As we head towards our final semester of the year, as a second year student it’s time to start considering my dissertation and topic of choice. Whilst this can seem daunting, especially if you’re on a course that doesn’t feature many essays, I thought I’d share some of the steps I’m taking to prepare for my dissertation.
Choose your topic early on
Whilst the topic you choose for your dissertation is arguably one of the most important decisions, deciding early on is also very beneficial. If you can settle on your topic of choice (or even a rough area of study) during this academic year, this will give you extra time to get started on your research and data collection over summer, to make third year a little less stressful. When deciding on your topic, the advice I was given was to choose something you are passionate about. You’ll be writing about this topic for an entire year, so it’s important you choose something that you are genuinely interested in and want to learn more about as otherwise you will lose motivation very quickly.
If nothing immediately springs to mind, think about topics or modules you enjoyed studying on your course, or what interests you have outside of your studies. Generally speaking, most topics can be used for your dissertation with the right research method (which your personal tutor can advise on) so try and choose something you have a genuine interest in.
In an ideal world, as you’re going to choose a topic you enjoy, you’ll have already read around the subject you have chosen so will already have a few books you can cite. If not, the summer break is a great time to start reading a few different texts. These don’t need to just be academic books; journals, blogs and even podcasts are also great references to have for your study.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t need to read an entire book from start to finish either. Particularly for academic texts, just pick out certain chapters you think will be helpful and make note of any areas you may want to reference later on.
Make the most of personal tutorials
You should have been assigned your personal tutor by now and been given a slot for a personal tutorial. These are a great way to discuss your initial ideas for your diss, and also get some guidance about what direction you can take this in. Or, if you’re struggling for a topic your tutor can also help you brainstorm ideas. I would definitely advise booking in as many meetings with your tutor as possible to not only keep them updated on your progress, but also so they can offer you guidance along the way.
Whilst it can definitely be helpful to get a head start on your dissertation during second year, try not to fixate or stress about it. Worst case scenario if you don’t know what topic you want to do or decide to change your mind you have the whole of third year to work on it. Your summer is also a much needed break from your studies, so if you do choose to work on your diss during this time, try not to put too much pressure on yourself and take regular breaks.
Your dissertation doesn’t need to be a big scary thing, so just try and stay calm and break it down in to little and easy tasks!