In my experience, the D word has been made out to be a very scary and overwhelming task. I’m not going to lie to you, it is a very important piece of work, but like everything in life if you break it down to manageable pieces, it will be fine. In fact, you may even enjoy it. Here’s some tips and advice that I’ve learnt along the way whilst doing my dissertation:
- Embrace it
When you do your dissertation, you will most likely get more freedom than other assignments. Depending on your university you may get to pick your own topic or decide whether you write a research proposal or literature review. This freedom means you can tailor your dissertation to something you’re interested in, embrace that.
- Understand the marking grid
Read and understand the marking grid before you jump into it, this may sound like a very simple one, but seriously, understanding what your university want is very important. Make sure you ask your supervisor if you have any questions before you spend hours researching or coming up with the perfect question to be told it doesn’t fit with the marking grid.
- Picking the topic
One of the main things people told me when I began my dissertation was pick a topic you enjoy, and now I can see what good advice that was. Make sure you pick a topic that you have questions about, that you can read about a million times and that can relate to your practice. Otherwise it will get boring very quickly.
- Organise your time
Organisation is key. In my first week, I made myself a Gantt chart of every week from then until the dissertation was due. I gave myself a target of what I wanted complete each week and made sure I gave myself a week here or there off to relax or catch up in case I got behind. This Gantt chart was honestly, one of the best ideas I had throughout my 3 years of nursing, it gave me structure and goals to reach in my self-directed learning weeks.
Find where you best work. This may be the kitchen table, the library, university, a desk in your room or an office. Make sure it’s a place your happy to spend time at. Whilst writing my dissertation I’ve made sure to not use my desk as an overflow for my wardrobe or a filing cabinet for paperwork, I made sure to keep it tidy and fresh, I added a little candle and made sure I had a decorative to do list. After all tidy space = tidy mind.
If you have self-directed study time it can be easy for this time to turn into life admin days or a cheeky day off watching Netflix. I gave myself a routine to make sure I had productive self-directive days. For me that routine was: up, breakfast, dog walk, a few hours of work, lunch, more work, evening dog walk, dinner, relax/twilight shift. Whatever works best for you, it may take some time to figure a routine out but try different things and see what best motivates you.
Supervision is an extremely important part of writing a dissertation so make the most of it. My top tip for supervision would be to plan the discussion you want to have. This can either be through writing a list of questions or going through what you’ve written so far and scribbling in the footnotes however you plan, make sure you have the most productive time you can with your supervisor.
- Make time for breaks
Self-care, self-care, self-care! Although writing a dissertation is a different experience to 12 hour shifts on placement, it is still draining and it is still important to take beaks. Both breaks throughout the day and mini annual leave time. Maybe give yourself a long weekend there or an extra day off here if you can feel yourself struggling. Be in tune to your body and release when it’s telling you to slow down. It’s better to take a day off then hit burnout point and getting ill.
- Proof read
Again, this one may sound simple but get people to proof read your work. You will spend lots of time on your dissertation and I’ve found that after a while I’m reading the same thing over and over. Getting a fresh set of eyes to read it is always helpful.
These are a few tips that I’ve learnt through doing my dissertation. Although the D word sounds scary, its honestly not that bad, I think the key is to plan your time. Tackle it a little bit at a time and you will get there. If you have any more tips and tricks of how to complete a dissertation please share them with us and if you’re about to begin your dissertation, believe in yourself! You can totally do this!