20 Tips to Help You Finish Your Dissertation

So, here you are nearing the end of your studies and you find yourself faced with the monumental task of writing your dissertation. If you have gotten this far then it is highly likely that you have completed many written assignments and your may even enjoy writing, but for some reason this particular assignment seems like it is impossible to complete. With that in mind, here are our top 20 tips to help you finish your dissertation.

  1. Start Writing Sooner – The sheer size of your dissertation project can very quickly make you start panicking. That is why it is important to start writing as soon as you can. There is no limit to the amount of redrafting and editing you can do, so get started right away otherwise you will find deadlines catching you unaware!
  2. Write Continuously – When you sit down to write, do it continuously. Do not stop to read, research or edit. You should research whatever you want to write today and then sit down and write without stopping except for scheduled breaks!
  3. Write Without Editing – As touched on above, you should write without editing. You can edit later. In fact, you should schedule a separate time for editing sessions. When you site down to write, just write – the first draft does not need to be perfect!
  4. Make Sure You Have Nailed Down your Thesis – Before you even get started with writing your dissertation, you need to make sure that you have formed a solid thesis and set out your methodology. If you find you are struggling to write your dissertation then go back and review the thesis and make adjustments as necessary.
  5. If You Get Stuck, Skip to a New Section – Sometimes you are going to have a bit of a mental block regarding a particular area. Do not sit there and force it. Instead, put it to one side and start working on a different section instead. You can come back to the troublesome section in a few days with fresh eyes.
  6. When The Going Gets Tough, Hang in There – It’s fine to skip to another area when you are struggling, but you do need to find the right balance. Try to work through the rough spots first. Don’t give up completely – you’ve got this!
  7. This is Not Your Magnum Opus – When students are told that their dissertation needs to be of a publishable standard it often prompts them to go overboard! Always keep in mind that this is a student project – an important one, but a student project nevertheless! There is time to write your magnum opus after you graduate!
  8. Take Copious & Careful Notes – Making careful and copious notes while researching is a very important part of writing your thesis!
  9. Know When to Read – We have put an emphasis on writing, but reading and research is also important. You need to know when to start reading again – usually when your writing is drying up it means its time to research the next point!
  10. Schedule Research and Writing Sessions – It is important to create a schedule. This should include blocks of research and reading time, writing sessions and editing sessions!
  11. Look After Yourself – Your mind and your body function as one. You will do better work when you eat well, sleep enough and exercise regularly.
  12. Stay Focused on The Task – A dissertation is as much an exercise in discipline as anything else so stay focused on the task at hand!
  13. Don’t Get Mired in Introductions – It is a basic fact of writing any assignment – do your introduction last!
  14. Use Legal Pads – Use legal pads to make notes and sketch out ideas. You could do it on your computer, but this way you will take a break from the keyboard!
  15. Go On Walks – Walking has been proven to stimulate creativity! A nice walk in your breaks will do wonders!
  16. Use a Capture Journal – Sometimes ideas hit you outside of your actual scheduled time for working on your dissertation. It could be on a walk, in the bath or while out with friends. That is why you need some kind of capture journal to take note of them. It could be a small notebook you always carry or it could be a dictaphone!
  17. Talk about Your Ideas With Your Peers – Make a point of meeting with your peers to exchange ideas. It is a great way to explore them in more depth.
  18. Learn How to Read Effectively – Dissertations require a huge amount of reading so you need to learn how to read effectively. You need not read every book cover to cover. Skim read sections and familiarise yourself with the contents and key chapters.
  19. Set Yourself Deadlines – You are likely to already have enforced deadlines at certain points, but set yourself some smaller deadlines. Tasks are more manageable in smaller chunks!
  20. Take Productive Breaks – When taking a break try to do something productive to keep your brain engaged. Read a book, do a word puzzle even play a game of scrabble – don’t grab a video game!

These tips will be helpful in making sure that you finish your dissertation. You do not need to try them all, but try to incorporate at least a few of them. You might be surprised at how much difference they actually make.