Dissertation Survival Guide – 4 Tips To Stay On Top

The days are getting longer, temperatures be arising, storm clouds have parted and Strongbow is half price in Co-op – British Summer Time is fast approaching.

Whilst the rest of the population eagerly anticipate that One Day where temperatures surpass 20 degrees and we all go down to Brighton to enjoy a sunburn and 99p flake (see: £2.50), final year students will be viewing the advent of summer as a challenge, the seasonal equivalent of a rowdy fresher in the Yates queue, asking you to “come on then, if you think you’re tough enough.”

For those with dissertations, exams, presentations, essays and existential crisis to combat, this time of year becomes one of burgeoning workloads, marathon library sessions and emotional breakdowns in Subway at 10am (true story, I was there. It was me.)

But this doesn’t have to be a time of all-consuming doom and gloom – whilst a dissertation is rightfully hard work and nobody can pretend that this time of life is a walk in the park, take it from a Dissertation Survivor that these following four tips can ease the burden. Slightly.


1.) Routine

The importance of a routine when navigating these final few weeks of uni cannot be overstated- setting yourself a daily target of when to rise, when to be in the library / designated work space, when to eat and when to get back to bed are hugely important in ensuring that you are progressing with work whilst also looking after yourself.

Life in the throes of a dissertation can feel akin to walking through a nuclear wasteland with only a jStore membership, so it’s important to have some sort of schedule to cling in order to make sense of things.

Up at 8, Breakfast by 8:30, start work by 9 – you’re onto a winner and it’s not even 10am!


2.) Talk To People

Believe it or not, you are not the only person currently undergoing a dissertation. This kind of reality check can seem unwarranted when your work feels very personal and self-contained, but there’s a reason why finding a seat in the library at this point of the year requires university blueprints and a sacrifice to the Gods – everyone is at it.

Talking through the everyday trials and tribulations of dissertation life can be a sure-fire way to unburden yourself, feel a little less alone and regain some perspective – with the benefits of a face to face chat well publicised, there’s really no reason not to strike up a conversation with a study partner.

Unless you’re in the Silent Study Area. In which case, do us all a favour and drop out.


3.) Be Kind To Yourself

It’s become easy in recent years to write off the idea of rewarding yourself in times of high pressure as some form of new age, millennial self-indulgence.

But by organising your time so you allow for frequent breaks, you’ll find yourself not only with an incentive to be productive, but little pockets of time to enjoy those little things in life – like speaking to people, and seeing daylight.

With actual, real life science supporting the notion that frequent breaks actively improve focus, it is now no longer necessary to follow a toilet break with a public flogging. Not only will you become That Guy, it’s just not scientifically viable.


4.) Keep in Touch with Reality

Perhaps the easiest thing to do when consumed with ‘Dissertation Doom’ is to check yourself out of the Real World and throw yourself to the mercy of niche academic scholars, finding solace in the comforting works of Nietzsche and Plato.

Whilst dedication to your work is an absolute necessity, it need not be a compromise between research and staying in the know of world events. Walking out of university with a top degree is all well and good, but you’ll look pretty silly at pre-drinks if you didn’t keep up that Drake is now Prime Minister, Antarctica is joining the EU and Teresa May won X-Factor.


5.) Everything is an Opportunity

Skimmed through a Wikipedia article? You are now well versed in “conducting research to a sophisticated level”. Asked your tutor a few quick fire questions over a pint? Consider yourself worthy of “organising and participating in interviews with academic scholars”. Started a fight in a seminar? You’ve just “actively engaged in constructive dialogue with peers.”

The simple fact of the matter is that simply having a degree to your name won’t set you apart from the graduate pool – and this is why mining all your dissertation experience is crucial. A dissertation is your key opportunity to show yourself off, so don’t be afraid to be your own Hype Girl and put yourself out there. Big yourself, be your own best friend.

You got this.


Patrick Woodcock graduated from the University of Sussex in 2016 with a History degree. You can find him on Twitter at @p_trickwoodcock

Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.