below when it comes time to preparing, and writing, your dissertation.
Make your research question clear
Although a dissertation gives you plenty of freedom to write about a topic on the subject of your choice, it can be difficult to strike a balance between finding a research question with plenty to write about and making sure you’re not attempting to cover every aspect of the subject itself. Remember, you’re bound by a word limit, and trying to bite off more than you can chew will make it tough to stay within it.
To make things easier, you’ll need to refine the focus and ask questions that provide plenty of scope to write about. While there’s no set formula for picking the right research question, you’ll get a sense of things once you begin your research and start drafting objectives and goals.
Make the structure clear
Once you know the topic you want to write about and have an appropriate research question, you’re ready to write your dissertation proposal. Here, you’ll outline the purpose of your dissertation and how you intend to go about researching it. And by showing how your research area is relevant, your introduction, literature review, and methodology will all become easier to complete.
You stand a better chance of forming a stronger, more coherent argument if you have a plan. This will ensure you can stay on track, avoid going off topic, and only making relevant points throughout.
A solid structure can help you better manage your time to complete the following:
- Reading and researching
- Gathering and analysing data
- Any restructuring you need to do
- Drafting and redrafting
- Printing and binding
Set deadlines early, but be flexible in your goals
Having goals and deadlines is a good idea, as you’ll need to keep your motivation going over a long period. Plus, that sense of achievement on completing your goals can be a big mood booster during what can be a stressful time.
However, don’t worry if you can’t stick to all the deadlines and goals that you’ve set for yourself. There’s always going to be certain things that you can’t plan for, so don’t feel guilty if you’ve fallen behind. And remember, providing you’ve set deadlines early enough, you should be able to move things around without throwing your schedule off balance.
Writing: Just do it
When you start writing, aim for suitable targets, such as 1,000 words a week. This will help you to make a quicker start, and the shorter spurts of writing will help you avoid leaving things to the last minute. A good idea is to use the next meeting with your supervisor as a deadline for completing your 1,000-word target too, providing you with jumping-off points as to where your dissertation needs to go next.
During your writing, it’s essential that you back up the dissertation itself, make notes frequently, and keep a comprehensive list of your sources. When you’re deep into writing, keeping track of what you’ve been reading and where it came from will save you hours of work later on. Remembering where ideas came from, especially with the number of books, articles and journals you’ll be reading, is never fun.
Ask for feedback early and often
Opening lines of communication with your dissertation supervisor early on is important. Sitting down with your supervisor, even if it’s just with a rough outline of your next chapter, can be helpful, as they’ll provide you with guidance to see whether it will work or not.
Don’t be afraid to send partial drafts to them and others who are also writing dissertations. It’ll help you stay connected with like-minded people, and can be hugely beneficial in avoiding having to rewrite certain sections at late stages.
Don’t be afraid to change dissertation supervisor
With that said, if you feel like your supervisor isn’t providing you with satisfactory advice then request to swap. It has to be early on and for a valid reason, but your department will likely be happy to meet your request. Usually, it doesn’t matter that they aren’t an expert in your research area, what matters more is that they’re approachable, reliable and can give you detailed feedback when you need it.
Give yourself breaks
Constantly working late into the night, beyond your usual work hours will lead to burn out. You need time to switch off and recharge, so take breaks when you need them without feeling guilty. Hang out with your friends, watch Netflix for a while, or treat yourself to some nice food. It’s impossible to force yourself to keep working when you’re not in the right frame of mind. If your work begins to suffer, take note and take the night off.
Learn to say “no”
At the same time, this is a long-form project that requires serious hard work. You’ll be surrounded by friends, family and other students who might not understand what it’s like committing to such an endeavour. So, while taking breaks is recommended, avoiding distractions and temptations is equally important. Learn to say “no” to those close to you if they’ve invited you out for a drink, to the cinema or just for some one-to-one time. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.
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