For ages it was a rather abstract notion, but now it's suddenly become a grim reality. 10-12,000 words of wisdom are required and chances are your mind has gone blank. As you search for inspiration (don't worry, it will come), read our handy guide to the things they don’t tell you about writing your dissertation…
1 The idea that you’ve been quietly nurturing since the first day of college which will form the masterwork that you hope will permanently change the thinking around your subject matter will suddenly sound utterly pathethic when you have to present it to your fellow students. This common problem can be solved by a good old-fashioned night out, during which you don’t think about your dissertation at all. Inspiration will strike when you least expect it, and you’ll end up with a much better idea (even though it will be accompanied by a stinking hangover).
2 Nobody really understands referencing, especially not your tutors. Make sure that you get the University’s up-to-date referencing requirements in writing, and don’t be afraid to use all the many online tools that are available to you. Lastly make sure you establish whether the word count includes your references and captions. Otherwise get ready for much stress, and numerous recounts accompanied by some very last-minute axing or padding-out of text.
3 There’s plenty of advice available to help you write your dissertation, but don’t feel like you need to take any of it on board. Words of wisdom such as ‘start with what you already know’ are likely to have the effect of making you stare at a blank screen for hours on end.
4 You will suddenly develop the urgent need to clean your flat/file some paperwork/do some work on your unfinished novel. This is known as displacement activity – the benefits are that you are not watching Netflix (a good thing) and you are doing something productive. The downside is that you’re still not writing your dissertation.
5 For the first few months you’ll stress about not doing enough work, but you won’t stress enough to actually get on and do it…
6 You will never think that you’ve done enough work. Period.
7 If you already have slight book fetish tendencies, then these will only get worse during your dissertation period – prepare for the book buying to get slightly out of hand as you search wildly for words of wisdom on Abe Books. At some point you may find yourself ordering a book, only to find a copy already nestling happily on your bookshelf. Don’t be alarmed, your local charity shop will give them a home.
8 Caffeinated drinks, chocolate biscuits and Haribo will form a major part of your life for the duration of your dissertation. Do not try and fight this, resistance will only prove futile. You can eat your kale and quinoa salad later.
9 You will not spot the typo until you’ve printed and bound the whole dissertation.
10 The overwhelming sense of achievement that you feel after hand-in will quickly be followed by a crushing sense of anti-climax. This common problem can be solved by a good old-fashioned night out.
Good luck! And remember if things get on top of you, don't bottle things up. There's plenty of help out there, don't be shy to ask for it…