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6 Vital Tips For Surviving Your Dissertation (List)

StudentsTips and AdviceUniversity

Dissertation deadline is looming. You're realising that you should never have done a degree in the first place and that it probably isn't too late to drop out. Rather than considering joining the circus, read Hannah Foskett's 6 vital tips for surviving your dissertation...

The first step is to take a deep breath and go and make a cup of tea. Or maybe coffee, you might need it. All dissertations vary but here are six simple tips on how you can pull yours off, survive and finally graduate on out of here.

1. Start Early

This one has been drilled into you, maybe even shouted at you, 100 times already. You probably wish you'd listened and it may seem like a useless tip now that you've got 3 weeks to write 12,000 words. However, it really is important. Make a plan for what you want to write in each chapter and then make a timetable with deadlines for completing each one. The real tip here is to just START. Try not to stress about the details of what you're doing and just write it all out as best you can. Don't get stuck worrying about making one chapter perfect. If you've got something on the page you can go back and make it actually make sense later. Maybe try turning off your phone and blocking your social media. A great website for timing this is Tomato Timer, which uses the Pomodoro Technique to keep you focused.

2. Separate your documents

Leading on from tip 1, it's a good idea to separate off your work load. For example, have a separate document for every chapter of your dissertation and treat them like isolated essays. You've written essays countless of times before. This will help reduce the anxiety in producing such a big piece of work. Just make sure that they all flow together at the end. Also, have a separate document for references you've used. You'll save so much time if you copy and paste all your links into one place so you find them again later. You could write out your references fully as you go but does anyone actually do that?

3. Take time for you

Some days it's just not going to work. Know that it's okay to take breaks. It's okay to binge watch an entire Netflix series in bed. Looking after yourself and making sure you're getting out of the house and having a healthy diet will prepare you to face your dissertation the next day. Or the day after. If you don't have the time to get out of the house, bring nature to you. Houseplants help to reduce stress levels, improve mood and filter polluted air.

4. Don't compare yourself to others

There's probably people on your course who say they finished their whole dissertation before Christmas. Everyone is different. If you work better under pressure or just have other commitments, try not to panic. Similarly, if all your friends are going to the library to write but you don't focus well there, stay home. If you work better at 3am then work at 3am!

5. Don't be scared

Don't be scared to change your idea and don't be scared to ask your lecturers for help. The dissertation is a huge project and there's a lot of pressure to know exactly what you're going to write. Remember that your argument will probably change in some way as you're writing and gathering your research. If you completely hate your idea and simply can't do it, then change! Your lecturers might be a bit apprehensive but you ARE allowed! Just make sure that you're talking to your staff regularly and emailing them/visiting them when you need advice. Your university will also almost certainly have a well-being centre with someone that you can go and talk to if you're feeling anxious or down about it all.  

6. Don't procrastinate by writing a '6 tips for surviving your dissertation' article.

At the end of the day, it's going to be okay. Right? p.s. sometimes procrastinating by creating something other than uni work can actually be very rewarding and a great confidence boost for when you do go back to working on the D word.
Still keen on avoiding work? You're not alone! Read our: 15 Struggles Only Dissertation Students Will Understand
hannah foskett grb author

Hannah is in her final year studying English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Surrey. Her life goal is to be Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada.

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