Ellie McLernon is a third-year forensic psychology student here at Teesside University. She has learned a lot about completing assignments and has given us her top tips for dissertation writing.
1) Don’t leave everything until the last minute
Regardless of what subject you’re studying, dissertations take a long time to write. I suggest that you plan how to tackle each section in steps. Start with the introduction and collect everything you need to write that, then after you have completed that section move on to the next one. This will help you to organise your work and you won’t lose track of which bits you still have to do.
2) Get your ethics application in and approved as earliest as possible
For some courses (like mine), you must get your dissertation project approved by an ethics board who give you permission to collect data and start your work. It’s always best get this application in as soon as you can, because the earlier you get it, the quicker you can start your research. This means that you will have more time to collect as much data as you can.
3) Stick to the word count
Usually dissertations are 10,000 words with the minimum requirement of 6,000 words. I suggest that you try and aim for at least halfway between 6,000 and 10,000.
4) Start your literature review towards the end of your second year
This isn’t the same for everyone, but I found that starting my literature review towards the end of my second year was very helpful. It gave me an insight into the topics I could look at for my dissertation, but it also meant that I would not have to spend as much time searching for references to include in my introduction when I came to typing my dissertation up.
5) Keep a record of all your references so you don’t lose them
This may sound obvious, but it’s good to keep a record of your reference list. It can be easy to forget where you get information from when you’ve got a lot of things to think about. Use referencing programmes, such as Mendeley or RefWorks, that sort your references into folders and then automatically create a bibliography when you’re finished.
6) Keep in touch with your supervisor
Keep in contact with your dissertation supervisor throughout your dissertation because they are handy to go to if you are stuck or if you need someone to look over a draft of your work.
7) Look at a topic that you’re interested in
Pick something that captures your attention, you’re more likely to keep at it and not fall behind in your work.
8) Remember you can get your drafts checked before you hand the final one in
Supervisors allow you to send them one draft of each section to get feedback on before you hand the final copy in. This is helpful because it allows you to see what you still need to work on.
9) Use SONA to get participants
On some courses, you can get access to a website called SONA, which allows you to recruit fellow students to do your experiment. This is the best recruitment tool to use because you get a wide sample and you can give other students credit for taking part in your study.
10) Don’t get too overwhelmed
Writing a dissertation can be stressful at times. There is a lot to do in a short amount of time and this time goes quickly. Try not to get too overwhelmed with it all. Take breaks and go back to your work later if you’re feeling stressed. It’s always helpful to talk with fellow course members to see how they are getting along also.
By Ellie McLernon.