When thinking about your dissertation, planning is as important as writing itself! Having an established, albeit flexible, plan will help you focus on specific medium and long-term objectives. The important thing is to recognize what steps you are going to take, when you are going to do it and how plausible it is that you really do it. Few things are as frustrating as setting a goal that, in advance, we know is too ambitious.
Here are some possible tips for planning realistically:
1. Talk with your supervisor
If the department has already approved the topic of your dissertation and you have been assigned a supervisor, the first thing you should do is hold a meeting with her/him. The appointment will be much more fruitful if you attend it with your question or argument somehow structured.
Establish with your supervisor some necessary steps keeping in mind the delivery date of your dissertation and considering that you will also need time to proofread the final document. Remember also that during the summer many staff teachers travel to international conferences or go on holiday, so you must set dates for upcoming meetings.
2. Develop an outline and calendar
Taking into account the advice of your supervisor, you can develop an outline on the structure of the document. For example, how many sections you will have and what each section will be about. At the same time, you can establish a tentative calendar. If the dissertation must be submitted in August, you can set one or two weeks for work in every section. Do not forget to develop the topics considering the upcoming meetings with your supervisor.
Include in your calendar all the important dates and events that could interfere with the writing of the dissertation and try to start with the readings and research as early as possible.
3. Set an essential reading list (and at some point, stop reading!)
If you have already determined what the topics that each section of your dissertation will deal with are, you can prepare an exhaustive list of texts to read. Your supervisor could also give you some advice about it. Dedicate an excellent time to the first part of the investigation and remember to organize your notes effectively so that later you can use them.
Despite how tentative it seems to continue reading without end, at some point you have to stop because it can have a negative effect. If you feel that you have enough information about the topics to be discussed and your argument seems clear, it is fine to leave out articles that do not seem so essential even if they deal with your question.
4. Think of it as a job
If you had to work instead of writing your dissertation (I imagine that many of you have to do both things!), you would know that at least you should dedicate a minimum of 5 or 6 hours a day to your work activity. If you can think in the same way about the dissertation, you will develop a constant rhythm of work. The key is not to obsess! Remember to dedicate part of your day to other activities such as practicing physical exercise and going out once in a while with your friends.
5. Find a couple of places you can go
Each of us has particular preferences about where we like to work. Finding a place or a couple of places where you feel comfortable and can concentrate can help you keep up the pace of work. I think it’s good to vary from time to time to break the monotony!
Another good strategy is to organize with a friend to study together and have small breaks during the day to talk or take a walk. Sometimes it is much easier to work with someone since you feel more motivated!
6. Do not forget the details!
Do not forget to ask about the details, especially those of a formal nature such as the format in which the document should be delivered, what information should be included, etc. Also, think that when the document is re
ady, it is necessary that one or two people do a proofreading of your work!