A word you might hear pop up a lot during both your time applying to universities and whilst you’re actually there, is ‘dissertation.’ A dissertation can be defined as ‘an extended scholarly essay submitted for a degree or other academic qualification’ (OED, 1896) – yeah that’s right I just made a citation. You’re going to be writing a whole lot of them in your three years.😉

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

A dissertation might seem like the scariest concept in the world to some students. You’ve got to do all the research yourself, on a topic you choose, in set time constrains and you’ve got to hit an exceptionally big word count – it’s probably up there on the top three things to induce fear into a student, alongside looking at our bank accounts after a night out or when it’s your turn to clean the bathroom in your student house. But I’m here to help calm any nerves you may have about the dreaded ‘dissertation’ – whether you’re a prospective student or current! 📚

Double-check your course

There’s a possibility the university course you desire to apply for doesn’t even make you do a dissertation! I’m on the English Language and Creative Writing course and a dissertation is not a core module. It is however an optional module in your third year if you want to choose to do one. Like I did. I like to write, don’t judge me.

Use our A-Z Course Finder online to discover if dissertations are part of any of the courses you’re interested in or keep a look out for a Facebook Social Event on our Facebook page for the course you’re interested in, as you will be able to ask both current students and staff any questions you may have. 💡

A photo of my personal dissertation. With the title 'Using Corpus Literary Analysis to Explore the Language and Recurring Themes of Traditional and Contemporary Children's Literature'
Photo: Helena Wright

Make sure you enjoy your topic

It is inevitable you will put a lot of hours into your dissertation. Not just writing it, but also sitting in the library for hours reading textbooks, possibly setting up particular research methodology such as surveys or experiments and of course you can’t forget making sure your bibliography is spot on. Considering how much time you will put in. Do not just pick any old topic, pick something you enjoy.

I’ve heard some people say you shouldn’t write your essay on something you like because you will end up hating it and I do understand that. However, it’s quite a weirdly nice feeling when you’re typing up a new part of the essay and the words just flow because you are genuinely interested in your topic and want to get your thoughts and interpretations onto the page. ✏️

A female in a striped shirt sat at a table in a public space. She has a plate with food crumbs and a drink cup next to her. She is writing in a notebook thats sat on top of her pink laptop.
Photo by Alex Samuels on Unsplash

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Not to be dramatic but I would have not survived my dissertation if it wasn’t for my supervisor. Your dissertation supervisor is someone who is chosen because they have a specialist understanding of an particular discipline and they will give you relevant and useful feedback as you take on your essay. Although they cannot hold your hand through the entire dissertation as the main outcome of a dissertation is to be able to research and work independently, they are there to chat to and will try their best to answer any questions you have.

Other great resources of support on our campus include the Skills for Learning courses held by our very own library. Through them you can sign up for courses such as Wordscope or even book onto a one off workshop to help with formatting your dissertation. 💻

A close up of some of the books on shelves in the Clifford Whitworth Library
Photo: Charles Leek Photography

Treat yourself to a nice workspace

Some days you will physically go out of your way to avoid even looking at your desk or study space at home. With it being covered in stacks of books from the library, pens, sticky notes and energy drink cans – there’s no shame in admitting you can get bored of working in the same space constantly. Take the time every so often to take yourself to a new workspace. Maybe meet up with your friends to get a booth in the Clifford Whitworth Library and crack out that literature review. If it’s a nice day, take one of your textbooks, some snacks and find yourself a sunny spot in Peel Park to do some reading! Check out one of our previous blog posts by Seren to find some more lovely study spaces in Salford. ☕

Two students sat at a wooden table in the GK Gallery and Cafe, Salford. On the table there is two plates with scrunched up napkins and crumbs on. There is also two coffee mugs, saucers and a lovely potted plant as a centre piece.
Photo: Charles Leek Photography

Believe in yourself

And finally, as cheesy as it sounds, you’ve got to realise you are more than capable of doing this dissertation. If you find yourself struggling, you can seek support at university and pick yourself back up. There are no wrong ways of handling a dissertation and although there are several books on ‘how to write a dissertation’ that list out ‘to-do lists’ and ‘step-by-step guides’ you can tackle it whichever way is best for you, your schedule and your mental health. You’ve absolutely got this and you will smash it! ✨

Illustration by artist Stacie Swift. Source: stacieswift.com