How to stay motivated when writing your dissertation

Staying Motivated While Writing Your Dissertation

If there was a BA (Hons) in Procrastination then I think most students would be awarded a first. If you're the kind of student who puts off writing an essay until the night before, and gets the sudden urge to clean the kitchen when a deadline is looming then a dissertation can seem a tad overwhelming. The key to completing your dissertation successfully is to stay motivated; and here are some great motivation tips to help you stay on track...


Plan properly

Before embarking on your dissertation it's important to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, nor does anyone expect you to finish writing your dissertation in a day. It is a long process that involves writing, re-reading, editing, and formatting repeatedly until you're happy with it.


Make sure that you plan your dissertation properly before you begin to write it. Your tutor will be able to help you put a schedule together, breaking the whole process down into manageable bite size deadlines. Stay organised and stick to your schedule, and you should find that you're able to keep yourself motivated.


Deal with writers block

There are bound to be times when the words just don't seem to flow, and this can be very frustrating when you've got a deadline looming. No amount of staring at your laptop screen is going to inspire you, so it's best to deal with your writers block in other ways:

  • Edit a previous chapter – if the words aren't flowing on your current chapter then go back to a previous one, re-read it and make any necessary edits. Re-reading your own work will help to bring your focus back to the current chapter.
  • Re-read an important journal – if the inspiration for your dissertation came from a particular journal article, go back and re-read it in order to remember what inspired you in the first place.
  • Read new articles – Has something new been published in your field? Read it and see if it sparks your creativity.
  • Keep writing – have a draft word document open or use a notebook and pen, but just keep writing. It might never make it into your dissertation but it can help you to clear some of the clutter from your mind.




Take some time off

Working all day, every day on your dissertation is a sure-fire way to burn yourself out quickly. Your deadlines are important, but so is your health and wellbeing, so take regular time out from writing to recharge your batteries.

You don't need to take an entire holiday and leave the country to relax; it can be as simple as taking the evening off to go out to dinner with a friend, indulging in a nice long bubble bath, or watching your favourite boxset with a pizza.


Reward yourself for good work

Positive reinforcement works – so reward yourself when you've done a good job, and this will help to keep your spirits up. It doesn't have to be anything huge, little treats can have just as big an impact on your motivation.

You could celebrate meeting your latest deadline by having an evening off to go to the cinema with a friend, or treating yourself to a posh bar of chocolate that you'll savour every last bit of while you read a good (non-dissertation) book!


Ask for help when you need it

You were assigned a dissertation tutor for a reason – they've been in your shoes and they've helped many other students to produce their dissertations. The process is not an easy one and there will be times where you're pulling your hair out with despair.

The important thing to remember is that you're not alone. Every student will feel what you're feeling at some point during the process, so there's no shame in asking for help when you're struggling. Your dissertation tutor wants you to succeed so they'll be glad that you've come to them for advice rather than bottling it up and struggling alone.


Look after yourself

Writing your dissertation will consume a lot of your time, but that doesn't mean that you should neglect your health and wellbeing for the sake of a good grade. In fact, not looking after yourself properly will more than likely have a detrimental effect on your work.


Aim to get at least eight hours sleep per night, as a lack of sleep will affect your concentration and the quality of your work. Stop working and shut down your computer each evening at least an hour before going to bed. Have a warm bath or shower, followed by a warm milky drink, and read a book or listen to relaxing music. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time each morning to keep your sleeping pattern steady.

If you're having trouble relaxing try doing some gentle yoga poses each day, focusing on your breathing, as this will help to calm you down and keep you grounded. It's also important to ensure that you're eating a healthy diet. Most students are on a tight budget but that doesn't mean you should eat nothing but processed foods. Homemade vegetable soup, five bean chilli, or spaghetti bolognese are easy, cheap and healthy options that most people can manage to cook!