I have been really honest whilst documenting my experience of writing my dissertation this last year. I really do wish I was being melodramatic when saying it was the hardest thing I have ever written and incredibly stressful! I felt underprepared and I know that final piece of work I produced was not to the standard I am capable of, all in all I let myself down!
It is a long path and I know that sometimes it may feel like you will never reach the end, but you will! *now does the picture above make sense!?
This is why I have decide to pass on some advice and tips to anyone who is about to write their own dissertation, so that you don’t end up in the same boat as I was in;
- Pick a topic that has literature written about it: Simply if there is not much written about it you are going to struggle a lot when it comes to writing you Rational and literature review! This was the biggest mistake I made and one that created a lot of problems for me further on in the process!
- Pick a topic that you have a lot of interest in, one which you are excited and passionate about! Don’t just decided on a research idea because everyone else is doing it, or because no-one else has written about it. You want your enthusiasm of the topic to come through in your writing.
- Put in place a timetable that you follow. Give yourself your own deadlines to finish certain sections: Whilst you may have a year before you hand it in, you do not want to leave a majority of the writing to the last month! Having your own deadlines means you will get the most out of your dissertation tutor and be working at a pace that suites you.
- Remember that it takes time to edit the whole document: Think about how long it takes you to check spelling and grammar for a 1,000 word essay – now think about how long it shall take to do the same for a 10,000 word assignment! Allow time for other people to read and check it through before you print and bind it.
- Give time to the formatting of the document: Each university has their own requirements of what the document will look like – I actually spent almost a whole day making sure the margins were correct, that I used double spacing and that my contents page matched the rest of the document! It isn’t a 20 minute job at the end but rather something you should try and do from the start!
- Remember to write you full reference list from the start: Do not fall into this trap! If you do not keep a list of every reference from the start with a link to where you found it, I guarantee that you won’t find it again! My best piece of advice is to keep a separate reference list for each chapter, then bring in into one list nearer the end of the whole process!
- Do not delete old versions of your dissertations: Instead of deleting old versions just save a separate updated one. This way you can go back and see how the work has developed, and you may find pieces of information you decided not to use early on are actually relevant!
- Do not compare you work directly with other students: Whilst everyone else you know shall also be writing a dissertation there topic will be different. They will work differently to you, and will have set themselves different goals. Just try and do the best piece of work that you feel you can do!
- *From Katie Middleton* Do not learn or use a new piece of software unless you really need it: Katie used Mendeley for her references and said it saved a lot of time, but there is no point in learning a new piece of software just for the sake of it!