The moment I had been both dreaming about and dreading finally arrived – my dissertation was finally due. Staring at the beautifully bound pages of blood, sweat and tears, I felt the wave of pride that makes it all worth the effort. Writing a dissertation, particularly as an international student whose first language is not English, is a very daunting experience. It is however completely possible, and even enjoyable (unbelievable – I know!). Here are five ways you can get through yours when the time comes:
Use all the help you can get
Before I decided to do a dissertation (yes, I chose to do it), I came across people complaining it was a lonely experience compared to other modules. It doesn’t have to be. Tell all your friends about it. Even if they have no clue what you are talking about, they can be your sounding board for ideas and offer emotional support and encouragement when you need it. If you are lucky, they might even proof-read! Secondly, keep in close contact with your supervisor – they are there to support and guide you in all aspects of your work. Finally, the University offers proof-reading services. If you speak to the Helpzone, they can point you to the right direction.
Choose a topic you actually like
As long as it has something to do with your course of course – whilst I would have happily written about cake, I probably didn’t have that much freedom. If you don’t know what you like yet, don’t panic. I had no idea what I wanted to do for weeks after lots of people had long decided. Take this that time to discover it – Google ideas, read around your subject and discuss it with your tutors. When you least expect it, the perfect idea will hit you.
Start as soon as possible
I was trying to avoid clichés here but unlike an essay which you can probably write in a week (not endorsing this by the way), you can’t do that with a dissertation. Not just because it is a large piece of work that will take ages to write, but because a good dissertation gets finer with time. You will find that your standard of work at the end will be far superior to when you first started. If you only give yourself a week, you can’t get that benefit. Plus, you can have all the relaxing time you want and need if you’re not struggling to finish.
Read like you’ve never read before
When I finally finished my dissertation, I could not believe the amount of references on there! I took the opportunity to tell all my friends I had read over 100 books and journals (probably didn’t). It is fairly obvious that you’ll have to read a lot for your dissertation. Start early, in small doses if need be, and read throughout your dissertation. It won’t only form the basis of your work but it will open your mind to new ideas and ways of writing you didn’t know before.
5. Know when to stop
When you are approaching deadline day, this is probably the most difficult part. Hopefully, you’ll have completed all your work by then. But there’s always something more you can do, right? Not so much in this case. It’s easy to keep adding on and changing things until you feel completely overwhelmed. Reach a point where you know you’ve done your best then print it, bind it and let it go.
The internet is crawling with tips on writing a successful dissertation – some helpful, others not so much. The most important thing to remember is that you can do it and it’ll be worth it!