Tips for writing a dissertation
It has begun. I’ve written almost half of my dissertation! How exciting. I was so nervous to start and I felt like I wasn’t entirely prepared but the main thing is to just get some words down and start to put down your ideas onto paper (or most likely a word document). So here are some tips to get you going and to actually take the step of writing this huge beast!
- read the basics!- Oxford and Cambridge companions are your new best friend. Honestly, your reader is going to have no idea what your topic is about. You need to start simple, define all the key terms, outline the common ideas and debates around your topic and then focus on what you are specifically exploring. It’s so easy to go off on a tangent and talk about everything that is related to your topic but please remember you are answering a question. Make your words count, don’t just fill up the word count.
- Define your question- your introduction is probably going to be much longer than what you are used to. What I did was that I read articles and journal entries and see how they wrote their introduction. Most of the time is that they give some basic context, provide some foundation to your topic, why it is an important topic to discuss, the key ideas you are going to focus on and why and the main thing is a key idea or argument you are going to try and prove or disprove. To avoid any confusion about the direction you are taking your dissertation make sure you are defining your question and outlining what it is that it is asking of you. Then nobody can argue with your structure! Outline any assumptions you will be making and any topics that might be useful to the understanding of your debate yet you may not have the words for it.
- Split it into your chapters- My dissertation is 8,000 to 10,000 words long. That, to me now, does not seem too challenging. Once you really indulge in all of your reading and think about how you are going to make the most of your topic and thoroughly explore the details, that is quite a tight word limit. It might help to give yourself smaller word limits for your chapters. I have split my dissertation into 3 key chapters that explore my topic and then add my conclusion at the end. So thinking that you have 10,000 words, my introduction can be about 1,500 words and about 1,500 words for my conclusion. That leaves 7,500 words for my 3 chapters which can have about 2,500 words each. Don’t forget that footnotes are included in your word limit.
- Just get writing!- I know you will never be able to read every single book that is relevant for your dissertation. However, you need to get words down! The more you get down the easier it will be. I’ve written half and honestly, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My hard work is finally materialising and it feels amazing! This is with anything, you can plan forever but just get writing before it’s too late and you don’t have time to polish and perfect your work. Remember dissertations are longer than normal assignments you can not do them in one night, believe me! But enjoy this, spread it out over time, stop switch up your work and get back to it. Little by little you’ll be surprised at what you come out with!
good luck! and please try and have a break and have some fun, 2017 is almost over, end it with a bang!