Understanding the tutor’s intent – Tutors will often keep their comments on your dissertation draft quite short, due to time and space constraints. In order to thoroughly understand their points it is helpful to consider the context of their comments. Think back to recent conversations you’ve had, and try to contextualise their statements within the theories and practices you’ve recently been discussing. You can also gain insight from the tutor’s own published work or teaching materials.
Keep the big picture in mind – Consider how the suggested changes will impact your work overall. Understand that most comments are intended to strengthen the value of your dissertation as a whole, so keep in mind the ways that a single comment might apply throughout the entire work.
Always ask for clarification – If you don’t understand something, ask the tutor to clarify! Don’t be afraid to approach your tutors for help in this way. Remember that their job is to guide you, so if their comments don’t make sense to you or you are not sure how to apply them, ask them to schedule a time to meet with you.
Handwritten comments – If you receive handwritten comments on a dissertation draft, don’t be afraid to tell tutors if you can’t read their writing. Tutors should always be responsible for providing clear, readable comments, but it is unfortunately a common problem for students. Many times tutors simply don’t realise that their scrawled writing is illegible to students!
For general comments that apply to your dissertation draft overall, it is best to read over the entire thesis with that comment in mind. This will allow you to decide where in the dissertation it is best to address that point.
For more minor points, such as stylistic changes or grammatical errors, you can make alterations as you work on your dissertation draft. It may be useful to compile a list of suggested changes so that you can make these edits all at once as you read through.
Some changes may require significant re-writing of entire sections or chapters – don’t panic! This doesn’t mean that you need to completely eliminate all the work you’ve done previously; usually just framing it in a different way will help. While you may need to rewrite significant portions you will have already done the hard work of researching and sourcing quotations.
Finally, don’t ever be tempted to disregard your tutor’s comments – remember that your tutors understand how your work will be viewed by external examiners, so it is in your best interest to follow their advice as closely as possible.
David Brigden and Graham Lamont, 2010. Planning Dissertations. Available: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/subjects/medev/Planning_dissertations. Last accessed 08 Apr 2013.
Kjell Erik Rudestam, 2007. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. 3rd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.