Sunday, 9 April 2017

5 Things I Learned While Writing My Dissertation

My dissertation is finally done and handed in and I have never been so relieved in my entire life. I worked so hard on it, and I'm really proud of the finished product. But now that I've had the opportunity to think back on the last nine-ish months, there are several things that I would do differently.

1) No matter how early you start, you will still panic about how much time you have
We were advised to start thinking about our dissertation in the summer after second year. This essentially gave us over a year to complete the work, but the majority of people didn't really start thinking about it until the beginning of third year, and didn't start writing it until after Christmas, which leaves very little time for breakdowns and freak-outs.

2) The detailed plan that I had at the beginning of the year is completely different to the piece of work that I actually handed in
The first idea that I had for my dissertation was to write about feminism within the Star Wars saga. I handed in 10 000 words about the gothic tropes of Harry Potter. Chances are, what you plan to write about and what you actually hand in will be two completely different things. And that's okay. It shows progression. If you hand in a piece of work that is identical to the plan you had six months before, chances are you haven't learnt anything from it. And if you haven't learnt anything from it, the person marking it won't either.

3) You need double the amount of research
If you thought researching a 2000 word essay was stressful, think again. Ideally, you should start researching as soon as you've got an idea, especially as that idea will evolve and change and most of your research will probably be irrelevant, as I learnt the hard way. You can't do too much research. The more you have, the better, because it means you can be selective about what goes into your final piece.

4) Ideally, you need to work on it every single day
This sounds ridiculous, but it's true. It doesn't have to be all day every day, but you should do SOMETHING on it every single day. Whether that's read an article or write 500 words, you should spend some time on your dissertation every single day.

5) Trying to edit as you go will cause you to have a mental breakdown
Your dissertation and specific focus will likely change every time you work on it, so trying to edit as you go is just a disaster waiting to happen. Your best bet is to just write and write and write until you have nothing left to say, and THEN edit to create this perfect document. Cutting down 12 000 words to 10 000 words will leave you with a much better product than trying to get up to the word count by adding in 100 words here and there.

Overall, I enjoyed writing my dissertation, but it's not something I would want to do again in a hurry. Ask any third year student and they will tell you the same thing - they are SICK of their topic and never want to look at it ever again. I can't say that's true for me - Harry Potter is and always will be my first love, but it has made me change the way I look at it. Pick a topic that you love and are genuinely interested in, and it will make the entire process so much easier.

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