Deciding on whether to do a dissertation?

As an English Literature student, I didn’t have to do a dissertation. If I did do one, I wouldn’t get as much guidance while writing 10,000 words compared to someone writing a 4000 essay who was also going to lectures and seminars, only to end up with the same 20 credits they would also receive. For many doing English Lit, this was a reason to not do one. There were quite a few of us however, who decided to do a dissertation anyway.

Personally, I wouldn’t have felt as though I had had the full experience if I had left uni without writing a dissertation. It was the one thing I had always heard older cousins and friends complaining about, and it was the thing I had always expected to do at university. So, with a bit of trepidation, I decided to do it.

It was the most difficult thing I have ever done, I will fully admit that. Despite the fact that I absolutely loved my dissertation subject so much, and had done for years before even coming to study Literature at uni – there’s a tattoo to prove it – it was so much more work and stress than I really anticipated.

Really trying to narrow down my subject focus and write drafts while simultaneously still reading absolutely every book, journal, online article that I could find proved challenging, and I definitely couldn’t thank my tutor, or my friends who had already been through the dissertation enough. If it wasn’t for their advice and guidance, I’m fairly sure I would have just given up and panicked far more than necessary.

The stress of writing such a huge piece of work with significantly less help that was available in past modules and years, was a challenge. But, it was also a blessing of sorts. The dissertation could be whatever you wanted it to be. There were no set questions, or harsh guidelines, it could be on or about anything, and that’s what appealed to be so much. Despite the fact it was the hardest assignment that I have ever done at university, it was probably also the most rewarding.

I won’t lie – I remember finally finishing my dissertation at exactly 1.14am on a Tuesday morning and promptly bursting into tears in sheer relief that it was over, but I was also actually quite proud that I had managed to write 10,000 words on my own, on a subject I was passionate enough about to do all that research for, and find an angle that intrigued me that much.

Writing a dissertation is definitely an extremely challenging thing to take on. It’s time-consuming, difficult and stressful, and at times can feel like it is just genuinely impossible. But once you overcome each hurdle- which will happen- it’s the best feeling to be holding that bound copy of your own original piece of work, that you’ve put so much of yourself into.

If you have the choice to do a dissertation, I really recommend it. The freedom to write on what I was most passionate about in literature, from whichever angle I chose was probably the academic highlight of my three years at university. If you have the chance to write one, and you’re lucky enough to have something you’re really passionate about – then do it! Once you’re holding that bound copy in your hands going through the compulsory dissertation photoshoot, you’ll be so happy that you did.

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