Remember the mad and frenzied rush that was your undergraduate dissertation? Did you promise yourself you’ll never make that mistake again and that next time you have a huge academic project, you’ll start early? Well it’s time to start writing your Master’s dissertation and live up to that promise you made yourself! Here’s how to make sure your dissertation doesn’t end up a giant rush… by Shreeja Roy
Start planning early
This is probably the most important advice of all. You want to start your planning early and take time to carefully think through your dissertation. A useful software that can help you do this is called: Mindjet. This software can be downloaded on your laptop (Mac and Windows) and you can use this software to create digital mind-maps. Since dissertation topics are usually very vague and there is a lot you can write about, this software helps to place all your ideas on one page and then find the best way to structure your dissertation when you start writing it.
It is important that you plan, plan and if you can, then plan some more! If you plan quite extensively then you will find that the actual writing of the dissertation does not take that long and all your ideas will be in front of you when you start writing.
Check with your supervisor at every stage
The problem with dissertations is that you can very easily go off on a tangent. The best way to make sure you don’t do this is by checking in with your supervisor regularly. Your supervisors are allocated to you probably because they have done some work on your dissertation topic in the past. So they are best people to run your ideas by and make sure that you are answering the question and sticking to the topic at every stage.
If you are someone who is doing a masters dissertation in a life sciences degree then you have probably been told by your supervisors and lecturers how important it is for you to critically evaluate others’ work. Why? Because not everything you read will be the truth and over time research improves and more research will be published. It is important that you critically analyse every article you read and include your own opinion as well.
Being organised can save you a lot of time. For your dissertation, make sure you have all your work in one place. You can do this by dedicating an entire folder just for your dissertation work. That way, when you start writing you are not rushing around trying to find where you put one of the articles you found on the internet 3 weeks ago! Mendeley is a useful piece of software to help you organise your reading.
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