As a final year politics student, the dreaded dissertation is now in full swing. The last couple of months have flown by and now is the time to really get my head down and focus before I run out of time! For my dissertation to be relatively pain free, it has been and will continue to be important for me to, be really organised so that I don’t lose my focus, get behind and end up having to rush at the end. This involves using many different study skills! In this blog I will highlight some of the techniques I have found useful for tackling a dissertation.
To stay on track with my dissertation it has been really useful to give myself a schedule to plan my time effectively. In order to do this I have set out various deadlines and targets for myself for the different components of the dissertation. For example for my dissertation meeting next week I decided with my tutor that I would have an introduction and draft literature review ready for her to look at, so that I can get that out of the way and start to get onto the vital research section. Although I still have a little more to do on it in the next couple of days I will have reached my target successfully and feel like I’m on the right track. I have also decided to break it down even further by creating a list of points I need to cover in each section of my dissertation, ticking them off as go. This allows me to see my progress and get a real sense of achievement as well as making sure I don’t forget anything important. This helps me see how my overall dissertation is progressing, how each section flows together and the areas that may need more work.
The most essential skill that anyone writing a dissertation needs is time management. This is absolutely crucial especially if like me you are particularly prone to procrastinating! Like I suggested before, setting yourself targets and creating checklists can really help with this because it gives you something to work towards. As my dissertation deadline still feels safely far in the future it is very easy to feel like I don’t need to do much work yet. However, the more work done now, the easier it will be nearer the end. One technique I use for overcoming procrastination is setting myself a timetable for the day, marking out times for lunch and anything else I need to do that day. Then I see what time I’ve got left and fit in slots of an hour for working. I set a timer, put my phone away and work until it goes off, without looking at social media, watching TV, tidying up my room, etc. By telling myself that I’ve only got to work for an hour, it seems a lot less daunting and I have found that it really helps me to concentrate better. After the hour I have a short break, normally to make a cup of tea or have a chat with a housemate. Then I repeat the process. If I’ve got nothing else to do that day I normally aim to use this strategy for about five or six hours of the day. It works well because often what I get done in one dedicated, focused hour is at least double what I would get done in a whole afternoon of procrastinating.
My final tip is about organising your notes. As a bit of a stationery addict I love buying new notebooks, folders, etc. when I start a new semester. Aside from the fact I love getting new stuff, it does really help me to organise my thoughts. Therefore, for my dissertation I have a specific notebook and folder to keep all my notes and readings in. I make sure it is always in order and organised in a relevant way, e.g. by topic. For a 12,000 word dissertation there is inevitably going to be a lot of notes and bits of paper and if they don’t stay organised, it’s only going to cause problems in the long run when you can’t find that one piece of paper that you really need.
301 has several workshops on things like Beating Procrastination, Dissertation Planning and Proofreading which may be really beneficial for anyone doing a dissertation. You can book on to them by following the link: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301