The thought of writing my dissertation terrified me, even before starting university. In January, I finally handed in my 10,000 words of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. (Ok less of the blood and sweat, but there were definitely tears involved). At such a huge percentage of my final year grade, and at so many words, it’s such a big deal.
For those who don’t know, I study BSc Geography at the University of East Anglia, and my dissertation was my own research on food waste in the household, probably not that thrilling to a lot of you, but a really interesting topic to cover! Although I don’t yet know how well I’ve done on that piece of work, I do have a bunch of tips for surviving quite possibly the most stressful time of my university career – hopefully, these can help make it a bit less stressful for you!!
Pick a topic that interests you
This is definitely something I read a lot when I was looking for tips for myself. Choosing a topic that you enjoy and are interested in is SO important. Without this, you’re really going to lack the drive to do all the reading and research you need to do. Some dissertations require designing your own study, and the opportunities are endless so pick something you know you’re going to actually want to study and find out more about!
Another important factor here. My dissertation was due in January – I started it in my second year in April/May. Starting it early really lifts so much of the stress. I managed to get all my research done over Summer so I had everything I needed come the third year so I could get down with the analysis and writing. Starting so early has meant I’ve managed to relax and enjoy my Christmas break, while a lot of my peers have been in full-blown panic mode!
Establish a timeline
Having a timeline works like it does in anything you should do in life. As part of our proposal, we actually had to produce a timeline, but I’d recommend it even if it’s not required from you. Establishing what needs to be done, in what time frame helps you keep on track throughout the process.
Ask for help and feedback. And ask again
Similarly, ask for feedback from friends and family. One thing I’d really recommend is getting someone not from your background to read the final piece. I got my parents to check over my final dissertation to correct any grammatical errors and to make sure someone who’s not from a geography background could understand it. When you spend so much on one piece of work it’s easy to dismiss little mistakes which could affect your final grade!
Believe in yourself and work for it
Finally, go out and get it. It’s so crazy to think that my dissertation is done and out the way, but I am so proud I managed it. Work hard, reward yourself and work even harder again. It’s the biggest piece of work of your university career – work for it and it’ll all pay off in the end! You can do it!
Hopefully, those tips are beneficial to some – it’s a daunting experience but is one of the proudest things I’ve done. If you’re interested in other student/university posts I’ve done I’ve got 12 things I learnt in my first week of university and dealing with homesickness which might be useful for you!
Have you ever written a dissertation? How did you manage it?