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A Third Year's Top Tips on Writing Your Dissertation

Going into your third and final year of University can be a very daunting prospect, especially thinking about the dreaded dissertation. Having just handed in my own, I have definitely learnt many valuable lessons that I think can help those feeling nervous about getting started on their own in September. Here are some tips if you would like some of my third-year wisdom to help you in your writing!

Start early

This is probably the most important tip to take away from this post, as starting to plan your ideas and research as early as you can sets you up with a brilliant foundation. The first ideas you come up with will most likely be very different from your final question, but going through all of the options for your topic can help you realise which one is the strongest and most relevant to you. If you start too close to your deadline, you won't have this chance to explore your options meaning your ideas won't be as developed as if you had started earlier.

It's okay to change your question

Many people, like myself, go into the start of the year confident that they know the exact research question they want to use, but I can wholeheartedly say that neither I nor anyone I know stuck with their first idea! Whilst you might be reluctant to change your topic, just know it is a vital part of the process. The more you research into your chosen topic, the clearer it becomes on what your final question will be. I changed mine around 9 times before I finally settled on my research question, so don’t feel scared about changing your topic for the better.

Choose a topic you enjoy

The main reason I enjoyed writing my dissertation was that it was looking into a topic that I am extremely passionate about. It's so important that whatever you choose to write about is important to you as a creative, as why would you feel motivated to write about something that doesn’t interest you? Make sure that you choose a topic that makes you excited to write about it and to share your ideas with the reader.

Talk to your tutors

You'll be assigned a dissertation advisor to help guide you through your research which will most likely be one of your course tutors. Make sure that you raise any and all questions you might have about your essay, even those that might sound unimportant or embarrassing to ask. It's much better to be completely clear on what you're expected to do so you won't have to worry about it later on in your writing. Remember they are here to help you with anything you might need!

Academic resources

The Library staff have been invaluable to me and my classmates during our time studying at the University, especially during the writing of our dissertations. Whether you need help with Harvard Referencing (like me especially), research or the overall writing process, the staff in the Library can help you with most areas of your essay. You can book sessions with the staff on SmartHub, which I would highly recommend if you would like any further help with writing your dissertation.

Look after yourself

Finally, as much as hard work and dedication are important in writing your research paper, making sure you aren’t neglecting your own wellbeing is just as vital. It can be easy to overlook taking care of yourself when you’re working on something so important but just ensure you have plenty of downtime. Taking regular breaks, catching up with friends and family and making time for yourself are just as essential in making sure you’re doing your best work.

I hope these tips will be helpful to students going into their third year in September or anyone who might be worrying about writing their own dissertation. Remember to look after yourself and don't feel afraid to ask for help with you're writing if you

need it!


Elisabeth Montague

BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing and Printmaking

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