For most undergraduate students, writing a dissertation is the largest and most important task you will face at university. It is the culmination of all the work you have done throughout your degree and a chance to research something you are genuinely passionate about. However, this can bring with it vast amounts of pressure and worry.
To be successful in any dissertation, extended project or report, you must learn to break down the enormous task in front of you into manageable chunks. While it may feel daunting at first, you will get through it with the right process and attitude. By learning to take it step-by-step, you will focus on each section, and not let yourself be overwhelmed by the blank page and huge word count to fill.
Every subject has different parameters for its final projects and dissertations, so make sure you speak to your lecturers and tutors, as well as reading all the right guidance material before you start working.
As we begin this new year, many final year students will be taking on their dissertations.
Have a read below of our top tips:
Read example dissertations.
A great way to begin such a large project is by reading examples of other people’s work. This will help show you what kind of subjects work in this format, how much room you have to explain and expand and advise you on the type of structure you could use. Most university libraries have archives of dissertations and PhD thesis’ that you can access and read. These do not necessarily have to be directly related to your field of study, but instead, they can act as an inspiration.
Let it change over time.
It can be tempting to develop an excellent idea for a project and then feel like everything you research or read has to be related to this idea. However, by doing this, you are limiting your dissertation’s scope and limiting the potential avenues it could take. When you begin the process, know that it will change as time goes on. Even if it looks completely different by the end, all the work you have done along the way will have helped to form it.
Set small targets.
A word count of 5,000 or 10,000 words is far too overwhelming to try and tackle in one go. Break it down into sections and plan each one separately. Reward yourself after reaching each small target. For example, you could write in 200 words bursts, allowing yourself to take a short break after each one.
Get any words out that you can.
Many students feel massively pressured by the blank page and struggle to begin writing. It’s important to know that what you write initially might not end up in the final product; it’s just a first draft. Get as many ideas down on the page as you can, no matter how big or small; afterwards, you can go back and form them into more rigid paragraphs.
Look after your wellbeing.
Taking on such a task as a dissertation can cause lots of stress and anxiety for students. It’s essential that you are taking time to rest and relax even when you are working hard. Taking some time off from the project to see friends or practice a hobby will help you focus better when you return. Exercise is well regarded as good stress relief, and it can be a great way to wind down at the end of a long day, especially if you have been sitting at your computer.