3 Tips for Dealing with your Dissertation

Dissertations: the mere thought of all those words is enough to give you a headache – following these tips will last longer than the Paracetamol…by Nuala Clarke.

Dissertations are not nice things. They take up all your time, give your fingers cramp (can fingers even get cramps!?) and turn your brain to scrambled eggs. Sure, they weren’t too bad last term. You might have spent your evenings reading and exploring ideas but that happy time is over. Now comes the writing, the note arranging and the endless footnoting. Word counts are the new measure of your day.

So here are 3 tips for dealing with your dissertation:

1. Timetable

Your dissertation is not the same as a regular essay. It’s pretty impossible to write it all the night before and still pull a 2.1 out of the bag. It’s also really tempting to read “just one more little article” but it’s the writing that you should now be focusing on. So set deadlines for yourself. Personally, I like to make my deadlines coincide with social events or little treats. This way I get a reward for all my hard work, as well as having something to motivate me. Nothing celebrates 1000 words like an episode of The Walking Dead. Rick’s slightly bloodied face is the light at the end of my proverbial tunnel.

However, you must be realistic. There’s little point declaring that you will write 3000 words in 4 hours when we both know that you’re going to spent half that time looking up recipes for peanut butter chicken. It’s better to set smaller but realistic goals. This way you won’t be discouraged every time you fail to meet an unreasonable deadline. Rather, you’ll feel great, like you’re making steady progress, and you won’t overdo it and get super stressed. Winner.

2. Keep track

You eventually finish your chapters and breathe a sigh of relief. But, wait, what’s this? A quote that hasn’t been referenced? A missing journal from the bibliography? No date for that publication? Using Endnote Online is an efficient way to record the sources you’ve used in case you find that you’re missing data.

Keeping track doesn’t just help with your referencing. Often you find yourself trying to remember where you read that one paragraph on religious iconography in The Avengers, or realise that the quote on feminist depictions of werewolves is useful after all. Dissertations are always changing and developing with new ideas and enlightening texts. It’s really important to keep track of all the sources you’ve read, even if you don’t think you’ll use them. You can check your history on your library account to see the backlog of books you’ve taken out.

Now you can finally relax and celebrate your hard work with a nice almond slice and spiced latte (…or Smack, whatever floats your boat).

3. Do it together

Your Facebook feed will soon be (if it isn’t already) littered with friends complaining about their dissertation. You’ll see your fellow students furiously rushing around campus, eyes frantic. The Copper Rooms at Pop will be devoid of finalists. So you don’t need to go through this alone. You shouldn’t go through it alone.

So get some group dissertation-writing sessions going; the Learning Grid is particularly good for group work with its large tables and secluded areas. There’s also an abundance of plug sockets for everyone’s laptops. This area is not a quiet-zone so it’s great for study with a bit of chitchat thrown in. It also has a cafe and coffee bar nearby for breaks.

Finally, if you have a friend who would proof read your dissertation no strings attached then I suggest that you never let them go. However, if this is not the case (more likely) then swap dissertations with course mates or other friends who are on the dissertation train. You can read each other’s but for mutual gain. It’s invaluable to get someone else’s point of view, and when you’ve been staring at the same 10,000 words for 10 weeks you aren’t in the best place to spot any mistakes.

So there we have it. Following these tips should make writing your dissertation more manageable. If you have any good dissertation tips add them in a comment! And remember, it may seem like your whole life hangs on your dissertation but this isn’t true. Work hard but take breaks, eat well, take comfort in your friends (and/or The Walking Dead) and don’t overdo it.

Image: Alex/CC BY 2.0


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