With nice timing, I received an e-mail from Anna today. Like me, Anna is at the dissertation stage of the MSc programme. Unlike me, Anna has started her dissertation and is two weeks in. I had been giving some thought to who else might be at the dissertation stage (I knew Anna was). On each of the courses thus far on the MSc I've found it useful (and enjoyable) to keep in touch with fellow students 'outside of class'. The Dissertation Guide offers the following suggestions with regard to working with our peers:
'...take advantage of the expertise of your fellow students, particularly those who are also at the dissertation stage of their studies...Feedback from a different perspective can often help to focus your thinking and clarify issues central to your research questions.'
I replied to Anna to say that, once I'm up-and-running, I will of course be in touch. Anna is amongst the most impressive students I've encountered on the MSc. She has also been one of the most generous and supportive of others. It will be good to work with her once again. Within my e-mail I mentioned that it would have been a loss to the MSc if she had been unable to undertake the dissertation: I was offering encouragement and being completely honest at the same time.
Over and above one-to-one contact, I'm aware that there's a dissertation group, accessed via the Course Hub. I don't think I'll join that one until I feel a little more assured in what I'm going to do. I don't think it would be helpful at this stage to see the progress that others are making. Even though I'm not 'behind', in the sense that I have a year to complete the dissertation from the deadline that I agree with my supervisor, I can't see any benefit from hearing that others are moving their ideas forward. Something to add to my things to do list on the right, however.
Perhaps most importantly, Anna's e-mail has reminded me - over and above the information in the Course Guide - that the dissertation needn't be quite the isolating experience I had imagined, or at least it doesn't have to be.