How to make the most of your dissertation supervisions
As we embark on the second half of term two, for many finalists this means that the countdown towards the dreaded dissertation deadline has started ticking. Some of us may be hyper-organised and have written the majority of what will be handed in, others may not have even typed a sentence. However, as deadlines draw ever-closer, the time you spend with your supervisor gets more and more valuable. Have a read of the tips below to make sure you are utilising your supervisions to the max!
1: Be Proactive
Remember, at the end of the day the dissertation is your project and is therefore under your control. A lot of people complain that their supervisor hasn’t arranged to meet with them, or that they haven’t been reminded to do things. Unfortunately, when we make the jump from school to university one of the biggest differences is that the study becomes a lot more self-motivated. The dissertation is probably the most self-motivated aspect of the whole degree, so you can’t risk falling behind because your supervisor isn’t holding your hand the whole way. If you think you should be having more supervisions, it’s up to you to arrange them. If you feel you aren’t being pushed enough, you need to ask for advice on how to be more proactive with your work. You can only get out of a supervision what you put into it, so make sure you’re organising yourself and not relying on your supervisor to do it all for you.
2: Have something to discuss
It’s all very well booking in an appointment with your supervisor, but if you haven’t written anything (or haven’t even thought about writing anything), your session with them may turn out to feel like a waste of time. Make sure to send them something to look over in advance of your session, be that an entire chapter for them to skim, or simply one paragraph or even a vague structure. Target the parts of your work that you’re the least sure about. It can be really helpful to add your own comments on the document about things that you are uncertain of, whether that’s as small as a referencing issue, or as big as a question about whether your overall argument makes sense. Whether or not your supervisor is allowed to give you formal feedback, it can be really helpful just to get some suggestions about what you’ve got so far. Remember to make sure that you send something well in advance of your meeting; your supervisor will have a lot of work to be doing, so you need to make sure to give them enough time to read it over.
3: Ask questions
Dissertation supervisions can be extremely helpful for ironing out the niggling questions you might have about your research. If you’re struggling to find a source or the right readings, make sure to flag this up with your supervisor. Similarly, if you aren’t sure about your methodology or overall structure then this is a good time to ask. Don’t forget to bring up anything that was discussed in your dissertation presentation that you aren’t sure about (if you haven’t had your presentation yet, check out my post on the Library Study Blog about how to prep for it!). Like with a job interview, it’s really important that you make the most of the opportunity if your supervisor asks if you have any questions.
4: Take notes
Finally, it’s important that you make sure to remember everything you discussed with your supervisor. You’ll really be kicking yourself if they make some great points about what you could include in your work, but you end up forgetting them by the time you come to actually writing. My advice is to keep a notebook on hand to jot these things down in, and then organise them into a coherent ‘supervision log’. This is something I found particularly useful in the first few weeks of deciding on topics, but it can be equally helpful further into the writing process. My supervision log divides each meeting into sections: what we discussed; what research or readings were recommended; what I need to do for next time. Depending on your degree, you might want your log to have a different structure. Overall, I find this a really helpful way of tracking what we have discussed.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your dissertation supervisions in these last few weeks, no matter what stage of the process you’re at. Good luck, and if you have any of your own tips then do leave them below!