News and tips

Top Ten Dissertation Tips

Students, it’s that time.

Fifteen years in full-time education has finally led you to this point: you’re in the final year of uni and your undergraduate dissertation is due in just a few short months.

You’ve been working up to this for the whole of your life, from primary school, through secondary school, college and now university. Not to put too much stress on it or anything, but this is the moment that could make or break you.

Depending on what degree course you’re studying, your dissertation could just be the tipping point that determines the mark you’ll eventually get. Write a cracker and it could just secure you that first or a very respectable 2:1. Write a bloomer and you could be going home with massive student debt and nothing to show for it. Except maybe a hangover and some dodgy souvenirs (come on, who hasn’t left uni with a traffic cone/street sign/lollipop’s man lollipop or two?!?).

But fear not students of the UK. Now that we’ve stressed you out a bit by emphasising just how much your dissertation matters, we’re going to calm you down again with our helpful – nay, invaluable – advice. Because, if you’ve been panicking about your dissertation, or even procrastinating about starting it, then Sheffield Property To Let is here to help you.

We’ve all been students ourselves, so we know exactly how you’re feeling right now; butterflies in your stomach every time you think about starting to write your dissertation, total panic as to how your parent’s will react if you go home having flunked this, the shame of seeing your friends go up on stage at the presentation ceremony to collect their top class honours degrees, whilst you sit in the pub drowning your sorrows. We’ve been there. We understand how stressful dissertation time can be.

But you can now stop all of this worrying, right now, because Sheffield Property To Let are here with our Top Ten Tips on how to write the best dissertation you possibly could and how to survive the process too! So, if you’re wondering how to write an undergraduate dissertation whilst staying sane, read on.

How Do I Write A Good Dissertation?   

1.  Choose Your Dissertation Subject Carefully

You’d be amazed how many students pick a dissertation subject out of thin air, because it sounds easy, but then realise that there’s never been anything written about it – for a very good reason! You have to write several thousand well-thought-out words on the subject you choose, so make sure you choose it very carefully and ensure it is a subject that you can form an original opinion on. Once you’ve started, it is very difficult to change your dissertation topic, so put some thought in at the beginning to ensure you set off on the right track.

2. Understand The Brief

You can’t make sure you write the dissertation that is expected of you if you don’t know exactly what is expected of you. Make sure you thoroughly read the brief you are given about your dissertation to ensure you know the basics, then include the requirements in your plan. For e.g., how many words should you be writing? What font and document layout should your dissertation be submitted in? When are the deadlines you need to adhere to? Which reference system should be using? Is there a minimum number of references you should be utilising? Etc. etc.

If you’re not certain of anything at all, speak to your dissertation tutor about it as soon as possible and follow up your conversations with confirmation emails so that you have in writing exactly what is expected of you and by when.

3. Research Your Subject Thoroughly

It sounds like an obvious point, but it is so often overlooked; if you want to secure the top marks for your dissertation, then you need to have researched the subject you are writing about inside and out.  

It will not be acceptable to simply read two or three online articles on the subject and use those; your tutor will know and, more crucially, your dissertation argument will be thin. Remember; your dissertation is a piece of academic research, so you need to be able to refer to and discuss all the salient points as well as key arguments in the subject. And you can only do that if you have researched the field thoroughly. Make the library your best friend. You will be seeing a lot of each other.

4. Plan Your Dissertation Carefully

If you want your dissertation to be well-structured with an argument that flows correctly (which you do!), then it’s vitally important to plan your dissertation properly and in detail from the beginning.

So, use your word count to work out how many words can be permitted in your introduction, main body and conclusion to begin with. From there, you can start to plan the arguments you will make in each section and how many words each of those will include. Plan the books or articles you intend to reference too, as well as quotes or diagrams you wish to include. Often, the hardest part of writing a dissertation is starting it so, once you have written a proper plan, you will find that you have actually already started to write your dissertation. From there, it’s just a case of expanding on it.

image shows a student writing their dissertation

 5.  Write As You Go

As above, one of the hardest parts of writing a dissertation is starting. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be flying.

To make this easier, don’t simply do all your reading first then sit down to begin writing; you will have gathered too many arguments and points and you will end up trying to stuff everything into your dissertation. In short, you’ll end up with a confused mess. Instead, start to write the piece as you research and hone it from there, so you fit what you are reading and researching around the plan you have already structured. That way you can feel the article begin to take shape and will be able to edit it and narrow the direction of travel as you go.

 6. Pace Yourself

Everyone will tell you this, but under no circumstances should you leave your dissertation until the last minute. This is quite possibly the most important piece of work you’ll ever do, and if you leave it to the last minute then you are simply setting yourself up to fail.

Instead, begin to plan for your dissertation the minute you get the brief, even if the final deadline sounds like it’s ages away. It isn’t. Remember; life does not stop just because you are in your final year of uni. You will still have other course work to do, you will likely still have to work, there will still be nightclubs and bars to go to with your mates. You will be busy. So, work out when your key deadlines are, then work your dissertation plan around them. If you plan, research and write your dissertation in manageable, bitesize chunks, you will avoid a nervous breakdown and make sure you turn in a final piece that has clearly not been written in the space of a week.

7.  Remember Original Thinking

It’s incredibly easy to read a load of books by other people and then repeat what they say, but this is not the point of a dissertation. Many students make the mistake of thinking that what their tutors are after is a summary of all the research that has gone before on your chosen subject. They are not. What they are looking for, is the proof that you have learned how to think for yourself. Hence, remember that the purpose of your dissertation is to showcase this. Read everything that has been written about the subject your dissertation is on, pull it all together, then provide your own take on the matter. This is precisely why it is so important to plan your dissertation properly in the first place. You don’t want to get to this point and realise that you have no original opinion whatsoever!

8. Allow Plenty Of Time For Polishing

Never, ever, underestimate how long it is going to take you to edit your dissertation!

Even if you follow all the points above - plan everything down to the last segment, write as you go etc. – you will still be left with a document that requires an awful lot of polishing to get it to a stage where it can be submitted. You need to check, check and check your dissertation thoroughly before you can submit it, and that will always take time. Editing, proofreading, checking the spelling and grammar, ensuring the references are correct and correctly formatted – all of this takes much longer than you first imagined, so make sure you leave yourself at least a week to a fortnight to do it properly.

9.  Get Your Dissertation Checked

One thing that everyone finds who has ever written a dissertation, is that, by the time the deadline is drawing near, you can no longer think straight any more. You have read your own sentences over and over again. You have stared at the same documents for hours on end. You have re-read the same point so many times that the words no longer make sense to you. We’ve all been there.

Hence, if you possibly can, ask someone else to check over your document before you finally submit it. Whether that be your friend, your Mum, your Granddad – it doesn’t matter. Obviously, if you can find someone who knows about your subject then that’s great but, failing that, simply find someone who can read English and ask them to check it off. Does it make sense? Are there any glaring errors or omissions? Etc. Don’t forget, silly mistakes in your dissertation will be penalised, so just getting someone who isn’t involved to give it the once over could be the difference between a 2:1 and 2:2.

10. Reward Yourself

Writing your dissertation is hard. There’s a reason you only ever write one in a degree course! Hence there’s no reason to make it any harder on yourself than it already is. If you shut yourself away to write your dissertation and never give yourself a break then you will inevitably have a nervous breakdown. Yes, you need to knuckle down and get this done, but not at the expense of your sanity. If nothing else, if you never leave the house for three months whilst you write your dissertation, it’s unlikely you’ll end up with something that will make much sense anyway.

Not only does a little escapism ensure you stay normal, but it also gives you a much better chance of ensuring you write a top-notch dissertation.

So, treat yourself every now and again with whatever makes you happy. Set yourself targets and, when you achieve them, reward yourself. This could be as big or as little as you like. For example, you could reward yourself with a bar of your favourite chocolate every time you hit 5000 words? Alternatively, you could have a night out with your mates for every section of the dissertation you complete? Whatever it is, make sure you treat yourself for all your hard work and remember to be nice to yourself whilst you’re working too. Don’t stay up all night and live on Pro Plus; drink plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic!!), eat properly, get plenty of sleep, take regular breaks and do something that makes you smile. It’s the only way you’ll survive.

Get In Touch

Sheffield Property To Let are the experts when it comes to student property in Sheffield, so we know a thing or two about student life.

If you’d like to get some more great tips to help you on your student journey, then please either check out our blog or get in touch with us directly. You can contact us via the website or call 07967 839 881.