May 27, 2016, by Charlie Porter

Dear Prospective Dissertation-ers

Dear Prospective Dissertation-ers,

While my degree might be slightly different to yours –  you might be conducting an experiment in a lab, examining the theory of something I’ll never understand, delving into the history of a past event or reviewing a piece of literature – there is still some kind of ominous dissertation looming in the distance. Some of you might have dissertation projects that you’ll start before Christmas while others might not begin until March. This isn’t a warning or a threat and it’s certainly not my intention to get you all flustered about something that seems a mere speck on the horizon; exams are almost over and summer’s almost here so, if anything, a dissertation is probably the last thing on your mind. However, I would like to pass on a few wise words I wish I knew before it all.


1. It won’t kill you to know what you’re going to do. Like I said, there’s an entire summer between now and starting your dissertation, however, your future-self will certainly thank you if you know what you want to base your dissertation on. I thought I had it all sussed out and then a month before term started I realised I wanted to go in a completely different direction which, in the long run, did push me back a little.


2. Find that balance between your diss and your other work load. It’s all well and good to dedicate a lot of time and effort into your dissertation but don’t forget that you’ll have other modules – and you need to pass those too! Make sure you leave enough time for your other coursework and study for your exams in addition to getting that project done.


3. Don’t underestimate how time flies. Especially when you’re having fun. We all jest about how quickly the year goes by, so don’t let that project sneak up on you.


4. Your tutor is there to help, and so are your peers. I was really fortunate to have an incredible tutor who guided me through the entire project. When she was away, I also visited the Head of Year a couple of times. But it’s not just your faculty that are there to help – so are your friends! Run ideas by them, see what other people on your course are doing. Use your family too (Mums and Dads are there to read over and edit your work, aren’t they?).


5. Don’t get too overwhelmedYou may be the coolest of all cucumbers, so this may not affect you; however, I know what it’s like to be a worrier. There may be days when the deadline seems a little too daunting and you feel unsure how to tackle the task ahead. Breathe – it will all be fine. Find what works for you – if that’s having a calendar to visualise your deadlines and targets, if its setting weekly goals… Don’t worry. You’ll make it.


6. And you could always start thinking of a caption to go with that obligatory picture of you and your dissertation – because it didn’t happen if you didn’t take a selfie.

Posted in Charlie