14. Finalising your Dissertation – a Checklist

This is the fourteenth and final article in this series on ‘Dissertation Writing from Start to Finish’. For the full list of articles click here.

The most boring, but also possibly the most satisfying, part of writing a dissertation, is going through when it’s almost finished, checking for typos, missed commas, footnotes in the wrong place etc. These kinds of things make a huge (and disproportionate) difference to the impression that your work gives to the marker, so it’s worth getting them right.

Here is a proofreading checklist:

  1. Clearly differentiate quotations from your own prose. If the quote is longer than 3 lines, indent it and use a smaller font.
  2. Use footnotes not endnotes, and make sure that your style is consistent throughout the whole project. Giving references in-line is also fine, and comes down to personal preference. Endnotes should be avoided because they make it inconvenient for the marker to see your sources, and you should be doing everything in your power to make the marker’s life as easy as possible.
  3. Double check cross references. 
  4. Use headings to separate sections and indicate a change of topic.
  5. Use 1.5 or double line spacing.
  6. Use italics for book titles (Bleak House), and ‘ ’ apostrophes for shorter works (‘Ozymandius’). 
  7. Use a font that’s big enough and highly readable. I like Bell MT, because it’s a serif font (with the curly bits) and a bit more stylish than Time New Roman, but as long as it’s sensible it doesn’t really matter what you choose.
  8. Find and Replace (Control + H) for all double spaces (‘ ‘ rather than ‘  ‘).

Finally, print out the whole thing and read it through, red pen in hand. You’ll be amazed at how many changes you’ll find to make when you do this. Go through it twice, the first time only looking at the body of the project, and the second time focusing on the bibliographical details/footnotes. If you have time leave it alone for a day or two before doing this. If you can get someone else to proofread it, a second pair of eyes will often spot something that you missed. 

Once you’ve done all of the above, hopefully you are now ready to get your dissertation bound, and handed in to your department. 

Huge congratulations, you have permission to celebrate wildly!

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