The ultimate Lancs Uni dissertation survival guide

Because 10,000 words feels like way too much to handle

Your dissertation. Your university magnum opus. The one piece of work that will define your degree. Well, maybe not. But every Lancs student will struggle with it, so here are some helpful tips to make sure it isn’t the worst thing to happen to you in your final year.

Decide on a topic

The first thing you need is something to write about. Try to set realistic goals to avoid making the disappointment worse. You want something that you can do well. It doesn’t matter what you come up with. You will invariably hate it about three thousand words in when there’s no time to turn back. It’s probably best to go with something you’re interested in and think is worthwhile. This will keep you going when it gets hard and when you think it’s no good.

Actually attend your meetings

Your supervisor is your saviour. They know how to point you in the right direction. Make sure you arrange meetings with them and come with something prepared, or it’s just a waste of time. Ask questions and listen to what they have to say. They might be the only person who can save you.

Time management is key

Time management is by far the best way to make you feel like you’re making progress. Set some goals on a calendar, you’ll feel organised. Set yourself a regular time to go to the library, research and write. You could even book out a study space weekly. You’ll get yourself a Costa, sit down, listen to music and keep an article open on your laptop whilst you scroll through Facebook for an hour. A good day’s work.

Do as much reading as possible

The more books you have on your desk, the more accomplished you feel. You don’t even need to read them. They don’t even have to be on the right topic. You should have stacks and stacks so that if someone sees them, you look super productive. Take out half the library and hoard it for as long as you can. You’ll be on the right track.

Documentaries are also a great shout because at least you can watch them instead of reading.

Clear desk = clear mind

Get yourself ready to write. Spending five minutes setting up your desk will make you feel like you did some work. Make yourself comfortable, put some music on to drown out the existential dread. Get yourself a coffee; caffeine is your friend. Have some snacks at hand for when you get bored.

Use quotations wisely

When in doubt, rely on your research. It must be right if someone else said it. Academics have studied this, they’ve got a PhD, they’re paid to do this. Plus, it means that you have to write less. And make sure you reference as you go, or you’ll have a nightmare combing through the books to find the page numbers again. It’s quite hard to do if you’ve already returned the book. 

Keep powering through

You will have more problems than you could ever imagine. My main tip here is to constantly stare at your word count and ignore that anything actually needs to be done. Maybe if you stare long enough, it’ll go up. Also, start reading your word count in character count because it’s a lot more.

Coffee will always help. Caffeine-induced tunnel vision improves focus. Your room should be littered with mugs. You might as well bring the kettle into your room to save yourself the trip to the kitchen.

Spend a good amount of time formatting your document. Makes sure it’s double-spaced, the right font and size and aligned properly. If this takes long enough, it counts as an editing session.

Be prepared to flick through your Word doc, slowly contemplating your life choices. It will feel wrong at some point. Don’t worry. That sentence you’ve read fifteen times does mean something. Procrastinating is part of the process. Welcome it, embrace it. You’ve got a year anyway.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

‘Understanding a topic is easier than memorising’: Lancs students react to online exams

Lancaster UCU announces new strike dates for February and March

Lancaster Uni lecturer previously posted pictures on Russian website used by paedophiles