Writing a dissertation is a bit like driving a car.
In order to start, you have to know a lot about the subject area. For driving, this is the Highway Code; for the dissertation, this is the historical and critical context of your chosen texts. You’ll probably need an instructor to help you learn, and to correct you if you start getting into bad habits — this is your Dissertation Supervisor.
You certainly won’t know everything about how the car works from the start. As you drive your dissertation, you’ll learn more about its interior, its tics, and gain the practical knowledge which will make you capable of more subtle treatment. Once you start writing your car, it’ll become second nature and you’ll understand the realities of the subject you have chosen. Nobody writes a good dissertation by staying in park. You have to write, even in the knowledge that it will be redrafted many, many times. You have to read, even in the knowledge that what you’re reading may end up being of no use at all.
Sometimes, parts of your dissertation will stop working. You’ll have to get out a spanner out or take them to the shop to be replaced with new parts which fit better. It’s tempting to go on driving with glib sections left in your dissertation which you just can’t bear — or are too lazy — to get fixed, but when that tyre is rewritten the journey will be far smoother.
As you’re nearing your home stretch, be it a driving test or the dissertation deadline, perfection is key. You can’t afford to make sloppy mistakes which will lose you marks. All the formatting and referencing needs to be by the book. It may seem overly-rigid at times, but it’s the rules. You can’t cut corners on the final draft. Proof-read those wing mirrors.
Plenty of people have done these things before you and succeeded. All you need to do is know your field. Make sense?
Coming up next week: why Romantic Poetry is like a game of snap.