By Dr. Sue Reeves, Principal Lecturer in our School of Life and Health Sciences
It’s that time of year again, so here are a few tips that I thought might be useful for students who are currently completing their dissertations.
1. Ask yourself, when did you last see your dissertation supervisor?
The first and probably most important question that needs to be asked, is “When did you last see your dissertation supervisor?” If it’s been a few weeks (or longer) then before you go any further why not send them a quick email and see if you can arrange a face to face or zoom tutorial? Your supervisor is there to guide you and make sure you are on the right track, so check in with them regularly.
2. Get something written down
Often the hardest thing is getting started and looking at an empty screen can be quite off-putting. So write something, write anything! You can go back to it, add content, edit or even delete it later, but just getting something on the screen will feel like progress. Listing key words or paragraph headings can also help you remember what you need to include and then you can start to expand on each point. If you cannot think of anything else to write, then write your acknowledgements page. Thanking all the people who have helped you along the way can be quite motivating.
3. Set small targets
Set yourself targets. Not complete a chapter, but smaller more achievable targets. For example, in the methods chapter “I will write the section on participant recruitment” or “the paragraph that describes the statistical analysis”. Ticking off your aims as you complete them will also give you a sense of achievement.
4. Don’t leave the difficult bits to the last minute
Leave plenty of time to ask the people who can help you. If you are struggling to find journal articles you could ask one of the librarians, or if you are worried about your data analysis your supervisor or one of our academic achievement advisors would be more than happy to help.
A reference manager package can be really useful for inserting citations and compiling the list at the end. If you are going to do your reference list by hand then make sure you keep it up to date as you go along. Another short cut you may not be aware of, is the compiling of the contents list. You don’t need to write this by hand, Word can insert a table of contents for you, simply click on the ? in the top of your computer screen for instructions.
5. Look after yourself
Take care of yourself, eat well and stay hydrated. Ensure you take regular breaks such as going for a walk in the fresh air and meeting with friends.
6. Schedule in time every day to get a little more done
Try to put aside 15 minutes each day to work on your dissertation. Commit to it by putting it in your calendar. Sometimes you will be able to do much more than that, but actually sitting down to work for 15 mins and doing a little bit each day is a good place to start.
Writing your dissertation can feel overwhelming, but it’s also an exciting opportunity for you to lead your own research, create knowledge, and explore a topic you’re passionate about. Once you get to the end, you’ll be really proud of yourself and what you’ve achieved.
If you’re looking for some support in completing your dissertation, remember you can:
– Speak to your dissertation supervisor, or Academic Guidance Tutor
– Visit the Support tab on the Student Portal to access a range of support services, including study support via our Academic Achievement Team and Studiosity, and wellbeing support.
“Little by little, a little becomes a lot” (Anon.)