IP3T3S3 Advice on writing a dissertation


Hi Howard … I haven’t seen you for a while. Hi Joanne. Yeah, they’re keeping us really busy on
the postgraduate programme. But how are you? You’ll be starting your dissertation soon,
won’t you? Yeah … tutorials start next week … I’ve
got Dr Peterson. You’ll remember it all from last year, of
course! It’s not something you forget easily. But seriously, although I didn’t expect
to enjoy writing my dissertation … and in fact I didn’t really find it much fun, I
wouldn’t have missed the experience … [question1]I found it really improved my understanding
of the whole degree programme, you know, from the first year on … Right. So what are you doing yours on? Glaciated landscapes … although I haven’t
decided exactly what aspect yet. I did mine on climate systems, so I can’t
help you much I’m afraid. But you’ll be fine once you start your tutorials
… Dr Peterson’ll help you focus. I know, and he’ll set me deadlines for the
different stages … which is what I need. [question2]My concern is that I’ve got tons
of material on the topic, and I won’t be able to stick to the word limit, you know. Hmm. I remember I had different concerns when I
was doing my dissertation. Last year? Yeah … before my first tutorial I did a
lot of fairly general reading ‘cause I hadn’t fixed on my topic at that stage. I actually enjoyed that quite a lot and really
improved my reading speed, you know, so I was getting through a lot of material. [question3]I was frightened I wouldn’t remember
it all though so I got into the habit of making very detailed notes. So did you find your tutor helpful .in getting
you started? Yeah we certainly had some interesting discussions
but it’s funny …[question4] I saw a brilliant programme about climate change and it was
that that really fired me up. It was talking about some recent research
which seemed to contradict some of the articles I’d been reading. Hmmm. So you say your tutorials start next week? Yeah. Well, the first month’s crucial. You’ve got to meet your tutor and decide
on your focus but don’t become too dependent on him…you know, don’t see him every week…only
when you want to check something. Right. Once you’ve got the focus you’ve got to
get reading – [question5]it’s helpful to look through the bibliographies for all the
course modules relating to your topic. And get hold of any books you think you’ll
need. I haven’t got much money … I mean get the books from the library, far
better. And I suppose I should prepare a detailed
outline of the chapters? Yeah absolutely . but don’t feel you have
to follow it slavishly . it’s meant to be flexible. Now, I’m someone who likes to get writing
quickly … I can’t just sit and read for a month. Not like me then … but if that’s what
suits you, you know, your natural approach, then [question6]you really ought to start
immediately and write the first chapter … Right. Now Joanne, about the library … it’s worthwhile
getting on good terms with the staff … they aren’t always helpful with undergraduates
. I suppose they focus on post-grads more. Maybe . but show them you’re serious about
wanting to do good work. And what if I can’t find what I need? Well, there’s inter-library loans … Borrowing books from other libraries … but
I’ve heard it isn’t all that reliable. You’re right.. .but you probably won’t
need it anyway … be positive, the library is likely to have most things you need … and
[question7]during the dissertation writing period, you can take out fifteen instead of
the usual ten books. Should I look at previous years’ dissertations? You can do . But I won’t know which are the good ones. [question8]The library only keeps the best
and the staff can advise you. Are they willing to do that? Oh yeah . And I’m worried about getting journal articles
… from the electronic library. Well, have you tried to find any yet? No. Well you should . it’s really straightforward. That’s obviously something I’ll have to
look into. Dr Peterson will help. Yeah, I know I can go to him if I have any
worries. Except he will be away in the second month
– it’s the holidays. [question9]You should ask him what to do while
he’s away. Gosh, yeah … but I suppose I can get a lot
of support from coursemates … I know a couple of people who are thinking of doing the same
topic as me. Take care, collaboration can become dependency. I think you’d better see how that works
out what the people are like. You’re probably right … About other reading,
I suppose Dr Peterson’ll recommend plenty of good articles to get me started. One thing I’d find out is what his attitude
is to [question10]internet sources. Surely not in this day and age? I’d better get that sorted out right at
the beginning. I would if I were you. And I’ve also got some questions about the
research sections – how much time I should spend explaining the process. Well, I think that’s up to you … you can
see how it develops as you’re writing. OK. It’s the same with things like time management
. that’s something a tutor can’t really help you with . I agree! So is there anything else you need me to go
over .

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