16 Steps to a Stress-free Dissertation


Jordan Stevens's dissertation on The Great Gatsby got a first. Here's how she wrote it, while keeping dissertation anxiety at bay.

As a third year who has been there, done that and got the t-shirt, I understand how terrifying the idea of writing a dissertation can seem in first and second year. To help ease your apprehension, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of things I wish I knew before starting the dissertation module.

Formulating your Ideas:

1)    My most important piece of advice would be to write about something you are interested in. It can range from literature, to film or even video games. Pretty much anything with a tenuous link to literature goes, so be sure to choose carefully.


2)    Be confident in your choice of subject, make sure you it is something you want to write 10,000 words on; trust me, 10,000 words seems a lot now but once you get writing about something you’re interested in, you realise it actually isn’t enough!

3)    You do not need to write about more than one text. Quality over quantity: it is better to write a detailed, in-depth analysis about one or two texts than write in little detail about a lot.

4)    Make sure you submit a detailed proposal. Do not rush or miss the deadline, it may not by graded, but you run the risk of losing out on the appropriate tutor for your chosen field.

5)    Read as much as possible before the start of your tutorials. The more research you do, the more your tutors can help you formulate your plan, and it makes writing much easier.

Planning and writing:

6)    Plan your work carefully. Once you have chosen your subject, think about your sections/chapters. Make sure they all link to your main thesis and then break down the word count.

7)    Manage your word count. There is no specific way to divide your word count among your intro, chapters and conclusion. Discuss this with you tutor and ask for their preference and advice.

8)    Listen to your tutor’s advice — they have been in your position, are very knowledgeable in your subject area and they are there to help you.

9)    Take advantage of your weekly tutorials. Do not miss them. Students at many other universities do not get this privilege. 


10) Refer to the dissertations in the library. There is a section in the library with lots of dissertations — they are there for reference — so make sure you take a look.

11) Follow the Module Guide rather than the Facebook Page. As you have probably all experienced when writing your assignments, discussions amongst the cohort can cause confusion and stress. Only listen to the information given by your tutor or the guide on the learning space — it does not mean people are wrong — every tutor has a slightly different style when it comes to dissertations, so if you are unsure of anything, ask them.

12) Set yourself weekly targets. These may be set for you by your tutor but if not, set your own to be sure you hit the word count early; the more editing time the better.

13) Do not leave your dissertation to the last minute, this is the last and most significant piece of writing you will do for your degree, make it something to be proud of!

Editing and printing:

14) Allow time to proofread. Read your dissertation through multiple times. Take a break for a couple of days and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Sometimes it is easy to miss obvious spelling mistakes or missing words/letters when you have been staring at the same document for a while. Remember it will be bound, you don’t want to notice a mistake and not be able to change it!

15) Make sure you print your dissertation in time. Remember that everyone will be handing in a bound copy, so make sure you allow enough time to go to Reprographics and beat the queue.

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16)  Go to the beach or the campus gardens and take the classic dissertation snap! It may seem cliché now, but you’ll work so hard on your dissertation and deserve all the Facebook and Instagram likes!


Just remember — you’ve made it this far in your degree, you can do this!

Jordan Stevens graduated with a BA in English 2017 and now works as a Production Assistant at Priddy Books. Follow her here.