May 11, 2021, by School of Medicine

Dissertation Difficulties

The large focus of third year is always the dissertation which takes up the majority of the second semester. You’ll be thinking about which supervisor you’re going to apply for from the summer going into the third year and constantly developing your research and writing skills as to be ready for the real deal.

When deciding what sort of dissertation you’re going to do, you need to recognise what you’re going to enjoy. If you like going into the labs, using equipment, and analysing raw data then a lab report might be for you. If you prefer to look for trends in current literature and draw conclusions about the direction of future research, then a literature/ systematic review may be up your street.

On a personal note, I think a lab report is the most fun as you get to go into labs and get your own data but be careful as Covid restrictions limit when I can go in the lab and what I can do so it’s more tedious than it would otherwise be. So, check what restrictions will be in place for you when you decide what type you’re going to do.

As someone who is currently going through the process, I can tell you that in concept, the dissertation is largely similar to any other systematic review, lab report, or literature review coursework you’ve done in the past just with several big differences which define the process as frustrating and stress-inducing.

The main differences are the scope and focus of the work. MPT teaches you long-established principles of medicine and occasionally marks you on your ability to write essays and abstracts on it; however, the dissertation is going to involve you working on the very forefront of a field where you are going to have to comprehend what is and what is yet to be understood. Then you’ll have to write 8,000 words on what you’ve found, a stark contrast in scope to what you’ve had to do before. This all sounds bad but ultimately, the more you read, the more you’ll want to write so if you struggling to fill 8,000 words, read more then see if you’re able to develop your writing.

There’s a lot more specialist software and lab equipment you’ll have to get used to using. For me, I find myself in labs using expensive microscopes and imaging programs. It was all a bit daunting initially, but you get used to it eventually and the more you play with the data you gather, the more you find you can write about how it fits into current trends or perhaps how it bucks them and seems to strike out on its own.

You hear stories of people being endlessly stressed about their dissertation, these concerns are understandable but ultimately everyone is in the same boat so if you’re worrying about your project, talk to people on the course as it’s likely they’re also struggling. Don’t hesitate to drop the module lead or your supervisor and email if you’re worried as they’ll help you out. Good luck to those who are soon to pick a supervisor and topic, choose well.


Tune in for the MPT Society’s blog! We’ll be covering a range of topics so watch this space for more entries and let us know if there is anything you’d like covered!

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