How to write a First Class Dissertation

I started googling the title of this blog almost a year ago exactly. I knew I wanted to do a dissertation (I know that this is compulsory for some courses) and I also knew the area I wanted to research. This post is for those of you who want to get a First, or at least do well in your dissertation.

This post is for those of you who want to get a First, or at least do well in your dissertation.

(If you get a choice) Make sure you’re doing a dissertation for the right reasons…

Dissertations don’t suit everybody’s skills or schedules, so if you get a choice, make sure you’re doing it because you want to do it; not just because you think it’ll make you look good.

Pick a topic you like

Make sure you select a topic that genuinely interests you and that you’re going to enjoy reading about. My dissertation had over 200 references – so I am so thankful I selected a topic that I loved to learn about. It is also a good idea to pick a topic that you know a little bit about, you have a lot of time but you don’t want to be spending that just reading the basics.

Your dissertation tutor / academic support 

I began my search for my dissertation tutor way in advance, I looked at my university’s staff database and found someone who had expertise in my area. I contacted them early on to ask to meet and to see if they could be my tutor. You need to have a good relationship with your tutor and find the best way to communicate with them in a way that suits you both – email, meetings, etc. You also need to tell them that you want a First (right at the beginning)! In my first meeting, I used the words “I want a First for this, so tell me what I need to do to get that”. This shows that you’re serious and willing to put in the work. If you get allocated your dissertation tutor and you don’t get on with them, don’t panic. Try and flag the issue early on with someone senior at your university. If nothing happens, don’t worry I know how these things go, find other lecturers to look at your work and get as much feedback as possible.


Use a variety of resources for your dissertation. Make sure you use credible and up to date sources to add substance to your paper. Check out what’s available in the library, try your university’s online resources (journals and articles) and Google Scholar is great too. Don’t shy away from using the internet and video sources, just make sure you reference everything properly! Find out what reference system your university wants you to use and stick to it.

Organisation & time management

Organisation and time management is really important. You need to set time aside each week and specific goals for what you need to do. You could even pencil in sessions to work on your project as if it were its own module. This might seem obvious, but with such a big project ahead of you, the basics can be forgotten in the panic.  Part of the purpose of a dissertation is proving that you can work on an independent research project; use this as an opportunity to develop your skillset and ability to work well on your own – it can become a great example for interviews / your CV!

Speak to other students doing a dissertation 

You are going to need support from other students doing dissertations. It can be a very isolating time for students as it is independent work, so it is really helpful to be able to talk about your ideas and ask each other for advice.

Learn how to work smart

This is advice I would give in regards to revision as well as writing a dissertation. There is no point in spending endless hours of half-hearted energy on your work. It is much better to set yourself goals and be more task-orientated in your working style. Manage procrastination habits (e.g. checking Instagram) and be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have.


I’m just going to say: self-care, take breaks and don’t worry about it too much. Just work hard, listen carefully to feedback and you will see results.


Great advice videos:

More detailed help:


What’s your advice? Let me know in the comments or tweet me! @maldrichwincer 



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