How Much Time Should You Give Yourself to Write a Dissertation?

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A dissertation is an important part of the majority of degrees in the UK. For many people, it is the longest piece of academic writing they will ever produce. Given that it is such a big project, it can be difficult to know where to start. It helps to have a plan that breaks down your dissertation, setting yourself smaller deadlines and goals. However, to plan this effectively, you need to know how much time you need to set aside to write your dissertation.

Ultimately, everyone will need a different amount of time to complete their dissertation. It depends on a range of factors, such as the degree level and how many other commitments you have. As a rough guide, an undergraduate dissertation is usually the focus of your final year. This means it will take around 6 to 12 months to write. The time increases at higher levels. For example, a PhD thesis often takes around 18 months or longer to write.

Keep reading for plenty more information about how long it takes to write a dissertation, including advice if you’re running behind schedule.

How much time do you need to write a dissertation?

As mentioned, there are lots of different factors to take into account when you are planning how long to spend on your dissertation. Firstly, if you are unsure about what a dissertation is, check out this Think Student article.

One of the main things to make sure you are aware of, is how long your dissertation is supposed to be. An undergraduate dissertation may be as little as 8,000 words. In contrast, a PhD thesis will likely be 50,000 words or more.

Obviously, the higher your target word count, the longer it will take you to write. Your university should be clear on how long they expect your dissertation to be, but for a general guide, have a look at this article from Think Student.

Another really important thing to take into account is how much time you actually have to dedicate to working on your dissertation. This will vary greatly from person to person. It may be that you have the time to spend several hours each day focussed on your thesis. However, this is unlikely.

Often, alongside your dissertation, you will have other lectures or seminars to attend. If you are working a job while completing your degree, this may take a significant amount of time out of your week.

Additionally, everyone needs a work-life balance, so you will not be spending all your free time writing the dissertation.

As a rough guide, undergraduate dissertations take between 6 and 12 months to write, including researching and editing drafts. Postgraduate dissertations take longer – anywhere from 13 to 24 months.

It can be helpful to plan a timetable, setting a realistic amount of work for yourself each week. This way, you can manage your workload for your dissertation alongside any other commitments, while also making sure you are on track in the long-term.

Can you write a dissertation in a week?

Writing a dissertation is hard work. Of course, the ideal situation is to plan ahead of time and to spread out the work of your dissertation over several months. However, many students find themselves procrastinating, and suddenly realise they have deadlines looming, and not enough time to finish everything they need to do.

Ultimately, one week is not enough time to write a dissertation. These are major projects, and the workload involved is typically enough to fill at least 6 months of full-time education.

Although you may find friends or websites claiming you can write a dissertation in a few days, it is nearly impossible to fit all this work into a single week.

The main reason dissertations take so long is that there is much more work to do than just writing a long essay. Whether you are writing about a science or arts subject, a significant amount of research needs to be done before the dissertation can be written.

Additionally, there needs to be time for a supervisor to look over your drafts and provide feedback and advice, to help you improve before you finally submit it.

If some of this work has been completed already, it may be more manageable to finish writing in a week. For example, you may have completed your research, and just need to write 8,000 words to submit as a first draft.

In this case, you can write a little over 1,000 words a day. As it is not the final version, you know that it doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect – just a first attempt.

However, you never really want to be in the situation of having a week to write a dissertation. They often form big parts of your degree, and can be a valuable, even enjoyable, learning experience. Have a look at this Think Student article for advice on writing your dissertation, including help with planning, to make sure you have enough time.

What do you do if you’ve left it too late for your dissertation?

Although you can attempt to write your whole dissertation in a week, this probably isn’t the best idea if you find yourself in that situation. Instead, you should consider talking to members of welfare staff at your university, whether this is pastoral support or an academic supervisor.

Many people struggle with dissertations, and universities have strong support systems in place to help if you are struggling. Whether there is a particular reason you are behind with your work or not, welfare staff at the university will listen to your situation, and help you work out the best next steps for you to take.

As well as this, it can help to make a new plan for your dissertation. Even if you had one before, you have likely not been sticking to it, if you find you no longer have enough time. Try to work out why your old plan wasn’t working, and what you can change.

Making a clear plan, broken down into small steps and deadlines, can really help you to be productive and get that dissertation finished.

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