My Dissertation Experience

Around this time last year, I was handing in my dissertation. I know some people have a few months to go before they have to hand theirs in and some aren’t going to be doing theirs until next year, but I thought I’d share my experience with writing my dissertation since I can laugh about it now.

What Dissertation Did I Do?

I did an English Literature degree and was given the option to do a creative writing dissertation. I was able to write about whatever I wanted, whatever genre I wanted. It was 8,000 words with a 2,000-word self-analysis. Compared to those who do regular dissertations with referencing I thought I had it quite lucky.


When Did It Go up Shit Creek?

It went up shit creek pretty quickly. I had spent the whole summer not bothering to think about it because I thought I had a plan. I already had a screenplay written out and I was just going to turn it into prose. I sneezed out my dissertation proposal in October because I had to.

I recommend that if you’re in your second year to not do what I did. You don’t have to spend your whole summer obsessing over your dissertation, but at least give it some thought.

Anyway, October came and went. I sat down to write my dissertation, and… nothing. I suddenly hated the idea and no longer wanted to just rewrite what I had written beforehand. So, I spent a good two months trying to come up with a new idea.


My Supervisor

Urgh. I ended up with a supervisor that I thought was decent at first, but then I came to realise that she was very biased. Like if you chose to write in a genre that she wasn’t a fan of then she would mark it down. Her favourite genres seemed to be romance and historical fiction. My dissertation was about a zombie apocalypse so obviously, she wasn’t impressed. She was also pretty unreliable. Your supervisor isn’t there to do your entire dissertation for you, but they should at least give you feedback and reply to your emails.

I could go on about this for ages. All I’ll say is if you get a choice in who you have as your supervisor then I suggest that you choose carefully. If you end up with someone you feel isn’t helpful to you then request a new supervisor as soon as possible. The earlier you request a change, the better your chances of getting one. Having a decent supervisor makes all the difference. My friends who were happy with their supervisor struggled and stressed a lot less than the ones (me included) who weren’t happy with theirs.


Word Counts Are the Bane of My Life

This is why I would recommend starting your dissertation early so you can manage your time and word count a lot better than I did. Even after my third draft I still only had 200 words to kill off two people and write the ending. I’m surprised I got the mark I did because the ending was such a mess. It didn’t help that we had to waste 2,000 words on a self-analysis where we even weren’t allowed to write in

It didn’t help that we had to waste 2,000 words on a self-analysis where we even weren’t allowed to write in first person. Do you know how hard it is to write about yourself and not use ‘I’? We also didn’t really get much info on this self-analysis thing, so a lot of people (including me) pretty much just winged it.


Peter Pan

When it was coming to the final hurdle I started having nightmares about my dissertation. The one that I still remember is when I had just printed, bound, and handed it in. I dreamt that I had handed it in and was looking through it on my laptop and realised that I had left this massive chunk about Peter Pan in the middle of this zombie apocalypse dissertation. Even when I woke up I was still convinced I had left it in. I was even thinking, There’s nothing I can do. I handed it in. Peter Pan’s just gonna have to stay in there. It took me a good 10 minutes at least to realise it had just been a dream.


So, What Mark Did I Get?

Well, I got my mark late because I had such a quality supervisor. Apparently, the secondary marker liked it and wanted to give it a high mark while my supervisor didn’t, so they had to get a third person to mark it.

Turns out that the third marker agreed with the secondary marker and I got 68%! Although my supervisor told me it was 67% which I was happy with, but when I got my final results back it said 68%, so I don’t know why she tried to knock a mark off.


How to Avoid Shit Creek

Stay out of shit creek by starting on your dissertation as soon as possible. You don’t need to have done the whole thing in the summer, but you can at least get a solid idea of what you want to do. The earlier the better, especially if you are doing an academic dissertation where you have to include references. If I had to reference things I don’t know how I would have coped.

Again, if you end up with a supervisor that you aren’t happy with then request a new one as soon as possible. If it’s too late and you’re stuck with them, then you can always get feedback from friends which can help a lot. I actually avoided getting feedback, but I think I would have benefitted from it if I had actually stopped being such a baby and let people read my dissertation.


Already Started Your Dissertation?

At the time I’m writing this I know that some people are probably still writing theirs or are nearing their deadline. If that’s the case then I hope it all goes well for you and you don’t have any nightmares about Disney characters!

When it’s finally over you’ll feel weird. Like every day for the next week, you’ll be stressing that you need to write it even though it’s done. But once its printed off and bound its the best feeling!

Thanks for reading! Think this is the longest text post I’ve ever written. Are you starting your dissertation next year? Or have you already started it? Let me know how it’s going! If you have any questions I can attempt to answer them!


  • I’m not even in university yet, but this blog post was so helpful. Dissertation was my biggest worry about going to college, and this post has made me feel a little better about the whole experience, so thank you!
    I love the Peter Pan reference. With my college assignments, I’m terrified I’ve sworn through sheer frustration and I’ve forgotten to remove it. Thankfully it hasn’t happened… yet, but there’s always time!

    • Holly

      I’m glad I could help in some way! 😀
      I was stressing about it so much in my second year, but as long as you give yourself enough time then you’ll be fine! Saying that though I know someone that wrote there’s in like 48 hours and they still managed to get a 2:1. HOW I’ll never know.