Recently, my university released our provisional marks for our final year dissertation projects. I’m very pleased with my mark, and fingers crossed this is confirmed when our official grades are released. This sparked an idea for a blog post- this blog post further inspired by the fact I’ve seen a few statuses on social media from people discussing their choice of topics. Now, this is in no way a guide to picking a dissertation topic as each piece of work is individual to the person however, I thought a blog post discussing my process would be useful.
First a little context:
My dissertation focuses on the representation of female detectives in two British crime dramas; New Tricks and Vera. It specifically analyses DCI Vera Stanhope and DCI Sasha Miller, from their respective shows.
So, I've handed in my #dissertation today! It's scary. But, I've also been working on this blog post about #finalyear. The link will be in my bio if you would like you read it. #sheffieldhallam #SHU #sheffield #smile #happy #deadlines #dissertationtime #itsin #submitted #blog #blogger #blogging #blogtime #wordpress #amwriting #student #studentlife #blog f
From my own Instagram profile! This is going to sound so cliche but bear with me, and maybe you’ll think some of these points are common sense but everyone is difference. And as I have previously stated this is my personal experience.
Choose a Topic You Are Interested In!
As I said ‘cliche’, and you have probably heard it a million times before but there is always someone who believes they’ll get an even better grade by choosing something interesting and innovative. However, while this has worked for some people it does not work for others. You should pick a topic you’re interested in, something you’ll work hard on to achieve a good grade. I chose to write about crime television specifically the female detective of British Crime Drama. This is something I have had an interest in since I was a child, and because there was little written on my particular topic it made for an interesting research project.
Start Your Research Early
At my university, on this media course we had a second year module which prepared us for dissertation writing and research. However, I understand not all universities offer this experience but the majority usually ask for you to fill in an proposal form before or over the summer. This is there way of asking you to begin your dissertation early because you’ll still have five other modules to pass alongside this. The dissertation is only a second semester module for my course, but we were informed that if we still wanted to treat it as a full year module we could! And that is the best advice you can get. I understand there are other tasks you need to complete whether it is working, completing assignments but setting aside a few hours each week or even every two weeks means you’ll be able to collect your research and have a less stressful second semester because you don’t have three months to collect and write the dissertation to a standard you are happy with.
I chose to utilise this piece of advice, and after completely finishing my research with one month till submission I was happy to write my dissertation. Now, it took me four days to write it, and that is my process and I have always been able to do it but, if you need more time then start earlier. My point is if you have all your research-academic or primary which entails you to gather the data completed then the only thing left to do is write it out.
Back Everything Up…
I’m sure you’ve heard this about every assignment you have ever written but, if there is anytime to take this advice it is now. Normally, we write 2000 word assignments and after a while you get into a rhythm that allows you to bang 2000 words out quickly but, do not think for one second that 6000+ word assignment will be just as easy. If you are a student who reads and then types then this is particularly important. What if you lose your work and cannot remember all the articles you use. Because you are going to have to remember, find and reread them as you begin typing all over again. Luckily, I did not lose any work and so I did not need to use any of my back-ups but, I had them none the less. And I believe this is common sense yet I’ll say it anyway. Please have more than one back-up because there are a variety of scenarios in which you could lose a memory stick or smash your hard drive or your computer could crash. I had two memory sticks, a hard drive and two sets of files on my computer of the sections I had written plus, I emailed everything to another email address so I could access it anywhere as well as saving it to my Cloud drive.
Make A Plan!
I have always planned and then written an assignment. It may feel like an assignment is taking longer but, by planning out the dissertation I was able to achieve my grade and be sure I was placing in the correct quotations, and academic sources alongside my textual analysis research. However, ridiculous this may sound I had a plan to finish my research by a certain date and I did, I had a basic structure on a white board in my room of each heading and section and I then had a detailed plan of my actual dissertation. It worked, I simply had to follow it. Alongside that, I focused on each section as an essay entirely in itself which meant I never lost momentum and each section was treated with the same amount of detail and dedication.
Use Your Tutor…
We are all assigned a tutor throughout the dissertation for a reason, they are there to help you through discussing your work and provide deadlines. I work to deadlines, its easier for me so, I asked my tutor to set my a deadline for each piece of research I did and that kept me on track. There are no stupid requests. If that helps you, then set individual deadlines. If you are struggling to narrow down your topic, speak to the tutor:
Originally, I had three female detectives due to the two programmes I had chosen; New Tricks and Vera however, we quickly realised this would increase my workload when I could use two detectives in a case study.
Within reason, they are a source to be used in assisting with your dissertation so use them. You are adults and given the sole responsibility to contact them once you discover who they are and they shouldn’t have to chase you around. So, contact them and use them but, if you aren’t in contact with them or do not try then it is on your shoulders the dissertation stands.
Invest in a folder and keep your books in order. Bookmark every article and remember to reference correctly throughout the assignment. I work best in a state of ‘organised chaos’ so, while I have a system someone else may be confused. But, I found with this piece of work buying a folder and keeping all my work inside meant I never lost anything, and creating a folder solely for my dissertation on google meant my articles were there to be accessed when needed. If you take one piece of advice away from this post, take this one and stay organised. Make sure your books are easily accessible, and if they are not available re-request them as soon as possible to get them back. If you are organised, it dials back the stress you feel and keeps all of your work in one place.
Try to Stay Calm (ommmm)
I understand that this one module has so much pressure placed onto it, that you may feel overwhelmed which leads to stress, illness, more stress and a few breakdowns. And it may sound like an impossible task but, working yourself up is not going to help. I can give this advice now, but it would have been hypocritical before as I had a few stressful days which led to tears and anger and feeling useless. However, not about my dissertation…I had stress about other assignments. I’ve always found a cry is good because you bottle the emotions for so long, the stress needs a release. So, try to stay calm (if possible) while writing your dissertation try! Take up an activity, something away from assignments- exercise, read, write a diary just release the emotions somehow and you’ll feel calmer and able to write you dissertation.
Do Not Rush Your Work…Even If Your Friends Are Closer to Finishing
We all work at a different pace and in different ways. So, if your friends are closer to finishing than you it does not matter because rest assured you are on track and each person is different. And it may stress you out if the people further in front discuss their work but this does not apply to you, or your methods and you should focus on yourselves. I’m one of the few who had finished writing three weeks before and had it completely done ten days before the deadline. I also have a friend who was finished even before that, but I did not let that get in my way as I knew I would finish at my own pace. We spend so much time worrying about where everyone else is, that people forget it is about them and their process. So, yes your friends might be finished or close to finishing and you are not but, that does not matter. Instead focus on your own work (like I did) and get it done. Of course, if it is stressing you out that people are further into the writing process then you need to find a way to deal with it. But, the only way to stop that is to knuckle down with your work and finish it so you can be part of the conversation.
Hopefully, this post will be an interesting read and you may have a few tips and tricks of your own for people about to undertake a dissertation. So feel free to share them. This is based upon my own experience of dissertation writing, and as I did not create an applied project I cannot even begin to discuss how hard they were and the way you deal with them. However, I’m sure they went through similar experiences. Just remember each and everyone one of you is different and produces work in different ways.