Guide To LLM Dissertation Writing

Once you realise that you are already nearing the halfway point of your hectic LLM year you will be focusing on
starting that dissertation. It's an important part of your LLM program and will contribute massively to your overall success. Here we talk you through the importnat stages of writing your LLM dissertation.

Choosing the topic

Obviously, choosing a topic is a necessary stage to get underway before you can start researching and writing your dissertation. You should spend time carefully considering the subject of your dissertation as it might end up being the clincher for that first job after your LLM. Make sure you pick a question that you find interesting, but that also has the balance of support from your lecturers and professors.

You'll need to be uniquely motivated to produce a dissertation about a subject that none of your lectures or professors knows much about. Understanding why you have picked the particular subject will ensure you're choosing the right topic, but don't spend too much time considering what to do as you'll need to get on with it. 

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Planning & organisation

Some people love creating a filing system and hopefully, you're one of them as this is a great way to organise your LLM dissertation. You'll need to keep your research well organised to enable you to quickly access it when you are writing your dissertation. It's a good idea to have research divided into chapters early on. Any research you do online will need to be backed up, and of course, you will have your dissertation backed up too. Do not have everything saved on one ancient lap top, here is some interesting advice from Ohio State University on backing-up your work. Build in a routine for how you save and backup your data daily so it just becomes part of how you work. If you start as early as you can on your dissertation, then you'll be able to build in planning time and create a realistic timetable for your work, with escapes from your dissertation to let you reflect on what you have done so far. 

Researching

There is no easy or quick way around this, you are just going to have to get going with the research. Remember that law libraries get busy during the second semester so you'll want to get there early or stay late sometimes. You also don't want to wait around for particular texts that have a limited availability. If you realise you need a book that someone else has checked-out of the library, then let the staff know as soon as you know so you have a chance of getting it. Don't forget about online law libraries and resources too, and speak with your academic staff if you are really struggling to access what you need. 

Writing

Don't wait until you think you've done all the researching before you start writing up your findings. Writing up an LLM dissertation takes time and thought, and you cannot be exhausted when you are trying to communicate clearly. Start writing as soon as you start researching and keep planning the chapters of your dissertation as you delve deeper into the research. With a bit of luck and good planning, you will find that the chapters are easy to write. 

Editing & formatting

Find out before you write a single word what format your dissertation needs to be in for printing and submission. Your law school will have their own standards – like the University of Kent – so you should familiarise yourself with this document. Establish the right format straight away so you are not spending time at the last minute changing formats or the way you have referenced the whole document. And don't underestimate how long it will take to edit your dissertation. Expect to read through each chapter many times as each read through will show you new and interesting mistakes. 

Printing & submitting

Try to aim to finish your LLM dissertation with a little time to spare. Towards submission deadlines university printers are busy places and if you need to print your dissertation at a particular printer then check them out early on to understand how much time they need to get your document ready. Give them time to print it and time for you to check the printed material. You want to check for formatting errors or any printing mistakes like double pages. 

Once you've written your dissertation you can then take a calm walk into your submissions office and hand over your dissertation. Obviously, everything went to plan and you've finished your dissertation with time to spare and now it's time to relax a little.

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