How to plan effectively for a master’s dissertation
Alissa Lola Bouab, MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship
HELLO dissertation, thesis, project, research… whatever you call it! Now that we are well into the New Year, 2019 feels real and the master’s dissertation too. This year is going to be extra special as I will write a substantial piece of work which will be useful for my future professional career, but also for my personal development. So today I thought I would share a bit more information on the WMG master’s project and the steps I go through in order to actually make it happen and not be (too) overwhelmed.
The WMG master’s project counts for 50% of your overall mark, making it the most ‘important’ piece of work you write throughout the year. The other 50% are the PMAs written after module weeks (9 in total). As my course is Innovation & Entrepreneurship, my dissertation can be about any new business opportunity. Indeed, it could be on anything you might like to launch, which makes it so useful for your future career, as all the research and work for this new venture is already done. Business models, cashflow forecasts, market research, marketing strategies, funding strategies, consumer behaviours are all topics which can be covered in your master’s thesis, making it invaluable information for the future. To help you write it, you have to select a supervisor who is happy to be working with you on a specific topic. The supervisor is so helpful as they keep you on track with your work, give feedback throughout the process and explain to you how the different chapters have to be written. But don’t worry, there are also plenty of workshops for each chapter in order to fully understand what is expected of you. Finally, the piece of information that everyone wants to know: the dissertation’s word count guideline is 20,000 words (as of March 2019). This is only a broad guideline, and dissertations vary greatly in size.
So now that the project is a bit clearer, here are my top tips to keep on track and tackle this important piece of work.
Step one: Plan ahead and adjust accordingly
The tip everyone tells you about and for good reason… Planning ahead is the most important step when it comes to tackling a big and lengthy piece of work. Breaking down all the chapters into smaller tasks and planning your time around them. Sticking to the plan is preferable but sometimes life gets in the way, and in this case, it is essential to modify the plan so you can stick to it again! This month I went to Spain and had to modify my schedule as I knew I just wasn’t going to write my thesis when it was sunny, 27 degrees outside and an ice cream was waiting for me. Adiós dissertation!
Step two: Learn from the past
Did you already write a big assignment similar to the master’s thesis? It could be a bachelor’s dissertation for instance. Then why not take note of what you did well and not so well in order to plan even better this time around? I struggled with time management last year during my bachelor’s dissertation (I mean who didn’t?), so I am really careful about my time schedule this year and making sure to stick to it.
Step three: Be realistic and plan breaks
We live super busy lives and like to be involved in all kind of projects. Our never-ending to-do lists don’t help us in finishing all the tasks we set out to do in a day. So be realistic with how much time writing the dissertation takes (hint: it takes a lot of time but that’s okay as it is something you probably are passionate about!). Another thing is to plan breaks often and regularly, during the day but also throughout the weeks and months, with travelling for instance or anything that makes you tick. A little escape from everyday life in order to recharge.
Step four: Work with your supervisor
The supervisor is a mine of knowledge and guidance: use it! They give you insightful feedback which makes your work better and help you keep on track. My supervisor has been great at helping me plan my workload, giving me feedback and suggesting ways to improve my work.
Step five: Just do it
My favourite tip of all: just get it done. Just start writing, researching, working on the project. Don’t let perfectionism stop you from doing it, just do it, get feedback and adjust accordingly. And before you know it, the dissertation will be done!
¡Hola! Taking a well-needed break from dissertation writing in Spain!