STUDYING, UNDERGRADUATE

Dissertation tips from a third year

Ah, dissertations. The 10,000 word assignment that every student seems to dread. It certainly sounds terrifying, but once you get stuck in it isn’t as bad as you’d think. My deadline is in a couple of weeks and, even as someone with a serious stress problem, I’m not too worried about it. If you follow a few of my tips then there’s no need to worry either.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that I’m writing a Creative Writing dissertation rather than an research diss for my English degree. The difference is, I have to write 8,000 words of prose or poetry and then a 2,000 word critique of my own work. The challenge appealed to me and I’d never turn down a chance to be creative. But, with all of its merits, there are still difficulties which I have acquired some tips for:

Brainstorm

Particularly with creative writing, it isn’t always best to go with the first idea you have. I must have come up with at least five different ideas before settling on the one I have now and to be honest, I’ve probably had better ideas since!

Plan

Lots of people don’t plan before they start writing but I feel like a dissertation isn’t something you can just wing. 10,000 words sounds like a lot but with a short story, it’s hard to fit a developed plot within that word count. I had to plan each chapter to make sure I didn’t miss anything out.

Writer’s block

So many times over the past few months, I’ve been struck with writer’s block. I stared at a blank page with no idea what to write next but the main thing I’ve learnt is to do the exact opposite. When you can’t think of what to write, don’t! Go out for a walk, clean your room, do something menial that requires little brain power – subconsciously, you’ll be mulling over ideas and often, that’s when you’ll crack what to write next.

Edit

This is both the easiest and hardest thing to do but don’t be afraid to cut big chunks of writing out, as painful as it might be. Also, spelling, punctuation and grammar (as condescending as that sounds) are so important, you could easily lose marks for these not being perfect – I would definitely recommend getting someone else to read it as a second pair of eyes.

See your diss tutor!

This one probably sounds obvious too, but so many people skip the chance to get feedback throughout the writing process. Your tutor is there for a reason and will likely make your work a lot better if you submit it regularly for review. Remember that you can also go and see your Academic Subject Librarians for some support with referencing, research and other key areas of your diss.

Enjoy it

I suppose in a weird way, the final thing would be to enjoy it. A lot of people have the choice and still opt to do a dissertation for that sense of pride of writing such a huge project. It’s a massive achievement and handing in a completed dissertation (that you’ve probably bled, sweat and cried over!) is a great way to end your time at university.

If you’re still struggling with your diss, check out Emily’s vlog over on the Student Life YouTube channel:

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Meet the author

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Beth Gulliver

I am an English student, originally from Birmingham, who loves blogging. You might also hear me on Siren radio or at a SingIt performance. In my spare time, I love travelling, reading and binge watching Netflix!

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