Dissertation Diaries: Summer

I’ve decided to do a new monthly series on my blog all about dissertations. It is a very daunting project and I hope that by talking through what I’ve been doing and what has been working for me I can give you some peace of mind that it doesn’t have to be that scary. If you’re planning on doing a dissertation at a some point in the future hopefully you can learn from my tips and my mistakes. Also, from doing this it will motivate me to keep up with the work! In this post I’m going to discuss what I’ve done so far over the summer and after that I plan to do monthly updates.

So, a little background, I study history. Your dissertation will most likely be different dependant on your subject and your university but I feel there will be similarities in the planning and writing process. We use primary and secondary source material for the analysis and evidence, I know some people will be required to do questionnaires or to collect data instead so just bare this in mind.

First of all, I was required by my university to submit a dissertation outline at the end of second year. This was very much my starting point; it required me to find sources, explain what I wanted to research and break down what would be discussed in each of the chapters. This was actually very useful so I’d recommend even if this isn’t required by your university you just write up your initial aims and what will be included.

I’ve done a large proportion of my primary and secondary reading and picked out key bits of text from these to put in a word document. I printed out this word document and colour-coded the information to correlate with the chapter they were most relevant to so I could use them as a starting point. There are of course materials that aren’t available online so I have made a note of these to find in the library when I return to Reading. Because of this, I know there are gaps in my reading that I will be able to fill when I have all the resources.

I wrote up an in-depth plan of my introduction, this has highlighted the gaps to me and so I know where I need to do a bit more research. I was told that the introduction should be the first thing you start and the last thing you finish so I’m not too worried about the gaps and am prepared to change things up as I go.

I wrote up my plan by hand so I have written up a first draft of my introduction on my computer. Not only has this given me a sense that I’m getting somewhere as I have started working on the actual essay, its given me an idea of just how much I’ve written towards my word count so far.

  • My goals for the month ahead:
  • do reading to help fill in the gaps
  • do an in depth plan for chapter 1
  • begin writing up a first draft of chapter 1