10 Things a Student Must Know before Starting a Dissertation

Sep 1, 2017 by

Your dissertation will, most likely, be the single biggest, most complicated and time-consuming piece of work you do throughout your entire student career. And it certainly pays to plunge into an assignment of this kind well-prepared. Here are the things many people learn only post-factum.

1.    Make Sure You Have the Right Supervisor

If you don’t feel comfortable working with him, contact your department and ask to swap him for somebody else – in most cases it shouldn’t pose any problem as long as you provide a valid reason. Your supervisor is going to be the most important person in your life for quite a while – so make sure you can work with him without grinding your teeth.

2.    Don’t Look at How Others Are Progressing

Firstly, it is unlikely that you get a truthful answer. Some will exaggerate, others will understate. Secondly, your work tempo is your own. The fact that somebody is working slower doesn’t justify your slacking off, vice versa. Don’t give it too much thought. Just work.

3.    Be Ready for Confused Looks from Your Family and Friends

When people hear the word “dissertation” they usually think of something impressive as a topic. A world war, a history of nations, things like that. Your topic will almost certainly look hilariously unimpressive in comparison.

4.    Don’t Get Too Fired up when Talking about It

Nobody actually cares. If people keep asking you questions it is not because they are so fascinated by the more obscure aspects of mayfly behavior or something equally exciting – they are just being polite.

5.    Plan Ahead

Until the dissertation is ready, you should carefully plan every hour of your life. It is an enormous piece of work: new ideas will appear, unexpected circumstances will arise and you will be grateful for every minute you saved in the end.

6.    Don’t Panic

There will be a moment when you are going to feel that you’ve made a mistake by choosing this topic and have to start anew. Yet pay no mind to this feeling. Unless your supervisor himself suggests that you should start again, it is just exhaustion and panic speaking. It will pass.

7.    Understand that Dissertation Is the Most Important Thing

At least for now. Don’t try to live up to all the other habitual obligations, social connections and suchlike – or you won’t have enough time to complete it on time.

8.    Be Ready to Cut

Not all the information you find and research you do are going to make it to the final draft. The dissertation is a huge task, but it has word count limits too, and you have to stick to them, so be ready to do without a lot of good things.

9.    Printing Will Become a Serious Expense

You will go through an enormous amount of ink and paper. Be ready for it to become a major cash drain.

10.   Be Proud of the Results

When all’s said and done, a dissertation is most likely to be the most important piece of work you have ever done so far. Embrace the hard work and be proud.

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