Welcome to Dissertation Central

18:23 Briony Brake 1 Comments

It's 6 pm on a Saturday. The library is busy. It's full of students looking tense, drinking coffee and trying their best not to play games or go on Facebook - most are failing. Why you ask? Our dissertations are due in two weeks.
If you have no idea why that's stressful (which I fail to believe) or you're in the same boat, I thought I'd share a little bit of a journey with you and some truths I feel we can probably all relate to.

1. I seem to get cravings for doughnuts. You know how pregnant women crave weird food? I just want doughnuts all the time. It's my dissertation craving. They're only 65p in Tesco but I obviously can't eat them all the time because I'll die of a sugar overdose or something (probably just get a headache).

2. Coffee is my friend.


3. I can't seem to work at home. The desks they provided in our house are weird and short and I hunch over so much, I might as well sit on the floor. As a result, the library is my friend.

4. I seem to work better at night. It's also quieter in the Forum and there are more free PCs.

5. Take time out now and then. Watch a film, or go for lunch with a friend. Otherwise, it will just be terrible all the time.

6. Take your own teabags and get hot water from the vending machine on the platform for 5p! I'm scared to share this in case they take it away, but it's so good! You can have cup-a-soup, or instant coffees (but nicer ones), or fruit tea.

7. Drink water. Lots of it.

8. It can help to print out journals or readings and to look at them on paper rather than on screen. You can also use highlighters and sticky notes this way, and it's nicer for your eyes to not always be looking at a screen.

9. Be comfy on your library session. I know it's nice to look nice, but if you're going to be there for eight hours and walk home at 2 am then you ought to be comfy all day, and ideally warm enough for the night.

10. Take snacks and save money. Invest in plastic tubs you can put leftover dinner in or sandwiches.

11. Try to look after yourself with a few healthy meals here and there, or at least take fruit with you. Your poor body is enjoying the dissertation process about as much as you are.

12. Most people are in the same boat as you. It's okay.

13. Set yourself daily goals, or weekly goals (write 250 words today/find 3 new sources today etc), and don't forget that you will need to edit everything.

14. Sometimes I work really well with friends because you push each other to write, but sometimes it's better to work alone so I can't get distracted.

15. Back up everything. (I use Dropbox, some of my friends use Google Drive, memory sticks, or just emailing everything to themselves) It is not worth losing everything!

16. Use the library! The librarians are very helpful - they can find things for you, show you past dissertations from your course, or help you access the Bodleian if you need a book they don't have.

17. Read around the subject. The point of your research is that no-one has covered it, so of course there won't be books about it. I'm doing mine on gender subversion, female comedy roles, and four specific films. So look at books on feminism, femininity, comedy in film, stereotypes etc. Think big!

18. Take notes, and write down the reference of the book there and then. Trust me, I've had to frantically search Google so many times because I forgot to write down page numbers or the publisher name.

19. Do not compare your work to anyone else's.

20. Seriously don't. No-one else is doing the same as you so no-one's will work the way yours does. Your research might be more intense, so obviously it might be slower to write out. Yours might have changed, or gone a different direction. You might have a lot of films to watch, your friends might have a lot of participants to find. Comparing yourself will just upset you unnecessarily.

21. Don't forget to help each other out, though, a lot of people use surveys and questionnaires, and what takes you five minutes to fill out will mean a lot to the person who made it. It's so hard together samples, so procrastinate a little and fill out some questionnaires!

22. Celebrate little victories. Here's a picture of me celebrating doing absolutely nothing useful that day (bad example), but some things take longer than you think.

23. The sooner you understand that reading is just as vital as writing, the sooner you can be proud of a day's work. Finding five new references, or just a couple of perfect quotes or theories is just as important as having written 500 words.

24. Some second years recently asked me how many references you need. To any second years wondering the same: your teachers will not tell you. It is entirely up to you. Basically, support any point you make. I'm currently in the seventies and have friends in the thirties, and some up to, and over 100.

25. Another tip for you youngsters who haven't started yet. Pick something you like. I'm so glad I still like my topic, honestly.


Well, there you have it, some truths, some advice, and some generally uninteresting points about my own dissertation so far. I'm up to 9600 words and have yet to write my conclusion or fix four chapters of my analysis(!), so wish me luck. And if you are writing yours, good luck. And if you haven't started yet seriously good luck.


1 comment :

  1. Thank you for sharing your tips Briony :) Good luck !! You can do it !!

    ReplyDelete