Dissertation Survival 101

The dreaded dissertation is a rite of passage for most undergraduates – literally, in most cases, as you won’t be able to graduate without writing a decent one. No pressure, then. But thousands of students in the UK write one every year, and you can do it too! As someone who managed it, I’m here to try and give some advice on how to survive your final year with your brain mostly intact.

First of all, it’s really helpful to figure out where you work best. For me it was the library, but it might be a coffee shop or at the desk in your room. I also found it really helpful to arrange to meet a friend in the morning to walk to the library with. It really helps to share the struggle, and makes you drag yourself out of bed rather than let down a pal. While it might feel like you need to spend every waking minute on Level 10, though, don’t forget to allow yourself some time off. Your brain can only deal with so much stimulation and sometimes you’ll need to let it switch off for a bit. Taking a night or two off to blow off steam is so important, and could help you come back to writing with a new perspective.

Try to stay organised, too. This is something a lot of students find tough (guilty), but it really does help to have all of your work neatly filed. I had thousands of image files saved as part of my research, and organising them was a long and incredibly boring task, but it was so worth it when I was frantically trying to find the right one to reference in my final draft.

Finally, remember that your dissertation is just that: yours. Nobody else can write it for you, just like you couldn’t write one for them. Your topic will be unique, and so will your style of working. Try not to panic when you find out that Kirsty from your tutorial has already written 10,000 words by the start of November. You need to find your own groove. Whatever way you work best, don’t try to justify it – just do it!

[Lauren Cummings – @laurn93

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