How To: Survive Your Dissertation

How To: Survive Your Dissertation

Ever since I began my first year of University, three years ago, the thought of writing my dissertation petrified me. I'd begin to notice the influx of students in the library around March-April time and I'd dread to think that soon, that would be me. However, I am pleased to announce that not only did I survive my dissertation, but I also received a FIRST CLASS result and am graduating with a First Class Honours Degree in Psychology (wow, it feels good to type that!)

For those of you who don't know, I study Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). For my dissertation, I conducted a research study into the factors that make people susceptible to phishing scams and primarily, why people click on phishing emails, which I found to be very interesting which of course helped, a lotI remember when my supervisor told me that I had to gain 40 UCLan student participants for my research project and my immediate reaction was: 
"But I don't even know 40 UCLan students, let alone have 40 friends!" 
But somehow I did it, and I will be forever grateful for all those people who did give up their time to help me complete my research! I thought I would share with you a few tips for surviving, what can be a very stressful time at University, which hopefully you might find helpful, and also share some of my tips on how I also got a 1st class mark.

1. Choose a topic that interests you

 If you aren't passionate, or at least interested in the topic you are writing about, then that is going to show throughout your writing and effect your overall grade. For my dissertation, my word count was 8,000 words and I submitted my dissertation with 7,998 words which just shows how interested I was and how much I had to say about the topic. It's going to be a long, painful final year if you are having to force yourself to research a topic if you are not the slightest bit interested in it. Don't choose a topic just because your friend is doing that and don't choose a topic based on your choice of supervisor. I mean it does help if your supervisor is someone you get along with, but it's not the end of the world and I definitely wouldn't choose a supervisor over the actual topic of your work.

Think of your dissertation as a chance to use all the knowledge that you have learnt throughout your degree on a topic of YOUR CHOICE and try and do something that interests you.

2. Start early

How To: Survive Your Dissertation

I began my dissertation in the October of my final year. For my course, there was a lot to do before you could even start the write-up of the dissertation so I was aware that I had to be really focused and motivated as soon as I started my final year. The first thing that I did was arrange a meeting with my supervisor and discuss what type of research I was going to conduct and how I wanted to conduct it. I decided I wanted to run a laboratory study instead of using a questionnaire, which also meant that it was going to be a more time-consuming process. I received ethical approval for my study and by Christmas, I had finished my data collection. 

After taking the Christmas break off to revise for my January exams (yes, there is no end when you hit final year), I began to analyse my data when I returned back to Uni in January. I knew that my data analysis was going to be very time-consuming due to the nature of my research project, so I tried to pace-myself and just work on it as much as I could. I did find that I was very stressed with my dissertation around January-March and that was just by doing my analysis. At that time, a handful of people on my course were still in the process of data-collection and so they were in full-blown panic mode! I can't imagine how stressed out they must have been with the draft deadline being in March.

 If you know you don't cope well with stress, like myself, then take action and start your dissertation as soon as you start your third year, or even begin research in the summer months. Trust me, it makes everything so much easier and it allows you to take it easy and have breaks, as opposed to rushing around and becoming frazzled, just like the stereotypical image of final-year students.

3. Utilise the help around you

Luckily for me, I got on really well with my disseration supervisor- I guess I gave her no choice really as I was always in her emails arranging meetings! If you have the option to do so, I'd really recommend communicating with your tutors and asking for help and feedback if you need it. I also asked my family to check over my final dissertation for any silly little grammatical errors that I may have missed, which could have consequently affected my final grade!

4. Be ready to submit your dissertation before the deadline day 

How To: Survive Your Dissertation

You may wonder why I said I was hesitant about handing in my dissertation. I'm presuming that for most of you reading this, you haven't yet handed in your dissertation and I can imagine you are properly thinking "surely handing it in is the biggest relief ever?"
 Speaking from my own experience, yes you are right it is. But it's also the most terrifying experience, as your dissertation sort of becomes a part of you. For me, I spent around 6 months writing my dissertation and by the end of it, I was terrified to hand it in and let someone else be the judge of such a massive piece of work. Handing in your disseration is a big deal and one that does leave you feeling attached and a little sentimental about the whole thing. To help with this, I'd suggest NOT leaving the submission of your dissertation until the last minute, and giving yourself some time to reflect, check over your work and feel 100% confident that you are submitting the best possible piece of work that you can do. This helps to alleviate that feeling of dread and panic as you hover over the 'submit' button, as you should hopefully feel proud of yourself and be ready to let it go.

5. Go for it

It may seem like the most impossible task at the time but the europhic feeling afterwards makes it all worthwhile. I am so proud of myself for completing my disseration and to a standard that I am really pleased with. No matter what my final grade is for this piece of work, I know that I could not have done anymore and that's all that matters! So go for it. Give it all that you've got and enjoy all the guilt-free celebrations later, like binge-watching Netflix until your hearts content.

Have you written your dissertation yet? How did you find it?

Thanks for reading!

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