Categories
Discussion Posts Misc.

How I Tackled The Dreaded Dissertation

discuss_post_graphic_txt

Hello fellow bookworms! It’s Sunday, so I decided to prepare a discussion style post for today. It’s not necessarily completely book related, but more a helpful hints and tips post for all you university students out there. As many of you know, I’m in my final year of university, which means I was required to write a dissertation. For those of you who don’t know what a dissertation is, it’s basically an extended piece of writing, like an essay but quadruple the length. Due to the fact that I study a creative course, I also have to complete one last project, the Final Major, which means I had slightly less time to concentrate on my dissertation (but it also meant it was a bit shorter than most!) I wanted to share a few things I did throughout the research and writing process which might help some of you, whether you’re just starting uni or panicking about essay writing (yes, these hints will hopefully help with essays too!)

Just a quick note to say I only handed my dissertation in early last week, so I don’t have my marks back yet, so if I end up failing I’ll let you know so you can completely ignore all the things I say in this post!

Start thinking of ideas over the summer

You know you have to write a dissertation, so why not start getting ideas about what you want to write about while you have the time to think and not drowning in other work to do. You might already have a rough idea what you want to do, but you have to have a fairly specific topic, but still open enough so you can conduct extensive and in depth research on it. Not too big, but not too small! Your supervisor can help, if you present them with some ideas, they can assist you in narrowing down the field of study.

wtp.gif

Begin researching straight away

As soon as you have that rough idea, and you’re back at uni with the resources available to you, start researching. Gather quotes that interest you around the topic, and find books that might be of note later on. I did some reading before my first meeting with my supervisor, and I ended up actually using some of the quotes I found in that research session in the final dissertation! Get a head start, you won’t regret it!

giphy-downsized7.gif

Engage fully with your supervisor

It is so important to go to every meeting with your supervisor, and if you have a question about anything you are unsure of, email them, or organise an extra meeting with them if it’s quite a complex question, or if you are confused. They are there to support you every step of the way, so make sure you take advantage of them being there while you can. When it’s one week from the deadline and you are asking questions you should have known weeks ago, they probably won’t be too pleased! Your supervisor and your connection with them throughout the dissertation period will be invaluable, so make sure you get on well with them, and ask as many questions as possible. Pick their brains, because they know what they’re talking about!

giphy-downsized8.gif

Keep up with the workload

I’m not going to lie by saying a dissertation isn’t hard, because it is, but it’s even harder if you don’t keep up with the work. If you can, do a little bit every day, and write down everything that comes into your head, even if you think it might not be relevant in the end. Do some research, even if it’s just half an hour a day, you will soon see your research and collection of quotes growing. The more you read, the more questions you can ask your supervisor as well, which means they can point you in the right direction. if you don’t keep up with the research, how are they meant to know how to help? It will also save a lot of stress in the long run.

giphy-downsized9

Get to know the guidelines

Most supervisors will tell you before you even start meeting with them that the dissertation will have to be formatted in a certain way. This includes making sure you have the correct font size, line spacing, and chapter system. Nailing the formatting, and knowing exactly how it needs to be presented in the first few weeks of researching will save a lot of stress at the end, because it’s one less thing to worry about.

giphy-downsized10

Immerse yourself

It’s no good writing about a subject half-heartedly. To write a really good dissertation, just like any essay, you really have to immerse yourself in your topic. Try to know everything about this small corner of the world you have decided to research, know it so well that you don’t stumble if someone questions you about it. Getting to know your topic inside out will make you more confident when it comes to writing the dissertation.

giphy-downsized11.gif

Know when to stop researching

Even when I started the writing process, I still came across a few things I needed to research or get quotes to back up my argument, but it is so important to know when you have enough research to start writing, otherwise you really could be stuck researching forever. Set yourself parameters for everything you think you need to know about your topic and research them in as much depth as possible. Once you feel all bases are covered, start writing! Starting the writing process is the scariest part but it also feels so good, because you are on the home stretch. Researching and finding the information you need to form your argument can be the most stressful part!

giphy-downsized12

Use the holidays

You’ll hate me for saying this, but you need to make use of your Christmas holidays. Personally, I wrote my first draft over Christmas, and while it meant I didn’t have a lot of free time to relax, I was ahead of schedule when I got back in January. This also means that, as soon as the first draft is written, that’s it. All of your ideas are down on paper, and editing is a breeze compared to everything you have tackled up until then! But please make sure you do take time to relax as well, to keep the stress levels down (if possible!)

giphy-tumblr.gif

Writing the first draft

Don’t write in chapter order. I always leave the introduction until last, because even though you have an idea of what you want to talk about in each section, your writing can take you to wild places, and you can end up discussing some things you didn’t initially plan to discuss. Write the main chapters first, and make sure you form a strong argument. They say the reader shouldn’t have to read a sentence twice to understand it, so make sure the writing is clear. I learnt a great argument structure in school, which was known as P.E.E. Some of you may know it, but it stands for Point, Example, Explain. You need to go slightly further with a dissertation considering the level of work that is expected, so I swap the Explain for Analyse (P.E.A, it still works!). Make your point, give an example in the form of an visual or description, and then analyse that point. That structure was really helpful for me to make sure I was fully explaining my arguments. Do this for every point you make, making sure you back up everything you say with quotes, and you’re on the right track. I recommend finishing your first draft slightly under the word count, so when you come to edit, if you’re adding loads in, you don’t tip over the maximum (I was so close to doing this, but I managed to keep it under the max word count by about 100 words in the end!)

giphy-downsized13.gif

Editing

Once the first draft is written, editing feels a lot easier. All of your ideas are there, and you just have to make sure they are explained clearly, and you are getting your point across without using too many words. Simplify it right down, and get others to read parts you are unsure of. You have just spent 4 months researching and writing, you know the topic so well it makes absolute sense to you, but someone who knows nothing about the topic needs to be able to understand the point you are trying to make. Now no offence to any members of your family, but get them to read it, because if they can understand it, it means you have done a good job! In the end, I completed about 5 edits of my dissertation, each one taking about a week to complete. There is so much to keep in your mind when reading through your writing, so it’s sometimes easier to just focus on one thing at a time, for example, does everything make sense, have I explained this clearly, have I backed up my argument, etc. These are all key things to be on the lookout for. Whilst editing, make sure you make a note of any parts you are unsure about, and get your supervisor to read through them in your meetings. They will be able to see if there is anything missing, or reassure you that it does make sense and you are just overthinking it (which happened to me quite a bit!)

spongebob_reading

Print and finish early

It may seem like a waste of time, but printing early and handing in even a few days before the deadline saves so much stress on your end. Make sure your printing is fairly good quality, and all the pages are in the right order. If you need to bind the dissertation, make sure this is done in good time in case something goes wrong and you have reprint and rebind it. Giving yourself that extra time means you have leeway if things go wrong. You also feel a lot less rushed, which means less stress (and it also makes you look super organised if your ready to hand in days before anyone else!)

And once you’ve printed, bound, and slotted your piece of blood, sweat and tears dissertation into your supervisor’s pigeon hole, all will feel right with the world, and a weight will be lifted off your shoulders…until it’s time to start the next assignment!

giphy-downsized14.gif

For those of you who are writing your dissertation now, or getting to the point where you are thinking about writing, even if you’re not writing it until next year, I wish you all the best of luck, and I hope you found these hints and tips on how I tackled the dissertation helpful to your own studies. Feel free to leave comments if you want to know anything else, and I will try my best to help. Of course, I am only a student, but I can advise the best I can based on my own experience!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

All gifs from giphy.com

Categories
BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide on Becoming a Good Student

BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide to Becoming a Good Student: The Final Week

BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide on Becoming a Good Student has been specifically designed for those of you who are venturing to university/college, or those of you who are already students and want to become a bit more organised.

This week’s topic is: Using Social Media to Your Advantage

Social Media is a massive part of everyone’s lives now, I mean, even my Nan is on Facebook! It comes in handy all the time; staying up to date with the news, latest celebrity gossip and knowing what your friends are up to at the weekend. We even use social media to write and read each other’s blogs!

When it comes to going to university, you will find that your institution will have several Facebook pages, Twitter and Pinterest accounts and blogs that tell you what current students are working on. There are so many ways you can connect with future and current students and your lecturers through social networks. See my tips below on how you can use these sites to your advantage:

Facebook

  • Utilise this to stay up to date- The main university Facebook page will have Open Day dates published, with links to places you can get more information, and allows you to ask questions to current students about life at the university.
  • Look for more- A university will never just have a singular page for the whole uni. For example, mine has a main page, a Fresher’s page, a Student’s Union page AND a page dedicated to my course!
  • Communicating with future classmates- Through the use of the course page, I have managed to connect with people I’m going to be learning with next year. It’s great to know what different backgrounds everyone has come from, what experience they have and making friends before you arrive so you don’t feel as nervous!
  • Student’s Union- This page will publish events happening during Fresher’s Week and throughout your years at the university. Use this to stay updated so you don’t miss out on anything.
  • Fresher’s Page- This will allow you to meet other’s who aren’t necessarily on your course but you can connect with a wider community.

Twitter

  • 140 characters can hold a lot of information- You university will use Twitter tooter you short bursts of information throughout the year. They can include links to competitions to get involved in and pages with a lot more information. Twitter can be quite irritating when you don’t get a lot of space to write, but short bursts of information can be handy.

Pinterest

  • Check out other student’s work- Pinterest accounts give the university the chance to showcase other students work from your future course, so you can get some inspiration and see the standard of work produced.
  • Gather stimuli- You can find a load of inspiration on Pinterest! Use it to gather photos and videos to help you with your work and find ideas for future projects

I hope this blog series has really helped you all and good luck with your time at college/university!

Happy Friday and Happy Blogging!

Jade 🙂

Categories
BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide on Becoming a Good Student

BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide to Becoming a Good Student: Week 4

BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide on Becoming a Good Student has been specifically designed for those of you who are venturing to university/college, or those of you who are already students and want to become a bit more organised.

This week’s topic is: Moving In and Organizing you Dorm Room

So whether you are in halls or in private rented accommodation, you will be starting a life away from the safety of your own bedroom. You will be cooking, cleaning and having to tidy your room off your own back, with no one telling you what to do. The freedom may sound very appealing, but you will want to make sure you are disciplined and actually get things done, not just with class work, but eating properly, clearing out rubbish and tidying up after yourself.

This blog post will be about the best way to move in to your dorm on that all important day and organise your belongings to cause minimal mess.

Moving in can be quite stressful! You need to make sure you pack absolutely everything you will need (but don’t pack absolutely everything if you see where I’m coming from!), and make sure you have plenty of space for it all. The following tips will help you move in with ease:

  • Make a packing list- Whether hand written or electronic, write down everything you need twice. You’ll need one to check off as you pack it up and then the other as you unpack. An electronic one is very helpful, because you can then restart it when you come to pack up at the end of the school year. ( there is a link on the Week 1 post to the packing list that I use!)
  • Think you have everything? Check again!- I can guarantee you that you will miss something off! Don’t get too caught up in making sure you have plenty of stuff to make your new room look pretty, and make sue you have all of the essentials first.
  • Don’t take a suitcase- Unless you are going abroad to college/university, you will not need to pack everything up into a suitcase! You can use bin bags, storage boxes and bags for life, which can also be re-used once you get there! Use your bin bags for the kitchen bin if they are not too stretched or ripped (heavy duty ones are good!), storage boxes are great for keeping things clean and dust-free under your bed (which will maximize the rest of your space and keep everything hidden, making it look a lot cleaner!), and bags for life are strong enough to use as laundry bins, which saves you buying them at your local supermarket.

Once you’ve unpacked, you will need to find spaces to put everything. Follow these tips to maximize you space for ultimate storage:

  • Invest in some bed risers- These are four sturdy posts, usually wooden or heavy duty plastic, that you put under your bed posts to raise the bed; therefore creating more space underneath to store more stuff.
  • Use under bed storage- I’ve already briefly mentioned this, but get a few flat boxes to put things in and keep them under your bed. You’ll always have easy access to them, and it will make everything a lot tidier.
  • Don’t take your whole wardrobe!- If you are planning on going home to visit in the holidays, you can stock up on clothes then. If you think about it, September to December will be too cold for words, so you won’t be needing vest tops and shorts, you’ll be needing coats, jeans and hoodies. Just like in the summer, you can take away the big hoodie/coat bulk and replace it with cooler garments.
  • Take a selection of books (or invest in a Kindle)- We are all book lovers here, but unfortunately it will be impossible for us to take our whole bookcase with us! My plan is always to take a selection of genres, maybe a few thrillers, a couple of YA novels and some classics to keep me going. A kindle could also be very handy, as it will not take up a lot of room like books do, and, on a student budget, it is a lot more economical. We all know that physical books are so much better though, so if in doubt, pack the 7 Harry Potter books, because if you have nothing else to read, there is no harm in re-reading them, EVER!

I hope this proves helpful to your packing! It is now just over 2 weeks until I start university, and it’s really starting to get real now. If you are in the same situation, stay focused and clear on why you are going, don’t panic and have a good time!

Next weeks post will be the last installment, and will contain information about how to connect with you uni and future classmates on social media!

Happy Thursday and Happy Blogging!

Jade 🙂

Categories
BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide on Becoming a Good Student

BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide on Becoming a Good Student: Week 2

BookMuffin’s Beginners Guide on Becoming a Good Student has been specifically designed for those of you who are venturing to university/college, or those of you who are already students and want to become a bit more organised.

This week’s topic is: Managing Your Money Before You Start Spending It

I have seen a lot of posts on how to manage money once you start university, but not necessarily a lot on how to manage it before you go. Making sure you have plenty of money to get the supplies you need beforehand is imperative, because you WILL NOT get your student loan until you are fully enrolled in your university!

There are a lot of expenses involved in uni, besides tuition fees, accommodation and course costs, you will also have to get things for your room (e.g bedding, storage, etc.), kitchen supplies, bathroom essentials and, the best bit of all, stationary. I love a good stationary shop, but the prices rack up eventually. Here are some things to think about when shopping for the essentials:

  • Shop on offers- a lot of places have Back to School ranges that will be discounted or on a 2-4-1 offer that you should take advantage of
  • Don’t buy too expensive- you can maybe treat yourself to a nice notebook, but don’t go too mad! make sure the paper quality is good enough, but you don’t have to get a really pretty Pukka Pad for everything. Besides, you can always DIY a front cover to make it look nicer!
  • Keep it cheap… but not too cheap- Don’t buy Value/Basic everything, because it will just break/be useless within the first week of using it, but don’t buy high end products either. Go simple, but effective, and make sure it works!
  • Check out your local supermarket- for things like saucepans, cutlery and all of your bathroom supplies, your local supermarket can be amazing! Also, UK readers can pop into Wilko for super cheap, well, everything, and the US have Target for things that you don’t necessarily have to splurge out on.
  • As I mentioned with keeping it cheap, but not too cheap, make sure your pans are non-stick, so they don’t ruin the first time you use them!!

Only buy what you need! It may be tempting to see something and think it will make your room look nice, or spend money on things you might need, but probably won’t use. DON’T DO THIS! As I mentioned, everything adds up, so keep to the bare essentials at first, then, if you have some money left over, you can treat yourself. Have a look at the following tips and tricks:

  • Chat with your roommates- If you know who you are living with and have them on Facebook/have a phone number, you can easily get in contact with them around the clock (if you haven’t done this, I recommend getting to know the people you are living with- it will help a lot when moving it!) See what they are bringing along with them, because if everyone is planning on bringing a toaster, you might not have too!
  • Don’t worry if you forget something- If you get there and realise you have forgotten something, you will probably still have a bit of money left over or your student loan will have come in. Don’t panic and just go and find what you need (this is also a good way to explore the surrounding area a bit more too!)

Another thing to think of is, it’s not just you! There are plenty of people around you who I am sure are more than willing to help you out. As my mum has always said to me, ‘I will never sit and watch you starve’ If you do need something urgently and don’t have the money for it, simply ask! This is a big step in your life and your parents will want to help you out as much as possible before you leave. Just remember to ask nicely!

My final tip is quite a big decision to make, and will depend entirely on personal preference, but I found this step incredibly beneficial…

Take a gap year!

I know, those dreaded words ‘gap year’ may make your head spin, and I know there are a lot of things to think about when it comes to making the decision. Have a look and see how I have found my gap year beneficial to me in terms of managing my money (sticking with the topic of the post!) :

  • Get a full-time job- If you do decide a gap year may be beneficial for you to find your feet, get a full-time job and earn some money!! A lot of people decided to go travelling and spend some time at home, but I cannot stress enough how much a job has helped me save for university. I’ve putting away half of my pay check each month and managed to save more than what I will be receiving in student loan!
  • Be strict with your spending- After putting money away in savings, you will have to be strict with what you spend still. I know that may be tough, and sometimes you will need to spend some money on food, clothes, presents, etc. but try and keep personal spending to a minimum. This way, you will have plenty when it comes to buying all of your uni things.
  • Start buying early-taking a gap year and earning money will allow you to spread the cost of everything. You can buy your saucepans and toasters in January sales for half the price and store them away until you need them. If you don’t take a gap year, you will be working overtime during the summer for extra money and trying to buy everything the weekend before you go.

I do understand that taking a year out is a big decision, and it should not be taken lightly. I also understand that it is a whole year, but you can also think of it as ‘it’s only a year!’ My year out has flown by, and I feel a lot more ready financially than I every was last year (I had ÂŁ300 to my name last year, now I have 20x that amount saved up and ready to go). Financially speaking, a gap year is the most beneficial thing I have ever done!

Before I go, I want to share one more thing. Below there is a link to my Google Drive, where you will find a checklist template. You can print it off or fill it in on the computer with everything you think you will need in each section. have a look online to see the places you can get it from for the best value and for how much. You can then use the final column to jot down how much you actually spent. You may find you never bought it because it wasn’t absolutely imperative that you bought it there and then! I hope this will be useful for you all.

Another link will take you to my Packing board on Trello (a really handy place to store to-do lists and just about everything else!) You can see what is on my list and decide for yourself whether you think it would be handy to have, or whether you can live without it!

Checklist Template

Trello Packing board

Happy Thursday and Happy Blogging!

Jade 🙂