The eight stages of writing your dissertation at Exeter, as told through BeReals

If you aren’t taking your BeReal in the library right now, do you even go to Exeter?

I’m writing my dissertation and the moment and tbh, it feels like every day I take an identical BeReal: me, in front of my laptop, writing the same essay. So I took a look back at my BeReal memories and was able to track and refine the process of writing a dissertation into eight steps. If you’re writing your dissertation right now too, you’ll likely be at one of these steps – and I hope for your sake it’s the productive one. And no, mitigation is not one of them.

1. Denial

This is the first, and for most of us, longest state of writing a dissertation. You’ve done your research but you haven’t started trying to put your actual essay together. You figure you’ve got loads of time since you usually leave your essay to the night before and it always turns out fine. You’re still hopeful.

2. Romanticism

By now, most of your friends have started writing and your TikTok and BeReal are full of studious people with their little Pret coffees and Mac laptops. Your BeReals are of you in bed and you decide it’s time to start writing. You get your notepad, your highlighters, your laptop and your face mask on – you’re getting your life together. You might even do a “day in the life of a dissertation student” TikTok, or a “GRWM to go to the library” one, even if you plan on doing it all from your bed.

3. Boredom

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to look productive when you only have 15 seconds of a TikTok or a single BeReal to do. When you have 8,000 words to write, it’s somewhat harder. You try and stay motivated, but it’s just too easy to get distracted when there’s still four weeks to go before the deadline. Your anxiety about it is growing, but not enough to convert itself into the productivity fuel you need.

4. Frustration

Frustration starts to kick in. You want to start writing now, lots of your friends are halfway through and you’re yet to start. But when you sit down to write, you’re still getting nowhere. Instead of pulling an all nighter at the library, you decide to take your frustration out in TP. Why do birthday season and dissertation season have to overlap?!

5. Panic

Alongside the hang-xiety, the panic sets in. You’ve got about three weeks to go and about 27 words of an introduction, three of which are “blah blah blah”. You round up your nearest, unsuspecting housemates and drag yourselves up Forum Hill armed with enough coffee to kill a med student – that’s how you know it’s getting serious.

6. Productivity

As you start to write and slowly begin to move towards your word count, the panic begins to subside. You start getting your life back together and begin to believe that maybe you can pull this off, and wonder why you made the process so painful by refusing to start in the first place. It turns out, the worst part of writing your dissertation is starting.

7. Pride

There is nothing better than finally submitting your dissertation on BART. It can take a little while to kick in that you’re actually done writing, but when you wake up the next way and start absent-mindedly packing your bag for campus, it’ll hit you. You’ve done it! 8,000 of your very own words, doubled spaced, placed in PDF format and submitted.

8. Illness

Ha, you thought you were done with the dissertation just because you submitted it? Absolutely not. Prepare yourself for Freshers’ Flu’s older (and meaner) sister. All those sleepless nights, nutrition-less ready meals and mental breakdowns are going to catch up with you, now that you have the time to be sick again. And let’s be honest, you’re probably going to be hungover all week anyway. Might as well make the most of it.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

If you’ve done 15/17 of these things you’re definitely doing a dissertation

What Exeter University degree you should’ve done, based on your study snack of choice

23 things you can’t help but relate to if you’re mid-dissertation at Exeter