Writing a dissertation is a daunting task for any University student, but there are ways to overcome that initial fear. Pik Tze (MSc Entrepreneurship & Innovation) shares some tips that made her dissertation roadmap slightly easier to follow.
Student with research papers writing notes on a whiteboard

1. Be strategic with your dissertation topic

It’s important to start thinking about your dissertation topic as early as possible. This gives you optimum time to do your research and narrow down your focus. It’s equally important to find a dissertation topic that benefits you. Whether that’s exploring a personal interest or targeting something that aligns with your professional goals, your dissertation topic can help you get ahead. Consider your own background experiences or subject matter within your programme: were there any questions left unanswered? Any issues needing more time to unpack? Or emerging trends that have yet to be addressed? Your dissertation is the perfect space to gather that knowledge and use it to impress future employers.

2. Carefully consider your supervisor

Your supervisor is your main source of support and guidance throughout the dissertation process. It's important to find someone who is knowledgeable in your area of study and who you feel comfortable working with. Once you have shortlisted your dissertation topics, arrange meetings with potential supervisors to get a feel for their teaching style and availability. Additionally, consider seeking feedback from business leaders or practitioners to ensure your research problem possesses both practical and academic relevance.

3. Attend dissertation workshops

Take advantage of the workshops offered by the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Academic Development (IAD). These workshops cover a range of topics, including research methods and writing styles. They serve as valuable resources to enhance your skills and receive constructive feedback on your work. Additionally, as an MSc student at the Business School, you can access Teaching Assistants who offer guidance on the technical aspects of your dissertation. Don't hesitate to seek clarification or advice when needed!

4. Monitor your progress...

It's important to track your progress regularly so that you don't fall behind. Create a Gantt chart or use another project management tool to monitor your deadlines and milestones. Set aside some time each week to review your progress and adapt it if necessary to make sure you’re on the right path. This practice will help you stay motivated, avoid feeling overwhelmed, and ensure you complete your dissertation in a timely manner.

5. ...but avoid comparing yourself to others

It can be difficult not to compare your progress to others on your programme, but you must remember that everyone works differently. While some people might speed ahead with their research, others take a slower, more considered approach. Focus on finding a working pattern and pace that suits you and stick to it. It’s normal to have friends who are writing multiple drafts when you’re still in the planning phase – don't panic!

6. Reach out to University alumni

When collecting data from respondents, you can expand your research pool by connecting with University of Edinburgh alumni. The Business School’s Alumni Team offer to circulate dissertation research with their global network during the summer months. Simply create a research brief outlining your objectives and pass it on to the team who will share it on LinkedIn, in newsletters and via other alumni platforms. You should also leverage your own social media networks too. This way you can engage with respondents who match your criteria, thereby streamlining the data collection process.

7. Take routine breaks

Writing a dissertation is a lengthy process. Avoid burnout by incorporating regular breaks into your schedule. Every hour or so, take a moment to stand up, stretch, or engage in light exercise. Consider forming a dissertation support group with your course mates and arrange time to enjoy activities together like grabbing a coffee or taking a walk. These breaks will rejuvenate your mind, allowing you to return to your work with renewed focus.

When writing a dissertation, remember you are not alone. There are many people within the University of Edinburgh and externally who are there to help you succeed. Though it may seem daunting at first, your hard work will pay off and the sense of achievement you feel on completion will make it all worthwhile.

Pik Tze Hong is an MSc Entrepreneurship & Innovation student (2022-23).