The word 'dissertation' has been known to strike fear in the hearts of many a degree student, but fear not, this blog will provide a helpful heads-up for second year students in particular, who don't know what to expect when the deadline creeps in a year from now! First of all, do not panic . Your dissertation will most likely be the singular, largest piece of writing that you will ever do in your life, but it will also most likely be the one that allows you the greatest amount of freedom. I am in the middle of writing my own at the minute, (10,000 words) and even though it's been tough, I've been surprised at how much I want to say about the topic. I enjoy what I am writing about and consequently, that makes it a whole load easier to be motivated and enthusiastic about getting started and doing the best I can with it.
Once you come back after summer to begin third year, your lecturers might bombard you with all the logistics of your dissertation; "methodology", "literature review" and " primary/secondary research" to name a few key terms, but these are fancy words for simple things. When sat in a lecture room watching them appear on a giant screen, they might cause some anxiety and sweaty palms, they did for me anyway.
However, don't allow that anxiety to take up anymore of your time outside of that moment; book a tutorial with the lecturer you find the easiest to talk to, and work through what you need for your particular essay one-to-one. When broken down, your dissertation is a totally achievable assignment. At this point in your University degree you should be equipped with all the essay-writing skills needed to write with conviction and ease! Secondly, My Dad once gave me a little tip, which I shall give to you now: If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. It's a simple piece of advice that has come in very handy for me over the last 12 months, so get your worth out of it too!
After you've had some time with a lecturer to break down the concept of your dissertation and get a better handling on the structure, use your time wisely to discuss with people what you want to do and how you should do it, then begin your research and planning phase. Talking about your idea with more than one person before you begin, gives you chance to bounce ideas and perhaps develop your plans before you even begin the research. I found this process very helpful myself, by the time I did begin putting pen to paper (or rather hands to keyboard), I had already developed and altered my ideas about three times from those I had outlined in my dissertation proposal six weeks beforehand.
If you feel like you have enough to confidently instigate writing your dissertation, then you know it's the right time to begin. Though you might think that starting your dissertation research at the very start of the academic year when it doesn't have to be in for near the end may seem rather keen, it is nonetheless a very wise process. Little bits over a long period of time will give you more headspace to perfect the quality of your writing. It is much better to do it this way, than to cram it all into three weeks worth of work and regret it in the future. Thirdly, and finally, give yourself enough time . I cannot stress this enough. I have met many people older than myself, who have admitted that they wished they'd given their dissertation more time. As ever, life has a tendency to get in the way and can end up taking you away from your work, so try to schedule more time aside for researching/planning/writing than you think you actually need. This way, if an afternoon planned for working does get 'lost', then you know you have plenty of other sessions planned to make sure it gets done. Above all, choose something you enjoy. You want to be proud of your dissertation! Believe me, you'll see it as no less than your own (brain) child by the time you're done. Although choosing a chiefly academic subject that you think will guarantee you a First may seem like a good idea, in reality you could potentially be biting off more than you can chew, and that will backfire later on down the line. You will know from experience that writing an essay on a subject you don't like can be a very prolonged and difficult thing to do.
A dissertation in itself, is already very prolonged and difficult, so why make it harder for yourself by choosing an issue you don't fully understand? My dissertation is about the U.S. TV show Ugly Betty, which I am sure many of you will have heard of, if not also watched. It is, and was, a television show I enjoyed very much, and therefore have had fun doing the research around it. To make it more academic, I am studying the representations of different racial groups in the show; so I have a good balance of enjoyable research and chunky academic analysis. So far, so good. 10/10 would recommend. And that is all the advice I have to offer, all that's left to say is… Good Luck!