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, below are some tips that will get you well on the way to a first class degree. 

Start Early & Organise Your Secondary Reading 

Starting some secondary reading as early as possible will help you in the long run. You will be able to form a clear argument, and you will ensure that you do not have too much to do in the later stages of your project. I've found that creating a really simple table with these headings has helped me to organise my secondary reading: source title, quote, pages, publishing and page range, and additional information. It makes everything simple and clear, and it also allows you to easily keep track of how much reading you've done.

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 as well as 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 reading about things that are really relevant to your topic. 

Create 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 do not lose anything. If you decide you want to add a section back into your chapter, you have a document with all of your extra snippets to hand. 

Mark Your Pages 

There has been so many times where I 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 index tabs or post it notes to hand as you're reading. That way, you won't miss anything that you might want to go back to.

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 similar people and topics to you. Sometimes there are 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. Often, you can attend events you might not have originally had access to. 


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