Ten Tips to Survive Your Dissertation
It’s the last hurdle, the final big piece of work to reach your degree and call yourself a researcher BUT right now the final document feels so many words away from ever being complete and all you want to do is watch Elf or go to the German Market. I (Sophie, Youth Projects Officer at Southampton Hub) know the feeling! However, two dissertations and 35,000 words later, I SURVIVED! And with these top tips, I know you will too.
1. Set your goals early
Prepare your deadlines in advance so you have plenty of time to get feedback and rewrite drafts. Make sure these are flexible because some things may take longer than others and you never know when you’re going to need a week for some self- care.
2. It’s okay to change your topic
You may think something is a really good idea until you realise there are many ethical considerations, it’s too ambitious or there isn’t enough research out there to study it. Thats okay, change it! You are on your own research journey, don’t compare yourself to those around you.
3. Reward yourself
This is a massive project and you don’t have to wait until the end to congratulate yourself. When you finish a section or overcome a challenge, be sure to reward yourself with good food, time with friends, a short Netflix binge or even a new purchase.
4. Progress isn’t only in your word count
There will be some days when you add 2,000 words to your count and there will be days when you write 0. Michael, Projects Officer at Cambridge Hub, says: ‘If you hit a block it’s always better to write/plan/doodle through it than try and sit until you have the perfect answer’. Remember; a big page of scribbles is still progress and you can come back to it another time with a fresh mind.
If you have enough self-control to be able to eat one sweet after every hundred words, I salute you. If you do not, make sure you’re prepared with lots of snacks for your study session. By this I do not mean copious amounts of sweets and chocolate, try and keep it healthy! I swore by carrots and humous or apple and peanut butter, although nuts, berries and seeds work well too!
6. Set yourself working hours
If you’re like me, you need a deadline to be motivated to get things done properly. Unfortunately that usually leads to all nighters, coffee addictions and exhausted minds, so give yourself strict cut-off times. Try setting yourself a 9–5 working day (or 10–4 as you’re students) to get your tasks done. This should allow you to make constant progress and will definitely prepare you for the working world. Make sure you also give yourself a proper lunch break in there too to get some fresh air, go for a walk and eat a proper meal. Be strict with this and make sure you use the rest of your time for yourself; to socialise, exercise or chill.
7. Make it a priority
Just because your contact hours have gone down, it doesn’t mean the time you spend on your dissertation should too. Make it a priority and keep using those hours to study, especially while you’re used to it!
8. Remember why you chose your study
Hopefully you’ve chosen to research something you’re passionate about, but sometimes it can be easy to forget why you’re doing this. Try doing these things to boost your motivation:
- Go back to your research proposal and see how far you’ve already come from one small, ambitious idea;
- Look through your notes. You may see information from old literature in a new light or come across a quote or fact that inspired you in the first place;
- Keep reading literature or current research. Depending what your topic is, a lot can change in a year, so keep up to date with current theories and how the field is changing. It is only positive to come across a new point of view or extra evidence.
9. Give yourself enough time to proofread
If your assignment is due on 20th May, do not leave it until May 19th to proofread. Aim to have your final draft done at least a week before submission so you have time to properly proofread and get the final copy printed and bound, as this usually takes a couple of days (especially if it’s close to the deadline and EVERY final year on campus is trying to print their dissertation).
10. Be BOLD and be PROUD
This is your work and it represents you. This assignment is made up of at least three years of academic study, thousands of pounds and hours of checking your references, so be bold and be proud of it! You have come so far!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload, check out our blog on stress and wellbeing from May 2018.
Please note: We are not experts on this topic, so if you want some more advice about how to deal with stress, we would recommend you looking at guidance from the NHS, Student Minds, MIND and Enabling Services at the University of Southampton.
For further thoughts on Mental Health from Southampton Hub, check out our last blog: In Southampton, We Will.