You mean it's done something other than give me a coffee addiction, several reference-related panic attacks, a rising blood pressure and a lack of nights out?
Actually that's about all it's given me.
When I started university the thought of doing a dissertation seemed absolutely impossible to me. As you know from my previous post concerning my course, my very first 1000 word essay was enough to almost drive me out of university. But I didn't give up. By the time I finish my degree I will have done six exams, and excluding my dissertation, I will have written approximately 65,000 words across 22 modules. So really, what's another 10,000 - 12,000 words?
My dissertation has actually made me realise how capable I am. Mine is now near completion and it's a pretty damn good feeling, I can't imagine what it will feel like when I hand it in. But it really does give you a sense of achievement. It gives you more faith in yourself, because in the case of my course, you really can go where ever you want with it. It's like your little baby. But it doesn't cry, or poop or throw up on you. You just do all that for it. The crying is obviously stress induced, the pooping whilst a normal bodily function could also increase due to bad eating habits related to lack of time and lots of stress and the throwing up is likely to happen when you abstain from alcohol for 3 months to dedicate yourself to your work. Then you reach the point when you're in need of a night out, which usually ends with throwing up because you a) stopped working hard and played too hard b) no longer know your limits c) had a dodgy kebab d) it was tactical e) all of the above.
Writing my dissertation has also given me obsessive organisational skills. I went for a meeting with my dissertation supervisor and said how my last chapter was basically in here *taps on a little yellow notebook*. He looked at me and pointed at it, then asked if all my dissertation notes were in there. I laughed in his face, was he mad? All my notes are in here...
And in my external hard-drive, a USB pen, a drop-box account and on my own laptop (the above is my mum's!).
I have worked for months collecting reference material, copying out quotes from the novels I'm focusing on and from secondary material, then separating these notes out into chapters, then these chapter notes out into paragraphs. And don't forget the spider diagrams. When I said my last chapter was in my little yellow notebook, I only meant the basic ideas which really are what you need to get you started. I think after I explained to him that no, seriously, there's much more to it then this little yellow notebook, he looked a little relieved and a little concerned with the obsessiveness of my note organisation.
It's also taught me to save like a mad man along the way. I, *touches wood*, have not lost my dissertation along this journey, but I know those who have lost 1000 words here, a paragraph there, a whole chapter WHICH WOULD BE A DISASTER. Honestly, the thought of it ignites more fear within me than a spider. No actually, but it concerns me a great deal. My sympathies go out to those who have lost work along the way, but seriously, back it up like a bad bitch, because it's soul destroying losing all, or even a little bit, of your hard work.
I've also come to understand that
perseverance coffee is key. Perseverance too, you've got to keep cracking at it, but c'mon who really helped you write those 10,000 words? For me coffee is only a slight stimulant, but it's more the act of having a coffee that motivates me. During my time at university I have conditioned myself, like so many students, to associated coffee with work. Even if I only have a granule of coffee in my cup, I'm likely to do a lot more work than if I had a glass of water. Keep calm and grab a coffee.
My dissertation has also taught me how wonderful relaxing can be. And socialising too. But I've only been taught how wonderful these things are because I don't get to do them as much any more. If your dissertation hasn't taken, let's say at least 60% of your life away then you're just not working hard enough, or on the other hand, you've really got your shit together. You'll learn to appreciate free time a lot more, and you'll also realise that you won't utilise this free time like you should and will instead be undoubtedly watching Netflix.
My dissertation has taught me that 10,000 words really isn't enough to talk about something you're actually really interested in. Throughout university my essays have been as little as 700 to as large as 3,500 and each time I can tell that the depth of my research and/or analysis is going to be reflected in my word count. In my case, if I still have more to say after I've ran out of words to say it, I'm likely more interested in the topic, and therefore have researched it more, and put just a little more time into it. My dissertation has taught me that really, I should have put this much effort into every essay I've done during university, and that if I had I would have seen a marked difference in my grades. But nonetheless, being so near completion of my dissertation has taught me to have a hell of a lot more pride in your work.
And of course, my dissertation has taught me so much about my chosen author and trauma theory, both of which I had very little to no knowledge of when I started my project.
What has your dissertation taught you?