Writing your dissertation often sounds like the hardest thing to do. What topic are you going to choose? How are you going to pick the right methodology? Trust me, I’ve been through that. So, here are my top 5 tips on how to nail your dissertation!
I can’t stress this enough! Choosing a topic that genuinely interests you is the best way to go. After all, you will be spending your whole final year (maybe even the summer before that) dedicating your time and thought to it. So why not make it interesting?
A technique I found really useful when choosing mine was brainstorming – grab a pen and paper and write down everything about your course that you find interesting. Now think strategically – which one can help you get a job and will allow you to demonstrate your full potential?
To put it short – go for a topic which inspires you, helps you demonstrate your best skills and is narrowly-focused. The more narrow the focus of your research question, the more in-depth you can analyze it, therefore the better grade you will get! At least, that is what my professors have always said.
After choosing your topic and writing your research proposal, you probably have some idea what you want to do with your dissertation, but your plans will most likely change…
So, use your summer vacation to research your chosen topic – has anyone produced something similar to your research question before? How can you make yours different? Is there an original angle which you can choose to make your research unique?
Try to read as much as you can on your topic and take notes of any resource or quote you find useful. Trust me, you will thank me later when it’s time to write your literature review!
EXTRA TIP: Consider using EndNote to help you track your resources.
After summer time is over and you finally start your final year, you might get carried away and forget that you have a dissertation to write. As tempting as it may sound, don’t leave everything until the very last minute. As soon as you get there, start planning.
First, make a list of all of your deadlines – including your other University modules and your dissertation. Put them somewhere in your room where you can see them, it is good to keep track of your deadlines so that you don’t end up pulling an all-nighter or even worse, failing any of them.
Another important tip is to try to set your own deadlines. Dissertations are all about planning your own workload and time, it is all about you being independent, so learn how to do just that! Set yourself deadlines for every chapter that you need to complete. If you haven’t already, plug in some time for reading around your topic to prepare for the literature review.
A literature review is simply a piece of writing where you introduce the background to your research. What academic work has been produced, what existing theories or concepts are there? What has past research demonstrated?
Your role is to choose the most important piece of research which you believe can help you formulate your own ideas, and be as critical as possible about it. Remember to consider any temporal limitations to past research, i.e. is it outdated? Is the author failing to take any important factors into consideration? What is it about your research which adds a valuable contribution to the field?
Remember, the more critical you are and the more you explain how your own research can expand previous research, the better.
After submitting your literature review and receiving feedback from your supervisor, start considering your methodology. Which methods will help you answer the question which you’re interested in?
If you are doing a social research which concerns people, is it better to use interviews or should you opt for more statistical data like surveys? Alternatively, why not combine both? Choosing a methodology is very individual to your topic choice, so I recommend that you browse the library for good books on ‘Research Methods’ and, most importantly, that you ask your supervisor for advice!
Having chosen your method and planned your research, the most important thing now is consistency. Write consistently, even if it is just for 2-3 hours every day, even if you are just writing down some thoughts or ideas that popped in your head! This will help you keep focused, keep your mind on your task and, most importantly, it will help you deal with stress and deadlines.
Hope my top tips come in handy, see you at graduation!