Dissertation blues: the end is nigh

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I’m writing this column having just completed my university dissertation: a document of almost 10,000 words explaining a study that I’ve been working on over the last six months.

I’ve spent the past few days typing furiously, reading journals and proofing the 30 pages I’d written. If I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was staring at the word processor trying to perfect my writing; as I put the finishing touches to my final statement I was shaking, knowing that this was it. I’ve written a lot of essays over my academic career, but this was the big one, and it’s finally over.

Having watched me agonise over my work for the past few weeks, and in fact the last two years, my flatmate Jason (no relation to the editor!) has vowed to leave university before having to undertake an Honours year study. Thankfully though he has also been on hand to offer words of encouragement when the end seemed so far away – although he did disappear home to Langholm first thing on Saturday morning without warning, leaving me to motivate myself for the last couple of days!

I know that he gets himself a copy of the News whenever I mention him in my column, so Jason, thank you for your help.

The struggle to get through essays has plagued me throughout my academic career, a feeling that I’m sure many of my young readers can relate to. However, in the process of writing my dissertation I finally found a solution that worked for me: I stuck a piece of paper on my wall with the heading “Next Week” and listed everything that I wanted to do when I had free time again. The items on the list include everyday things such as finishing my book and baking, necessities like cleaning my room and replacing the shoes that split earlier in the week. And also more exciting items, including climbing the Scott Monument in Edinburgh and going to a concert with a friend.

It’s been there on the wall cheering me on when I’ve struggled to find the right words to put into my essay, and whenever I’ve caught myself daydreaming of something that I’d rather be doing, it’s been added to the page.

I’ve had to make sacrifices over the last couple of weeks in order to focus on my studies. I received a phone call from my parents who offered to take me out for a nice dinner, a very tempting prospect especially when you’ve been stuck inside for days on end. Under the circumstances, however, I had to turn them down and resign myself to another night of frozen pizza, a student staple which doesn’t involve any preparation that could take away from valuable writing time.

With exam time coming up, I know that a lot of young people are facing similar troubles. True, the list method might not work for everyone, but if you’re struggling with your studies I’d recommend that you give it a try!