username1439919
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Hi

I’m really just here because I want to hear about your Masters dissertation writing experiences (especially if you study/studied humanities). I love reading posts where people talk about how much time it took them to write their dissertations but most of the ones I’ve seen are from science students who write things like “I wrote my dissertation in a month – but I had already finished all my lab work and gathered all my data before I started”. As a history student, I can’t relate.

My current situation: I have a 15,000-20,000 word dissertation to write by the end of December. Originally the deadline was supposed to be the end of August, but we all got extensions because of Covid. Ideally, I’d like to be finished by mid-October though, so in about 2 months. I’ve wasted a lot of time procrastinating over the summer (because I’m not very motivated without time pressure), and although I’ve done a reasonable amount of secondary reading, I’ve barely even started looking at primary sources, so I don’t feel anywhere near ready to write yet. My hope is that I can spend one intense week of reading/planning, and then write my introduction and conclusion in about a week each, and my three chapters in about 10-14 days each. Does that sound reasonable? (By the way, I’m not really a “research first then write” or a “write as I research” person – I’m more of a “do lots of research first, then start writing but find gaps in my research as I write, so do more research while I’m writing” person).

Use this post to tell me your dissertation writing stories, vent about your current writing struggles, and give each other advice and motivation!

Yes, I’m posting this because I’m still procrastinating.
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Keele University
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(Original post by username1439919)
Hi

I’m really just here because I want to hear about your Masters dissertation writing experiences (especially if you study/studied humanities). I love reading posts where people talk about how much time it took them to write their dissertations but most of the ones I’ve seen are from science students who write things like “I wrote my dissertation in a month – but I had already finished all my lab work and gathered all my data before I started”. As a history student, I can’t relate.

My current situation: I have a 15,000-20,000 word dissertation to write by the end of December. Originally the deadline was supposed to be the end of August, but we all got extensions because of Covid. Ideally, I’d like to be finished by mid-October though, so in about 2 months. I’ve wasted a lot of time procrastinating over the summer (because I’m not very motivated without time pressure), and although I’ve done a reasonable amount of secondary reading, I’ve barely even started looking at primary sources, so I don’t feel anywhere near ready to write yet. My hope is that I can spend one intense week of reading/planning, and then write my introduction and conclusion in about a week each, and my three chapters in about 10-14 days each. Does that sound reasonable? (By the way, I’m not really a “research first then write” or a “write as I research” person – I’m more of a “do lots of research first, then start writing but find gaps in my research as I write, so do more research while I’m writing” person).

Use this post to tell me your dissertation writing stories, vent about your current writing struggles, and give each other advice and motivation!

Yes, I’m posting this because I’m still procrastinating.
I'm a PhD student in English Literature so I can totally relate to your post!

I completed my MA last year and I remember really panicking about getting my dissertation (15,000 words) written and submitted on time. Whilst I didn't have Covid-19 to contend with, my father-in-law passed away shortly before my submission date so I had to ask for extenuating circumstances and take time out to support my husband and his family during the funeral. Fortunately Keele were really supportive and allowed me to extend my submission date - so if Covid-19 has had a really negative impact on your studies (whether that is as a result of lack of access to materials or the impact on your own mental health and wellbeing) then don't be afraid to talk to supervisors and ask for more support, or request a further extension if you need it.

That said, I find having a deadline really helps to motivate me to get started with writing. I have a tendency to procrastinate by reading in order to avoid writing! To get started, I asked my supervisor to set me a deadline for 'some words'. We agreed on a chapter/topic (one of the texts I wanted to include in my dissertation) and on a word count (2,000 words) and then he gave me a mini-submission date for getting that completed and 'submitted' to him for feedback. I found that really helpful for getting started on my dissertation as it gave me some focus, as well as an interim target.

Getting words on the page really helps your confidence too - they don't have to be any good at this stage as you'll come back and edit them later, but just having a 'word count' as opposed to a blank page really helps! Writing also helps to show the gaps in your knowledge to date - you'll come across points you want to make but can't because you lack the context or the necessary information. So then you know it's time to stop writing and go away to do a little more research/reading before coming back and integrating that new knowledge into your writing. It ends up, for me anyway, becoming quite a fluid process of moving between reading, writing and editing.

It's really is surprising how much you can get written when you really put your mind to it - I recently had to submit a 10,000 word section of my PhD chapter and that came together in about 2 weeks once I got my head down and got on with it! Do allow yourself the occasional day off though - it's important not to get dissertation fatigue! I find setting a 'working day' of 9 - 5.30 helps me, and I usually give myself weekends off too.

My biggest tip for getting a dissertation written is to keep in touch with your supervisor. Agree on a plan of work together, set mini-deadlines for various thesis sections, stay in contact, seek their feedback, and be honest with them if you're struggling. My second tip would be to allow plenty of time for editing - ideally at least a couple of weeks. Writing the thesis is a huge achievement but allowing time for supervisory feedback and edits will make it ten times better than the first draft.

I find virtual writing retreats really helpful - writing alongside others can be such a help when working on a longer project. @PhDForum on Twitter run regular virtual retreats for free -although targeted at PhD students, all researchers are welcome! I can also highly recommend a clever little app called 'Forest' (https://www.forestapp.cc/) - it's available on the Apple and Google stores and it helps you to focus by planting little trees in your virtual forest. Stay focused and off your phone for the period you've set, you grow a tree. Procrastinate and use your phone, your tree dies! It's surprisingly rewarding to grow a little tree and I find it really does help stop me checking Twitter every 5 minutes!

Hope that helps and best of luck with your writing!

Amy
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