Red Pen Editorial

First steps: planning your dissertation module

An open laptop with a pen and paper and a cup of coffee

1. Find your module handbook!

This will have all the information you need about what’s expected in this module and how you should present it. If you don’t have your module handbook, ask your tutor now (rather than later). Also find any presentations or notes they may have sent out.

2. Plan your workload

Think about what you need to do. Will you need access to a library or can you get all your material online? If it’s a report of qualitative or quantitative research, do you have all your data? If not, when will you have it? What can you do in the mean time? What other things in your life need to be taken into account?

3. Create a schedule

Working back from the submission deadline, establish a timeline to plot what needs to be done and when:

– Allocate time at the beginning for your reading and note-taking, or your interviews or data collection.

– Allow two weeks at the end to set the final draft aside so you can go back to it with a clear head and give it a final polish before you submit it.

– Create a schedule with SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-specific). Use whatever format works for you – a big visual chart to stick on the wall, notes in your diary, or even a spreadsheet!

4. Allow time for your references and bibliography

This bit always takes a lot longer than expected! So you could use the two weeks (see 2) for the references, finalising your bibliography and footnotes – and giving yourself a break.

5. Keep accurate notes

It’s important to keep notes of all the good quotes, facts, statistics, etc (separately from your general note-taking). It’s especially important to note where you found something (which article, author, page etc). This will save you hours searching for a particular example later on, when you are drafting and more stressed. Believe me, I’ve been there!

(c) Gillian Austen 2021

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