The Beginner’s Guide to a First Class Dissertation

Studying. Image source: Pixabay. Courtesy of Wokandapix.

The dreaded dissertation.  That big project that’s been looming in the distance since you started, and now you’re a finalist and suddenly that deadline isn’t looking all too far away.  Don’t worry!  If you’re one of the many who’s struggling to finish – or even start – then we’ve got the guide for you.  Here’s the insider information on how to bag that first class mark in ten simple steps.


1. Leave it till the last minute.  You might have had months to work on your dissertation, but where’s the fun in that?  You’ve had better things to do, and it’s almost like university expects you to multi-task, writing this alongside all your other work.  No, it’s much better to leave it till the end.  We recommend not starting your dissertation any more than a week before the deadline to get the full benefit of this tactic.  People produce better work under pressure – everybody knows that.

2. Pay a visit to the library.  If you’re feeling particularly studious, or even just want to make yourself feel better, pop along to the Billy B and take out a couple of books.  Pick titles that sound vaguely relevant to your topic – it all just adds to the thrill when you do eventually read them and find out what they’re actually about.  Of course, you don’t have to read them yet – just keeping them in the corner of your room will be enough.  We’ve heard that knowledge travels from books to your brain while you sleep – it’s kind of like osmosis, right?

3. Distract yourself with appropriate stationery.  You can’t seriously be expected to write thousands of words about a topic without the appropriate stationery.  Take a trip to the shops early on in the procrastination process to choose what folders you’re going to use.  A dedicated colour is a must, preferably accompanied by a “dissertation” label and plenty of stickers.

4. Make sure your Netflix subscription is paid.  This one is self-explanatory.  If you’re going to be writing a dissertation, you have to get all the distractions out of the way first.  We reckon you’ve got at least ten series to catch up with, and haven’t you wanted to watch that film since it came out?  After all, binge-watching is really just a reward for the work that future-you is going to do.

5. Present your supervisor with completely unrelated work.  It’s not like your supervisor is there for a reason, is it?  They might be experts in their field, but you’re an expert in last-minute winging, so this tip is an easy way around those demands for samples of work and the disappointing glances when you don’t produce it.  Offer them a section of one of your second-year essays, or write your introduction without using any sources.  Bonus points for the most original alternative.

6. Ignore the people who’ve been working on theirs for months.  We all know them: the organised students, the responsible students, the ones who’ve dedicated hours every week to their dissertation but still like to worry out loud to anyone who will listen that they haven’t done enough work.  Next time you’re stuck with them, tell them you haven’t even started yet but you’re not bothered about it, and wait for the look of horror that forms on their face.  It’s worth it.

7. Don’t bother with a plan.  Yes, you’re writing thousands of words, and yes, it might be more than you’ve ever had to submit before, but why worry about a plan?  When you eventually get around to starting the dissertation, everything will go much more smoothly if you just begin writing.  You’ll get to the point eventually, we’re sure.

8. Spend at least one day thinking up your title.  There’s a common adage not to judge a book by its cover, but everybody knows that titles are one of the most important aspects.  Spend some time on yours – nobody’s going to bother reading it if your title doesn’t grab their attention, and what a waste of all your hard work that would be.

9. Pull an all-nighter to finish it up.  Or several all-nighters, if you’re feeling ambitious.  Maybe you thought you’d left these behind in first-year, when you were young and carefree – think again.  A caffeine-fuelled, exhausted writing session will undoubtedly produce some of your best work, and it’s only right that your dissertation should finish with a bang (likely followed by a whimper).

10. Give yourself maximum half an hour for printing.  There’s a special excitement to be found in waiting in the queue a whole 30 minutes before your deadline, just to get your dissertation printed and bound.  We’d recommend doing a little exercise to prepare for this one, but the mad dash to the department will be the crowning achievement of your submission when you make it.


And there you have it – the easy way to a first class dissertation, the sort you’ll want to leave on your bookcase for guests to read when they come and visit, and you’ll be able to offer to future employers instead of filling out an application form or handing them a CV.  What could possibly go wrong?


(Please note the author and the publication take no responsibility for grades obtained following this method.)

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