Graduate Guidance

Drafting and redrafting your dissertation

Harriet Cairns

The countryside has been repeatedly exemplified as an idealised location to live based upon powerful discourses within our everyday lives and popular medias. However, my undergraduate dissertation – situated within rural geographies – attempted to develop such assertions further. I considered not how the country home is constructed as ‘idyllic’ through its physical location, but instead considered such assertions from the inside of the home focusing on country home interior decoration and design. Subsequently, my research drew upon a broad range of literature from across the discipline, incorporating work from geographies of the home, rural geographies and material geographies. Incorporating a range of literature and theoretical debates will be an essential part of the write-up for almost every research project as you aim to provide a new outlook on your chosen topic of research grounded in previous research.

This leads to my first point of guidance when you begin the process of writing: ensure you have read around the subject(s) in depth. Even if you believe a reading may not be directly linked to your research topic, I often found that related readings gave me new ideas and ways to approach my topic which subsequently allowed me to come to stronger and more developed conclusions within my analysis and discussion and gain higher marks.

In addition to developing academic ideas, it is just as important to gain a clear understanding of the structure of your thesis before beginning writing. Because the majority of research project write-ups tend to follow a similar structure of; introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis and discussion and finally conclusions, I found it more manageable to treat each chapter separately. Therefore, by dividing-up the overall word count and providing each chapter with a separate word count made the write-up a lot less daunting than the original large sum of text. From this, giving each chapter a separate deadline to be drafted by not only provided motivation and also pressure to ensure that my time was used productively, but also meant that I could allocate time for many of the chapters to be drafted and redrafted numerous times.

However, it is to be noted that the timetable for your write-up does not need to follow the typical structure of the dissertation. For example, whilst I jotted down notes throughout my write-up of what would be included in my introduction and conclusion I did in fact leave the introduction to be written last after my conclusion, in order to allow me to fully develop how the project was introduced.

Moreover, the process of drafting and redrafting can often be perceived as a long process, however, I found that this was actually the most important and helpful part of the process of writing-up. It allowed me the time and space to go wrong without it jeopardising my final grade and ensured that my final draft became as faultless as it could possibly be and included the most relevant ideas and literature. This is where attending meetings with your supervisor is essential. Tutors are often able to check through work, suggest specific readings and give you the best ideas for your write-up. Therefore, in order to approach your write-up confidently ensure that you utilise their help and supervision as much as you possibly can within your institutional guidelines. Lastly and most obviously, the earlier you begin writing the more time you have to draft and redraft certain chapters and subsequently your writing style, conclusions and your final grade is strengthened. Ensure you are ahead of the game and have a fixed and achievable plan of where you aim to be in your write-up and when.