University Guest Post: Dissertation Hints & Tips

I’ve done it before, but now I’m hoping to do it more regularly – introducing guest posts here on ninegrandstudent! I set up this blog to help out students and, whilst it’s no longer it’s only focus (it’s pretty much my diary!), I still like to think of it as helpful. Yet my experience of university isn’t going to be like anyone else’s, and with that in mind I want to add a bit of variety. Guest posts are perfect for that, and this one is great. I’m lucky enough in that my degree doesn’t require a dissertation (school friends only need to remember ‘EPQ’ and they will understand why I don’t wish to do one!), but many students do need to do one. I wouldn’t know where to begin in advising students on how to approach one, so when Josie from Confessions of a Postgrad offered her guest post, well, I couldn’t say no!

 photo Dissertation Tips1_zpsfst0dvmu.jpg photo Dissertation Tips10_zpsdjgtumpa.jpgAh, the dissertation, that terrifying culmination of your university studies which is hovering over your summer threatening upcoming stress and many sleepless nights of typing. If you are due to write your dissertation this year, don’t fret! It is honestly not as bad as you think, and you will end up being very proud of it. As I embark on my second dissertation for my Masters, here are my tips for making the experience as pain-free as possible:

1. Just start. I know, the thought of producing your longest and most important piece of work yet is seriously daunting. So much so, that you can stress yourself out wondering where to even start. The best thing you can do is not worry about starting in the right place, or with the right information, but to just not overthink it and just start. Pick up any book relevant to the topic and start making notes.

2. Start early. Expanding on the above, you will be doing yourself a huge favour if you start your research nice and early. Trust me, this will reduce the pressure later on when you have other assignments to complete as well. Why not use the free time you have this summer to start compiling a reading list? Once you have found one book, a good place to look for further reading is in its bibliography.

 photo Dissertation Tips9_zpsvoogyxkv.jpg photo Dissertation Tips6_zpsmq3lz0ng.jpg3. Note down references as you go. As you read and research, note down book titles and page numbers in the margins of your notes. This is just 100% worth the effort – it will make your life so much easier when it comes to typing up and referencing what you have read!

4. Break it up. Probably one of the worst things you can do is to think of your dissertation as a whole – this is far too overwhelming and daunting. Instead, split it up into manageable chunks. I decided on chapters for my dissertation and then treated each one as a mini essay on its own – this is much easier to tackle!

5. Figure out when you are most productive, and use this time wisely! Personally I am very much a morning person, so I would get up early and work on my dissertation all morning and afternoon until about 3 o’clock – then I could relax for the evening knowing I had achieved what I wanted during the day. Other people however, prefer to work at night. Figuring out when you work best will save you a lot of wasted time and feelings of unproductivity getting you down.

6. Last but not least, take time out! I know it’s obvious, but it can be tempting to work yourself to the bone just to get in finished quickly. It is so important to take time away from your work, not just for your own sanity, but for the quality of your project as well. And if you have started early enough, you can take the time to relax without feeling the pressure!
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I hope these tips offer some help or inspiration! Do any of you other dissertation veterans have some tips to add?