I admit. There will be rough times – times when hair-pulling is the only thing keeping your sanity together, when taking a break seemed like the worst crime in the world, and when you come up with multiple plots and excuses to sneak a coffee or snack bar into the library. Seriously, there are a lot of snacks and coffee involved.
But doing a dissertation was an exciting journey for me at university. Given a choice I would do it again. Here are some of the reasons why I think students, with the right amount of passion and willingness to work hard, should do one.
1. You get to do research on whatever you want
Whether it is an author, historical period, scientific concept or random thought process that you’d like to explore, a dissertation allows you to do just that.
I have had the privilege of reading loads of Roald Dahl tales and watch movies related to the thesis in the name of research. Or like some of the other amazing things my friends have looked into: music in video games, better earthquake warning systems, nerdfighteria, LGBT in children’s literature, creative writing pieces or even, as a friend decided to put forward very plainly to me, ‘why frogs like ponds’ (I’m sure, as an environmental science research project, it is more extensive than that).
It’s important that you like what you’re doing. It’s hardly work if you enjoy it.
Just because you’re meant to put in a lot of effort into your dissertation it doesn’t mean that you need to eat, sleep and breathe it. At least, not until that few crucial weeks of editing before deadline day.
My advice: set yourself a schedule for that time period and stick to it . Don’t leave everything to the last minute.
Then again, that depends on how your work ethics are. If you are like me, you’d start writing drafts as you go along. Otherwise, adjust yourself to your needs. That’s the beauty in a dissertation, really. You get to approach it any way you want.
3. Better research/study skills
To make it with your dissertation, you’d need a system. And you’ll learn ways of doing just that, from putting your notes together coherently and finding relevant information. Incidentally, it would be helpful to invest some time in understanding a referencing system and input references as you go along to avoid getting into a panic when the time comes.
Among others, you’ll learn to manage your time well, solve problems, discuss ideas with peers and work under pressure. Which leads us to the next bit.
4. It boosts employability
Of course, for certain subjects, a dissertation shows the depth of your research interests and the core skills that come from it. For example, investigating ‘why frogs like ponds’ might show your interest in the study of water quality or effects of pH levels.
But what about other kinds of dissertations? I certainly do not expect to find a job writing a series of Roald Dahl literary reviews. The very fact that you have written a dissertation is proof of your soft skills: good communication skills, ability to handle criticism, ability to think critically or creatively, as well as the research skills mentioned earlier.
5. Everything is connected
You’ll never know how, when or where you’ll get those sparks of inspiration. Little points in time that make you go ‘that is what I want to say!’ or ‘that would make my dissertation so much better!’
But surely enough, they will come. And when that happens, everything you see and feel seems to make a case for your dissertation. Okay, maybe it’s because you can’t get it out of your head. But with any luck, it would feel as if the whole universe has planned for you to reach that Eureka moment.
6. You feel like the king/queen of the world
The moment you hand your dissertation in, with your belly full of sugary and caffeinated substances and your brain swimming in lala land from your lack of sleep, you’ll feel like you can do anything.
And perhaps you can.