Your dissertation (or thesis) is the endgame of your university experience. Though some of you may go onto study a Masters’s Degree, for many, this is the swan song of your time at university.
In the grand scheme of things, your dissertation becomes your raison d’etre and is the culmination of everything you have learned throughout your degree and is a chance to show what you have learned.
Your dissertation can be on any subject you choose, provided it is relevant to your degree and can be as niche or broad a topic as you like.
Make a Plan
Working to a schedule isn’t that easy when you have an indeterminate amount of time in which to complete the dissertation. You will be given a deadline or hand-in date that you are required to meet, but you must put your best foot forward with how you write.
Once you have selected your topic, outline the structure of your thesis, and then begin to research the topic more thoroughly.
The more time you spend researching, the better it will be and the more everything will fall into place for you. From there, you can then begin to draft (see below) and tweak the work as you go.
Making a plan with regards to titles, content, research, bibliography, and references is essential and is perhaps the most important process in the entire writing process.
Intro Comes Last
It might sound an excerpt from a Christopher Nolan film to do the introduction last, but writing the introduction last is the best way forward.
Students tend to get stuck on their introduction, purely because they get bogged down in tiny details, they like to waffle and you often make promises regarding content that you may not be able to keep.
Your introduction is a chance to brace people for what is ahead and give an idea of the content, tone, and structure of what is to come, so it is best to have a finished (even if it is just a first draft) dissertation before you introduce it, that way you can introduce the work without leaving anything out.
Do As Many Drafts As You Need
Just because you finish it, doesn’t mean that it’s done!
In writing, it is always a good idea to have a first draft written first. This is usually a chance for you to get any ideas you may have down on paper and to get whatever is in your head onto the page.
With a first draft, you can give yourself an idea of what the structure will be like and how the ideas and arguments you are presenting will run into each other.
This means that in subsequent drafts, you can find more eloquent ways to present your arguments, change metaphors & similies and even find a way to segue into the next argument easily.
Distance is Key
It sounds weird to suggest, but honestly, distance from the work is essential for what you’re trying to do.
Distance from your work means that when you return, you are better equipped to pick apart your work and see what you like and what you dislike.
That doesn’t mean that you should be taking eight months between readings, but even a week or so can be a very good way of tackling the dissertation in a new and fresh way.
We all have good days and bad days and when we have bad days, it seems as though we can’t work anything out, complete sentences in the way we like, or that we end up just plain deleting everything we’ve done, but, in the words of Dinah Washington, “oh, what a difference a day makes”. Twenty-four hours can heal all wounds and is a great way to be able to improve on what you’ve done; give your mind a rest and give yourself some distance from what you’ve written, that way, you can really think about what you’re writing without the pressure of having to type it all out.
Look After Yourself
Your mental health is the most important thing in the world, far more than any dissertation you could ever write, so looking after yourself is essential.
Give yourself a break, keep yourself hydrated, eat plenty of healthy snacks (a few sneaky snacks can’t hurt either), and get to bed at a reasonable time.
Looking after yourself links back to our initial point about planning ahead; the more you plan, the easier it is to structure your work and to ensure that you make time for yourself, your partner, your family, or friends.
Writing long pieces of work can take its toll on you, especially if you’re writing about a quite heavy topic, so taking the time to do something that you enjoy or speaking to people who can keep you sane and grounded is a good way of being able to do that.
There is a tendency among university students to stay up into the early hours of the morning writing, researching, or frantically trying to finish work that should have been finished ages ago, but when it comes to your thesis, we recommend that you get to bed at a good time, give your body and you remind a rest and just separate from the work for a while, your work will benefit from a rested mind more than someone who stayed up into the early hours of the morning high on caffeine.
Make sure you plan for your dissertation and are prepared for what you need to do, make sure that you write your introduction last when you have a bit more of an idea of what the content of your thesis is, make sure you write as many drafts as you like until you are satisfied with the work you’ve done, give yourself a break from the work and re-evaluate where you’re at at the end and finally, remember to take care of yourself, make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated, get plenty of sleep and make sure that you are mentally okay, your health and wellbeing is more important than anything else.