Balancing several commitments in Semester 2 of your Master of Laws program can seem exhausting, and you don’t want to lose track of your dissertation work. Other assessments such as exam preparation and project submissions can eat into the time that you originally kept aside for your dissertation. Therefore, proper planning and time allocation will help you do a great job and put your mind at ease.
Here are our top tips to assist you and give you ideas on preparing and getting ready for your dissertation:
You should have by now outlined a structure for your dissertation and noted how you plan on finishing each chapter. It is vital to stay focused on your targets, as you may tend to spend more time researching on one chapter and less on others. Keep reviewing your work as and when you can so that you know how far you have gone and how much you need to cover. Research can take up a lot of time especially if you are struggling to find material and ideas. Discuss your approaches with your supervisor or classmates so that you get different perspectives.
For future LLM students a top tip would be that you split your research work between the two semesters so that you can focus more on the writing in Semester 2, and then reviewing your work in the months before submission.
It is very important that you follow a file management procedure to save your dissertation material. Your material could consist of both printed (photocopies from the library or print-outs of research articles) and online documents. Try to follow a consistent labelling/naming convention so that you can locate documents quickly. For instance, if you have a vast number of online articles and research papers to go through, then categorise them in such a way that they fall under relevant chapters of your dissertation.
Schedules and Deadlines
Updating your planner with milestones can be very useful. You can put in rough timelines to complete each chapter or your Introduction/Conclusion sections. Additionally, you could also slot in time for completing research within each chapter or research that needs to be done after a meeting with your supervisor. Deadlines for completing the major milestones can help in giving you the reminder that you must get something done by a particular timeframe. If your work overruns the deadline, then you can chalk out ways in which you reassign your priorities depending on the task which takes the longest to complete.
You will have plenty of dissertation support organised through your law school. Some of it might be compulsory sessions that you must undertake as part of your LLM program, while others may be support sessions that can help you stay focused throughout your dissertation work.
Make sure you attend these sessions and don’t hesitate to ask questions if in doubt. It might be a good idea to share your dissertation structure with tutors or designated academic contacts that can give you feedback on your progress. Law school libraries usually have books that tell you how best to prepare for your dissertation. Keep an eye out for skills sessions on writing or research methods. These will prove useful when you get down to drafting content for your dissertation and will enable you to put to practice acquired skills that you picked up during these sessions.
Law libraries are at their peak during Semester 2 as most of the students tend to use libraries to finish seminar notes, research on dissertation or prepare for exams. Usually libraries are open early in the morning and shut late in the evening so that students have the advantage of spending a considerable period of time there during the day. You must also take full advantage of electronic law libraries that provide access to a vast range of up-to-date research material.
As you realise that the middle of your LLM year is approaching you will have loads to get cracking on with including your dissertation research. So just remember to use your time wisely and stick to deadlines!