Surviving the dissertation period by Matt

It’s dissertation time. I have exactly five weeks (and counting) left until I hand in my dissertation. I have approximately 9,000 words completed and am starting to feel ‘the fear’ creeping in. Right now I’m in the super-efficient stage of the fear, feeling very focused and spending the majority of my spare time in the library. The battle is to keep from teetering over into panic and doubt – it’s about focus, perseverance and determination. It’s also really important to not put too much pressure on yourself, as well as look after yourself so that you’re healthy and happy.

I am confident that if I keep up an even pace, I will not slip into that all-too-familiar trap. So far I’m enjoying my work – I have never been so immersed in a topic – and believe this is the key to an enjoyable dissertation period. One of the biggest challenges for me has been keeping a narrow focus on my research question, and not drifting off into interesting, yet irrelevant, territory.

Starting the research early has been crucial. As a part-time student studying a master’s over two years, I have had plenty of time to think about my topic. However, recently I’ve had to do a lot of juggling as I have been working full time for the last two months – three days a week paid work for a charity and two days a week work experience for an MP – so I mainly study in the evenings and weekends. Although this has been difficult at times, I have had no regrets. Combining study and work experience will hopefully ease the job search following the dissertation hand-in.

I started researching for my dissertation in April before the exam period started, allowing myself a month off for revision and an additional week to recover. Clearly defining when and what I would be studying has helped me to keep focused. I also try and plan social events a week or so in advance so I can manage my study timetable accordingly. This may sound a little tedious but studying for a master’s is a great opportunity and it’s important to make the most of it.

As the hours and days go by, I have a building sense of both nervousness and excitement. It feels like there’s still a way to go, but I’m determined to do the best I can. I’m looking forward to handing in a piece of work I’m proud of, and then I will be more than ready to celebrate.

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