Whether your university knowledge comes from friends, family, books or films, the dissertation is sure to ring a bell. It’s the finale to your degree, the pinnacle of the last three or four years of your course, and a piece of work that you can call entirely your own. It’s an investigation into whatever interests you the most, to find answers to a question that no one has broached before. It’s your chance to shine, to show your skills off, and have something you can always look back on.
The dissertation comes in the last year of your degree, as a showcase of all the work you’ve done and techniques you’ve learnt. However, doing a mini-dissertation before university can have umpteen advantages. Some schools and colleges have their own version of this, and if yours offers it, snap them up on the offer! If not, propose the idea to your tutor, and see if this can be something you work on together as a long term project. They’ll be there to help you with titles, research pointers and time management, meaning you aren’t doing it entirely on your own.
Doing a mini-dissertation gives you the chance to merge subjects that you always feel are overlapping – or ones that you think complement each other well. As long as you can find mutual ground and relevant theories, crossing between fields gives a much more in-depth analysis than you would find from one single subject: just think about the depth of the analysis you could get from a book by mixing English Literature, with History or Languages.
Taking on a project this big sets you up for university: while you don’t need to tackle a dissertation until your final year, the word counts increase rapidly, and the topics get more complex than A-Levels, so having the experience of researching and writing an answer to a big question will be a big confidence boost when you receive your first 8,000 word essay!
The skills you learnt aren’t just good for university: it looks impressive on a CV, especially when potential employers know that you did this on your own time. Similarly, this is the passion many university admission centres look for in potential undergraduates. Coming up with your own title, and researching and writing this show incredible self-motivation, while tackling this task alongside assessed work portrays time management and organisation qualities.
You can use the mini-dissertation to your advantage during tutorials: choose an area that you struggle with, and the more you have to research into it, the greater your understanding of the basic concept will be. If you’re struggling for time, you could forget the writing part: spend time setting yourself big questions to answer with your tutor, and see how many points you can put together before your next session. This way, you can plan out the basis of your argument, and gain the knowledge and theory, without having to write a few thousand words on top of your work!
The mini-dissertation is something to be proud of on completion, and constantly teased by in the duration: it’s your first taste of a large, wholly individual project that you’ll come face to face with regularly at university.
Written by JC (Guest Blogger)