Step-by-step Dissertation Survival Guide

Think of this guide as a cookery recipe. When cooking, it is important you read the whole recipe before you begin. This helps you know what you are aiming for, allowing you to manage your time. Apply to same logic to this guide. If you think this guide can be improved in any way, please email

Disclaimer: Each project is unique, the summary here is only intended as a loose guide. This guide is aimed at undergraduate students.

Engage with the Dissertation Module!

That means attending lectures and being proactive with your work – For real! If you can’t attend make sure you keep up to date with the materials. The dissertation module is a year-long module, you need to be on it! Now you’re in this mindset let’s move on!

To Do:

Contact your dissertation supervisor.

Make contact with your supervisor to introduce yourself, share your research interests and communicate to them how you are feeling about undertaking the dissertation module. Don’t expect your supervisor to tell you what to do – your supervisor is there to guide you, your dissertation is in your hands. Do this step as soon as possible!

To Do:

  • Introduce yourself to your dissertation supervisor (See Supervision List on Blackboard).

Start developing your research proposal.

Here is your opportunity to really take your fate into your own hand. You can choose the topic of your dissertation. Think about what areas of your course have interested you or is there a topic you can cover that aligns with your career goals post graduating? You need to make sure your ideas are realistic and achievable in your timeframe.

To Do:

  • Read research articles of interest to you
  • Think about how in the real world you conduct your research – what are your methods?
  • Aim to conduct research that uses the analysis you’ve been taught in Further Research Methods.
  • (Optional) You may wish to consider if any academics have any research projects you can join.
  • If you have ideas about using the psychology laboratories or equipment consult the psychology technicians (
  • Know what software/online platform/equipment you will be using to conduct your research (Take our quiz ➝ or See our Equipment & Resources Page ➝).
  • Should you need assistance with conducting a literature search or general library skills please engage with the Library (Link ➝).
  • Start creating your research proposal and begin looking at how your ideas fit within the Ethics Application Template (which can be found on blackboard).

Finalise your research area with your supervisor.

At this step, you will be finalising your idea with your supervisor.

To Do:

  • Know what software/online platform/equipment you will be using to conduct your research (Take our quiz ➝ or See our Equipment & Resources Page ➝).
  • Consult with the Psychology Technicians when project ideas are finialised (
  • Have a detailed research proposal agreed upon with your supervisor that you will write an ethics application for.

Fill out and submit your ethics form.

Your ethics submission forms the first major milestone in your dissertation journey. It’s an important piece of work that needs your attention. Your ethics application will bring together everything from the previous steps. The content you write for your application can be used as a basis for your introduction and methods section in your write-up – make it good and be efficient with your time! The ethics application takes more time than you think, you need to really engage to get it submitted for the December deadline. Keep in mind that from submitting your ethics application, it can take 3 weeks to receive ethical approval. Do not be disheartened if you do not receive full ethical approval from your first submission, it is very common for the ethics panel to ask for amendments. You are not permitted to collect any data until you gain ethical approval, however, while you wait for ethical approval you can move on to the next step.

To do:

  • Fill out your ethics application, everything you need to do this can be found on blackboard.
  • Show your supervisor your ethics form before you submit it.

Build your project!

This is something you can start while you’re waiting to hear back from ethics! Please bear in mind, that you must follow what you wrote in your ethics application. It is your responsibility to ensure you adhere to your ethics form. If any ethics amendments come back, you must ensure you make those changes.

To do:

  • Build your research project.
  • Seek guidance from the Equipment & Resources Page ➝ if required.
  • Look at the “Tools to create your research project” lecture on Blackboard.
  • If you experience difficulty with building your project, please contact the psychology technicians (
  • You can be writing your introduction at this time.

Test your project!

In this step, you want to make sure everything works as intended. You will want to test it if you were collecting data from a participant. Ask a coursemate to help you test your project. You will want to test the project setup, data collection, and data export – bear in mind this is a loose guide, and psychology research takes many forms. It is key that you understand your exported data!

To Do:

  • Test your project!
  • Share with your supervisor your built experiment.

Set up your recruitment and distribute your project.

Once you receive your ethical approval you can start recruitment! Make sure you communicate your progress with your supervisor!

To Do:

  • Set up your recruitment and distribute your project
  • If you’re using SONA, please see the guide (Link ➝).

Recruit participants and collect data.

You can start your data collection now! As you collect data, where possible, ensure you have a backup of your data. While you’re doing this, it’s a great time to be working on writing your introduction and methods alongside. Data collection can be challenging, we really encourage you to reach out to your fellow coursemates and offer to partake in each other’s research project (if eligible). Once you finish data collection, please remove your recruitment advertisements.

To Do:

  • Collect your data.
  • Remove recruitment advertisements, see the bottom of the SONA guide for how to remove your advertisement (Link ➝).

Export your data.

If you’ve collected data from a Gorilla, Online Surveys, a dictaphone, or other fashion. You will need to export your data. Make sure you export your data in a format that your device can read. For numerical data, we recommend exporting to excel (.xlsx file).

To Do:

Process your data.

Contrary to popular belief, your data doesn’t magically get exported in the format you require for data analysis. This can be true for both qual and quant data. For example, for quant data, you may have to score questionnaires and for qual data, you may have to anonymise your transcript. The key to this step is to ask yourself, what format is your data currently in, and then, what format does it need to be?

To Do:

  • Process your data

Conduct your analysis.

Whether it be a thematic analysis or ANOVA, or any other analysis, now is your time to conduct it. First, know what your analysis is. Once you know what your analysis is called it will allow you to find resources on how to conduct that analysis. The best place to find stats support will be your Further Research Method materials. You have to conduct your analysis yourself. Although, if struggling your supervisor will be able to guide you towards appropriate guidance for your analysis.

To do:

  • Conduct your analysis.
  • If support is required outside of supervisor, please contact our dedicated Student Assessment Support, Andrea Stein ( and David Beevers (
  • For any issues with SPSS working on your device, please contact Digital IT (0161 295 2444 or at their Service Now Portal ➝).

Finish writing your first draft and send it to your supervisor.

If you’ve been heeding the advice of this guide then you should already have a good chunk if not all of your introduction and methods written. Now you’ve conducted your analysis you’re able to write your results section and discussion section. Agree on a deadline when you’ll send your first draft to your supervisor and stick to it! If you don’t send your draft to your supervisor on your agreed deadline then you will miss out on getting feeding on your draft.

To Do:

  • Finish your first draft!
  • The Dissertation handbook found on blackboard is a good resource to revisit.
  • The library can assist with referencing and formatting support (Link ➝).

Address draft feedback.

Your supervisor will take time and effort to read and provide valuable feedback on your work. If you want to improve your grade you will need to address the feedback you’ve been given and act accordingly.

To Do:

  • Address feedback comments.

Submit your dissertation!

Only one thing left to do now and that’s to submit your dissertation before the deadline! At this point, I shouldn’t need to say make sure you don’t leave it last minute. Although, DON’T LEAVE IT LAST MINUTE.