Surviving the Dissertation: Tips from Someone Who Knows Your Pain

Elizabeth Whittingham·18 March 2018·6 min read
Surviving the Dissertation: Tips from Someone Who Knows Your Pain
1. Treat each chapter like an individual essay.

I know that the idea of writing a dissertation seems extremely daunting due to the sheer size of it all, but by treating each chapter like an individual essay, the whole length doesn’t seem too daunting anymore!

Take a certain amount of time where you only dedicate yourself to one chapter. A three thousand word essay seems far less intimidating than a 12,000 word one! Plus, it will be a great feeling when you compile all your chapters together and watch your dissertation get birthed before your eyes!

2. Keep in constant contact with your supervisor.

Make the most of your contact with your supervisor and ask for feedback as often as you like, detailed feedback can be the best way to see where you are with your work, it can also be reassuring to know that you are on the right track!

Drop them emails, organise meetings and just get everything out of them that you can. It’s always important to get your money’s worth at university to make sure that your supervisor is doing their upmost to support you and your work.

3. Try not to ask friends how much work they have done.

It is far too easy to get yourself stressed after asking your friends and fellow students how much work they have done. The best way to combat this, is to simply not ask at all! Unless you would like some tips and advice off them, don’t ask them how many words they have done or how many sources they have in their bibliography, you will end up comparing your work to theirs and that is never good!

4.  Be aware that a lot of work will not make it into your dissertation- and that’s okay!

It can be quite disheartening when all the work that you have put into your dissertation doesn’t really seem to translate onto the page.
Suddenly all the time and effort that you spent heading to the archives appears simply in the form of a few lines or a reference in the bibliography.

Try not to let this bother you, all your hard work will eventually translate onto the page, your marker clearly knows you have done your research in order to write an essay as big as a dissertation! The key to writing your dissertation is confidence. If you have done all the research you could possibly have done, travelled the country for primary sources and even interviewed countless people, this will be clearly shown in your work and will be recognised by the marker.

5. Learn how to say no.

It can be tricky when you are writing your dissertation for non-students, such as your family, to not really understand just how much work is involved in the whole process.

It can be hard sometimes to simply turn around to people and say, ‘Go away, I’m writing’, but sometimes it’s needed.

Keep in mind that it is completely fine to say no to occasions and nights out in order to focus on your work. It is only a short amount of time, so go for it while you can.

6. Take time off when you need it!

In light of tip number five, you do need to recognise that you cannot be working every single moment of the day. Take regular breaks and think of fun and interesting ways to fill them, get a good amount of exercise and eat well to keep yourself feeling good whilst writing. As, always, remember to drink plenty of water.

7. Accept the stressful days- and work to combat them.

Your dissertation spans the whole length of your final year. That’s one whole year of thinking and almost obsessing over one piece of work. There are going to be days when the stress does become rather hard to handle, there can also be days when you feel that you are simply not getting anywhere; the important thing to remember in all of this is that those days will pass.

You will get a dissertation handed in on time and all will be well. It’s just a little hard to recognise that when you have only wrote one paragraph and you’ve been in the library all day…

8. Celebrate your accomplishments!

It is so important to celebrate your achievements, as each chapter completion can feel like a step closer to finishing the whole dissertation!

It’s really important to take an evening off after getting a big chunk of work done, maybe heading out for drinks or cooking a nice meal. If all you really want to do is watch TV, the give into it and relax.

Rewarding your achievements will mean that you will wake up ready to get working again.

9. Remember that it is your dissertation.

Although there may be many people trying to give you advice and to voice their own opinions on your argument, you need to remember that this is your dissertation.

Listen to advice and take it all in, but recognise that you only have the take the advice that you agree with and that you know will further your argument, such as the advice of your supervisor. Sure, your argument might not sound the best to some people, but it’s your thesis, and if you can argue it, go for it.

10. Be proud of it.

The most important thing to remember for your dissertation is to be proud of it. When you give your work in, you will experience the biggest feeling of self accomplishment there is, and this is something which needs to be celebrated.

So, know that you have tried your best and be proud of your work.