Writing a Statistics dissertation – my tips!
Writing a dissertation is something many people at university will experience. Currently, as a Statistics integrated masters student I am writing up my dissertation!
Even though I haven’t submitted mine yet, I’ve been reflecting on the way I’ve completed my project and the things I might have done differently given another chance – here’s what I think:
Writing a dissertation is intimidating. For me at least, it felt like a lot of words on a topic I didn’t know anything about. My first steps: emailing my supervisor for a meeting, attending the meeting, reading through some recommended texts… and now I’ve written 50 pages.
Everyone has to start somewhere with their dissertation so don’t keep pushing it back, get started! Tasks like arranging a first meeting or starting the recommended reading can really start to get the ball rolling. Whatever stage you’re at, a dissertation can feel overwhelming but try to focus on the next right action to keep the momentum. I hope you find that a couple of months down the line you’ll see your journey in hindsight and realise it wasn’t as bad as you thought.
Make notes in your meetings
I wrote notes for every meeting I had with my supervisor. Not only do notes give you an outline of your tasks for the upcoming weeks, they also make great reminders when you start writing up your dissertation. Even when I went down project rabbit holes which I did not use in my final dissertation, notes can help jog your memory as to why you came up with solutions to begin with. I found that notes also helped me structure my final dissertation, providing a diary of the work I completed at every step of my project.
No question is silly
I think we can all relate to holding in a question because you didn’t want to come across as silly – but when you’re writing a dissertation you must ask everything! Your dissertation, like mine, may be on a specialist area and so you may be expected to provide a really thorough understanding of your topic. If a small detail, however trivial, is holding you back from gaining a good understanding then holding in that question may lose you marks!
They may not show it, but every academic will definitely have had set-backs or needed to ask questions in the past – in fact the best ones have probably asked lots of questions. In the end, your supervisor is there to support you whilst writing up your project. They probably won’t grade your meetings or emails, so ask away!
This is similar to the first piece of advice but when you’ve completed the project you really need to start writing. When I wanted to start writing, I felt like I had spent so many hours on my project but didn’t know what to say. My personal tutor’s response – just start writing anything! Your dissertation will probably go through a lot of revisions so what you write initially may not make the final cut, but it will get you started. When you start I hope you realise, like me, that it’s not as scary as you thought it would be.
I initially started on the introduction but in fact I would recommend you start on another chapter. Once your middle chapters have been written you may be in a better place to know what you want to include in the introduction and conclusion. Also, after really reading into your subject for the main chapters, you’ll probably have better knowledge and an appreciation of your dissertation to write an introduction to hook the reader.
And finally…Be kind to yourself!
I’ve found that writing my dissertation has been one of the most academically challenging, yet most rewarding, aspects of my time at Warwick. Sometimes it might feel like you’re stuck or don’t know what to do next but, trust me, it always works out! Keep you’re head up and persevere – you’ve got this!