• Abbie Tibbott

Motivation Tips for Dissertations

It’s spring semester, which means that for many people, dissertation deadlines have appeared on the horizon. I’ve written a few posts about dissertations which I’ll link to this one, but I’d like to offer some tips on how to motivate yourself to write it in the first place. Whether you’re a final year undergraduate or master’s student, have a read of these compiled tips, and hopefully it’ll motivate you to get it done.


1. Do a little every day

I experimented with allocating certain days to doing my dissertation and having the rest of the week completely free of it, but I found that those allocated days were full of procrastination. Writing a set amount every day, or setting small targets for topics or sections will help push you to get on track. Say that when you first start your study session(s) each day, you write 200 words, or if you’re feeling more ambitious, you’ll write “x” section of a chapter. Then, you can put it to one side and get on with other coursework or seminar preparation, and not feel guilty about ignoring it. Sometimes you might feel motivated to carry on past your allotted target; those times are golden, so don’t waste them!

If your dissertation is the only thing you’re working on, splitting your day into research and writing can be helpful to motivating you to do a little every day.


2. Reward yourself regularly

Let’s face it, this dissertation has to be handed in, it’s not optional! You may have sacrificed, work or time with friends to get this done, so it’s only right that you treat yourself. Each time I finished a chapter of my dissertation I would reward myself with something, such as a piece of DLC for my games, a takeaway or a trip out somewhere.

It may feel a little bit like bribery, but if your motivation is in the mud, material promises may be the thing that pulls you out of it. If you have a significant other or a close friend, perhaps they could treat you to said item/experience once you have finished. Also, if there are a group of you struggling to finish, plan a day out once it’s all over.


3. Ask your supervisor to be harsher on you

Some dissertation supervisors are really laid back, are happy to be approached for questions but don’t bug you for contact. This is all part of leading your own independent research project, but I found that all of my friends with different supervisors for undergrad had varying experiences. I’ve written a post about how to make the best out of your supervisory relationship which I’ll link to this one, but here are a few things you can ask of your supervisor:

· Ask them to set chapter deadlines for you. Even if they aren’t allowed to read your work, ask if you can arrange a quick meeting each deadline for you to go in and have a chat about what you’ve included, anything that’s missing or bits you don’t think are good enough.

· In an alternative to meetings, email them every time you’ve finished a segment, giving them an outline of what you’ve achieved, and what you plan to do next. This can help motivate you to deliver the goods, and decent supervisors will check in on you to see how you’re getting on.

If your supervisor doesn’t want to get more involved, it’s worth chatting to your personal tutor. Ask them to set deadlines for you, and although they won’t be familiar in your topic, you can still give them a general overview of the section and any methodological issues you’re facing, as they might have some really great ideas.


4. Dedicate a study environment to your dissertation

This might sound overkill, but I did this for a bit while I was writing the third chapter of my BA dissertation. At that point it was February, the end was in sight but I needed to write the last chunk of academic material before I wrapped up my conclusion, and I was not feeling motivated. After everything was planned out, I picked a seat in the library that I called my dissertation seat. I would study there alone and would make sure I arrived early in the morning to get that seat. When I sat in that particular spot, the third chapter was the only thing that I worked on. Sometimes I would stay a few hours, and I remember staying most of the day a few times. Ultimately, it didn’t take me long to write, edit and reference my third chapter, and I think a lot of it was to do with dedicating a specific place for it.

It may sound a bit impractical or ridiculous to try and reserve a space in a public environment, but getting to the library to get your chosen spot will get you up early, and it’s super satisfying when you eventually “graduate” from the seat. I sat somewhere new in the library the other day and I’m thinking that for my days in the library I might start sitting in the same place again.


Ultimately, it’s going to get done and you are going to get it done, so try not to let it take over your brain. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the freedom of researching and writing, but if you haven’t take comfort in the fact that you’ll probably never have to do anything like this again!

Happy studying!