The final weeks before you submit your dissertation are stressful… “Should I redraft my second chapter?” “Have I cited that correctly?” “How am I going to cut down to the word count?” Here are five tips to help you push through those final stages… by Kumail Jaffer
Back in the Autumn, when choosing your dissertation title, the deadline seemed far, but the daunting prospect was there; several thousand words, carefully researched and then put together in a fluid piece of writing. At this moment in time, you’re most likely on the latter part – unless, of course, you’re aiming to feature in The Tab by setting a new record for the fastest paper written – and the deadline is seemingly looming. However, here are five pieces of advice to push you through the final stage.
Keep a tidy bibliography
For a humanities paper, you may have hundreds of citations from countless books, journals, articles and whatever else you reference. Good practice, from the moment of writing a dissertation, is to keep the footnotes in check – by which I mean, reference everything accurately and in full as soon as it’s in your paper. There will be nothing worse than, upon finishing the written aspect, to have to source every quotation and ‘fill in the blanks’, as it were. Whatever style you choose to reference in, I recommend Citation Machine as a great free resource to get you started.
This piece of advice builds on the last, in terms of taking care of the seemingly smaller aspects. After putting in the effort to craft thousands of carefully chosen words, there’s no excuse to slip up on the basics – spelling and grammar. While it may be a lot of effort to scour through the paper looking for errors – after all, you’ve probably seen those same paragraphs hundreds of times already – risking a percentage loss means risking dropping a whole grade boundary. My advice – don’t take the risk. I’d also recommend getting a friend – or someone with ‘fresh eyes’ – to check it for you.
Don’t change it up
After handing in the title, you may have taken a trip to the library to stock up on resources. This may have carried on throughout the process – the last book I took out was in February – but it should be no later than this. Your proposal will have been open to a degree of flexibility through the early months, but a few weeks away from the deadline, no radical changes should be made. It may likely lead to problems over the word count, or other content within the paper. Even if it seems necessary, it’s likely you’re just experiencing some anxiety over content at a late stage in the submission – if so, contact your supervisor and have a discussion.
Cutting Down Your Dissertation
If, like me, you’ve gone over the word limit, a painstaking process of cutting your hard earned words will ensue, if it’s not been suffered already. A supervisor is in the best position to advise you what and where to trim, but for further advice, check out the Thesis Whisperer.
Take a breath
Submission anxiety is bad enough before a regular paper is submitted; the days before a dissertation is due will likely be far worse. Fear not – you have been working on this all year, with a supervisor to back you up – you should have the utmost confidence in your research. If the anxiety gets too much, I would recommend a session with Warwick Counselling, or on the more physical side, some relaxing yoga at the Sports Centre.
I do hope these five pieces of advice can drive you through these stressful final days – and that you will come out of this period, and the dissertation experience, for the better!
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