My Top 10 Dissertation Tips
Hello everyone! Now I’ve had the experience of writing my own dissertation and I’m getting closer to the end of my degree, I thought I’d give any future dissertation writers my most important pieces of advice to make the process easier!
1. Start your research early and stick to deadlines
The sooner you start your research, the easier it will be to progress and the quicker you will be able to start writing your dissertation. It is tempting to put your dissertation on hold while the hand-in is so far away but you will be glad you did your research early when you come to write it. Give yourself goals and deadlines and stick to them, if you leave your dissertation research alone for too long, you can become out of practice and forget parts of your argument so keep working little and often.
2. Use your dissertation supervisor
Your dissertation supervisor will be one of the most important resources throughout the research and writing process so make sure you utilise them. Go to any advised meetings, submit sections and take in what feedback you get as your supervisor will often be marking your dissertation and you can get an idea of what they will be looking for. Also, don’t be afraid to ask any other tutors that may be useful to you for their advice as they can often give a new perspective and offer some diverse readings.
3. Check exactly what format and contents are required
Depending on your degree, the format and contents of your dissertation will differ so be sure to read the exact requirements on your departmental webpage as it can take time to add in new sections and format them in the correct way. Check whether you need to include a literature review, an abstract, a list of illustrations or an appendix and make sure to include a title page, table of contents, page numbers and your bibliography before checking your references are in the right format.
4. Write the main body of your dissertation first
It is near impossible to write the introduction or conclusion of your thesis when you haven’t written your main argument yet so get the main body written before anything else. Your argument will most likely change and develop as you write too so your introduction and conclusion should be written at the end, when your argument is clear and you know what your outcomes are.
5. Keep it simple and to the point
It is easy to get carried away with fancy and technical jargon as you write and to make the structure complicated to demonstrate your flair, but that will probably do you harm in the long run. Your dissertation will be 8,000 to 10,000 words in length and you don’t want to make it difficult to read so it is best to do away with any unnecessary wording and to simplify your writing style. Your reader would rather have your writing simple and succinct rather than complex and confusing.
6. Make sure your argument is clear and coherent throughout
Again, it is easy to think that having a complex argument will strengthen your dissertation but it is better to have a clear and coherent argument throughout, with obvious strands of logic within your sections. Don’t overcomplicate your ideas and make sure you always write with your topic in mind, answering your research questions as you go along.
7. Stay positive!
There will be times that you will question your topic and wonder whether it is going to come together and you will doubt your research and work, but it will all work out in the end and you just have to keep going. Everyone will have a breakdown during the research and writing process so you are not alone! Give yourself plenty of rest and make sure you are drinking lots of water and eating well.
8. Be brutal when editing as a lot of your research won’t be a part of the finished work
When you are doing your research, it seems like all of the information you read is important, useful and valuable, but you will soon find that you can’t include everything in your dissertation. To keep to the word count and keep your writing concise, you have to be very brutal in your editing and be prepared to cut whole paragraphs of words that aren’t pertinent to your argument.
9. Proof-read, proof-read, and proof-read again
Don’t simply proof-read once when you have finally finished writing your dissertation, you will often be editing as you go along so you will be making small changes all the time. Keep checking that your spelling, punctuation, grammar and referencing are consistent and correct throughout and make sure your syntax and structure flow well. Don’t stop proof-reading until you are absolutely sure that you are happy with it and get a friend or peer to read through it to make sure it makes sense too.
10. Make sure you will have the time (and the money) to print and bind your dissertation
After all the stress and toil of writing your dissertation, the next step is to finally get it printed and bound - give yourself enough time to do this as many institutions will not accept printing or binding issues as an excuse for a late hand-in. Keep multiple copies of your finished dissertation just in case, as computer failures will also not be accepted as an excuse for late submission. The last thing you want to do is rush through this process as you have not left yourself enough time to do it comfortably.
Thanks for reading!