Hear from student Eleanor as she shares her dissertation advice
My name is Eleanor and I am a third-year student studying BSc (Hons) Sociology and Criminology.
My final year is flying by and I am currently writing and undertaking research for my dissertation, which has proven to be a challenging yet enjoyable experience.
I have grown academically and learnt a lot writing and managing my dissertation. Therefore, I want to share some top tips with you.
Whether you are a second-year student thinking about your dissertation or a third-year student like myself currently doing their project, I hope to offer you some advice based on my own experiences and remind you a dissertation doesn't have to be something to fear.
A dissertation allows you to fully distinguish your own interests and show what you are passionate about. You have so much freedom on where to take your dissertation which is what makes it so exciting and interesting.
1. Start early
It is never too early to start thinking about your dissertation.
If you already have a topic that really interests you, start researching and reading for it as soon as you can. This will allow you to delve into how your topic has already been researched and give you ideas on where you want to take your dissertation.
Read, read, and read a little bit more! Reading a range of sources is important and, after all, you'll be researching a topic you're genuinely interested in.
2. Plan your time
Drawing up a timetable and looking ahead at each week on my calendar has really helped me stick to the mini-deadlines I've set myself for my dissertation.
For example I made note of when I wanted to have my literature review completed, and when I wanted to have finished conducting my research. Having something visual in front of me helped me to stay on track, stay organised and find time to dedicate to my other assignments too.
Planning your time can control your anxieties about how much you have to write and ensures you can meet your final hand-in deadline.
3. Remember: little and often
Some days I found that I could write around 1000 words for my dissertation and other days I could only manage a couple of sentences. I have learnt is that this is more than okay.
Always be kind to yourself. Writing a dissertation is not an easy process. Just doing little bits of work every day is enough and this way you're still making progress. A dissertation is something you work on over a long period of time so it is important to take it slow; this isn't a race.
4. Use the support services available
For me, keeping in regular contact with my dissertation supervisor has helped me to track my progress and made getting advice on my questions or anything I struggled with so much easier.
Always make sure to book meetings with your supervisor so you can discuss how you are getting on and they can help guide you in the right direction, as well as listen to anything you may be struggling with beyond your academic studies. They are here to help you achieve the best grade possible. Tutors are experts in their field of research, and they want to help you succeed.
Make use of the University Library, too. I've found the website so helpful when looking for a variety of reliable academic sources, or when I needed to contact the library staff for referencing queries. There are even dissertation examples you can view online, so you can take inspiration from other outstanding projects across the University.
5. Take regular breaks and look after yourself
Writing your dissertation can be stressful and overwhelming, and while it is an important project, it is also important to put your mental health and your needs first.
I found that when it all got a bit too much, going for a walk along the seafront or going to buy my favourite snacks really helped me to unwind and forget about my stress for a little while.
These breaks were so worthwhile for me and meant I could return to my dissertation feeling refreshed and restored. We always need breaks and space to breathe, even in the midst of your dissertation and other assignment deadlines.
Speaking to the Health and Wellbeing Service helped me to learn new coping mechanisms and gave me a space to talk about my dissertation stresses and anxieties.
Always make use of this service if you need it. You are not alone, and you have so many people who want to support you in your studies.
6. Give it your very best shot and believe that is enough
I've told myself throughout my final year that every day I'm giving this my best shot, and that is all I can do.
Remind yourself that you are doing everything you possibly can and you should be proud of yourself for that.
Of course, grades are important and take up a lot of space and importance in our minds, but the journey you take during your studies with all of its ups and downs is what shapes who you are.
You are worthy, you are enough and you deserve to be happy no matter what the circumstance or the outcome or your dissertation may be.
Good luck, you’ve got this!