All seminars and lectures have been attended, all exams done and all term papers written. After three years of studying, there is only one thing that needs to be done: the dissertation (or as it’s also called: the bachelor’s thesis).

As I know only too well how difficult it can be to write a dissertation, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips that have helped me along the way.

1. Finding the Right Topic

  • Review the classes you’ve taken and the papers you’ve written. What class did you enjoy the most? What paper did you have fun writing? What are your fields of interest? If necessary, make a list of all ideas that come to your mind.
  • If you already have some broader subject in mind, do some research to find out what topic you could narrow it down to.
  • Don’t go too broad or too narrow. Choose a topic that can be handled within the confines of a dissertation.   
  • Get your topic approved! Talk to your supervisor about what he or she thinks about your ideas.

2. Finding Primary Sources

  • Make a list of all sources you find about your topic. Then try to select them according to relevance, available research material and your own interests.
  • Remember that primary sources don’t have to be texts only. They can be films, photographs, audio recordings, speeches, letters, diaries, autobiographies, artifacts and many more.
  • Again, make sure you have enough (but not too many!) sources to cover your topic

3. Finding Secondary Sources

  • Try to narrow your topic down before searching for material. Though you should read many sources to develop your argument, there are most of the time more texts available than you can read.
  • Your go-to place to find sources should always be your university’s library. In addition, make use of online databases like Jstor, ProjectMuse or the MLA international bibliography.
  • Do active reading. Take notes, mark important passages and write down comments.
  • You don’t have to comment on every source you’ve read. If it doesn’t further your argument, it’s of no worth using it.

4. Structuring Arguments & Writing a First Draft

  • Don’t start writing before you have at least a skeleton outline in mind. It’ll make the writing and revising process much easier.
  • When using quotes, don’t let them stand alone but comment on their significance. Imagine being in a dialogue with your sources.
  • Remember that everything you write has to be connected to your thesis.
  • To overcome writer’s block, try freewriting: Set yourself a time limit (5-15 mins) and just start writing. Don’t let your pen leave the paper. Don’t go back to edit mistakes. Even if you have nothing on your mind, write “I have nothing on my mind” until a new idea comes up. When the time limit is up, stop and read your text. Underline all of the expressions and ideas that you like. You’ll see, it works wonders!

5. Revising

  • Plan in enough time for revising your paper!
  • Read your text out loud or use the function on word to have your text read out loud to spot spelling mistakes and awkward typos
  • Show your text to a peer or family member
  • Put your paper away for a day or two. It’ll refresh your mind and give you a new perspective on your text.

I hope that these are some useful tips and you might’ve gotten some inspiration for your own dissertation. If you need more help, you can also check out my step-by-step guide on writing term papers. Lastly, I’d like to say: Don’t worry if you get frustrated or stuck in your writing, that’s as much part of the writing process as everything else!

What is your dissertation topic? Any tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comment section below!


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