How to Deliver Your Dream Dissertation: 5 Top Tips

by | May 10, 2024 | Education, Undergraduate | 0 comments

Whether you’re about to start your degree or your final year, many courses require you to submit a ‘dissertation’ to fulfil your degree. As a final-year BSc Education student who has just submitted her dissertation, I can reassure you that writing a dissertation has been one of the most rewarding parts of my degree journey. Nevertheless, at times, it also felt like heavy weight on my shoulders.

Therefore, having freshly completed the dissertation planning, writing and submitting process, there are 5 top tips that I would like to share with you about “How to Deliver Your Dream Dissertation”.

1. Plan: There’s nothing as planning too early.

Whilst many courses introduce the dissertation at the end of your penultimate year or the beginning of your final year, you can always be thinking about what kind of research you want to carry out. For me, I have always been collecting strands of literature about the area of Special Educational Needs. So, when it came to deciding on what I wanted to do, I didn’t feel clueless about my plans. You can also talk to your academic advisor about planning.

This is not to say you need to have anything written or drafted (in fact, I recommend not doing that), but rather, always be intuitively thinking throughout your first and second-year modules.

2. Care: Select a topic that has meaning to you so the dissertation itself can be a meaningful journey.

Your undergraduate dissertation will likely take you roughly a year to complete. Thus, you must choose a topic you are passionate about. I believe my dissertation unit lead said it best: when choosing a dissertation topic, you are figuring out what the metaphorical “pebble in your shoes” is. What topic do you care about or have been bothering you and can be taken on board within the scope of an undergraduate degree?

I advocate that students see their dissertation as a journey in itself rather than just another box to tick. It can be rewarding and even guide you in what you want to do in the future. Therefore, choose a topic that you care about, so it really shows in your writing.

3. Understand: Understand that there can be hurdles along the way and know that there are places where support can be found.

I always remind my peers that the dissertation is meant to be challenging. It is meant to stretch your knowledge and work ethic. Therefore, there will be hurdles along the way. For example, performing an extensive literature search, recruiting participants, or summarising a massive pool of findings could be challenging. My tip here would be to reach out to available support services. Start by contacting your dissertation supervisor. If you still need help, have a conversation with your academic advisor. If you need support for your well-being, the University Counselling and Mental Health services have many workshops and individual sessions available. Although dissertation can be challenging, help is available.

4. Communicate: Clear communication is kind communication.

Another important tip is to communicate to your support network about how much commitment you can dedicate to your extra-curriculars during your dissertation’s “crunch” period. For example, I work part-time, so I emailed my manager about needing a few weeks of reduced hours as I approached my dissertation deadlines. I also did the same with student societies I was involved with.

It can appear daunting to do this at first because you do not want to “let people down”, but trust me, laying a clear line of communication is kind communication. In essence, you are making it easier for people to re-jig the workload amongst themselves whilst you focus on your dissertation.

5. Self-care: A little treat a day keeps the dissertation stress at bay.

Most importantly, you must take enough breaks and care for yourself throughout your final year. I like the 20-20-20 technique: every 20 minutes, look 20 meters up and away (or as far as possible), for at least 20 seconds. It helps to make sure that I am taking breaks whilst working on my paper.

A slightly unpopular opinion of mine is that you deserve a little treat from time to time. Even during dissertation and assessment season, I recommend walking in the park with friends, getting yourself a new book from Oxfam near campus, or, when in doubt, taking a warm shower!

Ultimately, the dissertation will feel like an extension of you for a while. But my most important message is that it is simply another piece of work. You are worth more than your grades. Simply do your best and let it go.

Good luck to anyone reading and starting/completing their dissertations!

Written by Pornchanit (Jaja), current BSc Education student at The University of Manchester