It’s a while ago now (five years in fact… where does the time go?!) but it’s hard to miss the hysteria around dissertation and thesis deadlines. It’s a huge piece of work, no doubt about it. The very word strikes fear into the hearts of students (I recall even feeling anxious in first year thinking about it!), but it doesn’t have to be as big an ordeal as it is hyped up to be.
I finished my dissertation just over a week before it was due. In words, this doesn’t sound like very much, or a great deal early. But when I looked around me, so many of my peers were, uhm, passing bricks in the final approach to hand-in day. All-nighters, tears… and it’s not necessary. I saved myself a lot of pain, and if I can do it, anyone can!
Keep up with your supervisor
I’m sure different universities do things in different ways, but mine was like this. I had fortnightly, pre-arranged meetings with my dissertation supervisor. It probably helped loads that she was absolutely lovely, but I made sure I attended every session without fail. They didn’t take up a huge amount of my time and I got such valuable feedback and advice on my work. I scored a first so it was well worth it!
Set aside time
This is probably one of those ‘easier said than done’ things! I really enjoyed the topic of my dissertation so it wasn’t fresh hell sitting down with my laptop and a stack of library books. I just plugged away at it – an hour an afternoon here, an hour or two after dinner there – spreading it out eased the pressure and made it seem like less of a big deal. It also felt like it wasn’t draining all of my time as I was doing it in lots of little chunks…
As I said above, spreading it out over time makes it seem less daunting. It also helps to improve the quality of your writing. I find going and coming back to your work a positive thing. A pair of fresh eyes can see things differently and you can make improvements as you go along. That doesn’t happen in last-minute sessions!
I hope this was helpful in some way! Good luck in your dissertation and final year – I wish I could do it all over again.