I am currently well into the depths of my dissertation and, although I’m not finished, I thought I would share some tips with you that I have learnt along the way!
1. Plan, plan, plan! I chose my topic at the end of my second year and wrote out a plan to keep me on track. Allow plenty of time for researching and reading. Trust me, it takes longer than you think! Also allow plenty of time to actually sit down and write. There will be days in which you don’t get as much done due to coming across a hurdle which sets you back by an hour or so or just life in general, so giving yourself more time than necessary prevents any stress.
2. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. I have spoken to people who had already finished their dissertation by this time or people who squeezed theirs in a few weeks before. You know yourself and how you work. Stick with your plan and you’ll be fine!
3. Set achievable goals. At the start of each day I will write down what I want to achieve by the end of that day. What’s important here is to make these goals manageable. There is no point in saying you’ll write 2000 words for example if you know that you’ll have to do a lot of reading in between and previously you’ve only managed 500 words per day. Progress is progress and you’ll feel a greater sense of achievement when you can tick something off your list instead of finishing the day wishing you had done more but known that more wasn’t possible. In the same way, you may even complete your to-do list and more if you’re really on a roll!
4. Keep up a routine and let others know what your routine is so you don’t get disturbed! I start at the same time each day, have a break for lunch, break to walk my dog and finish at the same time each day. Take breaks when you need them!
5. Before you sit down make sure you have everything you need. I make myself a drink, get my notes and stationary ready and prepare snacks before I begin. There is nothing worse than having to go and get something when you’re in the flow of writing!
6. Maintain your hobbies! At the end of each day it’s good to finish with doing something you enjoy and that will take your mind off your work.
7. Similar to the last point, take time off. Plan out your week and know when you’re going to take a day off or spend a few hours doing something else. You’re working hard, look after yourself.
8. Ask for help if you need it. There is plenty of support available to you so use it! Whether that be your personal academic tutor, your dissertation tutor, your friends or someone from the library. Personally, I find expressing my thoughts and ideas to my family to be helpful!
9. Don’t underestimate how much you can get done in an hour. If sitting down and working at it all day isn’t your style, just set a couple of hours aside each day that are dedicated to chipping away at your dissertation.
10. Keep your motivation! You aren’t writing a dissertation for the sake of it! Think of the end goal. In a few short, and very quick, months you will be qualified and doing what you love! Remember why you are doing this!
I hope everything is going well and to plan for those currently writing their dissertation and I hope those of you who will be writing yours in the next couple of years can look back on these tips!