How to Write a Great Dissertation: The Struggle is Real

The concept of writing a dissertation while at university can bring on mixed emotions in anyone! On the one hand, it gives you the opportunity to really dig deep into a subject you’re passionate about. On the other, it can feel like a long, hard slog (full of doubts) to get to the finish line. That’s why we’re here to share our advice for students on how to realise your potential and write a great dissertation. So why not relax, make yourself a cuppa, and read on to find out more!

How to write a great dissertation - female student working on library floor

Try reading off subject

Research will be key to writing a successful university dissertation. It can be tempting to try to read absolutely everything that’s been written about your chosen uni subject, but you’ll soon find out that’s impossible! Stick to those books and papers that seem to you most important. But also consider reading outside your subject area in order to gain a better perspective of the breadth of your field. For example, if you’re a history student, why not get hold of some books on sociology, psychology, or economics if they might relate to your topic? It could help to set you apart from the pack!

Read past student’s dissertations

On the subject of reading, you might want to request some past dissertations from your university supervisor to have a look through. Reading other student’s dissertations can help you to identify what works and what doesn’t. It can also help you gain inspiration as to how to structure your own efforts, as well as what kind of writing style you could use to most effectively convey your ideas.

Write from day one

As soon as you start researching or even thinking about your topic, begin writing! We’re not talking about actually formally beginning to write your entire dissertation, but keeping some kind of notebook in order to keep track of your thoughts and ideas might be a good idea. This will enable you to come back to your notes later and could make the process of planning the structure of your writing a little easier.

Stay up to date with references

There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a long piece of writing and then having to worry about your bibliography, having lost the details of the majority of your research… Start your bibliography as soon as you begin to read anything and update it as you go along. Also, always make a note of the page numbers for any quotes you might use; or you could find yourself panicked, raiding the university library, flicking hopelessly through books and papers just before your dissertation deadline.

Set deadlines

You’ll obviously have your hand in deadline for your dissertation, but it can be useful to set yourself various other deadlines as you’re working on it. This might be a good way of making sure you get organised and actually do the work you need to, without leaving it all until the last minute! Don’t feel like you have to adhere to these too strictly, however, and don’t beat yourself up if you miss any.

Get feedback

How to write a great dissertation - male student working in library

Don’t wait until you’re halfway through writing up your dissertation to get feedback from your supervisor. Doing this might mean you end up trying to change too much too late, resulting in last minute panic! Contact your dissertation supervisor as early as possible, even if it’s just to discuss your initial ideas. They’ll probably have some great suggestions for your research, as well as being able to give you pointers on how to get started.

Brush up on your skills

Every student knows that research and academic writing are finely tuned skills, and it will be abundantly clear to whoever marks your dissertation if you haven’t put the effort into them. University libraries and departments often run workshops on both writing and research. If you’re not feeling confident about your ability in either of these areas, getting yourself onto one of these could be a good step in the right direction.

Form your own opinions

Yes, you will be conducting lengthy research into what other people have to say or have said about your chosen topic, but you will still be expected to put forward your own opinions! It can help to begin by writing down your thoughts before you even pick up any kind of research. Then, take the time to make notes of your thinking and developing arguments as you go along.

Stop procrastinating

It’s the easiest thing in the world. While you’re fully aware that you have an impending deadline, that washing up won’t clean itself; one more attempt at completing that computer game level won’t hurt; and those bananas are a bit too ripe, banana cake anyone? Wasting precious research or writing time through procrastination can be all too tempting… But you’re just putting off the inevitable, and eventually you’re going to have to knuckle down. Just hopefully sooner rather than later.

Reward yourself

One great way to stop procrastinating and to just get on with your uni dissertation is to promise yourself rewards. For example, if you manage to write the 500 words by the end of the day, why not treat yourself by heading out for a drink with friends, instead of worrying about work. Give yourself smaller rewards as you go along, too, such as frequent hot drinks or something tasty to eat.

How to write a great dissertation - Students graduating

Take time off

Remember that you don’t have to spend 100% of your time up until deadline day working non-stop on your dissertation! In fact, taking time off and forgetting about your work for a while can help you to come at it refreshed and with a clearer mind. So if a friend suggests going out with some other students, or you really fancy a weekend away, why not just go for it?

DO NOT forget editing and proofreading

Make sure that you leave enough time before your deadline for both editing and proofreading your work, as we just can’t stress how important these are! Once you’ve written your first draft, go back over your dissertation to see which bits work and which don’t, and then move, remove or add passages in to make it more coherent. Also, you’ll need to proofread your dissertation, proofread it again, and then get someone else to proofread it, because you simply don’t want those spelling or grammatical mistakes to slip through the net!

We wish you the best of luck writing your dissertation and hope these tips will help get you off to a flying start! If you’re a current student, or beginning a new course of study this September, you might want to think about taking out student insurance to help protect your belongings. At The Insurance Emporium, we offer Student Insurance with cover for your Contents as standard, and you can then customise your policy with Optional Benefits such as cover for Gadgets And Mobile Phones, Personal Belongings and much more. We also offer up to 30% discount*. Head to our student product page to find out more!

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