So, the 5th of May has come and gone, & I have reached another checkpoint: dissertation hand in. Although, there was no last minute working on the written content, handing in this important piece of work makes me queasy, but relieved. Now, I know that I have submitted approximately 50% of the work that will decide my final year grade (coursework contributing 30% to each of my 4 modules). I think it’s natural for dissertation to have this effect: all those long days of research and careful analysis in answering whether Alzheimer’s is actually an infectious disease.
I have a few tips for those going into their final year & tackling the famous dissertation. Although I imagine what I have to say will mainly benefit Biological Sciences students at Leicester, these tips can be applied to many extended pieces of works, in different departments at different Universities.
- My dissertation was in the minority of Biological Sciences students who perform an analytical review of current research literature, rather than working in a laboratory. I don’t think I could have motivated myself well without a no-nonsense supervisor. We agreed on a set timetable at the start of the year, which I kept to rigidly, meaning that I did not have as many late nights as others (in my position). I think it is important to TIMETABLE your dissertation; and if your supervisor is a bit more laid back, email them a timetable to commit yourself to doing the work. I’m sure this advice isn’t new and is applicable to students in many disciplines.
- Using a range of sources. Looking back at my dissertation experience, I was researching a relatively new area that is the kind of sensationalised headline you may find in the Daily Mail! Sources other than those provided in the scientific literature are really rare and conferences on Alzheimer’s barely ever speak about its likelihood of infecting other people. I would therefore recommend that anyone who can should find conferences and external events on your subject to get a first-hand, wider appreciation of the context of your chosen topic. This can lead to interviews and are excellent opportunities to network with researchers who could help you a lot, post-graduation.
- If you have downtime then please, please, please, HIT THAT DISS! This sounds a lot easier to say than to do, and I was on the receiving end of the same advice at the start of the year, but it will obviously be better if you get dissertation work carefully done, during periods where you don’t have other work to focus on. For us, the first semester is more suited to working on the dissertation because the first draft is due early March, which is when so many other deadlines are also due. That is when I dedicated myself to the research part of the project. We also didn’t have January exams, so the majority of Christmas holidays and the January exam period was great time for us to spend writing up the dissertation. For me, it took a lot longer, but these downtimes were definitely essential to getting the work done to a good standard.
I hope that my blog has helped any prospective dissertation writers. The workload is intense in final year, but if you have the right topic to write about, you may just find that the time can fly by in final year.
TTFN blogosphere xoxoxo