Completing Your Motherf*ckin’ Dissertation In A Week: The Kit

Sometimes life deals you a crappy hand and at the end of a long, somewhat bizarre chain of actions-and-consequences you end up abandoning all the plans you’d been working on for months, and you’re left with one week to write your dissertation. Sometimes you’re just really f*cking lazy and god who even knows how to start on this shit, and you’re left with one week to write your dissertation. Sometimes both of these things are true, and you’re – you guessed it – left with one week to write your dissertation.

r u kidding me human (This is how the actual cat I live with actually looks at me.)

r u kidding me human
(This is how the actual cat I live with actually looks at me.)

I used to protest when people said things to me like, “Why am I even asking you about the essay? You’re probably not gonna even start till the day before it’s due.” I know I’m a bad student, see – I don’t usually do more than the bare minimum I need to hold my own in class – but I’d like to think I’m not that bad.

Now though? Now I’m learning to embrace this. ‘Cause you guys, I’m beginning to realise that I’m actually really good at getting things done at the last minute. It isn’t even panic that motivates me – things that stress me out include “bra shopping,” “heterosexuality” and “these goddamn moths,” not school assignments of no real consequence in the Grand Scheme of Things – but rather that I’m really good at pacing myself once I can see the deadline as clearly as a hard brick wall in front of me.

So today we’re going to talk about tackling 10,000 words of amateur academia in a week. There will be Netflix and kittens and not half as much caffeine as you’d expect. Get your game face on.

Getting Started

Put on some pants. (Both the British and the American kind.) Or a bra, or some shoes. Maybe a button-down shirt? Whatever it is that makes you feel like you’re doing Real Work even though you’re gonna be cooped up indoors for a week. Have you checked out our Autostraddle store? I did my entire dissertation while alternating between the red and blue A-Camp hoodies, so clearly there’s magic in them.

Set up your work situation. I have a typewriter and an endless supply of A5 MUJI notebooks to work through first drafts. When you’re working on the computer, I recommend Todoist, 30/30 and Self-Control. (I’ll admit the last one wasn’t always 100% foolproof for me, so as a back-up plan I also suggest “surrendering control of your Facebook account to your partner.”)

Go grocery shopping. No, seriously, you’re running a marathon here, not a sprint – if you’re breaking out the instant noodles from day one, you’re not gonna make it. Here’s what I prepared (mostly) in advance and kept within craving distance, in decreasing order of difficulty of preparation:

  • Curry & rice/quinoa
  • Roasted vegetables & pasta
  • Hummus & pita/carrot sticks
  • Oatmeal & fresh fruits
  • Walkers salt & vinegar crisps (shh they were on sale)

Along the course of the week I also acquired two whole cakes (it was my birthday), an 8-pack of Kit Kat Chunky bars (also on sale) and a bag of salted peanuts. All of them were regrettable decisions. STICK TO THE PLAN.

Getting Down To It

Plan! Again! And then some more! It’s tempting to play it by ear when you’re so close to the deadline and frustrated by feeling you’re getting nowhere on the word count, but it is way worse to realise you have no idea where you’re going 3,000 words in. Fan of linear essay plans? Use Google Docs or TextEdit or something, no need to get too fancy. (I actively discourage getting fancy when planning.) Need something more expansive? I like MindMup. Can’t decide? Check out Text 2 Mindmap.

Pace yourself. Plan your work schedule, too: know how much you need to get done and by when, and be realistic about how much you can achieve in a day. Definitely take breaks, but remember that you absolutely cannot afford to be losing momentum this week.

Get your sh*t together (literally). I use a combination of Dropbox (check out alternatives if you don’t like the thought of Condoleezza Rice hovering over your cloud storage), GoodReader, and lugging library books in an an 18-litre cycling backpack everywhere to make sure I have absolutely no excuse to not be writing no matter where I am. Few things are a stronger motivation to get your thesis done than an aching back.

Write. Just do it. I believe in you.

Keeping It Going

Feed your face. Caffeine is not our friend. Well okay maybe caffeine is your friend (it probably is, isn’t it) but it definitely isn’t mine. Caffeine heightens my anxiety considerably while taking me through unstable highs and terrible crashes, so I look to alternative ways of keeping my energy up:

As a general rule, avoid sugar, alcohol and fatty foods. Eat plenty of protein, slow-burning carbs, and iron-rich foods. Plan your meals and space them out. This is probably good advice for life in general, but let’s be real, you’re a student – you can have pizza next week, okay? You can have ten.

BUT NOT NOW via Shutterstock

via Shutterstock

Sleep well, but nevermind sleeping at the “right” times. You know what works best for you, and now’s not the best time to coax your sleep cycle into something that it’s not. I slept mainly from 5am to 2pm, only entering the school library after 10pm when everyone else was gone.

Musics! For college-themed aural pleasures (yeah I said it), can I recommend Maddie’s Surviving Finals, Rachel’s You Have So Much Grading To Do, and Intern Grace’s I’ve Got A Crush on Your Dumb Face? Oh, hey, I’m the only one here whose inappropriate feelings for unavailable women intensify as deadlines approach? Right. Well then. Moving along.


via Shutterstock

Netfliiiiix. I’m not kidding. TV series – in this case, Orange is the New Black and Suits, plus Laura has plenty of suggestions to realise your inner couch potato – help me work through longer assignments because they’re an integral part of my self-reward system. (Sometimes when I say “reward” I really mean “binge indulgence,” but that’s okay. At least I put a bra on, right?)

Remember: you’re okay. The best advice I got was “you’re writing a dissertation, not changing the world.” Keep at it and it’s okay if things are less than perfect. Your brain is going to feel like it’s melting all the time and you will be so tired but also there’ll be those moments when you’ll really get it, like really get it, and you’re a smart, competent human who’s done so many smart, competent things and this will be just one more of those things. Not getting it right now? Take a step back and breathe. Curl up in bed for a while, or take a walk, or text your favourite human/s.

The second best advice I got was “THINK OF HOW GOOD IT’LL FEEL TO RETURN ALL THE LIBRARY BOOKS.” And it does, trust me. It feels so good.

The Final Stretch

Last 24 hours? Now forget everything I said earlier. Is there not coffee in your hand RIGHT NOW? Is it in your MOUTH yet? THERE IS NO WAY THAT IS ENOUGH CAFFEINE IN YOUR BLOODSTREAM. There’s no more food left in your flat except canned soup and Twisties and lol, “sleep.” You’re going to see through the sunset and sunrise but you’re not gonna see either of them because you’re not looking at anything except your computer screen for eight straight hours. Yes you are doing horrible things to your body. DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. The world impatiently awaits what you have to say about postmodernist thought in Korean variety shows, you special weirdo.

Crossing The Finish Line

YOU’RE A GODDAMN CHAMPION. Look at you, accomplished human! You did read the submission instructions at least thrice, right? Clicked the second button on Moodle? Yes? Okay good job. That one sticky bit in the third chapter is probably going to bug you for a bit, but don’t think about it anymore – it’s nothing a good TV marathon or 16 hours of sleep can’t fix.

Before you head off to rejoin the human world (or hang out with your cat all weekend, that’s cool too), consider donating to or volunteering with a related charity/activist group. I know this is a weird suggestion to make, but hear me out here: I’m gonna guess that a lot of you will be writing theses on social justice topics, and while academia is important, it’s not activism. In fact, it’s quite likely you’ll be building on the work of organisers who first lay the groundwork and who are still at it today. Like I said earlier, you’re writing a dissertation, not changing the world – but supporting groups who work towards the same world that you want to see is an important first step to bridging the academy and broader society.

Now go forth and celebrate, champ. You’ve earned it.

Autostraddle Kits is a series where we tell you all the stuff you need to be/do a thing you want to be/do. Lesbian Activist? Heartbreaking DJ? Wanton Sex Goddess? Food Historian? Sort of like if Amazon’s Listmania and Amazon’s “So You’d Like to Be A…” had a same-sex marriage and then had a baby. It’s like a playlist, but for all of your senses!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Fikri has written 61 articles for us.


  1. “Oh, hey, I’m the only one here whose inappropriate feelings for unavailable women intensify as deadlines approach?”

    No, no you are not. See: two potential dating situations in my life after months of nooooooothing because this is the month in which I have to finally analyze my interviews and write my master’s thesis. Come on brain/heart/pants, let’s stop having all the feelings at the most inconvenient times!

    Also, as I read this I was eating some chocolate covered raisins and thinking about the fact that I would actually prefer a real meal, so thanks for the grocery shopping reminder and the rest of this kit.

  2. Oh god thank you every time I talk to my supervisor he “suggests” I restructure the whole damn thing, tearing my hair out.

    If you’ve seen the combination Courage Wolf/Calming Manatee mashup posts, those help too.

    • I also tried Toggl and aTimeLogger, which allows you to measure the time you spend on each thing (instead of setting the time that you spend on each thing), but it just got depressing. I know it works for other people though!

  3. This was such perfect timing. I have a month to finish my thesis but I’ve had since January and I’m only half way through so…procrastination.
    Thanks for this! Solid advice I will now try to take.

  4. I need this sooo much! I’ve been putting off my final paper (not technically a thesis) for too long.

  5. “Oh, hey, I’m the only one here whose inappropriate feelings for unavailable women intensify as deadlines approach?”

    Nope. Definitely not.

    If you’re reading this, hot quiet patroller with a silver nose ring, thank you for giving me a reason to stay in the library and revise this last month. Drinks are on me if you wanna hang out now that exams are over?

  6. This is so good. Especially the donating to an activist group if you have the $$ for it.

  7. This is absurdly applicable to my life. My thesis is due on the tenth (and I have so much left to do). Now that I’ve caught up on all today’s AS article of course, I’m ready to keep myself off of the internet and be productive.

  8. Thank you so much for this, Fikri. As someone who is on the cusp of starting grad school with serious questions on if I could ever do a dissertation this gives me hope.

    • Bren! You are definitely one of the smartest, most competent people I know, so if anyone has a potential dissertation in them, it’s you. <3

  9. Yes! Yes! Yes! – academia is definitely not activism.

    Also sugar/caffeine is horrible for me, too.
    Something else I find is to stop overeating in general – its so tempting to binge even on non-junk-foods, like three bowls of quinoa or something, but then you get a total food coma and super grumpy and it throws you out of whack for the entire day.

  10. Writing papers in grad school would have been slightly less like slowly pulling strips of skin off my person if I had known about the existence of Written? Kitten!, which is a site that gives you a new picture of a kitten, puppy or bunny (your choice) for every 100/200/500/1000 words you write (also your choice).


  11. If you need clear deadlines to stop procrastinating talk to your supervisor and ask them to set one up for you a week (or two) before the real deadline. It’s not going to impact your grade if you don’t manage to finish on time, but you’ll be too embarrassed to show up empty handed so it *will* motivate you to start work early and finish most of it by their deadline.

    Generally, if you’re struggling with anything, ask your supervisor for help.

  12. I am a total last minuter, my brain won’t let me work any other way, plus structuring nightmares due to dyslexia mean that I have in the past used a scribe and paced about ranting at them for hours at a time over the couple of days they are available then painstakingly restructuring my rant into cogent sentences/paragraphs/chapters once it was typed out. However I recently discovered, whilst doing my final MA extended research precis of this year without any help, that approaching my big fat essays of doom as graphic design projects helped me order my thoughts better. As I study art I have to include images in the text and I found using text boxes rather than standard type and copy and paste for structuring my chapters was super helpful and less stressful…hope this helps someone.
    Agree 100% with food, Netflix and pantsfeelings situations. Although without tea I do not function so caffeine cannot be removed from my life. Plus who can resist salt and vinegar walkers.

  13. I’ve still got a couple of months to get this mother through with, but i’m going to use this to get me through the “no I don’t wanna” stage of researching.

  14. May I recommend film soundtracks in the music department. Brilliant if you need sound but get distracted when trying to sing along.

  15. I’ve just found the print out of this I have while going through my enormous messy horrifying stack of paper and notebooks from dissertation writing over summer and I read it back through and remembered very vividly how much it boosted me and kept me going (I did have more than a week but I’d already had to get a 3 month extension so I wasn’t exactly feeling great about the whole thing), I actually got a little teary eyed and immediately had to come and comment to let you know that this guide thingy was definitely a big part in me actually finishing the bloody thing :) so ta very much and I hope it helps everyone else as much as it helped me

    • Aw! Thank you. I am now knee-deep in my Master’s thesis and questioning every life decision that has led me to this point, but I am glad this helped you.

  16. I hope it’s cool for me to add my comment here despite having a penis?
    I just wanted to say a big thank you for making the past week considerably less horrendous than my last 3!
    Your suggestions were great and I love 30/30 and MindMup. I shall now return to my dinghy cavern and wish you all the best

    • don’t go so soon, Sam. Some of Rachel’s (not this Rachel, editor Rachel) You Need Help columns could help you make that cavern less dinghy.

      also, some queer women have a penis so no one was going to worry about your genitals. positive comments from anyone are pretty welcome here :)

  17. I have exactly a week to submit first draft to my supervisor. It’s 6 am and I’m just now going to bed. My thoughts? This 1 week program may actually work if you make sure you have all your graphs and tables done beforehand. They are very time consuming. Took me 3 days to get that crap all done. 3 days of uninterrupted work.
    Anyways… This article gives me hope because uhm…. I only have have about 6000 words and my thesis has to be between 10000 and 17000 words, about 50 pages. For sanity’s sake I’m aiming for 12000 to 13000. Halfway done and I’m not even finished with the literary review part lol. Got about half of it done and a good chunk of the method (no proper grammar or anything).

    It’s going to be a tough week and if I pull it off I’ll be ready to laugh at my colleagues who spent 2 years freaking out about this piece of unimportant stuff.

  18. I don’t think it is possible to write a dissertation within a week unless you simply paraphrase stuff. But still, dissertation is about your individual research or at least those you took put in and you cannot do a proper research within a week. This would tell you any expert at or Joan Bolker who wrote the book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. And I don’t believe even writing services or the writer who are thining of hiring to do the job for you can help with it simply because this is impossible. But if you don’t care much about the quality, well, then you can simply paraphrase whatever information your find on your topic. BUt this isn’t what a dissertation is about.

  19. Loved this column! Great advice, and funny as fuck. Certainly cheered me up- I’ve two days left to finish my Masters thesis, and it’s going to go down to the wire!

  20. The kit is absolutely fantastic! I will always go back to it when completing my thesis paper. It’s great that it turned up just when I really need something cheerful and useful. One may also find some nice tips on dissertation writing help in one more article to do you good;)

  21. You should take help from Dissertation writing companies, I one I used was projectsdeal.CO .UK. It was Rated #1 Dissertation writing service by Huffington

    The Experts from their team helped me in writing complete Dissertation for some fees. I scored “A”. Also, I have 10% discount coupon that you can use “JEWEL151” You can talk to the sales manager and redeem the 10% off.
    Hope that helps you! :)

  22. I used service called projectsdeal.CO.UK. It is Rated #1 Dissertation writing service by Huffington

    The Experts from their team helped me in writing complete Dissertation for some fees. I scored “A”. Also, I have 10% discount coupon that you can use “JEWEL151” You can talk to the sales manager and redeem the 10% off.
    Hope that helps you! :)

  23. its possible to write a dissertation in a week but before starting the actual dissertation we must required to get approval for the topic and proposal so, may we write the dissertation accordingly in a week.

  24. Writing or completing a dissertation in a week is not possible. Though someone have a good knowledge of the topic or research it is not practical to complete the dissertation in so less time. But yes, if you are ready to compromise with the quality then there are many people who will get it done in a week. If you need high quality dissertation writing service contact wesley houston.

  25. Almost cried while reading this because of how alone I’ve been feeling in the process. It’s so easy for everyone around me to say “its okay you only have two weeks left”, as if I don’t have to go through those two weeks. Whilst I’ve already had bad sleep, life terrible-timing events, covid, awful mental health and eye infections for staring at screens for too long :)

    Took a long-short break so I can feel better and find myself again.
    Was drawn to find an article that would give me a boost and a sense of direction. But this gave me more than that.

    Thank you so much you have no idea how much this helped.

Comments are closed.