7. Dissertation Writing – Towards a First Draft

This is the seventh article in the fourteen-part series ‘Dissertation Writing from Start to Finish’. For the full list of articles click here

Following on from the two previous articles, we’re now doing these two things:

  1. Quick capturing ideas – writing down ideas as soon as they come to you (see Article 5); and
  2. Regularly writing – as soon as we’re vaguely on top of a topic, filling an A4 sheet with your own words (see Article 6).

So what?

The point of these two practices, and what you’ll find happening, is that you start to accumulate lots of pieces of paper (and their digital equivalents) with different thoughts and ideas on. Keep those. 

Later you’ll come back to those bits of paper, read over your notes. (You could even, for example, schedule a fortnightly or monthly review.) By looking at them again, after a bit of time has passed and after you’ve been reading about something different, new bits and ideas will pop out at you that you hadn’t thought about before. You can do this with your research as well. 

This is where the magic happens.

This process encourages you to keep thinking about your ideas in different ways. It keeps you continually testing your ideas and putting them into different structures. 

If you’re trying to work out what your ‘main idea’ is, the thesis which will pull through the whole piece and to which everything will link back and support, this process is absolute dynamite. You’ll be reading and using the bits of the novels and theory you think are interesting and relevant to the area, juggling them around, thinking about them in different ways and sequences.

This was the process I went through with my English diss, and resulted in lots of little eureka moments. For example I remember one epiphany I had was specifically about using the quote from the Swedish Academy when they gave Ishiguro his Nobel Prize as the framing for my whole project. 

Either way, you’ll start to work out your argument, and see how different bits connect to others throughout your diss.

At the high level, you want to ensure there’s a single, clear argument running right the way through the whole of your dissertation project, and at the smaller level, you need opinions about the different topics you’re writing on.

This is exactly what this process helps you to achieve.

Next article

The likely next step in your diss journey, normally at the start of the new year, is to submit some of your writing to your dissertation supervisor. In the next article, we discuss how to get the best out of your supervisor; find it here.

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