20 thoughts we’ve all had while writing our dissertations

An article about writing dissertations to avoid writing a dissertation

The dissertation, whether it’s undergrad, postgrad, arts or sciences, is an objectively painful process.

And though this year the obstacles that would normally plague otherwise dedicated students have been somewhat limited (RIP clubbing, sports’ nights, and, indeed, sports itself) there are some thoughts that are so universal when writing a dissertation they simply transcend time and pandemics.

But you can’t spell pandemic without panic, and panic is an essential ingredient to any dissertation recipe. There is a lesson here somewhere, not sure what it is though.

Overall the most important thing to remember is that no matter how isolated or behind you feel – you are not alone. Don’t panic because of that one hyper-organised friend or classmate who wrote their dissertation in December and has been “editing” it ever since.

You’ll get there in your own time, and chances are 99 per cent of people are in the same boat as you – AKA anxious and quite simply making it up as they go along.

Here are 20 thoughts then that everyone has when writing their dissertation. Everyone apart from that one hyper-organised friend.

All I have to do is come up with a topic I like and then read and write about it, right?

It definitely seemed doable at the time. It actually might have even sounded enjoyable. Oh, how naive we were. What I would give to go back in time when this thought was perfectly logical for my late-second-year to early-third-year brain.

Should I email my supervisor again?

On the one hand, I want to seem smart enough to be doing this but, on the other hand, I genuinely have no idea what I’m doing – maybe Kathy could just write it for me instead if I’m really nice to her.

Are there any ideas on this topic that haven’t already been done by a hundred other people?

I have literally zero original thoughts, wonderful.

How am I supposed to write 10,000 words when I can’t reply to my own mother’s texts from two weeks ago?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to leave a dissertation on read. While you can get around not making any contact with the parents – not even liking their embarrassing mention of you in their weekly cringe Facebook post – dissertations are needy and require a lot more attention.

Maybe I could make a valuable contribution to my field!

Finally an original thought! Maybe it’ll accidentally be really good and I’ll publish it and be famous to the eight people in my field who read it.

Never mind, I have no original thoughts.

I don’t even know if I can think for myself at this point. Who decided I was mature enough for this shit?

Wait, what actually is a dissertation?

Is it an essay but, like, long? Or is it more like a scary bedtime story? Wait how the hell did we get to March without anyone telling us what a dissertation actually is? Criminal behaviour to say the least, but definitely expected from every university in the country.

Wait it’s not March, it’s April?!

Well shit, my utter failure of a body clock has failed me once again.

If I write 500 words a day it’ll be fine.

Okay, maybe a thousand a day – lots of people write their dissertation in less than a week. Wasn’t there that one girl who wrote it in eight hours? I’ll be absolutely fine. You guys won’t even believe how fine I’m going to be.

Why is my supervisor not replying to my emails?

No one sends signals more mixed than the dissertation supervisor tbh. They’re like the fuckboy that says he wants to marry you then ghosts you all within 24 hours, just when you’re most desperate for them they disappear.

Wait, what is a “methodology”?

And whilst we’re at it, what’s a literature review? I feel like I don’t know anything about academia at this point, which is pretty ironic after three years and £28,000 in tuition fees.

Maybe I would work better if I reorganised my desk.

Or changed the sheets. Now would be a good time to empty the hoover. Actually, I think I might check in on my flatmates to see how they’re doing. Why not rearrange my bedroom, kitchen and living space while I’m at it, just for a *change of scenery*. No procrastination here, ladies!

Is it too late to change my topic now?

Yes friend, yes it is.

Does anyone know how to apply for an extension?

Where’s that email about extensions we got sent weeks ago? Asking for a friend.

Let me just quickly Google something.

“How to get eight hours sleep in two hours”

“How much caffeine can one person consume before death”

“What Disney princess side character am I according to my breakfast choices?”

“How to avoid impending doom and total body shutdown”

No more distractions!

Now would be a good time to do that social media detox everyone’s been going on about. Oh, look! An article about dissertations! That’s right – this is all an elaborate Tab plot to keep you in the never-ending online prison of surveillance.

I can do this, I can do this, everyone is doing this, it’ll be fine.

Will it though? Just tell yourself you’ve got it under control sweetheart xxxx

Actually, you know what, I’m kinda proud that I did this.

From a magical combination of hard work and perseverance, a dissertation appears. Or it will, eventually. I know – an unheard of concept that doesn’t look even remotely achievable up until the moment it’s finished, but I assure you it is POSSIBLE.

I am never writing another word again.

So done with academia. Peace out bitches, catch me in a mediocre office job where I don’t need to have original thoughts ever again and can instead focus on looking cute for work and buying matcha on the two-hour lunch break I’ve given myself.

Or maybe I should do a PhD?

On second thought, the adult world of work seems kind of scary – maybe I can brand myself as an eternal student and get away with spending every penny of my parents’ money hiding from responsibility.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• This Northumbria third year smashed out her dissertation in 15 hours

• This Warwick graduate did his entire dissertation in one 40 hour sitting

• Meet the grad who did his dissertation in 36 hours, and he got a first