If you are a final year university student, the time has come to complete your dissertation and submit the finished product. This is something you will have been living and breathing for the past 8 months (or maybe the last 2 weeks if you’ve brave.. or stupid) so for it to all be coming together is a scary thought. This time last year, I was going through the same process myself and as I know exactly how it feels, I thought I’d compile a list of 7 things to remember when completing your undergraduate dissertation. This is based on my experience as a Psychology undergraduate so depending on your course, the requirements of your dissertation might vary.
For those of you who are interested, I am a graduate in BSc Psychology with Psychotherapy and Counselling and my dissertation title was “The Impact of Gender Roles, Sex Role Stereotypes and Situational Factors on Participant’s Perceptions of Appropriate Sexual Behaviours and Perceptions of Blame”. It’s a right mouthful, I know!
1. The first draft is not the final copy
You may be thrilled to have finished a full copy of your dissertation and it is a great achievement but (sorry to piss on your bonfire), it’s not over yet. The first draft should never be the final copy, otherwise it wouldn’t be called a draft… This is your chance to read over everything you’ve written, tweak it by adding key information or removing unnecessary details, just generally try to improve on what you’ve got to take it up a notch. You’ll be surprised how a small change to the wording of a couple of sentences can have a huge impact on how well it reads – always try to write as concisely but as informatively as possible.
2. Write your abstract last
For those of you who love organisation and like to do things in a logical order (like myself), this will really throw you out of whack. The abstract is a brief summary that comes at the beginning of your dissertation, it allows the reader to quickly identify what your dissertation is about and provide a concise overview (basically, to let them decide if they want to bother reading the 8,000 words you’ve slaved over). The reason that it’s best to write this last is because until you’ve completed your study, collected the data, analysed and written it, you might not actually know what your conclusion is or what your study shows.
3. Check yourself before you wreck yourself
There will be many other sections to your dissertation besides the main body which are all key to ensuring you can get the best grade possible. In-text and end-text references, appendices, bibliography, page numbers and the contents page all come to mind, and they are all just as important as the actual text itself. Without these, you will suffer at the hands of your marker and risk dropping down the grades. Check that you have all of the required sections and that they are up to scratch. References are especially important, if you fail to reference correctly, you could be done for plagiarism and that’s no fun.
4. Be consistent
For your dissertation, there will be certain requirements set by your university that you must follow, or you risk being marked down. Things like layout, font size, font type and general formatting. You can usually find this information in your course handbook or if in doubt, drop your dissertation supervisor an email to clarify the details.
5. Proof read before you print (and afterwards!)
This might sound like a silly one but with the excitement and rush of finishing your dissertation, and the fact you probably hate the whole thing by this point, you might forget (or not want) to have a proper proof read. I would recommend doing this at least once before sending it to the printers and at least once again before you take it to the submissions office (or submit it online, depending which is required). You’ve worked day and night over this piece of work for months and there’d be nothing worse than submitting it only to find a small error like a capital letter in the wrong place! I even proof read Leona’s dissertation for her and tweaked some parts (dedication, right?) so getting someone else to go over it with a fresh pair of eyes is also a good idea.
6. Leave enough time for printing
I’d recommend sending your dissertation to the printers at least a week before the deadline, they can and will get very busy around submission season so don’t get caught out by not leaving enough time. It’s also a good idea to get 2 copies, one to submit and one to keep for yourself – it’s a nice memento to keep to remind you of what you have achieved (and the sleepless nights that came with it).
7. Make sure you know where submission is
Again, this might sound like a stupid suggestion but check where and when you need to submit your dissertation. Some universities require a hard, printed copy and some require it to be submitted online. Leave enough time to get to the submissions office without having to rush or to be able to upload the document – typical undergraduate dissertations are usually around 60 pages long, so might take a little while to process.
The final thing I’d like to add is that you should be so proud of yourself for completing the massive task that you have undertaken. Your dissertation is the pinocle of all university work and the feeling of accomplishment that you’ll get when you pick up your printed, bound copy and submit it is second to none.
Hopefully you’ve picked up some helpful tips from this post if you’re completing a dissertation but if not, thanks for reading anyway!
See you on the flip side,
BLOG TWITTER: @changingthesail
BLOG INSTAGRAM: @changingthesails
MAIN TWITTER: @sashasmithhooke
MAIN INSTAGRAM: @_sashasmithhooke