July 6, 2015, by Sunita Tailor

The postgraduate approach to summer…

This blog post was written by MA English Literature student, Nicole Jones from the School of English.

Well, I know that this seems like a strange time to be talking dissertations, as most undergrads will have just handed theirs in – but for postgrads, June doesn’t bring the promise of freedom and adventure. Instead, we’re due to start our dissertations! Our final coursework hand in was May 20th, and we received our dissertation supervisors this week, so we’ve had a week of free-time to enjoy before settling back down to work.

My dissertation will explore the contribution of ‘the fair triumvirate of wit’ in the English novel, and I’m genuinely excited to get started – I’m starting a PhD in September, and this will be a fantastic grounding for it. The word count/limit of 14,000 words no longer seems like a lot, as we’ve been doing 6000 word submissions all year- how I ever fit everything into 3000 words, I really don’t know!

So for you recent second years, this might seem like a world away – but your dissertation is a great opportunity to improve your overall grade, so it’s never too soon to start thinking about it. I’ve compiled the tips that got me through my undergraduate dissertation(my plan is that if I’m struggling this summer, I can sternly refer myself to my own advice!)

Top Tips for your dissertation:

  • Timing. It’s so tempting, but the difference between dissertation joy and dissertation trauma is planning ahead. If you spend an afternoon a week on your dissertation spread over a year, you’ll genuinely never feel stressed out by it. I used to be very disorganised, but I started reading for my dissertation the summer after second year, and it made a significant difference.
  • Supervision. Supervisors are there for a reason! This ties into the first point; if you leave it too late to start, your supervisor isn’t going to be able to help you properly. If you rock up a week before the deadline with a rough draft begging for help, there’s not going to be time to sort it out.
  • Enthusiasm. A surprising amount of people seem to pick a dissertation topic they aren’t that interested it – this is your time to shine, so don’t waste it! Choose something you’re motivated about, and if you find out it’s not working too well, talk to your supervisor and see where you can take it.
  • Confidence. It seems scary to write a huge chunk of work filled with your opinions – but you’ve made it through a few years of university already, and no doubt have wonderful and interesting ideas. Be confident! Believe in your work and write with conviction.

And finally… embrace the exercise/snack ratio.  On one hand, yes – it’s important to take time out from work, even just to go for a walk, to keep your body and mind healthy. On the other hand, sometimes you really just need a motivation. I did most of my dissertation writing in a computer room by Trent Building, because I promised myself if I did three solid hours of work on my diss every Friday afternoon, I could get a brie and cranberry bagel from Trent café. Find what works to motivate you and go for it – and remember to enjoy. But first, good luck with any exams and remember to enjoy your summer, too. Spare a thought for us postgrads lurking in Hallward in August!

PG student studying in Hallward Library

Posted in Student Words