30 Apr 2017

How To Survive Your Dissertation




For what feels like forever, I have been working on my dissertation for my final year of university. I am so so SO relieved to say that I have finally completed it and handed it in! *yay*.

The past few months have been a whirlwind of emotions, sleepless nights and countless mental breakdowns. Nonetheless, I have done it, it is over and done with and I know I have put so much blood, sweat and tears into it - literally. 

If you are going to be starting your final year, you should already be thinking about your dissertation (or at least I did at the end of my penultimate year). Here is my advice to you all...

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Pick a subject that actually interests you.
There is nothing worse than being stuck with a topic that bores you to death. If you are intrigued by a certain area, look into it and see how you can make a research project out of it. If you know you want to go into a certain career, tailor your dissertation that will come to your benefit when applying for jobs. A dissertation is a research project that counts towards a chunk of your degree grade but it is also beneficial for yourself. You can learn so many things along the way that could perhaps help you land a job!

Talk to your supervisor regularly.
Never underestimate the power of your supervisor. I made monthly meetings with mine to discuss any issues, progress and what I could be doing to take it a step further. This is probably the most helpful thing you could be doing because your supervisor will be marking it and would know how much effort went into it if you are constantly updating them. 

Get organised.
If you were to take one piece of advice away from this post, it would be this. Get your self together and get organised! By now you should know that I am like the organisation queen (or at least I'd like to be) and when it came to planning my dissertation I went all out. I made a spreadsheet, printed out multiple copies to put up near my desk and carry around with me at university. It was colour coded, had specific dates on it, which meant I was always working towards a different deadline for a different section each week. It definitely helped to keep on track of all the things I should be doing. I've also written a few blog posts dedicated to getting organised here and here.

Dedicate time out of your week to work on it.
Final year was like a test to see how much work you could juggle at the same time. There would be at least two or three deadlines a month, which meant that I could've easily slacked on working on my dissertation, but I didn't. I always spent at least one day out of my week to work on my dissertation. Either my day off uni in the week or a day on the weekend, you're just going to have to make a sacrifice.

Ask friends and family for help.
You are not in this alone. Your course mates are doing a dissertation too, maybe some other friends, perhaps your family have in the past. Even if you have to run your thoughts by someone, give one of them a chance to hear you out. Thinking out loud helps. Maybe if you need your dissertation spell checked, grammar checked, everything checked - ask someone! It's good to get a fresh pair of eyes looking at what you've done.

Coffee will be your best friend.
Earlier, I mentioned sleepless nights. Sleepless nights = long and tiring days. So to help you through them have some coffee or tea or energy drink, whatever floats your boat and keeps you going. Mine was a weird combination of tea and Hobnob Nibbles!

Make multiple copies in case technology fails you.
I'm sure many of you have been through a time when you've plugged your USB in and there's nothing on it or you saved your work online and it has disappeared. Well, it could happen with your dissertation. Make sure to save it in multiple forms and in several places. I have it saved on my laptop and on a USB stick with an updated copy on them at all times. I also email my work to myself every time I add something to it. You could even save it on Dropbox. Whatever it is, save it in different areas just in case.

Don't do it overnight.
I don't think this even needs an explanation. Just don't do it.

Aim to have most of it completed a month in advance.
Being the organisation freak that I am, I planned to have my dissertation done a few weeks before the deadline. This was to check, change and add bits in. Also, it allowed time to print and bind it (if your university requires you to had in a paper copy). It was very reassuring having it done because you could relax a little bit and you'd rather be prepared!

Reward yourself.
Remember to give yourself a reward. Whether that is a holiday or shopping trip after you've handed it in or if it's a new lipstick after each chapter. I don't know! Whatever it is, just motivate yourself because it really helps.

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Now, I am not saying that these tips will get you a first, but it will help make the process of writing your dissertation that little bit more manageable. I'm going to be honest, at the time it will feel never-ending, like the dark ages, like you'd rather work at Subway for the rest of your life BUT do not give up. You can do this.

Good luck!

(P.S.: I also have a bunch of student and uni related posts on my blog - just type 'uni' into the search bar on the right!)
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