Feeling the dissertation panic? Fear not - student editor Danielle has the ultimate survival (and success!) guide
It’s the time we knew was coming from as far back as when we were wide-eyed freshers, with money in our pockets, an unstained uniform that actually fitted and dreams of academic success.
In second year we heard that fabled word, a faint whisper in the library as we planned our electives - but we didn’t worry for it wasn’t upon us yet.
Now it’s third year, you may even have a job lined up ready for when you qualify, and feel happy on placement. You know what you’re doing! “Let me at those patients”, you think as you plan a hedonistic holiday ready to splash that first paycheck.
Only one thing standing in your way: dissertation.
Synonymous with tears, coffee, more tears and typing 8,000 words.
I don’t even know 8,000 words.
If your university is anything like mine, your cohort will be split into two camps:
1) Those already deep in the throes of their dissertation. Buried in books, journal articles and endless printed pages, with a laminated mock-up of their first class degree carefully blu-tacked to their student-digs mould infested walls. They live and breathe dissertation.
2) Those writing and rewriting the word ’Dissertation’ in a variety of fonts. Yes, we know you can’t use WingDings or Comic Sans but it’s so jolly, and maybe if the title looks nice it will distract from the fact there is no writing underneath. They wonder if a fiver taped to each blank page will cause some distant marker to have mercy, and a free lunch. But that plan is thwarted - you submit electronically.
There is no middle ground. There is no escaping this.
So I have, in my kind hearted wisdom, devised some top-tips to help master The Dissertation.
1. Your supervisor is your best friend. Email them often, make use of supervision sessions. Pick their academic brains! Your dissertation can be a partnership, bounce ideas, ask for feedback, let them know how you’re doing - especially if you have no idea what you’re doing.
2. Timeline. Set one with your supervisior: methodology done by this date, conclusion by then. Leave yourself a few weeks for editing, proofreading and cross-referencing. I love cracking out an assignment the night before but this isn’t going to work this time.
3. Timetable. Plan every moment of your life from waking to sleeping. Carve out two hourly blocks dedicated to: assignments, personal life, lectures, seminars, netflix, library etc and dissertation. Stick to it, and be firm with yourself. No netflix during your dissertation hours.
4. Silence. Eliminate all distractions whilst you are working away at your masterpiece. Try and find a quiet space. If you feel restless take a short break and then get back to the grind.
5. Nutrition and hydration. Try to eat well, although when you are tired and focused on acing this it’s tempting to grab cereal or crisps and whatever sugar filled snacks will keep you going. We know good nutrition equals good brain functioning. Plan and prep meals in advance so they can be heated up as and when you need them, or timetable an hour or so away from the books for cooking in the evening if you enjoy making your meals each day.
6. Procrastination will only lead to less time. Less time means more stress. More stress means reduced productivity. Facebook doesn’t care about your future - remember that as you are scrolling through videos of cats doing human things.
7. Do fun things too. All work and no play will add to your stress levels.
8. Referencing. Know what style you’re doing. Keep a separate page of all sources, literature and articles etc. There is nothing worse than having a piece of information in front of you and having no idea where you got it from.
9. Think “this is not forever” because it’s not. Unless you choose to become an academic…
10. Go ahead and get that grade! You can thank me as you waltz in your cap and gown towards that glorious embossed scroll of the finest institutional paper.
I have every faith in you in you! Good luck!
Peace and love, Danielle xx