As we creep into May, the looming dissertation deadline that we like to pretend will never arrive starts to become dangerously real.
All you have to do is google anything dissertation-related for reassurance that if you’ve fallen behind, you’re not alone.
The good news is that you still have time. Better yet, I’m armed with a bunch of tips from my time as a student to help you make the most of the next few months.
Your dissertation is a huge task. Possibly the biggest and most important piece of work you will ever undertake. When you get the stroke of genius that leads you to the topic you plan to devote hundreds of hours of your life to, it can feel like a huge weight off your shoulders.
However, it’s important to make sure you don't get carried away. Before you jump into writing it, ensure you make a thorough plan of the topics you will have to research and get a rough idea of how much you currently know vs how much you need to know. It could be that although you feel like you’ve found the perfect topic, the research involved would be too time-consuming at this stage, and it could be better to “stick to what you know”, as they say.
If you hit a roadblock and realise that the topic you’ve chosen is far more complicated than you first thought, or that the results of your study really don’t give you that much to talk about, sometimes it’s better to scrap it and start again than to submit something that your heart isn’t in.
It’s so much easier to write when you’re passionate about the subject, and when you feel like you actually understand it.
As Albert Einstein once said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”.
If you don’t have a true grasp on the topic you’re writing about, unfortunately the person marking it will probably pick up on this. A few hours research on a topic isn’t enough to be able to write an insightful, convincing essay about it, and instead you’ll find yourself using vague terms and going off on tangents.
Of course only you can decide what is within your abilities, so weigh up the pros and cons of switching topics, and decide what’s best for you. Perhaps even check out some of the tutors on our website and run some questions by them if you want reassurance that you’re on the right track. We offer tuition in more than 300 subjects, so you should be able to easily find someone that’s a specialist in yours.
If you’ve completed three years of university and haven’t spent at least one morning watching the sunrise whilst crying into a pot noodle because you’ve been working on an essay for 18 hours straight, I commend you.
Nearly every graduate has been there, and the memory of it is enough to make you shudder.
Yes, your cat is almost definitely fed up of hearing you say you wish you’d started this back in December.
It might not even be that you’re trying to hit a deadline. If you’re on a roll, it can be hard to stop as we all know it can be difficult to pick up where you left off. However, I promise you that taking a break from it until the next day will result in a much better finished product than anything your caffeine-riddled brain can produce at 3am on a Wednesday morning.
Also - I work better “under pressure” is not justification for leaving your work until last minute, trust me!
Picture this. You’ve done the hard part. You’ve written 10,000 words on a complicated subject matter and you’re ready for a well deserved pat on the back. However you kept telling yourself that you’ll worry about references at the end. So instead of keeping a neat record of references on the end of your document, ready for a quick once-over before you print, you have to wade through your entire document, pull out your references one by one and try and arrange them into some semblance of order before you retire to your bed for the next week.
I’ve been there. I’ve watched other people be there and thrown them one of those awkward, reassuring smiles from across the library. There is no real way to put into words how exasperating this situation is, so my advice is do not put yourself in it.
Also, if you need someone to help you with tidying up the finished product, we have a whole host of expert tutors with tons of experience with dissertations who will be able to help you format it correctly, ensure your references are structured properly, and even proofread it for you.
Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.
This phrase wasn’t coined to describe the frustration of dealing with printers, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was.
There is nothing worse than spending hours of your life crafting a masterpiece, only to have your limits tested by a printer that won’t connect or will only print in an awful shade of dark green.
I promise you that if you leave printing until the last minute, you simply won’t have the strength to deal with an uncooperative printer without stamping your feet and cursing in frustration - and you don’t want to be that person in the uni library on deadline day.
Let’s face it - you have no idea what you’re doing and the likelihood of finding anyone who does is slim.
Set yourself a hard and fast deadline a few days before it’s actually due and make sure you stick to it. Don’t keep tinkering with your final piece after you’ve finished - get it printed out and ready to submit and enjoy the huge sigh of relief you can breathe.
Not only do universities have the audacity to force you to use tons of paper in order to print out your dissertation, chances are that they expect it delivered expertly bound and with front and back plastic covers.
Some universities have a binding machine you can pay a small fee to use, however with deadline day looming, expect a queue.
If you’ve never used a binding machine before, chances are you have no clue what you’re doing, so make sure that you take some test paper with you and do a practice run before unleashing this cumbersome machine upon your one hundred page long masterpiece.
Cities with a high student population will often have printing companies that are yearning for your business, so sometimes it’s easier to just bite the bullet and pay a few quid to have someone do it for you. It will probably save you a lot of time and stress, and it will undoubtedly look better than anything you could cobble together with the equipment in the uni library.
Can you write a first-class dissertation in a month? Possibly. But the sensible thing to do is get cracking now whilst you still have a bit of time to work with.
If you wait until the last minute, you will kick yourself for prioritising 17 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy over your education, and you’ll end up having to sentence yourself to weeks on end with little sleep and zero Netflix time whilst you knock together something that might only just scrape a pass.
If you find yourself genuinely struggling, I’d absolutely recommend taking a look at our website. We have tutors that specialise in a wide variety of subjects, who have taught hundreds or even thousands of hours to people in exactly your situation.