This is the most important part of your bachelors, masters or doctorate degree so it's important you know what you're doing so you hit the ground running and don't waste valuable time being lost.
When I was completing my bachelors' dissertation I was completely lost, even though I enjoyed working in the lab, I didn't enjoy the overall process and it left me really stressed and anxious. I only found out the aim of my research once I had completed and submitted my project. Granted I did get a good grade on it and it's still a piece of work I'm proud of, but if I could go back and do things differently or focus on specific parts of it, I would.
Click here to read all about my bachelors' project.
So here are a few tips on how to go about your dissertation:
BE VERY ORGANISED FROM THE BEGINNING
To be successful in anything you have to be organized. This doesn't mean you have to be a perfectionist but enough to be able to locate everything you need without "dumping the entire contents of your bag on the floor just to find your pen!"
HAVE A FILING SYSTEM
I learned this filing system from my previous employment and still use it today. It's efficient and easy to locate and work from. Also, please name your files. Please don't call them "abfjhfjfhgfksfkl" or "draft1" that won't be helpful in the long run.
|FOLDERS AND SUBFOLDERS|
|HOW I NAME MY FILES AND THE FOLDER THEY'RE STORED IN|
|ALL OF THE FOLDERS FOR THE PAPERS I READ|
And this is how I title my documents:
[DATE]_[DOCUMENT TITLE SHORTENED]_[DRAFT0]
GET A LAB NOTEBOOK
Keeping a notepad/lab notebook or a virtual one is going to help you keep up with all of the research and thoughts you'll compile into the written dissertation. It will also be useful to look back and read through your experiments and previous trials which worked or didn't work and help you organise your work and time more efficiently.
This is the notebook I used for my bachelor's project and master's thesis (a bit expensive but it's a hardcover and fancy)
This notebook is also cute from the Etsy shop called Science On A Post Card (and it won't break the bank!)
KNOW ALL YOUR DEADLINES FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
These should be given to you before the project starts so you know what you need and schedule your project accordingly.
CREATE AN EXCEL TABLE (LIKE THIS) OF ALL OF THE PAPERS YOU ARE READING FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
This is something I've seen that everyone who used it found very helpful. I personally found out when it was too late to start it (halfway through the dissertation!). This will greatly help you complete the literature review and your proposal. Follow this link which details how to conduct a good literature review.
USE THE THREE-PASS METHOD FOR READING LITERATURE / SCIENTIFIC PAPERS
This link explains it in detail.
READ THIS BOOK IT WILL GUIDE YOU
I cannot recommend this book enough, it really is helpful to all students, especially if you're in the social sciences. You can find it in the university library or access it online.
REGULAR MEETINGS WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR
Meeting bi-weekly or whenever is suitable with your supervisor means you can sort out any issues quicker, discuss your results and make sure you fully understand what's required of you for this big project. This link includes useful advice on how to prepare for your meeting with your supervisor so you get the most out of it as possible.
GET ADVICE FROM YOUR PEERS/ OTHER LECTURERS
At STS we had the option to give a 10-minute presentation on our dissertations so that we could get advice from our peers and other supervisors. I seriously found this really helpful because they helped me make a very important decision in the project.
Make sure you know all of the various research methods that are available to you to use. This will be either qualitative or quantitative. This is the basis of your project, so ensure you pick the right one for your work.
WRITE, WRITE, WRITE ALL THE TIME AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!
Most of the recommendations I received on thesis/dissertation completion revolved around writing! So here's a round-up of my fellow researchers' tips:
- Writing is the hardest part!
- No matter how great of a writer you are, you will get lots of revisions (and that's OK! constructive criticism on your work will help you develop your work and transform it into a great thesis!)
- Writer's block happens but always write your ideas down and you can always edit later
- Start with an outline!
YOUR PROPOSAL ISNT THE BE ALL END ALL OF THE PROJECT THERE IS ROOM TO GROW AND ADAPT THINGS
We all think that we know what we're going to end up with when we start a project but that's not how it works all the time. Usually, there are things that come up that may require that you change something in your hypothesis or your research method may change depending on how much time you have.
MAKE SURE YOU SAVE YOUR WORK IN MULTIPLE PLACES / USB'S / DRIVES / CLOUDS
It is 2019. There are no excuses. Save everything a million times because laptops aren't reliable and things can disappear from USB sticks, or get stolen so save everything to several places, in clouds and hard drives so you don't end up losing your valuable work a week before the deadline.
DONT LEAVE EVERYTHING TO THE LAST MINUTE
This is really obvious but there's no point in leaving everything to a month or a week before the deadline. It's irresponsible and shows that you don't really care about your work.
- If you have any questions or other tips you can add to this blog post leave them in the comments below, please!