How to survive your dissertation

Holly Smith·7 April 2017·5 min read
How to survive your dissertation

So, here it is, the culmination of your university career: The Dissertation.

If you are experiencing feelings of panic, worry, or nausea – fear not, this is normal and you are not alone. Take five from the incessant stressing and read these tips to help you survive your dissertation:

Set goals

Set yourself manageable deadlines, a dissertation is a massively self-motivated project so having realistic goals is a way of ensuring you keep things moving.

Look at something each day

Set aside even an hour a day or just a few hours a week to review your dissertation. This breaks it down into manageable chunks as after all, this is probably the one time you can’t cram the night before.


As soon as you get any sort of idea, write it down. It doesn’t matter if it makes less sense than the plot of Inception. Remember, you can always edit later and Inception won loads of awards anyway.

Get to know your supervisor

Listen carefully to what they say, they have your best interests at heart after all. So as painful as it might be to cut that paragraph you spent hours slaving over, just do it. By the same token, if it isn’t working out with your supervisor don’t be afraid to change tutors.

Get some exercise

Although hitting the gym might be the last thing on your mind after a heavy study session, getting active can help you sleep better and by encouraging blood flow to the brain, even help you think better. It will also help combat the inevitable damage you’re doing to your spine by sitting hunched over like Quasimodo all day.

Designate a study space

Research suggests that separating your work and living space is essential for ensuring mental wellbeing, so try and find a designated space you can do your work in away from where you relax. Changing your study spot regularly is also a great idea and will prevent you from being fully absorbed into the walls of the library à la Boot Strap Bill in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Peer Review

As mortifying as letting someone on your course read your work may seem, it can be really useful. Although you won’t be covering the same topic, course mates can give you an unbiased appraisal and help with basic things like structuring. You and your peers can also take it in turns to hold each other while you cry from stress.

Don’t compare workloads

As useful as peer review is, do not compare how much work you’re doing to everyone else. You will end up paranoid and will probably end a few friendships in the process. Similarly, if you are ahead of everyone else, do the decent thing and pretend not to be.


Obviously, in moderation, but procrastinating is sometimes necessary. Don’t punish yourself for slacking off every now and then, it’s only to be expected. For example, it’s perfectly fine to write a well-meaning article instead of your dissertation even though you haven’t written the introduction yet, it’s all totally fine…

Keep hydrated

You should be aiming to drink around 2L of water a day and keeping a water bottle on your desk is an easy way of doing this. This will not only keep your brain at the top of its game, but your skin will be absolutely flawless  – so if you fail the dissertation, you can always fall back on a career in modelling.

Have faith

You will have an absolute panic that you are doing the wrong topic and convince yourself it would be a good idea to just start from scratch. Do not do this. Stick with your gut feeling and accept the fact that whatever your chosen topic, you’re going to absolutely hate it by the end. Just think how great it will feel when you finally see the back of it and everything is finished.

There you have it!

Now, get back to work.