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How to avoid dissertation disasters

It’s THAT time of year again

So, the tabs on your computer are currently as long as your ‘to do list’ and you’re procrastinating by reading articles on The Tab and debating whether you should apply for ‘Love Island’ in the summer. It’s officially dissertation season.

I have written one undergraduate dissertation and one masters thesis so trust me when I say I’ve been through it. My undergraduate thesis was also during lockdown so I had no choice but to do a heavy stats infested report (disgusting). My thesis was more lab based and had a hefty literature review, in which it probably broke me more than it should have, but my readers, I survived, I did not throw myself out of my window, and I certainly did cry about it sometimes.

Here are my top pieces of advice to those currently writing/procrastinating their thesis:

1) Don’t make a big deal out of it

Easier said than done, I get it. Your DEGREE CLASSIFICATION is on the line here. Think about it though. You’ve written plenty of reports and essays before, this is only bigger. Also, seeing as this is your undergraduate dissertation, your supervisor should be able to look at as many drafts as you send them (but don’t take the michael). Use this resource as their advice really is vital. Just overall, try and not panic because that’s when you get brain fog and then it becomes the most horrendous cycle.
Also, if it makes you feel any better, I had to change half my dissertation the night before it was due because of a miscalculation and I still graduated with a 2:1!

2) Get into a routine

You’ve probably (hopefully) figured out your study routine but if not, get it started. If you follow the same routine every day you study then your brain will be tuned into knowing when to work and when not to. So, when I was writing my thesis, once all my lab work was done, I’d get up, breakfast, chill, go for a run and then because it was so hot, I’d go to the local park and lie there with my laptop. I’d stay there for a few hours and I wouldn’t over do it. Go home and rest at some point.

An activity involving exercise is always a good go to during your diss

3) Effort

Okay, this might sound extremely vain but I always put on a cute study outfit to go to the library in, and maybe put a bit of make-up on too. If I was stressing about my diss then I’d be as well looking cute whilst I did it. Also, I read somewhere that if you get up in the morning and make your bed and have breakfast, then you’ll overall have a more productive day because your day has started off as productive.

Wearing slippers to the library is okay? Right?

4) Dig out old reports

Look at previous reports/papers that you have written and check out the comments that markers have made. Using these comments will help you build on what you have learnt over the past three/four/five years at university and I bet you’ll get some handy hints and tips in there too.

5) Know how to reference

This sounds really obvious but there’s a large proportion of people who get to writing their dissertation and either don’t know what reference system to use or how to reference is. So if that is you then you aren’t alone.

I would advise finding out what reference system you are using and then when you read papers write down all the information you need for your referencing and then put all the information from the corresponding paper underneath it. It may sound tedious to begin with but I promise you that it will save time in the long run! Also, learning how to reference without using computer systems will mean that you definitely know that all your references are in your reference list and in the correct format. I’m personally not a fan of using online referencing tools, unless I’m referencing a book.

6) Have fun

You’re currently questioning why I’m telling you this. My friend, unless you’re going to do a masters degree, this is potentially the last report that you will ever create. This is potentially the last piece of university work you will need to do (except exams). It is pivotal. It is iconic. It is a vibe. Doing your dissertation is a feeling that you will love to hate. After this you won’t ever need to complain or moan about a piece of university work. You no longer can use the excuse of “sorry I have my dissertation to write” if you don’t want to go out or avoid a date. And trust me when I say that you will miss the feeling of writing a report, knowing that it counts and matters.