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18 Tips Every Student Should Know Before They Start Their Dissertation

You've got this.

We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community for their advice for any student doing a dissertation. Here are some of their suggestions.

1. Choose a topic you're truly interested in.

2. Your introduction will change as the dissertation progresses, so avoid starting with it.


"Do NOT write your introduction first – save it until the end. If you begin by writing the introduction, it'll only change when you come to the conclusion."


3. Set up small breaks or rewards for after you've worked for a certain number of hours, and work in a nice environment.

4. If you can, invest in a cheap monitor so you can read your references while writing.

Flickr: sdeurope

"I got another monitor/screen and connected it to my laptop. This way I could read what I wanted to refer to while writing and makes copy and pasting quotes a breeze. Saves time and monitors are really cheap. I used a second hand one. IT WAS A GOD SEND!"

– Andy91

5. Back everything up multiple times.

Flickr: infidelic

"Back it up! Save multiple copies, then save some more. Keep your saves up to date. Use cloud storage where possible, do not rely on a single USB drive.

"And if you're hammering out an eight-hour session, save it throughout the day. Don't rely on autosave. I work IT at a university. I've dealt with several distraught students who've lost their only copy of their dissertation. Devastating."


6. Get someone else to proof read your work.


"Make sure you get people to proof read your work. You will read your work so many times that having a fresh pair of eyes to spot spelling and grammar mistakes is very helpful. You'll be surprised how many people are willing to help."


7. Give yourself time to get it printed and bound.

Jasmin Nahar / BuzzFeed

"Get it printed and bound (if you have to) a few days before the deadline, the queue for the printer and binder on deadline day was so long and everyone was panicking that they weren't going to get it in on time."


8. Set up a draft deadline before an event or reward you're looking forward to, as motivation to get it done in time.


"It helped me to set a due date immediately before an exciting event/reward. For me, I planned for a full draft to be due to my chair the day before my brothers were coming to visit with me. I was really motivated because I wanted it to be done with and out of the way when they came so I could focus on spending time with them instead of worrying about the dissertation."


9. Know that timetables are your best friend.

10. If your dissertation coincides with exams, start revision early so that you're not having to juggle everything at once.

Haejin Park / BuzzFeed

"Dissertations are sometimes due close to exams (mine were a week apart from each other). It's important that you don't forget about the exams otherwise you'll get completely overwhelmed with work. Start your revision early. Each term break I would review my modules from that term and do notes ready for exams in April. It was a lifesaver and so much quicker to revise only a couple weeks work rather than an entire years in one week." – katyd46366707e

11. Jot down everything that comes to mind, it could be useful later on.

Flickr: joeyanne

"Even if it's a rough mess, write down every point you think of, even if it's small and unimportant, because chances are you will use it later on!"


12. And reference as you go along.

13. Start with an outline so you know what you're aiming to achieve with each section.

Flickr: hoel

"Make a detailed outline of your various sections. Start off with just the headings, then add any subheadings, and then add a sentence or two to describe what you want to write there. Helps stay on track, focused, and organised during the writing process."


14. Set small, realistic writing goals that will add up.


"Set a small writing goal for yourself every day, even if it's just two to three pages. By the end of the month you'll have a chapter. But don't beat yourself up if you can't make that goal every single day. Even if you miss the mark every now and then, you're still accumulating pages."

– christineantoinetter

15. Make the most of your supervisor being there.

Adult Swim

"Make sure you meet your supervisor! Don't bother hiding from them, they know you're behind, they know you haven't even started, use their knowledge and take the support they offer."

– Nicola Skye via Facebook

16. Make use of Google Scholar as a starting point to find journals and books you should add to your reading list.


"Google Scholar - it's Google but searches the web for academic articles and books. Absolute lifesaver."

– Jess Ellis via Facebook

17. Understand that you can't cover everything, and know when it's done rather than constantly tweaking things.

18. And finally, take some time out for yourself, and look after your mental health.

Flickr: 40567405@N07

"My sister reminded me that I was allowed to take some time off (read: recharge, not procrastinate) and it helped so much not only being told that I didn't have to spend every waking moment thinking about the dissertation, but that I could still do things I enjoyed and remain some semblance of the life I had pre-dissertation. Even little things like painting your nails or taking the time to cook a homemade meal instead of having a ready meal in order to get back to writing as quickly as possible can work wonders for mental health."


Note: submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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