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Tackling a Dissertation: Baby Steps

Sarah LOsborne6 April 2016

As briefly mentioned in my previous commuter series, I have found temporary relief from cramped train journeys, but I am now plagued with dissertation worries. Therefore I am starting a new series called Tackling a Dissertation. Its aim is to walk students (particularly MA students) through the helpful tips and steps I have taken in order to ensure dissertation success.

I admit I’m certainly no expert when it comes to dissertations and this is my first (I was lucky to escape it during my BA), but I hope I can somewhat prepare you in the run up to putting pen to paper. I will begin with five key ‘baby steps’ I believe are important before whole-heartedly settling on a chosen topic.

1.Pick a topic you are interested in.

It’s not going to be an enjoyable few months otherwise!

Additionally, choose a topic that will put you in the spotlight of your potential dream employer. For example, there would be little point in me writing on academic publishing when I am strongly interested in trade.

2.Think about the argument early.

I tried to stick to this rule myself, flicking through articles and jotting down sentences on which topics interested me most. I committed about ten minutes a week to doing this for about 3 months in advance of the deadline. In hindsight, I wish I had committed more time and done some deeper research to check whether my topic could be expanded enough to fulfil the word count.

3.Use bibliographies to your advantage.

Bibliographies – ah! – often the bane of my life, yet now my saviour. If you find an essay/article/journal on a topic you are interested in, then pay close attention to its bibliography. They are rich in relevant content and will keep your mind active on the subject!

4.Be prepared to stumble upon information when you least expect it.

This has happened to me a few times whilst reading for other classes. I was nearly always tempted by laziness and so wanted to pretend I hadn’t seen the information. Don’t be lazy! Set up a word document or dedicate a page in your notebook for jotting down important sources, otherwise you will regret it!

5.WARNING: An MA dissertation is not the same as a BA dissertation.

Tutors have emphasised this fact heavily, and although it’s difficult for me to compare (given the fact that I didn’t do one during my BA), I think it’s a key point I should warn you about if you are embarking upon a MA dissertation. Here is a chart that demonstrates some of these potential differences! https://www.ukessays.com/dissertation/masters/differences-between-undergraduate-dissertation-and-a-masters-dissertation.php

I would love to write more but I believe I will develop more detailed advice the further into the dissertation process I go. I hope these first ‘baby steps’ are useful for future and current students. I will have more tips next month so do not fret. We do have until September after all (although don’t get carried away with procrastination on that thought)!

Tips and Struggles from a Commuting Student

Sarah LOsborne18 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!