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5 steps on how to tackle your dissertation

Year three at university is a struggle for everyone at times, especially when it comes to the dreaded dissertation. Here are 5 steps on how to tackle it.

So, you’re in your final year – congrats! You probably have a million things playing on your mind that keeps you up into the late hours of the night but you still haven’t lifted a single digit to get the ball rolling on one of the biggest projects of your educational career – your dissertation.200

I know, it’s hard to get it started when some of you may not even be entirely sure that the topic you’ve chosen and already submitted as a proposal is any good; because you panicked and just typed out what came off the top of your head because it sounded interesting (and breathe). This may not be the case for some, but for the others – trust me, you are not alone in this.

You need a plan of action to battle this beast. A plan may go a little something like this:

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Step 1: Make a brief 

Just bullet point what your paragraphs are about and how you will use evidence to support your interpretation. I follow the rule of three – 1st sentence will be the first point of your topic, followed by 2nd sentence ‘one person says this about it and (optional) someone else say this’ and finally 3rd sentence ‘this could possibly mean/allude to’. Follow this structure for each paragraph, and you’ll get a good flow going.

Step 2: Just write something… Anything!

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This is something that you can not do in an all nighter, so it’s best to dedicate an hour or even half an hour a day. It will make this long process seem less intense and you can carry on with other things in your life. Even a sentence will help, just write something down that relates to your topic. You can come back to it in edit mode.

Step 3: Do not try to complicate your writing to sound like a genius 

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When you’re trying to put a sentence together, write it in the basics first. When you’re writing at an academic level, you assume that everything you write must sound of the utmost intellect and not make any sense to anybody aside from those who have literally eaten a thesaurus. Keep your points simple – keep the flow going rather than getting stuck when trying to think of another way to say ‘kind of’. You can come back to this later, when you’re editing and refining. Anyone who said that they didn’t use a thesaurus when doing the dissertation is chatting bull.

Step 4: Play to your strengths

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If you’re a night owl, then do it in the evening. I had a friend who would walk to the library at 1 AM to knock out a few hundred words. That does not mean stay up all night just to finish a paragraph until the morning sun beams into your window and burns the back of your eyes. As mentioned previously, do it a bit at a time. If you’re a morning person then it’s best to fit it in then. Get that hour of work done so you can enjoy the rest of your day.

Step 5: Take breaks-don’t over do it

If you are following any of these steps, you should know that breaks between study are vital. Completing short bursts of work feels so much better than dragging out something that you will eventually get bored of and end of procrastinating. If you work for too long, your work will become sloppy and you will get stuck. This is a lesson I learned all too well. If, like me, you are used to writing essays the day before a deadline in one big chunk, then you must change your ways.

Time management is the key from all of this. Spread it out, get feedback from supervisors, and give yourself slots of time to focus on one thing, not everything at once.

Come May time, it will all be over and you can celebrate. Good luck!

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