When you start university, life is more often than not a whirlwind of parties, socials, and excitement. You’re in a brand new place, surrounded by brand new people – what’s not to love!? Well, fast forward three years, and it feels like you pay the ultimate price: the dissertation. It can quickly become the scariest concept known to the degree-educated person – all those words, all that weighting! What if I completely screw up the whole thing?
The vital thing to remember is that everyone feels the same way, and your university tutors have seen it time and time again. Each year they get a brand new flock of students with exactly the same woes as those that preceded them – it’s inevitable. The best way to tackle these concerns is to battle them head on. Talk to your tutors, talk to your peers. Write down your worries onto a piece of paper and push it to the nearest person, yell into the abyss, do anything that’ll enable you to get these worries off your chest. Even if no one sees them, it’s always better out than in.
The most important thing to do when you formulate an idea for a dissertation is to focus on what it is that you desperately enjoy. And I truly do mean ‘desperately’. If you don’t care for your subject matter, then you are going to feel a dread like no other when you have to create a research plan and execute it in several thousands of words. I’ve encountered many people who have had a genuine passion for their dissertation topic, and it’s reflected well when they’ve received their shining first and 2.1 grades.
One thing I didn’t expect from my dissertation was to enjoy it so much. I love writing, clearly, but my research topic has burgeoned this passion in a way that I didn’t know was possible. Honestly, I didn’t think I had it in me to create a brand new idea for a 7,000 word short story, but here I am doing it. It’s made me realise that I don’t want my life of studying, researching and writing to end at BA (Hons) level – I want to take it further. Because of my dissertation, I’ve been perusing masters programmes and thinking about my next steps in a whole new light. I’ll certainly take some time out before I advance, but advancing is definitely an option I’m considering.
If I can give you any advice from writing my own dissertation it’s this; talk to people, and plan your time wisely. Time is a precious thing during third year, so it’s essential you’ve got all of it allotted to the right things at the right points. It’s ridiculously easy to lose your thread in what will be the most academically intense year of your life, so make life easier for yourself and buy a planner!