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Tackling a Dissertation: Final Notes

uczcslo2 June 2016

Photo by: skdevitt | Flickr

Photo by: skdevitt | Flickr

As this is my last UCL blog, I’ve decided to round off with some key dissertation tips. Having now met my dissertation supervisor, I feel enlightened and able to provide stronger insight. Having expert advice can get you on the right track. These four tips are new knowledge to me and vital for dissertation success.

Don’t assume that your methodology is correct

Although it’s tempting to plan schedules and think of which research method you are going to use, it might be too early. For example, I immediately jumped on the idea of doing a survey and to my dismay realised that I shouldn’t just assume what I’m doing is what NEEDS to be done. After my dissertation meeting today I realised I have to figure out EXACTLY what my dissertation is trying to show. Even if your methodology feels right, it might not be the best option for your choice of topic.

Don’t focus on the numbers

When dissertation time approached I started thinking of the dreaded word count, and the amount of sources I have to trawl through. Looking at too many sources might instead hinder your progress and ability to see deeper into the dissertation topic. Focus on sources that are relevant. Don’t feel the need to add sources to your bibliography just because you want to seem like you’ve done lots of research. Get inside the sources. Have fun and get to know what you’re working with and how to use it. The word count and bibliography will come with it. It won’t seem so bad and before you know it you’ll have the word count. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

Leave time

When writing your first draft proposal it may feel like the finished product. It’s not. When you have your meeting with your supervisor you’ll realise that your proposal really is one of the first steps that can produce success or failure. It sets you up and helps you focus on exactly what you need to do. Learning how to approach the dissertation can be the most difficult part – I found out the hard way. Crystallise ideas and get in the dissertation zone, or you could end up writing 10,000 words of nonsense.

Commit

Commit to write every day if you can for however many months you plan to write. Read, write, edit, read, delete, write, edit… Maybe you throw in a source because you think it’s important but after more research you realise there is better out there.  Don’t reach the 10,000 word count and think you’re done. There is always room to improve.

And finally… use your supervisor to your advantage

Ask your supervisor to help you keep on track, whether it be just keeping you accountable or working together to make a good schedule. Think of them as your guardian angel for a few months. Don’t ask and you don’t receive, right?

Remember how much of your degree the dissertation is worth and POWER THROUGH!

I enjoyed blogging and hope that my blogs have entertained and helped you. It’s time for me to get cracking with my dissertation based on my words of wisdom and I’ll leave the blogs for the future MA Publishing students! Good luck!

Tips and Struggles from a Commuting Student

uczcslo18 November 2015

Today is the first blog of my blogging series: Tips and Struggles from a Commuting Student. I’m going to start off with basic tips that every commuting student needs to know. Everything I have written below is, of course, written in jest, but is also reality.

 

Photo by: Sarah Louise Osborne

Photo by: Sarah Louise Osborne

1. Accept the fact that commuting may be your future.

Commuting can be tedious and time-consuming. On average, I wake up three hours before my lessons start, and on every commute, I miserably compare the commuting time to the time it would have taken if I lived near campus – which equates to an extra two hours of sleep! In spite of this, I’ve tried to see the positive side of commuting. I’m only at university twice a week, if I complain now, then what is it going to be like when I work in London full-time?

2. It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

When it comes to getting a seat on a train during rush hour, you are more than welcome to frown at the fortunate individual who claims the last seat from under your nose. That is the reality of commuting. If your station is one of the first stops, then you will probably not encounter this problem. However, commuting back from London at 5pm will undoubtedly be the opposite. Sometimes, you may encounter circumstances that do anger you. For example, people using spare seats as laptop stands or foot rests – you are well within your rights to take the seat!

3. Make the most of the commute.

When you’re studying a Masters, working, interning, blogging, and trying to desperately sustain any form of social life, you cannot afford to waste time on a train. Yes, sometimes standing on a train makes it difficult to concentrate, so allow yourself to play Solitaire or Uno on your phone for a while. But make sure this isn’t a regular occurrence! Bring two books (a textbook and a reading book) – the textbook for when you’re determined and energetic, and the reading book for when you need a break. You never know what mood you’re going to be in.

4. Be quick.

Keep your travel card close by at all times. Time spent searching through your bag at a turnstile, wastes everybody’s time.

5. Protect your belongings.

The most obvious piece of advice – keep a close eye on your possessions at all times.

6. TEA or coffee…

Commuting can drain your energy; it can be tiresome staring at the back of a chair for half an hour, so make sure you get a caffeinated drink either before or after the journey. Always make sure you have money reserved for these little necessities!

7. Last-minute homework.

Although I shouldn’t be admitting this, train journeys are great for last minute bits of homework. I don’t mean assignments (I’m not that crazy), but if you really didn’t have time to finish your homework, then train journeys may be your saving grace. They are particularly useful if, for homework (UCL MA in Publishing particularly), you are required to make public observations of reading spaces.

8. Acquiring a cheetah’s stealth.

Once you’re off the train, people will try to jump on the train before allowing you off – this can make you angry. You must therefore adopt the speed, and sneakiness of a cheetah. If you are short like me, then you will adapt quickly. Slip under arms and through the sides of people, and think ahead. Watch out for pedestrians who are about to walk into you. A lot of people march through the station assuming people will dodge them. Avoid slow walkers who think they’re on holiday, and rapidly accelerate in front of them. Sometimes, it can shock you how fast you make it from one side of the station to the next.

9. Comfy clothes are key.

Forget nice clothes! Wear something comfortable and find a balance. Long sleeve tops and jumpers are obviously advisable during winter, but expect to sweat on the underground. Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in. Debate whether laces will negatively impact your speed, or whether a skirt will be awkward on an escalator ride. Always be prepared for all types of weather – after all, this is England.

10. Travel light.

Finally, travel light. If you want to bring your laptop, then sacrifice something else, like a notepad. Half of the time, half of what you bring with you, isn’t used.

 

I hope these few tips are useful for everybody, even if you’re not an MA in Publishing student. If you enjoyed my witty remarks, then please follow us on Twitter @UCLPublishing or via my Twitter @SarahLouiseOs. Bear these tips in mind during Christmas. I can imagine train journeys will be even more hectic, and I’ll follow up with some of my personal, commuting encounters next month!