Having recently been set my third year dissertation, I’ve attended the 301 ‘Dissertation Planning’ workshop, as well as doing some research and asking people for tips! Here is a collection of helpful hints and tips for planning and writing your dissertation.
Picking a topic
- For many undergrads, the dissertation is your first opportunity to do your own research so it’s super important to pick something a topic you are interested in! You’re going to have to put a lot of time into this topic so make sure it isn’t something that you are going to get bored of in a couple of weeks time!
- Your dissertation idea should be something novel and original which hasn’t already been covered by the literature. Think of your dissertation as your own contribution to increasing knowledge in your field! As someone studying a science subject this is really exciting to me – what could be better than discovering something new?!
- I was advised by my supervisor that if you discover a paper that is the same as your dissertation idea then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new direction or an entirely new topic! My own dissertation topic has gone from prehistoric crocodiles to woolly mammoths for this very reason!
- Read. A LOT!
- Make notes on what you have read to keep track of what each paper was, this will make writing your dissertation much easier.
- And make sure the sources you use are reliable!
- Write little and often. Writing a few hundred words a day or setting yourself a similarly achievable target will be much less stressful than an all-nighter writing 10,000 words the night before your deadline!
- Reference as you go along… I always leave referencing til last but that is not something you want to do on a piece of work this big! It always takes longer than you think!
- Avoid awkward silences in 1:1 meetings by thinking about what you would like the meeting to cover. You could even write an informal agenda for yourself.
- Talk to your supervisor – this is possibly the first time you’ve had this level of 1:1 assistance from a member of staff… Make the most of them by talking through your ideas and asking questions when you are unsure.
- Don’t expect them to hand answers to you on a plate though – my own supervisor regularly answers my questions with a question to get me thinking for myself.
- And don’t be afraid to ask other members of staff or reach out to other experts in the field for their input, most people are happy to share their knowledge with you!
With two months until hand in day I’m not sure how many of these I will manage to stick to but fingers crossed for a successful dissertation!
Feeling like things aren’t going your way? Feeling sleep-deprived? Feeling like you want to give up? You aren’t alone! University IS a stressful time and recent studies have shown that student mental health is suffering as a result. With a heavy workload, exams, financial concerns, personal circumstances and other factors all running parallel you have a lot to deal with. This post is an attempt to give some three real pieces of advice from someone who has seen some dark times whilst at Uni. Helpful links and extra reading are given at the bottom!
1. Give yourself a pat on the back. Whether you take this literally or not is up to you but seriously don’t be too hard on yourself. You have already got the grades to be at a Russell Group University, made the big decision to attend University with all the associated changes. This is often overlooked especially if you have a lot of friends and family members that are at or have attended University. You are doing seriously well so far in life.
2. Don’t be afraid to seek support. Regardless of your problem, whether it is concerns about money, a potential mental health problem or a falling out with friends get some advice. Every person has a support network around them of differing levels containing a mix of friends, family, University staff, other students, online forums. Decide which is best for you and talk it through. If you think it’s likely to affect your academic performance let the University know as soon as possible!
3.Take time for you. Sometimes it can feel as if you have a mountain of work on top of you and another mountain of life worries. This can really be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting so you need to take some time out. Find out what helps you relax or what you enjoy doing, for me it’s exercise and drawing. Dedicate some time for this and you might start feeling more relaxed.
Sources of support at University:
External sources of support:
Over Easter, we have three weeks off. In these three weeks there is perfect opportunity to get ready for summer exam season. Here’s how:
- The last eight weeks have been long and intense, what with all of the work and play we have had to face. It is therefore vital that we all take some time to rest and recuperate. Spend some time with family and friends to chill. This down-time will also give you a chance to reflect on the last few weeks.
Ok, so now you’re calm and have rejuvenated yourself, it’s time to jump right back into academia with your brand new fresh perspective on things!
- Take a look through your lecture notes, any feedback you have received etc, and highlight to yourself the areas that you need to work on most. Also, to catch up on material that you may have missed. Try to take some time to re-learn what you have recently been taught and to make sure the most important things are clear to you.
This is the perfect time to get everything straight.
- Make a timetable for the next seven weeks – leading up to exams – one that divides your time between revising, studying and socialising. If you make your timetable during Easter then you won’t have to waste precious term-time creating it, when you could be doing one of the above. Time-tabling will help you organise your priorities. This knowledge should encourage you to focus on these weaker areas whilst away from uni.
- Another important thing that you could do during your Easter break is look forward to the summer and make some plans. This way, throughout the exam period you will have a lot to look forward to.
Once we return from the Easter break, we only have three weeks left of lectures left! After reading week, exams begin! That doesn’t give you a lot of time to get ready for your exams. That is why it is so important to get prepared whilst you have the time to do so!
Follow this advice and you should have time to work and play right up until exam period!
What is a University of Sheffield Mentor?
- Mentors are students who volunteer to help mentees (usually first year and international students) settle in to university life and provide a first point of contact for queries.
- As a mentor you should arrange to meet your mentee when they first arrive at University and keep in contact with them throughout the year, or as long as they find it helpful.
- Some questions you can deal with yourself, and sometimes you will need to refer the question on to another person or service. You are expected to be helpful and friendly, but the expectations of your role is not unrealistic and you are not expected to “do it all”.
- You will be matched with up to 4 students from your department, as you will have the most in common with them, however this doesn’t mean you will help them with extensive academic queries and you are not expected to act in place of their academic tutors or as a teacher.
- Students from any departments can be a Mentor (with the exceptions of Denistry and Medicine which run their own schemes).
What will I gain?
- Having taken part in the Sheffield Mentor scheme I found that it helps to develop a number of skills, including communication and interpersonal skills, through liasing with your mentee and giving them clear, concise and helpful advice. It will also help you to develop other skills such as listening, empathising and organisation.
- Being a Mentor can be hugely rewarding on a personal level, and further to this you might develop long lasting friendships through the scheme.
- As a mentor you will receive a certificate acknowledging the training and work you’ve done. A mentee may even nominate you for an ‘Outstanding Mentor of the Year’ Award.
- It looks great on your CV that you’re keen to get involved with extra things at university and help others, and gives you something interesting to talk about in interviews etc.
- “I thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor, and felt it was extremely worthwhile, it was great to know that you were able to help someone else and they appreciated the time you were able to give them. It was very satisfying!”
- “I’ve found it to be a very rewarding experience and hope my mentees love Sheffield as much as I do!”
How can I apply?
- You can find lots of information for prospective mentors at this link, and apply online using the Sheffield Mentors Hub and the preferred deadline is Wednesday 5th April!
How many times have you thought about picking up a new language but have never actually done anything about it?
Knowing another language is an amazing skill to have and the more time you invest in it, the more opportunities will come your way to travel, meet new people and just know more about a culture different than your own.
Among the many many… many opportunities offered by our University, there is one that makes learning a language as simple and straightforward as it can get.
The programme is called “Languages for All” and it offers you the possibility to either set the base for a new language as a beginner or to just pick up from where you left. There are a lot of options you could choose from and the best thing about it, is that you could also do it for free!
Here are a few things to keep in mind about the programme:
- The programme is very well structured and flexible as it offers you the possibility to attend classes both in the afternoon and evening so it doesn’t clash with any of your modules.
- On top of the actual lecture you will also have a 1 hour Lab that gives you the chance to practice any new information with other people on the same level as you.
- If you are taking the module on a non-for-credit basis the exam at the end is optional, so you don’t have to worry about not having time to prepare for it on top of your actual courses.
- It can either be done for an entire academic year or if you are really busy, going on a year abroad or would like to focus on something else, you can choose to just try it out for a semester.
- If you are taking part in an Erasmus programme, this is an amazing opportunity for you to get the basis of the language before you head off!
- It goes on your HEAR, so there is actual proof to demonstrate your effort!
All in all the programme is a great opportunity to just try something new while you are still figuring everything else at uni! If this post sparked your interest even a little bit here is a link where you can check when the next registration period is going to open: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/languages/lfa