What is it like writing a master dissertation during the Pandemic?

Guinnevere Sung
4 min readAug 11, 2020

Disclaimer: This is only my personal experience, which is not necessarily applied to others! Wish you all GOOD LUCK who are also in the process of writing dissertations!!

I started to prepare the topic last year before the Christmas holidays and found my supervisor around that time as well. My supervisor recommended me to do as many readings as possible during the holidays and assigned me to write up an annotated bibliography. So basically, I started my dissertation earlier than my friends from other master programs.

Coming back from the winter vacation, I met my supervisor a couple of times and I reassured my directions and what I am going to do for my dissertation. Everything went smoothly, although we all knew and concerned about an epidemic was going on all around Asian countries. When the COVID-19 stroke in the U.K., the school was closed and I was not able to access the physical books in the libraries. Fortunately, I was able to borrow as many books as I need before the lockdown, so I only felt a bit sad to not able to use the facilities in the libraries (I miss the silent study rooms!!!).

The supervisions, of course, were all transited to online supervisions. It was quite weird to meet my supervisor via Skype, but it was surprisingly relaxed. I remembered my supervisor said in the first virtual meeting, ‘every student suddenly becomes more talkative.’ Indeed, meeting the supervisor in my room, the most comfortable place in the world, was way better than meeting her in the office.

Since the country was in lockdown during the Easter breaks, I stayed in my room, finished other assessments, did more readings, and wrote my first draft of the literature review. At that time, I was hoping the situation will get better in July or August so I can have more spare time to spend outside my house and visit other places. With this hope and motivation in my mind, I planned my progress by month:

April- Literature review

May- Methodology

June- Empirical phase of my research

July- Research Analysis

August- Introduction and Conclusion + Proofreading and Editing

I did manage to follow my schedule and even completed them earlier than I planned. I also contacted and sent to my supervisor once I thought I needed some feedback and guidance to continue my work.

I think what drives me to follow my schedule is the pressure and fear of not being able to finish it in time. I once talked about my pressure with my mom, I said ‘I feel guilty once I take a little break, not wake up early in the morning to study, spend too much leisure time. I basically live in this imagined-guilty situation for days and months.’ I was quite frustrated and annoyed that I felt this way in the beginning, but I finally realised it was the guiltiness that drove and push me to complete my work in time.

So now, aside from proofreading and editing my dissertation, I have more time to spend on travelling to near cities and towns (with 100% caution +wearing a mask all the time), attending webinars, other interesting online classes, and Netflix partying with my homies.

What I learn from this process is that:

  1. Don’t think too much, just write. If you have problems or questions, jot them down and ask the supervisor when appropriate.
  2. Plan, plan, and plan. Although things happen between plans, it is still important to do that, just leave more extra time for coping accidents.
  3. GUILTY. Feel the guilty of not reading, not writing, not staring at the screen. It pressures you to work, but don’t overdo it till the point it depresses you. (Pressure yourself moderately)

There’s an image that one of my lecturers sent it to us before writing the dissertation:

In my last supervision, my supervisor asked me ‘how do you find the research process?’ I answered, ‘I really enjoy it. Although I thought it would be a torturing process, I surprisingly find it really enjoying!’

I also said to my friends, ‘my project is like my baby now, I feel sad about finishing it and letting it go.’

Happy writing and wish me good luck for handing it in September!!!!