At this stage, only you will know exactly what still needs to be done and how you want to approach your final few weeks. In your push to the finish line it can be easy to get bogged down in the specifics of your project and forget that there are a few simple things you can do to squeeze the last few marks from your dissertation or final report and ensure it hits submission day in peak condition.
1. Plan your time
Make a list of all the things standing between you and your dissertation being submitted and use this to plan the time you have left. You can schedule your days so that you get more done and save some last minute stress.
2. Write your introduction after your conclusion (or at least re-visit it)
Your introduction should introduce the argument you are going to make in your dissertation, while your conclusion should summarise how you have demonstrated or proven it throughout. So writing or re-writing your introduction after you’ve made and summarised your argument will ensure consistency in your work and a better flow.
3. Make sure your referencing is bulletproof
Checking your references can often be the most time consuming part of finishing your dissertation, but is also where students most commonly lose marks.
Check and double check that your bibliography and references match up and contain all the information they need to.
Ensure that you follow the referencing conventions of your school accurately and consistently, and make sure you confirm whether references are included in your word limit. Your supervisor will be able to advise you on which style to use, and guidance on them can be found in the Library’s handy referencing guide.
Do not leave all of your referencing to the end. Referencing can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, so whatever you do don’t leave it all until the final few days, as you’ll need that time for editing and proofreading. If you find referencing disrupts the flow of your writing, try doing a batch of referencing at the end of each day to keep on top of it.
4. Proof read, proof read, proof read!
Proofreading is much more than just ensuring you’ve passed the spell check on Word or having a quick read through to check for typos. You also need to think about structure, the flow of your argument and most importantly, whether you’ve answered the question!
So read through your work at least 5 times and not all in quick succession – try reading through twice, taking a break and coming back to it the next day or a couple of hours later.
It’s worth looking through this quick guide to proofreading from My Learning Essentials for exactly what to consider when proofreading.
5. Ask someone else to also read through your work
A fresh pair of eyes will often be able to highlight things you’ve missed, whether it’s a sentence that doesn’t make sense or a paragraph that would work better in another place. Even better is to ask a friend or family member that has little knowledge of the subject of your dissertation as they will be able to give you a more objective view.
Be aware not to ask course mates who have picked a similar topic though, to ensure you steer clear of plagiarism.
6. Follow formatting guidelines to the letter
Each masters programme will have very specific formatting guidelines related to font, font size, paragraphing, margins (this is particularly important with regard to binding), title pages and pagination. Make sure you check these guidelines in your course handbook and follow them carefully. Failure to do so will cost you easy marks. If you’re unsure where to find these requirements, check with your supervisor or programme administrator.
7. Seek help where you can and whilst you can
Although you may only be allowed a limited number of meetings with your supervisor, if you have any pressing questions or are having difficulties with anything do not hesitate to drop them an email. If they can help, they will.
Make sure you revisit any feedback they have given and check how you’ve used it.
If you are having significant difficulties with your project and do not feel you will be able to hand it in on time, it is even more important that you contact your supervisor or programme director as soon as possible to discuss any possible options. The University’s Student Support offers guidance on this process on mitigating circumstances if you feel this is appropriate.
8. Finally… don’t panic
You are nearly there and you still have the chance to make real, valuable changes and additions to your project, regardless of the state it is in. Keep a clear head, allocate your time effectively, make sure you eat and make sure you sleep, and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.