13 Tips for Dissertation Writers, from Someone Who's Done It


Graduate Lizzie Woodbridge shares some shortcuts and helpful hints. 

1. It helps to use a variety of sources e.g. books, websites etc as references, but make sure the majority of these are peer-reviewed. If you don't know if it's peer-reviewed, ask Rachel Browning at the library.

2. Referencing tools and websites such as Zotero, are useful for organising and storing references.

3. Grammarly is useful for spelling, grammar as well as suggesting alternative words.

4. Refer to the module guide for information on the layout of the document, references and citations. You can find this on the module page on the Learning Space.

5. Mentally divide the dissertation into smaller, easy to manage sections so as not to be overwhelmed. You can also do this by outlining it, and then focusing on one part of the outline at a time. 

6. Set a target to write a certain number of words a week to leave time to redraft and edit. You can calculate roughly how many words per section (see number 6 above) if you really want to manage time carefully.

7. Start writing something even if it’s not the beginning, as it is easier to edit it later than have nothing.

8. Keep previous drafts or sections (e.g. sentences, quotes) under a different file name rather than deleting them. Sometimes you might want to go back and grab something from an earlier draft. 

9. If you get overwhelmed easily, help yourself focus by creating a "staging area" document where you focus on one paragraph at a time. 

10. The original thesis doesn’t have to be final, it can change as your essay changes.

11. Make sure to have the document backed up! If you download Dropbox or Google Drive and work directly out of a cloud-synched folder, it will always be backed up automatically, AND you can access it from anywhere if your laptop breaks. 

12. Leave enough time before the hand-in for editing. Block out two weeks for this.

13. Leave enough time for printing and binding at Reprographics, as you can make appointments for printing.

by Lizzie Woodbridge