The 8 Phases of Writing a Dissertation

For a lot of university courses, a dissertation makes up a large part of your final year. A dissertation is essentially an essay on steroids – typically, they involve a large amount of independent research and a lot of writing.

The process is long, stressful and usually encompasses these 8 phases:


1. Fear of the unknown


You’re back from the summer break going into third year (when did that happen?!) and at this point, the word ‘dissertation’ has never sounded more ominous. You’re not entirely sure what one is. All you’re sure of is:
• They’re usually extremely long
• You definitely don’t possess the concentration levels to write one
• You’re probably going to fail third year


2. “I’ve got this”


You have finally settled on a topic and now begins the research. With a fresh dose of optimism, you start scouring the library and internet for all of the literature you can find. In a rare moment of clarity, the pieces of the dissertation puzzle start coming together. You are going to do this and it’s going to be great!


3. Self doubt


At this point you have nailed down the specifics of your plan, after having winged it for the first month or so. You’ve got your introduction written. You feel like the cleverest person out there and nothing is going to stop you.

Then, you calculate the percentage that intro makes up of your total, and wonder how anyone in this life has managed to write 10,000 words on any topic, ever!


4. So. Many. Versions


A few months deep and your mind is consumed, 24/7, by this wretched dissertation. You’re constantly tweaking it and have far too many different versions on the go to know what’s going on. Your mind feels as cluttered as your internet browser with 30 different tabs open.

It’s gotten so bad that you don’t even feel like going out anymore! Eat, sleep, dissertation, repeat.


5. The dip


The deadline is looming, but you’ve lost every ounce of motivation. The closer the deadline gets, the less time you want to spend on it. You’ve got a list of journals to reference so long it could circle the Earth, plus there’s work for other courses due.

Naturally, you decide the best plan of action is to re-watch copious amounts of Friends and forget about all responsibilities.


6. Light at the end of the tunnel


Freedom is so close you can almost taste it. The amount of times you’ve read your dissertation, you’re pretty confident you could recite the entire thing word for word. You have collated all the correct versions into one document and begin your final checks, all the while planning how hard you’re going to party once the misery is over.


7. Sheer relief


The absolute final version is done and saved in 100 different places, just to be safe. You feel much like a woman who’s just given birth – proud of what you’ve brought into the world but, at that moment in time, you never, ever want to do it again.


8. Pride


You’ve had it printed and bound, and now the moment you’ve been dreaming about for months is finally here – submitting your final dissertation!

You take lots of pictures of your precious baby because YOU DID IT, and if you don’t have pictures did you even write a dissertation? Today you’re entitled to feel like royalty.


As an undergrad student, a dissertation can be an extremely daunting prospect, especially when all you have in front of you is an empty Word document and the knowledge that you have to fill these pages with thousands of words.

But, never fear. One section at a time you will get there and, when all said and done, it will probably be one of your proudest academic achievements to date.


Ellie Abraham is a guest contributor for Inspiring Interns. Based near Brighton, she has a Geography degree from MMU and is now turning her hand to writing. Check out her blog here.

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