6 Tips for Dissertation Time Management | Top Universities

6 Tips for Dissertation Time Management

By Chloe Lane

Updated May 3, 2022 Updated May 3, 2022

If you’re a final year undergraduate student or a postgraduate student, it’s come to that time of the year where you’re planning, or about to start writing, your dissertation.

For those who don’t know, a dissertation is a research project completed at the end of your undergraduate or postgraduate course on a topic of your choice.

Writing your dissertation can potentially be a stressful and time pressured experience – but only if you don’t manage your time effectively!

When you first start thinking about your dissertation, you may feel like you have all the time in the world, so it’s easy to get complacent about planning and writing, and then, before you know it, the deadline is just around the corner.

If you struggle to stick to deadlines, try following our six tips to get you back on track.

Create a timeline for your dissertation


Make a timeline


Whether it’s on a calendar, a piece of paper or just on your phone, having a timeline is an excellent way to keep track of your progress.

To make your timeline, split your dissertation into several sections, and decide an approximate time that you want each section to be finished by. It’s important to be realistic about these timings – if not, you either won’t follow them, or you’ll just burn out.  

Setting realistic goals can help you feel motivated and less stressed, as it divides the dissertation up into achievable bite size chunks, rather than letting it completely overwhelm you.

Structure regular times in your normal week for writing your dissertation


Structure regular times


Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have to write your dissertation every single day, just as long as you do it regularly. Set up a structured time to work on your dissertation – in the same way you might put time aside for the gym. While it’s important to spend time on your dissertation, it’s worth remembering that it’s about the quality of work you produce, not the number of hours you spend working on it.  

Some people find it useful to treat the uni day like a nine to five job, and only work within those hours, so that there’s structure to the working day. Other people prefer a more irregular working pattern, for example if they work better at night or in the morning – so decide what’s best for you and stick to it! 

Do your research


Do your research


Start with making a list of sources you want to use in your dissertation. Use suggestions from your supervisor and go to your university library to see what books it has on the topic. Also use online resources: Google Scholar is a good place to search for these.

The next step is to start reading your sources, making sure to take notes and record titles and page numbers. This will make it a lot easier in the future when you go back and reference these sources.

Prioritize your tasks


Prioritize your tasks


Prioritizing is key when it comes to dissertation writing! Decide what the most important tasks are and make them your top priority (look at your timeline to see which parts need to be completed first).

Write a list of smaller, less time-consuming tasks, so that when you need a break from whatever you’re working on, you can go back to them. This way, at least when you procrastinate, you’re still being productive.

It might also be good to have a notebook handy to jot down any interesting ideas that come to you while you’re writing, so that you can come back to them later on.

Keep your supervisor in the loop


Keep your supervisor in the loop


When writing a dissertation you’ll be assigned a supervisor who will guide you through your project. Supervisors are generally keen to help you with any problems you might have, so make sure you ask any questions you might have about your dissertation.

It’s also good to keep your supervisor up to date with what you’re doing. Reporting back to them on the progress you’ve made will motivate you to keep going, and they will be able to offer helpful feedback.

Just start writing


Start writing


When you start writing your dissertation is completely down to what suits you best. Some people prefer to finish all of their research before they start writing, whereas others prefer to start writing and continue their research when needs be.

Be aware that when you start writing it might become apparent that there’s further research you need to do, so leave enough time for this in your schedule. How to manage time?

You may start writing and realize straight away that this is far from your best work. Even if this is the case, keep going! Even if it’s not very good now, it’s still progress. You can go back and edit it later. 

This article was originally published in November 2019 . It was last updated in May 2022

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