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10 Top Tips for a Tip Top Undergraduate Dissertation: a Practical Guide

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Manage your time effectively

Manage your time effectively

You know already that you'll be working on your dissertation over a long period of time, potentially across a whole year. You'll probably have at least one face-to-face meeting with your dissertation supervisor (see tip 10 for more advice on how to manage the collaboration between you and your supervisor), but it's up to you to make sure that you understand what needs to happen and when.

Break it down

Puzzle piecesWhy not break down the dissertation into smaller pieces of work - data collection, literature searching, and so on? That way you can tackle smaller workloads over time, which in the end add up to the whole dissertation - a far less daunting task. Remember to keep an eye on any deadlines set by your department. For example, they might require you to submit a dissertation proposal or plan near the beginning, and maybe drafts or bibliographies later in the process.

Don't forget, however, that all sections of your dissertation are related. You should therefore think as you research and write about how you're going to cross-reference your different sections.

Stay on target

BullseyeAbove all else, remember to stay focused on the dissertation. The deadline will often feel like a long time in the future, and it's easy to drift off to think about other things - especially as you'll have other pieces of work to finish along the way. Remember always to keep an eye on what's going on with your dissertation, and to think about the different stages as you go. You won't be at all successful if you leave it until the last minute; you've given yourself an impossible task pulling an all nighter to write 10,000 words!

Why not create a planning timetable to keep on top of your different assignments? There are some helpful examples on the Learn Higher website.

Document everything

FilesDuring the process of writing the dissertation, you'll take a lot of notes, run a lot of searches and find a lot of sources. It's really important that you come up with a foolproof system to document all of these vital elements of your dissertation; keeping good records from the start will avoid wasting a lot of time later in the process. It's certainly no good to remember that you found a fantastic article 6 months ago, but to have no clue of where it came from!

There's no right or wrong way to keep track of things; just find a way that works for you, and stick with it. See tip 9 for information about software you can use to manage your references.

More advice

For more advice in this area, explore our interactive, bite-sized Skills Guides on the following topics: