I apologise if this blog post causes anyone to feel a little nervous at the word ‘dissertation’. It's weeks until my dissertation is due. This scares me and I never thought this time would come. In first year my dissertation seemed so distant, so far away in the future, but now my year of writing one is rapidly coming to an end.
Honestly, it hasn’t been as terrible as I imagined. Don’t get me wrong, writing the dissertation is stressful and the pressure of it sometimes can make me feel ill. However actually writing it has been fun, and the more of my dissertation that I write, the more proud of it I am becoming. I thought I would share some tips for when it comes to writing the dissertation in your last year at university. I am writing a creative dissertation, which is of course different to dissertations that are written on other, non-creative, courses. However, hopefully some of these tips will still be helpful. Go get yourself some tea or coffee and let’s think about how to make the dissertation something we will be proud of.
Before you start
Choose something you love.
I know that this might seem obvious, but when you are working on something you genuinely love and are passionate about, it won’t always feel like work when you are doing it, for instance, for my dissertation I am writing a screenplay for a horror film. Since I started university back as a first year I knew that this is what I would write for my dissertation. I have a huge love for horror films and a desire to gain as much knowledge about them as possible, which is why, for me, writing the script has been fun and I plan to use my script in the future. If you don’t already know what it is you want to write about, make a list, think about modules on your course that you enjoyed the most, look at your book shelves for inspiration, think about what it is you love to read, or write about, the most.
When you begin
Start early, write often
Of course, everyone works differently. However, whether you are someone who needs to plan out all your work first, whether you just like to sit down and write whatever comes into your head, or whether you have a lot of research and reading to do before you can begin to write anything, go for it! But do it early, you will thank yourself later if you start work on your dissertation early and work on it regularly. Leaving it to the last minute will only cause stress and panic and the quality of your work will probably not be as good as it could have been. Working on your dissertation right from the beginning of the year and writing as often as possible means you can then have more productive and helpful tutorials with your supervisor throughout the year and you will be able to gather as much feedback as possible over time. At the beginning of my third year, my lecturers advised that we set aside at least one day a week to work on the dissertation. Of course, do whatever works best for you and do whatever it is that makes you the most productive. However, for a piece of work as huge and important as the dissertation I recommend you write ‘little and often’ to avoid last minute panic and stress. Also, seeing your work come to life like this gives you a lot of motivation, the more of my script that I wrote up the more I felt motivated to make it better.
Throughout the year and near the end
Re-writing is the most important part
If most of your dissertation has been written up as early as possible, then you can spend the last few months of your time at university rewriting drafts, editing and making it perfect. This is a much less stressful way to spend the last few months of university than if you know deep down you still have most of your dissertation to write up. I know this is similar to my other points about working on it early and not leaving it to the last minute, however it is true that the more time you have to edit and re-write, the better it will be. This is especially true if you are a creative student like me, as when it comes to being creative you might agree that editing is the most important part.