How NOT to write a masters dissertation.

How NOT to write a masters dissertation in 10 easy steps.

You have 15 months to complete your masters. Your goal is to write a 20, 000 word masters dissertation which in this case is a desk based dissertation. A literature review with systematic methodology.

Loadsa time….

Step 1

  •  15 months to go.
  • Spend the first 3months googling, reading about research methods, reading about homophobia in schools.
  • Decide you want to focus on improving teacher confidence in challenging homophobia.
  • Realise there is very little research evidence supporting teachers with strategies in how to improve their confidence with challenging homophobia.
  • Take a step back and refine question to exploring the evidence base to support schools and teachers to challenge homophobia.
  • Plot out a month by month timetable.
  • Decide that actually you will be able to submit in Aug (11months instead of 15months)

Step 2

  • 12months to go.
  • Spend next 2 months doing your pilot literature searches.
  • Download over 500 “relevant articles”, 437 linked policy practice docs,  buy 10 relevant books, borrow 40 books from library.
  • Write chapters 1-3.
  • Create the most incredible policy timeline from 2000-2013 that takes days and days to compile.
  • Refine month by month timetable.
  • Realise making the August deadline is optimistic so have two versions of the timetable. August 2013 versus Jan 2014

Step 3

  • 9 Months to go.
  • Panic that you are now half way through and have only written chapters 1-3.
  • Next two months Rewrite chapters 1-3   (As once perfect you feel you can move on.)
  • Realise you are going far to wide and need to focus on research evidence not grey lit or books, despite having spent weeks reading and annotating such docs.
  • Refine question further to: refine databases and inclusion exclusion criteria.
  • Get a new job. Realise that alongside completing this masters means an August deadline is laughable.
  • Rewrite month by month timetable.

Step 4

  • 7 months to go.
  • Over next two months, gather your research articles ready and start to analyse them.
  • Spend weeks making tables and cross referencing.
  • Tutor points out you haven’t started the analysis chapters yet and need to start.
  • Rewrite chapters 1-3.
  • Print calendar.
  • Write week by week plan.

Step 4

  • 5months to go.
  • Decide entire methodology was flawed as articles in dataset are rubbish and annoying and different search terms or inclusion critieria might have got better results. try and write the analysis chapters.
  • Ignore chapters 1-3.
  • Cry a lot.
  • Get in a big befuddle trying to synthesise the evidence.
  • Cry a lot more.
  • Swear you will never ever ever do a PhD and inform everyone that if you ever to suggest they must beat sense into you.
  • shout about #academicwankery on twitter.
  • Invent the concept of Procractivsim procrastination from something by activsm in same.
  • Fail to stick to week by week plan.
  • Each week rewrite week by week plan to adjust for the bits you failed to achieve in previous week.
  • Cry even more. An embarrassing amount on your tutor.

Step 5

  • 2 months to go.
  • Things start to fall into place (Finally)
  • Resolve to just go with it and do the best you can with what you have.
  • Wish you had more time as you know what you are doing now, but there isn’t time to start over.
  • Draw lots of very pretty diagrams.
  • Realise many of your documented rants and appendices including the Policy timeline, SRE guidance rants, and Pilot review protocol need to be culled. It hurts a lot you cut weeks and weeks of work out from the masters. So you add such usefulness to your blog for posterity instead.
  • Week by week plan is now a daily plan.

Step 6

  • 1 month to go.
  • Eat live breathe the masters.
  • Realise you have turned into an #academicwanker as you now confidently use terms like paradigm and praxis heteronormativity, hegemony.
  • Ponder when you might enrol on your doctorate (!)
  • Rewrite chapters 1-3.
  • Have hourly plans for what you will achieve in a day.
  • Generally only achieve half of targets.
  • Resolve to aim sights lower.

Step 7

  • 3 weeks to go.
  • realise that in hindsight you might have spent a bit long on chapters 1-3.
  • Realise as a result the analysis chapters (where most of the marks are) are a bit crap as a result.
  • Write a day by day hour by hour plan to correct this.

Step 8

  • 2 weeks to go.
  • Resolve to sort out analysis chapters.
  • Realise your “spare stuff maybe useful document” of words cut out of your masters is currently 22k words meaning you have written and cut out more words than you are going to submit.
  • Tutor points out you have basically done a PhD’s worth of work on this masters. something friends and family have been pointing out for a while.
  • Get a last minute reprieve as masters deadline moved from 2nd Jan (evilly mean to 8th jan).
  • Realise this reprieve messes up your beautful timetable…..

Step 9

  • (now 3 weeks to go with extra 6 days reprieve)
  • type type type type like the wind.
  • Cull all appendices.
  • Sort out the analysis.
  • Craft the hardest document you have ever written but also something you are most proud of in the world.
  • Give up on writing timetables and targets you consistently fail to stick to.

Step 10.

  • Days before hand in day.
  • Print
  • Print pretty colour diagrams over at your neighbours (Thanks Jo! x) and insert in.
  • Bind at home with the hand binder you borrowed from a pals school (Thanks Sally! x).
  • Swear a lot at how long the printing and binding of TWO copies is taking.
  • Hand it in. The masters baby is born.

(With hindsight. If I were to do it all again. “Stop faffing start writing and don’t write too much” would be my mantra! Also Chapters 1-3 definitely did not deserve so much time! oh and my diagrams might be pretty with rainbows and pink triangles but they don’t look very academic (stern and greyscale) ooops)


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