Published on October 22, 2013 | by Chloe Watson0
Top tips for dissertation success
As students enter their third year of university the word ‘dissertation’ fills them with dread; sleepless nights and energy drinks, social lives out of reach, tears, stress and finding a secondary home in the library all come with the territory.
The dissertation marks a change from student to scholar and is bound to be a stressful process.
So with a brand new batch of uni students about to embark on their dissertation journeys, we’ve spoken to a group of graduates to get their advice.
ALN have dug through it all, picked the best, and compiled our top ten dissertation tips and tricks written by students, for students.
1. Back it up!
Maxwell Tomlinson, 21, is a fashion photography graduate from LCF and knows the risks of not saving your work on more than one device all too well. “One-and-a-half weeks before my dissertation was due my laptop just showed a grey screen” he explained. “After taking it into the Apple Store they told me it would take longer than two weeks to recover my work.” Maxwell had to write his entire dissertation again in a week, without any of his previously conducted work. “My advice would be to get a hard drive. It would have saved my degree.” As much as buying a hard drive seems quite far down the list compared to getting all your reading done, it’s one of the best ways of cutting your chances of dissertation disaster.
2. Embrace your inner bookworm.
Richard Elliott, 21, is a Philosophy graduate from Heythrop College and reckons that reading builds the foundations of a good dissertation. “Read as much as possible, as often as possible. It really should be a year-long project if you want to do well,” he said. “If you’ve done enough reading, then writing it should be the easy part, don’t leave it too late. It’ll bite you in the arse.”
3. Become a Time (management) Lord.
Laura Hanafin, 21, is an English Language and Linguistics graduate from the University of Brighton and believes that making a timetable helped her get a good result. “I got up at 8:30 five days a week, was in the library for around eight hours and gave myself a lunch break,” she explains. “You only get out what you put in; I put in a lot of work and got a good grade. Those people I know who rushed and crammed didn’t do well.” Seems as though writing a dissertation requires you to be strict with yourself as well as your studies.
4. Remember to reference.
Zoe Stevens, 21, is a Child Psychology graduate from the University of Birmingham: “Keep a reference list all the way through,” she recommends. “Add to your bibliography all the time and if you take notes, write down the page number. Otherwise it’s a nightmare trying to reference something from three months before or organise it all at the end.”
5. Make the most of your mates.
Natasha Mann, 22, is a Fashion Imaging and promotion graduate from University of the Creative Arts and lived with two course mates in her third year of study. “Living with friends who were also writing dissertations was really hard,” she said. “Try not to compare yourself and don’t worry if they have more words than you.” Natasha also said that the combination of healthy competition and a support system really helped her. “The good thing is you can understand what each other are going through, as well as reading through each others work.”
6. Avoid cabin fever.
Laura Hanafin advises a change of scenery to keep you from going nuts while working for hours on end: “Go for one walk a day so you don’t get cabin fever at your desk in the library.” Natasha reckons you should find that specific place you work well in: “Find a place where you are comfortable to write endless amounts of notes in; mine was the British library.” You are bound to be writing, reading and stressing away for a large portion of your third year life, why not find that special place to do it in?
7. Get your beauty sleep.
This is a tip for general life as well as dissertations, but none of the graduates we spoke to thought that doing all-nighters and stocking up on the energy drinks was a good idea. “I wouldn’t stay up super late, but get up mega early,” said Natasha. “Have a good sleeping pattern to go along with your studying routine. Most of the work should be note-taking and reading, so you need a clear mind in order to not skip over things,” advises Richard. Some of our graduates did say they’d tried it, but quickly regretted it.
8. Lover your supervisor.
Lizzie Strupat, 22, is a fashion photography graduate from LCF, and thinks you should make the most of your tutors and take all the advice you can. “Go to all your tutorials even if you have nothing or aren’t pleased with your work, your tutors wont be angry they just want to help you,” she says. “But obviously if you turn up to your tutorials with rough drafts and ideas, then you will do a lot better.”
9. Don’t Panic! Break it down.
It’s obvious that when you’ve got a mountain of 10,000 words to face, doing it in sections will be the easy option, but all our students had different techniques. “I broke it down into eight sections, and then reconstructed it into one coherent argument,” says Richard. “I wrote a bit every day for a month,” says Lizzie. Natasha had a word target per week: “That way I could change my schedule around but still complete each section on time.”
10. One hundred per cent effort.
Katie Burden, 21, is an English Literature graduate from the University of Brighton, and is a strong believer that you get out what you put in. “To be frank, there are no short cuts or easy routes to writing a good dissertation, you just have to put time and effort in and get it done,” she said. “Being strict with yourself, is so important if you want to get a good grade, it’ll all be worth it in the end.”
Committing yourself to a dissertation is inevitably tough. Whilst your social life takes a back seat, this final push to get your degree becomes number one priority. After all, nothing worth having comes easy.