Thursday, 15 April 2021

Dissertation Tips (English Literature Degree)


Writing a dissertation in the middle of a pandemic is no mean feat. If you're in third year and in the midst of your project, or in second year and wondering how you can get a head start, I've written some things down that I've found useful in my own experience.

Start Early & Organise Your Secondary Reading 

Starting some secondary reading as early as possible will help you in the long run: it will help you to shape your argument as well as ensuring you don't have too much to do in the later stages of your project. I've found creating a really simple table with these headings to organise my secondary reading has helped me massively: source title, quote, pages, publishing and page range, and additional info. It makes everything organised, simple and clear. It also allows you to easily keep track of how much reading you've done, allowing you to decide when you've done enough. 

You Can't Read Everything 

If you're passionate about your topic, it can be tempting to want to read everything ever written about your author, but it's impossible. Planning your thesis statement for your dissertation overall, and even each of your chapters, and bearing these in mind as you read around your topic can be useful. When you get to the stage of writing up your dissertation, you need to scale down your research so you're only researching things that are really relevant to your topic. 

Extra Notes Documents for your Chapters 

Especially in the editing stages, having a spare document for each of your chapters for you to copy and paste any sections you delete means you don't lose anything. If you decide you want to add a section back into your chapter, you have a document with extra snippets to hand. 

Pagemark Everything 

There has been so many times where I've went to go back to a page in a text, thinking I will remember where a specific line or passage is. To make your life easier, have pagemarkers or post-it's to hand as you're reading. That way, you won't miss anything you might want to go back to, making your life easier in the long run. 

Look for Societies or Festivals on Twitter 

Following any societies linked to your author on Twitter can be hugely beneficial, as often they retweet useful articles for your wider reading, and you can find other students and academics who are writing on your author/s. Sometimes there also festival events that are put on that are linked to your author, and due to the pandemic, a lot of them are now conducted through Zoom, which means you can attend events you might not have originally had access to. 

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