Dissertation Diaries: mastering effective planning and supervision

How to effectively plan for your dissertation

Samantha Seidu
19th March 2024
Image Source: Unsplash_Marissa Grootes
It’s that time of the year. Final year students are in the thick of writing their dissertations. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and confused at the sheer amount of work that has to be done. Whilst all of this may feel like a lot (which in fairness, it is), having a solid plan and utilising your supervision time will be the best way to hack at this project.

The key to a good dissertation is a good plan. If you’re someone that likes to wing it most of the time (we’ve all been there!), this unfortunately won’t work this time around since a dissertation needs a good amount of detail and analysis that you can’t get off a whim. Having a plan can not only help you brainstorm your ideas, but will also help you to keep in the right amount of detail that can get you the best mark you can. 

The first part of the planning process includes setting time work on your dissertation. I know that most people will have other modules they are working on, so it is important to divide your time so you can work on other assignments whilst you press on with your dissertation. I personally like to alternate between working on my dissertation and my other modules; this will be dependent on your personal schedule. Regardless of this, I always try to aim to do a bit a day, whether it be reading, research or writing. In the short term, it may feel like you’ve achieved nothing, but in the long term this will definitely help!

One thing that keeps me motivated is writing down specific things I would like to complete by the end of the week

When it comes to structuring work, I will always advise to split the dissertation into sections, then split those sections into sections. For example, if I am working on my methodology, I will work on a specific section within that, and perhaps work on a reading to prepare me to write the next day. A 10,000 word research project is daunting, so breaking everything apart and working on things separately will make the process less intimidating. One thing that keeps me motivated is writing down specific things I would like to complete by the end of the week (such as a plan I want to send to my supervisor, readings, or writing up a paragraph etc). This way, I never lose sight of what I want to achieve.

Throughout the process, your supervisor will be a key point of contact, so use this to your advantage! When you come in for a meeting, never show up without something to show or ask. If you have a plan you’ve been working on, notes on readings you would like to discuss, a question to ask etc, bring this to your supervisor so they can give you some guidance. When you enter a session, make sure to take note of any feedback they give or anything that will be helpful to you; your supervisor will be one of your first markers so take their advice if you can (but make sure you use your own judgement as their advice may not be what is best for your project in the long run!). 

Don't skip meals, take regular breaks and don't push yourself to the point of burnout

For some general advice, make sure you take care of your health and wellbeing! Don’t skip meals, take regular breaks and don’t push yourself to the point of burnout. If you are having a hard time, reach out to your personal tutor, wellbeing services or even your supervisor - they are all there to help you! Finally, start on time! If it is taking time for things to pick up the pace, it's not too late to get back in the swing of things. Plan your time, plan your structure, and dissect your work so you can work more effectively.

Whilst this will be a draining experience for most of us, time will fly by so try to enjoy the process and keeping planning! Best of luck to all final years!

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