critical analysis of my dissertation

80% of success is just showing up

The cover page of my dissertation says i’m doing ‘Social CRM in Irish SMEs’. It may as well read ’60 pages of going through the motions in an area i know enough about to get a decent mark’. I think the strict format of it all has killed my initial enthusiasm. The fact there’s a marking scheme, a template, guides etc… lures me in to writing in a style that get results and not writing for the love of the subject…

Just showing up

Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is just showing up [i’m not referencing that, i’m sick of referencing, go away and google it yourself if you don’t trust me]. I’d have to agree. Although it sounds simple, turning up can’t be taken for granted… in order to turn up you need some level of motivation. The reward must be great enough to entice you to show up.

So if we apply that to a dissertation / thesis, the ‘reward’ for doing it is a degree. The reward for a degree is a job, or further education. So that’s what drives me to do it. Take that away and i wouldn’t be doing it. For some people, that reward isn’t enough and they question the sense in putting in the effort.

I show up to meetings, i do a bit every week, i’ve ended up with 13,500 words and 60 pages so obviously there has been some level of ‘drive’ in me. But a lot of it is simply down to showing up and going through the motions. There’s nothing magical in this dissertation, much to my own disappointment, but then again there doesn’t have to be to pass. And passing or getting the result you set out to get is what it’s all about. That’s why i’m in college, that’s why i’m sitting exams every few months and doing assignments. To come out with a degree.

It’s a very strategical approach to college work but if i were to write in my own style and express my opinions, i’d end up failing because i’ve failed to tick off boxes in the marking scheme. It’s always a balancing act and one i’m conscious of because when i write for ‘me’, i write often and enjoy writing and learning. When i write for college, i struggle to write due to lack of motivation and those marking schemes i know i must nail to pick up marks. It’s not enjoyable.

Harvard Referencing, the lazy way

In Microsoft Word, you can add references as footnotes or endnotes but they’re pretty awkward and aren’t really suitable for my dissertation. References must be in square brackets like this [1] and all links and books etc… must be ‘Harvard Referenced’. For example i were to reference my own blog, this is how it would look;

Irish Internet Entrepreneur. 2011. Irish Internet Entrepreneur. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 March 2011].

Yes, it has to be in that exact format. Which is a hell of a lot of work if you were to do all that manually. I have about 50 references in my dissertation so far, so imagine having to manually add all that crap on to urls… It makes sense when you actually understand what it means but it’s one more reason to pack your bags and drop out of college. It’s intimidating at first.

When i realised just how many references i had, i decided to go hunting for reference tools or software, hoping i could find some free ‘click a button’ referencing type tools. Sure enough, I did find one and it’s saving me hours in time;

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Spyders Rhum

Thank you, English language

One thing i’ve learned from this dissertation is that i can most definitely write. I’ll throw down heading and half way through explaining it, i’ll come up with another few headings and more ideas. At some stage of course you have to just pull the plug on the creative side of you brain otherwise you could never finish on time, with any solid structure.

Because i can write, because english is my native language, because i’ve loads of experience writing and find it easy and natural, i’m at a huge advantage. Few can claim to be in the same situation. That’s probably what has gotten me through the dissertation.

Rewind 6 months and the thought of writing a dissertation of 60 pages / 13,500 words would have been enough to give a lot of people nightmares. It never gave me nightmares but i had been thinking about it since last May. The same way if i were to stay on and do a masters, i’d be thinking about nothing but my thesis for the next year or more. Day in, day out. That’s how my mind works. It’s a big ‘to-do’ list and if i’ve got a long term project, it’ll always be playing in the back of my mind. I never doubt my ability to complete it, but it’s a huge mental drain.

So i can only take my hat off to people who don’t have great English, can’t write too well and find the whole process intimidating but bundle themselves over the finish line anyway. There are plenty of them but as i’ve said earlier, we all come off the conveyor belt with the same degrees at the end of the day. Things like the dissertation act as our unique selling point and although mine will be far from A1 standard, it will see me over the finish line and that’s all that matters. Once college is finished, i’m going to have to re-learn how to enjoy writing 🙂

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