So, you’ve left writing your dissertation until the last minute? Never fear, it’s Student Hut to the rescue!

Writing a last minute dissertation isn’t something people do on purpose and yet here you are, frantically scouring the internet for tips because someone *ahem* left everything until the last possible moment. Lets skip past the bit where I sound like your dissertation adviser/lecturer/dad/man that runs the local fried chicken shop and tell you off and instead get stuck into a crash course in dissertation writing. And for goodness sake, back your dissertation up in as many places as you can!

The majority of your time will be spent planning. If you’ve got a good plan to follow, then the writing will be a thousand times easier to do. Don’t be tempted to just launch in and start bashing out 10,000 words, because your dissertation will be confusing, hard to read and obviously rushed. FYI: This article assumes your dissertation is easy to do from a desk. English, history - that sort of thing.  

1. If you haven’t already, choose your topic and your core texts

You don’t necessarily need a title at this point - maybe mock up a working title that you can change as you go along. Select a few core texts that you’ll use to base most of your dissertation on. If you do English, start with a few novels and a couple of critical or theory texts.

2. Get those highlighters Out

Highlighters dissertation last minute

(Credit: Delightfully Disastrous

If you’re feeling organised, pick up a packet of bright page markers too. Now go through every one of your texts and highlight every key quote that relates to your dissertation topic. You’ll need to be able to find these in a hurry, so make them stand out.

3. Decide on your arguments

You don’t have to know what your conclusion will be yet, but you need to know what the central arguments around your topic are. Write these down, as they’ll provide the foundation for your own argument as you weigh these up.

4. Get planning

dissertation mind map last minute

(Credit: Learning Fundamentals)

Just like in school, a decent essay plan is always a good start. Figure out how many central topics or arguments you think you’ll be covering. These are your chapters. Within each of these, write as many subheadings as you think you might need. I’m a big fan of chaotic mind maps to start with, which I then rework over and over until I’ve got a proper structure.

5. Establish good referencing etiquette

Double-check what referencing style your university uses, and make sure you have a guide on hand at all times - either online or a hard copy. As you write, stop at the end of each paragraph and reference everything that you need to. Add each reference to your bibliography at the same time. This is a crucial step, because the Turnitin software used by all UK universities is expertly designed to pick up on plagiarism. Never, ever try and do your referencing at the end of your dissertation - it’ll be a living nightmare.

6. Writing

It’s time to start writing! Keep focused and calm, and be prepared to get up early and work late to get everything finished. Try and work methodically through your plan, ticking off topics you’ve covered. Keep note of any thoughts or extra ideas you have as you’re going along - you might want to revisit them at the end.

7. Checking

Re-read everything yourself first. Does it make sense? Are you making a clear argument? Do any sections need to be reordered or reworked in order to make the dissertation flow smoothly? Check for simple spelling errors that might annoy a marker. Make sure you have a clear introduction and conclusion. Make sure everything is formatted as per your university's guidelines. Get a parent or trusted person to read it over for you - they’ll be able cast fresh eye over your work and might spot errors that you've missed. Finally, make sure your title accurately reflects the content of your dissertation. It might have changed a fair bit since you started writing!

Last minute dissertation

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So there you go, a crash-course on writing a dissertation that you’ve left until the last-minute!

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