What? A month left? Dissertation and other mysteries
How, tell me, HOW are we at the end of March. My dissertation deadline is on the 1st of May (with two more essays to submit) and let me tell you – I do not know where time went. And yet, here we are – just over a month until the dreaded deadline. In this post, I thought I would tell you a little bit what the dissertation process has been like for me.
For PAIS students, a dissertation is not compulsory. It counts as a 30CAT module (25%) in your final year, and it is a chance to carry out your own independent research on a subject you are interested in. You have complete responsibility for your work and how you organise it throughout the year.
If it is not compulsory, why on earth would you do it?First of all, I have always romanticised about my dissertation. It all started in 2002, when I heard the word ‘dissertation’ for the first time. My mother told me about hers. I took a big pack of A4 paper and I pretended it was my own dissertation. Topic: “Mulan is the best Disney character”. In any case, I always assumed I was going to write one. When I discovered that it is not a core component of my degree, I did think about it. After all, everyone knows that it is a stressful process, and that you need to be extra organised (which I am not). Another con is that you are basically on your own. The department offers four sessions throughout the year, and in January we organised the PAIS UG Dissertation Conference to give people a chance to present their research and get feedback. You also get support from your supervisor. However, ultimately, it is yourresearch. You are responsible for every part of it, and you must make sure you work hard. But do not be discouraged – I did not think I could work well on my own, but it worked out quite well! I thought it was about time I did some true, independent work.
Moreover, it is something different than what you have ever done before. It might be daunting, but also stimulating. You are free to explore different techniques and learning styles, and you can freely focus on more nuanced aspects of the subject.
Another reason is that I knew I wanted to continue my studies. Most postgraduate courses I looked at had a compulsory dissertation, so choosing not to do one this year would have been a mistake. It gives you a nice structure and preparation for what comes next.
What was the most difficult thing? The hard bit was definitely to organise my time. Not having a clear structure or timetable means that I have got to completely self-organise my work, which is something I still do not too perfectly. But it is a stimulating process, and I have noticed some significant improvements. It is also hard to manage other summative essays and assignments happening simultaneously – but again, organisation is an ongoing process.
Overall, I am actually quite enjoying writing my dissertation. It is a bit of a whirlwind: one moment I feel like it is going brilliantly, and the next I feel like it is going to fail. But I am sure all the hard work will pay off. I am writing on a subject I love (geopolitics, climate change and ontological issues) and getting plenty of support. This obviously does not mean the stress is not there – the idea of only having a month left is terrifying! But, fingers crossed, it will all be okay. I am sure by the end I will be extremely proud of the finished product, because it is a reflection of all the skills I have absorbed and independently applied during my time at university. I shall know go back to actually writing it. Wish me luck!