I am relieved. Finally! After a full year of working on it, I've finished, printed, bound and submitted my near 11,000 word dissertation.
For those who have yet to complete their dissertation, whether you're a current year 3 uni student like me or soon-to-be final year, GOOD LUCK!
I dare say that you will be stressed, have minor breakdowns and quite possibly cry - but don't worry, the crying is because of the relief you have when it's finally handed in!
So, to help those who may be coming up to starting their dissertation, I've decided to try and give you a few pointers on the way, to help you get off to the best starts.
1. Start your research early. This cannot be more helpful. Throughout your dissertation you should be researching constantly, but starting it early does mean that you can read the books you need to in advance (quite a few you won't actually find helpful!) and so you can concentrate on the more recent journals and articles that come out later on.
2. Check with your tutor and the module guide what you actually need to do. Finding out what structure is expected such as how many chapters, how many words, do you need illustrations, what about appendixes etc... It's all very useful! Again, finding this out in the beginning may prevent you from a minor panic when you think you've done it and you haven't!
3. Get primary research - if that is an option for you. Personally, a lot of my research was primary research because my topic was very recent and so there was little in the way of academic sources. Getting interviews and even survey responses proved to be a massive advantage! It showed that I'd gone to more effort trying to get my own research and hopefully might help my grade!
4. Study groups - I wish I'd known about this sooner! Sometimes bouncing ideas off others and discussing what they're up to can give you a little inspiration. I didn't do this until the end, when most people had only just started writing! But it did give me some ideas as to how I might improve parts of my dissertation.
5. Don't be afraid to change things! I can guarantee that the first draft you will write won't be your last. You will be forever editing, swapping, changing, deleting - you name it! But this is good! It shows that you're developing your ideas and therefore making a better dissertation overall.
6. If you can, ask someone from a previous year if you can read their dissertation. And only read it a couple of times right at the beginning of you writing your own dissertation. The idea isn't to copy their ideas or steal their writing style, but it will help give you some indication on what it is you need to write.
7. Set yourself mini deadlines. This will be just for you, but it will help your motivation. And when you achieve them, reward yourself! You can aim, for example, to write 1000 words in one week (that would work out about 10 weeks if you're writing on worth 10,000). That way, it will help you to pace yourself. If you're on a roll though, go with it!
8. Try not to write if you're not in the mood to. That's where mistakes happen and you need to be slightly interested and passionate about what you're writing - otherwise it's going to be a very long and dull few months for you!
I think... Yep, I think that's just about it. I had to find the majority of these out on my own, so if I have missed any - I'm sure you'll find them out!
It will be difficult, but you will get there! And believe me, the satisfaction at the end is so worth it!!