Excellence in essays (3/3): On Dissertations

This is the last part of the excellence in essay series and you can read the first part on writing essays on general topics here, and writing essays on specific topics here.

In today’s post we will be discussing writing essays that usually require at least 30-40 typed pages. These essays are usually in the form of dissertations or summative essays.

In my 9th semester we had to chose a topic and submit our dissertation on it within a month. Having found my situation akin to Lorraine Chimbga of @londonlawstudent, I went over her brilliant blog and found her method of writing dissertations (By the way, she has a monthly mentorship program open, you might want to check that out! ). Making a few changes to suit me and my procrastinating habits, this is the method I employed –

Choosing a topic

If you are given a topic to write upon, then you can skip this step however, if you need to choose a topic for yourself, then you can follow this procedure (I managed to come up with 30+ ideas with this) –

  • Go through your subject and see if you can write on a topic related to the subject you love as this will motivate you to go that extra mile while preparing your dissertation
  • If you still feel blank go through the topics for essay competition or call for papers that are related to your field of study
  • Alternatively you can go through your lecture or school notes to see if there was an idea that you fancied.
  • Make a list of or document anything that catches your eye
  • And voila! You will be surprised with the number of topics you will find!


I am hopeless with plans, I usually can’t stick to them but at the same time, it is essential to actually visualize how much time we have if we break down the project to smaller tasks and allocate a period of time to each task. I broke down my dissertation writing into the following categories (you can choose to skip any step but I strongly recommend following each of them)

  • Analyzing/picking apart my topic
  • Reading and research
  • Arrange the questions you made during the analysis part
  • Slot in material you gathered in research
  • Rough draft – at least 3 times
  • Finalise draft
  • Add reference and citations
  • Check formatting
  • Have a cake and a dance! (most important)

Ask ‘em questions

Now, that you have your topic ready you can start mind mapping on your topic. You can ask questions related to your topic. Just let it all out – anything that comes to your mind.

For example my topic was – “Surveillance and privacy: Role of Government under IT law”, I mind mapped all kind of questions like what is govt.? What is surveillance? Is there a relation between surveillance and privacy? And other yada yada


Nothing will help your essay like back breaking solid research. Look up books, sites, journals, newspaper articles anything and get that research hustle on.

An easy way to know where to start your research is to simply start finding answers to the questions you made in the step above!

At this point you only need to find the relevant portion of the material and copy paste anything that seems remotely related.

A tip I would like to give here is to use the footnote system while copy pasting to write the reference/source of the material. This will later on help in the referencing as even if you directly paste the matter in another document, the foot note will automatically be also added.


Now, you need to make sense of the mess of questions you made, so be sure to arrange the questions in a logical manner and after you are done arranging them, ask a friend or colleague to go over the order to make sure that the order is coherent

And after you have arranged the questions, you can slot in the answers to them (that you found through research) accordingly.


There is a strong chance that by now, you have over hundreds of pages of research and our aim in this step is to reduce that to the allotted number of pages. This can be done through sheer hard work, blood, sweat, tears and perhaps a sacrifice to Satan.

  • Start by cutting off the irrelevant/repeated material
  • Then, paraphrase the longer paras or quotes in your own words to make in smaller
  • Finally add in your opinions, thoughts and suggestions on the topic

Remember, every good long form essay should have at least 3 drafts before you can finalise.

Tie the loose ends

Now, that you have finalized the final draft, you can sleep, take rest and then come back with fresh eyes to correct any errors, add in missing references/citations, and check the formatting for the last time before you hand it in!

That’s it! You are done!

Do let me know, how you tackle long form essays and until the next post, HAPPY HUSTLIN’ HON!

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