Sunday, 3 November 2019

Dissertation Advice - Tips & Tricks

My previous post, How to Write a Dissertation helps to get the ball rolling and gives an insight into the kind of things you should expect when writing a dissertation. Here we will discuss tips to help with the physicality of writing your dissertation and things that I found helped me when I was going through this process.

The Dissertation Fear & How To Conquer It 
I experienced something that I refer to as 'The Dissertation Fear'. Fear of putting pen to paper and actually writing the first draft. It took me months to overcome this fear, and I put it off by doing endless amounts of research - as well as everything else under the sun that meant I couldn't possibly start writing. I overcame this fear by realising that it was only a draft. It wasn't the be-all and end-all. If it's crap, I can redraft and redraft and redraft until it's near enough 'perfect'. In order for this process to work however you need to leave yourself plenty of time to correct and re-edit. 

Start Writing As Early As Possible 
Self-explanatory but the earlier you start the more drafts that can be edited and the more thorough your argument will be. 

Finding A Study Space That Suits You
Not everyone can work in the library or from home. Coffee shops are always a good one, a change of scenery can help to keep your mind alert and switches things up. Moving from coffee shop to coffee shop throughout the day is also an option. I found working in the uni library too social but figured out working in the silent zones worked for me as I had no choice but to get on with work. I don't like complete silence when I work, which ties in with my next point. 

ASMR Rooms On Youtube 
I was always happy to work from home, but didn't like the empty silence. A friend recommended ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) on Youtube, there are hundreds of different types, but my favourites are the Harry Potter inspired Ambience's, a few of my favourites from the channel ASMR Rooms are: Hufflepuff Dormitory, Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom,  Slytherin Dormitory, Beautiful Day on Hogwarts Grounds - Great Lake Daytime, Hufflepuff Common Room and Hogwarts Library REMAKE. As well as the channel Magical Ambience and ASMR Worlds', Hogwarts Window Desk Rainy ASMR.  

Ways Of Recording Research 
Figuring out the most effective way to record your research can almost be the make or break of how easy it will be to write your dissertation. I used a table method, with the quote in the left-hand column, the page number in the middle and then the citation in the right-hand column. I then colour coded the quotes according to chapters and if they had already been included in my dissertation, to prevent the repeating of material. 

I also had a brown notebook that I used for initial ideas and as a place to scribble down notes and things covered in my meetings with my dissertation adviser. This was super helpful to have everything all in one place. Also using Post-It Notes for important pieces of information so that they can be in front of you can help. And a systematic filing system, may that be digital or physical. 

Daily Goals 
Setting yourself daily word count goals when it comes to writing the main body of your dissertation is extremely helpful. Figuring out a deadline for when you want to have your dissertation completed and working backwards from that can help hugely with time management. Set yourself a daily minimum and hit it every single day, some days it might be brilliant writing, and others not so good, but editing is a key factor when writing, so try not to worry too much about it. 

Print Out Copies/Plans/Drafts 
Working on a hard copy of your diss helps to distance you from sitting in front of a computer all the time. It also is handy for when you're on the move, taking out the hard copy whenever you have ten minutes to spare may not seem like it will achieve much, but you will be surprised. Having a hard copy is always a foolproof way to have it "backed up" as if worst ever came to the worst, you can always retype it out. 

I cannot stress this enough, memory sticks, hard drives have it everywhere. I always emailed myself an updated version of my plans and my drafts every time I worked on it, that way, if your computer corrupts the file or breaks or loses any work, all the drafts are saved to your email.   

Questions To Ask Your Dissertation Supervisor 

Towards the end of my dissertation, I realised that there were certain things that had not been covered by my dissertation adviser or covered in the introductory lecture. Here are a few questions that you may want to ask before reaching the approaching deadline.

1. How to layout and format your dissertation, does it need big titles that stand out? Or should it fit your courses criteria of how to format a standard essay?

2. What extra things need to be included? For instance, an abstract, acknowledgements and cover pages.

3. Does your dissertation need to bound and handed in as a hard copy? Or submitted online? Or both? If it's a hard copy, where should you hand it in, or who to?

4. Where to get your dissertation bound? Most times Universities have on-campus dissertation binding. Finding this out in advance will help you with time management, it took half an hour for my dissertation to be bound, if I'd had a deadline to meet that day, things could have proved tricky.

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