Dissertation Disasters (and how to avoid them!)

Image: Tim Gouw

[Catie Allwright | Contributing Writer]

I spoke to five graduates from around the country about their experiences, any catastrophes they overcame and any tips for those still climbing their diss-Everest. Meet the survivors:

Edward Durcan, Sound Art & Design graduate (2015) from London College of Communication.

Kathryn Millard, BSc (Hons) in Adult Nursing graduate (2015) from De Montfort University.

Heidi Gardner, MSci Pharmacology with Industrial Placement graduate (2015) from University of Aberdeen.

Harriet Waldock, Environmental Science graduate (2015) from Bournemouth University.

Laura Mannell,  Retail Buying graduate (2013) from De Montfort University.

How did you cope/stay organised while taking on such a large project?

Edward: I would say the biggest motivator for me was the fear of failure – the guilt I would feel if I didn’t get it in on time! The fear gave me so much drive, energy and focus.

Kathryn: With the help of my dissertation supervisor. She was great! She made me write a timeline of what we had to complete and when, making sure I stuck to it.

Heidi: I used my Outlook calendar religiously, took a notebook everywhere I went and got lots of different people to proofread my drafts.

Harriet: I found it really helpful to print out articles and my own drafts so I could highlight and make notes on them, then compile them into a binder.

Did anything go wrong for you?

Edward: In some ways I didn’t help myself. Typically I left everything until the last minute, and I would ignore invitations to meet up with my personal tutor which I’m sure would have been valuable.

Kathryn: I didn’t plan for how much reading there would be! Finding relevant articles was time consuming and hard.

Harriet: I used Dropbox a lot to save files and retrieve them elsewhere. This resulted in a lot of confusion; with duplicate files everywhere I couldn’t remember which the updated version was.

Laura: My laptop broke, worst thing ever! Not much I could have done to avoid it, but I should have backed up my work, everywhere (on external or cloud storage), all the time.

What tips would you give to students currently writing a dissertation?

Kathryn: Start your reading early, and take your time with it. Listen to your supervisor, they know what they are doing. Finally, enjoy yourself! It is hard but it’s so worth it.

Heidi: Use a calendar, set milestones and targets for yourself and begin the final write up as early as humanly possible.

Harriet: Don’t panic if the end result isn’t turning out to be what you anticipated when you started out.

Laura: If you get off track and start to hate it, think about what interested you in the first place because it will be obvious if you’re not passionate about the subject. Oh and keep an eye on your word count, it creeps up faster than you think!

If we can learn anything from this, it’s that technology WILL fail you at a crucial time, but a lot of people are around to support you and get you through. Use your time and resources wisely and it will work out in the end.

Have you got any tips for our diss-Everest climbers? Share them with us via Twitter @TridentMediaUK or on Facebook!

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Dissertation Disasters (and how to avoid them!)