Planning your dissertation
A dissertation is an extended project that asks you to manage your time and undertake a variety of tasks. It is essential that you create a plan that helps you allocate enough time to each task you have to complete.
It is useful to work out how many weeks you have until you need to submit your completed dissertation. You can then draw a chart showing these weeks. Block out the weeks when you know you will be unable to work, and set aside time for other commitments you have during this period. Then allocate research tasks to the remaining time.
So let's create a sample plan and this is based on experiences of the author - you may find that your University or institution instigates your dissertation element later in your final year.
So imagine you have returned back from your summer holiday entering your final year at University. As a student nurse, you already know that you will have hours of lectures , coursework and exams that have already been timetabled and of course, a placement within a hospital or similar healthcare setting. Your exams will be in the following Summer (May/June) and it's likely you will have to hand in your final dissertation by either March or April. The last thing you need is precious revision time for your final exams taken up by frantically writing your dissertation. You should therefore aim to have a final draft dissertation completed by mid February (we appreciate this is dependent upon your University/Tutor)
So let's consider 7 steps to success:
Step 1 (Sept-Nov) Start of your final year:
So now we have a target date of late February, we can set out our plan of activities to meet that target. At this point you should start to think about the topic of your dissertation. It's far easier to write and research about something that interests you or is an area you wish to pursue in your nursing career than writing about a subject just because it might get your a good grade. However, whilst writing about an area or subject that interests you is a great start it has to be academically robust enough for critical analysis worthy of an undergraduate dissertation. By starting this 'thinking' process early you can access how robust your area of research is. This is where we scope out our dissertation (refer to next section for more information on scope)
Step 2 (Nov) Present your idea and scope of the project to your Tutor for approval:
Don't wait for permission to speak to your assigned tutor - remember you've paid £9,250 for tuition fees (their salaries) and you have a right to access them after giving 'reasonable notice'. Discuss your ideas with your tutor for feedback and get this done before the Christmas break- You can make amendments based on their recommendations. By using your initiative, you can keep on plan. Finally, if you've demonstrated commitment, passion and initiative regarding your dissertation, it's likely that your tutor will give you their time in assisting you - after all, your final marks will reflect well on them too!
Step 3 (Dec- Jan) - Research:
Throughout December and January (assuming your dissertation topic has been approved) get the research done- If you refer back to the scope of the project you will already have identified 'peer- reviewed' thought leaders who you can base a lot of your work around. Now it's time to read beyond those authors and consider other points of view. Remember, the more well - read you are the more you`ll understand what to include and what not to include in your dissertation. Also, being able to cite credible sources in your dissertation will demonstrate that you have considered a wide range of academic viewpoints creating balance and reflection in your writing.
Step 4 (Dec -Jan) Collect data and primary sources:
Whilst doing the research in December and January you must at least consider what data you will may need. Who will you need to speak to- how long will it take and so on. Get this out of the way no later than the end of January
Step 5 (Jan- Feb) Get that 1st draft down:
A 1st draft doesn't have to be perfect but it does have to be written! Getting those 10,000 words onto paper will make you feel a whole lot better. Discuss this draft with your tutor, allow time to reflect and re write where necessary. If you have researched and planned your dissertation effectively you'll already have the sources, the data and the chronology scoped out. Writing the dissertation should be A relatively quick endeavour - no more than 2-3 working days.
Step 6 (Feb) Seek feedback re -write and submit:
As the sub heading suggests, get feedback from your tutor, make amendments where necessary and get draft 2 completed- you should aim to have this completed no later than the end of February. Complete your final draft- and submit in March allowing you the time to work towards your final examinations
Step 7 (Sept- March) Setbacks, procrastination and and other things getting in the way:
Just when you think you're keeping to your plan setbacks will happen - It could be that you need to spend more focus on your lectures or time spent on placement eats into your dissertation study time- Allow time within you plan for these circumstances but do not let these lead to inactivity. Procrastination is your worst enemy - do not leave task until tomorrow - do them today or better still , do them earlier than planned.
Traits of Procrastination:
- poor time management
- being daunted by the scale of the task
- negative beliefs
- loss of motivation
- difficulty concentrating
- need to feel under pressure
If you recognise any of these traits in your own personality - address them now. Let's deal with couple of these negative traits
'daunted by the scale of the task'
The first bit of good news is that you are in good company if you feel daunted by the scale of the task in hand .... you won't be the first to feel like that. If you plan ahead and stick to that plan completing tasks that are manageable you will get there in the end. You will however, need to be persistent. There is an old adage that goes something like 'a river doesn't cut through the rock because it is powerful, it does so because it is persistent'
Break large tasks into small manageable ones. Break up your chapters into subsections, and
write accordingly. Find other ways to break up your work. In this way, what can seem like
the overwhelming task of writing a dissertation becomes more manageable. Set deadlines
for even small-scale tasks to ensure that you are efficient.
'need to feel under pressure'
There are many peer reviewed studies that arrive at the conclusion that some stress makes us more effective operators- indeed if we consider the profession you are training for, you will undoubtedly have to learn to work under pressure often extreme pressure situation (think Covid -19 Pandemic) But why put yourself under too much pressure if you can avoid it. Our best work is achieved when we have time to reflect on that work and make adjustments - this requires time. So the advice is manage your pressure situations - don't leave things to the last minute assuming you'll perform well and take breaks:
Taking breaks will aid your productivity. We are not machines, after all. By
taking more breaks than you really need at times, you likely will come back to your work
feeling energized. Another good way to stay energized and motivated is to leave your
writing in such a shape that when you start next you will know what to say.
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