Top Tips for Dissertation Writing

As a final year student currently writing my dissertation, I know first-hand the range of emotions that students often face whilst completing the typical 8,000-word essay.  From enjoyment to stress and confusion to worry, the wave of emotions experienced are completely normal, however there are many ways to keep these at bay.  Here are my top tips for dissertation writing;

  1. Create a critical path

Planning ahead is key to staying on top of deadlines as you may well be aware of as you near the end of your studies.  With many elements needed to go into the dissertation, it is crucial to plan each stage not only to relieve yourself of stress and worry but also to ensure that you stay on top of the work, rather than leaving yourself under additional pressure as the deadline creeps up.  From researching, to writing literature reviews and supervisor meetings to printing the final project, everything should be planned and considered.

  1. Research to your hearts content

The typical dissertation is meant to show 300 hours’ worth of independent study from final year students surrounding a topic that either relates to their degree or sparks an interest.  First and foremost, students will be required to compile a proposal that outlines a title for the study, aim and objectives and reason behind the study, all of which will aim to address and fill a gap within previous research.  When deciding on a topic, think of what interests you and start to collate a folder full of research.  Continue to build upon this research and read books, magazines, newspapers and watch documentaries and films whilst making notes that will highlight research from numerous sources.  Continue to research throughout the time-frame given for your dissertation and you’ll soon find that writing the 8,000 words does not seem as daunting.

  1. Plan primary research in advance

Primary research is a crucial aspect of the dissertation as it shows that you are able to gather information and compare this to previous literature and secondary research, however, if not carried out in advance or at least planned in advance, it can cause issues further down the line.  For example, if you are looking to publish a questionnaire for the public to complete, you will find you can gather more results when this is published months in advance as opposed to only publishing it a month before you need the results.  The more primary data you are able to correct, the more accurate you will find it to be.

  1. Take advantage of supervisor meetings

Throughout the dissertation process you will be allocated a supervisor that will offer support and guidance to the best of their ability.  From my own experience, over five months you will have access to six thirty minute meetings and endless support via email (this may differ depending on the university/project) and I would highly recommend that you take advantage of these.  Whilst the supervisor cannot read and make detailed comments on all aspects of your work, they are there to guide you through the process and challenge you to complete the work to the best of your ability.

  1. Pick a subject that you enjoy

Having to write an 8,000 words dissertation can be challenging enough on its own, but imagine having to write that amount on a topic you do not enjoy.  Sounds awful, right?  If you have freedom with the topic, I would highly recommend that you surround your work on something that interests you or something you enjoy researching and reading about.  Not only will this make the process more durable, but it will also make it fun, exciting and stimulating as you will constantly be learning more about something you actually want to learn about.

The dissertation process can seem daunting, however if you follow our top tips you will feel more at ease throughout and find enjoyment in something that you perhaps did not imagine you would.

If you seek more guidance and advice the following books are highly recommended;

Doing Your Research Project; A Guide for First Time Researchers – Judith Bell

The Undergraduate Research Handbook – Gina Wisker

Your Research Project; Designing and Planning Your Work – Nicholas Walliman

Written by Rebekah Litherland


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