With second term well under way you’re no doubt enjoying getting back into the swing of University life after a long Christmas break. However, don’t get so settled that you forget about that looming dissertation deadline. For some of you, this may be many months away, and you’ve barely even paid much thought to gathering your resources, whereas others may be frantically panicking as their deadline is just around the corner.
If this is you, don’t panic! With the right planning and consideration, you can turn that 10,000-word nightmare into a breeze. Here are a few tips from us here at Student Housing Lancaster to help you get that dissertation underway and completed within plenty of time.
This may be too late for those of you with impending deadlines, but the sooner you start the better. You’ll be very surprised how quickly that deadline creeps up on you. Give yourself as much time as possible to plan out how your dissertation is going to be laid out, how many sections of writing are needed and how much time you need to set aside for research and/or experiments.
If you need surveys filled out or participants to take part in a focus group or experiment, the sooner you start this the better. It will be tricky to write the main bulk of the dissertation if you don’t have your results yet, so get these out of the way early on so you can get started on the writing.
Manage Your Time Realistically
You’ve had many years of school work (and a couple of University work) to have a good idea of, realistically, how quickly you work. If you know it takes you many hours of reading before you feel confident to even start that first paragraph, you’re going to need to set yourself that much time.
Don’t think you can magically bash out 1000 words in half an hour if you’ve never been able to do that before. The key to writing a dissertation is to be realistic with your writing abilities. The idea of spending so long on a piece of work might seem daunting, but if you know it’s going to take you over two weeks to do just the literature review, make sure you give yourself that time. With that dissertation deadline speeding towards you, now is not the time to find out how much you can write over a non-stop 24-hour period.
Use Your Resources
If you’ve never checked a book out of your University library before, now is the time to start. Get your research started early so you can make a list of everything you’ll need. You may require papers and books that you can’t get in your library, or that are very frequently checked out and difficult to get hold of. Ask your department if you need help sourcing anything specific; one of your tutors may have a copy they’d be willing to lend you, or that they could order to the department for you. Ask your supervisor about the best places to find useful resources, chances are they will have ideas you haven’t thought of.
Do Citations as You Go
Citation is probably the most frustrating aspect of dissertation writing. There are so many different systems and not every department uses the same one. You must painstakingly make sure that every capital letter, every comma, every initial and every number is formatted exactly according to how that particular citation system operates.
It’s tedious and mind-numbing, but it’s a crucial part of dissertation writing. Trust us, you’ll save yourself so much time and hassle if you do this as you go along. There is nothing worse than having to sift through 10,000 words and pick out each citation and then go back and find the reference for it. As you write, make a note of everything you cite, or even open a separate document and make your full references as you go. It may seem annoying at the time, but you’ll thank yourself later when you can simply copy and paste it over when you’ve finished writing.
Meet with Your Supervisor
Your supervisor is there to help guide you through the dissertation process. Make sure that you don’t only see them on the day you hand your dissertation in. If you have questions, drop them an email or arrange to meet with them to go through what you have. They may not be able to read any large chunks of writing or any first drafts, but their advice and guidance is invaluable, and you should use it to your full advantage.
Don’t Leave it Until the Last Minute
This is a very important, but often ignored, piece of advice. Dissertations may seem incredibly daunting, but you do not want to keep putting it off until you’ve only got a week left. You may have impressed yourself in the past by cracking out an essay the night before and getting a 2.1, but a dissertation is a different kind of beast. You won’t get the grade you’re capable of by rushing out a dissertation in a few days, compared to a carefully planned, re-worked version written over a few months.
So, we hope we’ve inspired you to get started with that dissertation (if you haven’t already); just keep going, and soon you’ll be able to post that selfie with you holding your completed dissertation in front of the submission box.