We all face dilemmas…day in, day out and its making those difficult choices that allow us to grow and succeed as a person, and in life. Whether it’s a personal dilemma, a moral one, a friendship one or a life dilemma we all have to make the difficult decisions.
For example, I looked at today’s daily prompt Strut and had no idea what to write. I was in a dilemma between that and choosing a different topic to ruminate upon. As you can see, I’ve made my decision and faced the dilemma at hand- choosing a different topic although, in the grand scheme of things you can say it relates to the daily prompt in an off-topic kind of way. I wanted to create my own prompt almost, and dilemma is the first word that came to mind. We’ve all faced horrible decisions wherein one person may be affected in some way that is so hard you just don’t know what to do…well that is a DILEMMA!
Dilemma can be defined as…
“…a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable.”
And the synonyms suggested such as problem, predicament and my favourite PUZZLE go on forever. But, do we always have to feel guilty about making a decision when a dilemma is involved?! I think not. Sometimes you can be faced with a difficult decision and choosing to move away from the problem is the best answer but, that does not mean you should feel guilt or bad in whatever way. Sometimes you just have to STRUT your stuff, stand proud and make the best decision for you. I’ve never been faced with a moral dilemma personally…well I don’t think so but, when the time comes I will weigh up both sides and choose what is best for myself. You see dilemmas include an emotional component as well as a logical component so, you have to make the decision which balances these two components best for you!
It’s dissertation season for third years and if you haven’t already thought about that final project it may be time. This includes making decisions between a variety of issues and you better believe the dissertation is emotional as well as logical.
Do you choose:
Written Piece V Practical Project?- If you are better at writing it would be logical for you to choose a written piece but, would you be able to cope with the research, the schedule and the stress that comes with it. In that case, you better choose a practical project but how good is it going to be? Can you guarantee a good outcome, a good grade? Is it worth the risk? And how will it help or hinder in the future? But, still there needs to be time made and it could cause more stress.
All Year Assignment V Second SemesterAssignment?- Similarly, stress and time is a big factor within this. However, it isn’t like your other assignments wherein you can complete it the night before. That guarantees you fail. But, is there time to start this semester or have you got outside factors affecting you time limit. It’s serious and you need to make a decision.
Go Out or Stay in?- It is hard and you should make time to go out and enjoy yourselves but, then there is a dilemma of whether you are going out to unwind or is it because you are avoiding something. If it is the second statement then you certainly need to stay in. I managed to balance friends, life and illness with my dissertation and Yes, I wrote it in a week but that was after months of research.
Go ahead, makes those decisions whatever they may be because I can guarantee that some of your issues, some of the stress of life or university is because you aren’t facing those difficult decisions. The best decisions I’ve ever made have been when I am faced with a dilemma, and backed into a corner! Once that weight has been lifted…then you can STRUT your stuff.
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.
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.
As my final university year comes to a close, with the triumphs and breakdowns. I think it would be useful to think about what I wish I had been told before I begun my final undergraduate year at university. From triumph to breakdown, I’ve been through it all. Therefore, I feel more than qualified to pass on my wisdom.
Here is a list of things I wish I’d have been told before third year, on how to deal with third year:
Breakdowns are unavoidable, and they happen. You just have to let the emotions out and you’ll feel better.
I know if you are a second year you’ve probably heard the joke about the amount of breakdowns a third year student has, and I bet you think that it is a little extreme! Well, let me tell you I reached my limit, three-four times this year and I’ve heard about other students experiencing more. It happens, and when it does just accept it. You’ve bottled the stress up so much, you’ve built the pressure of the dissertation in your head and you’re attempting to have a life. You have to release it. It’s not conducive to a proper work environment. And I can personally tell you, the emotion may overcome you at a random time when work is not even in front of you. It could be the littlest thing to push you.
You cannot control everything, no matter how organised you are.
It’s true. You might be the most organised student in the world but, you cannot control third year. The first two years you’ve developed a system, you know when you work best and how you work. But, with all the running around you are bound to get ill. The dissertation is at the back of your mind and it is a constant stresser. And stress is not good for your health-mentally or physically. Which leads me to my next point…
Make time for yourself!
I run. That is my me-time. You have to find an activity in third year solely for you. Something you like to do, that helps you because whilst friends are great. You need to have time to yourself as we all work differently so someone elses early finish, is another persons late start. But don’t place pressure on yourself because of this! You work out whats best for you.
Don’t place all your energy into producing a dissertation. It is just one module!
The dissertation is one module, and it is worth twenty credits. And I KNOW it has a huge build up to it but, there are other assignments who deserve as much attention, as the dissertation does. And each assignment is just as important as the dissertation. I worked one assignment at a time, and I achieved firsts in every module in the beginning of third year.
But don’t forget the dissertation either…
While, you shouldn’t place all your energy into the dissertation, you shouldn’t forget about it either. It is a huge undertaking research and you need to work out what is best for you. Keep in contact with your tutors, they are there to help and guide you and the worst thing you could do is not utilise the resource that is available to you. The tutors want to see you succeed!
Make a schedule- and stick to it.
You don’t want to be someone who does all the work in their final weeks for the dissertation. It is a year around module, and so use the year constructively. Set yourself tasks and complete them on schedule. And again, if you work well with deadlines then inform your tutor. They can set you deadlines for completing work, which keeps you on target. So, I found all my books and resources, and episodes within first semester for my dissertation. I completed notes on it by the end of January, due to a few hiccups I encountered- getting the flu for the first time in my life. And then my tutor set me a deadline for a completed draft, which I had to push by a week due to illness and injury. But, I still had three weeks till the deadline to do any alterations.
You may find yourself struggling and that is okay. There are university services available to you, through student support or the library. So, if you are unsure about referencing then sign up to a library session and grab the help you need. If you see a support tutor every week due to a learning issue, then make sure to show them your work. Sometimes, you look at something so much, the words begin to jumble and it just takes another set of eyes to pick up on good points or issues with your work. But, it is not just the people employed by university. Did you know that aside from you, the harshest critic of your work will most likely be a student so, tell your friends you would like them to read work and use them. For the most part, it is likely they are in the same position. But, remember to tell them to give you a truthful opinion, if it needs changing it needs changing.
It’s time to start thinking about the future…scary!
It may be a scary thought but, third year is about looking to the future and beginning to make life choices. Now, not everyone knows what they want to do and you know what that is okay. However, you need to have some plan so, you can begin planning your year around the next move in your life. I have decided I would like to work for the next year, before returning to gain a Masters degree. So, I have a plan. But, that won’t stop me from applying for jobs. Set up as many paths as possible and then you can choose which one you will take a journey down, as in the future you can always decide to change direction and jump onto another path.
University isn’t the only thing in your life, and whilst third year may be stressful and take over your life it shouldn’t. Go and have fun. You don’t have to work constantly to get good grades, so meet with friends, go out and have fun. Or use spare time to develop yourself, it is as simple as setting up a blog or learning a new language or planning to travel. There are a million options in life, and you can pick from them all. Just have fun. For most of you, it’ll be the last year and although university is where we make the friends we’ll probably keep for life, go and have fun.
So, with my dissertation based on detective programmes, I’ve found myself thinking about all the shows I love! It’d be a a crime to have not watched any at all. My humble beginnings as an avid-crime show watcher began with my parents! They’ve watched them since as far as I can remember and it’s a common occurence in my house to guess who dunnit? And normally, myself and dad have cracked it before the end!
From Morse, to Endeavour, to Midsummer Murders, to Vera, to New Tricks, to Criminal Minds, to Law and Order SVU and many more. A Saturday night in, normally entails a crime show or two with dad guessing right and mum pretending to be mad she didn’t get it right. And I can’t recommend them enough! They are easy viewing but, they keep you on your toes too!
But, you’ll be wondering why I’m writing this post now. Well, I’m watching Vera as we speak and I’m going to do a top five of my favourites to watch!
Criminal Minds: originally, I flicked onto this by accident and the programme was so good I decided to watch more and now I love it! From the brainy Dr Spencer Reid to the experience of David Rossi, this show keeps you guessing. Little is focused on the forensics and more is shown of the team, the killer and the profiling. After, a while I got my mum into the show and now she watches it regularly.
Vera: I’d seen a few before but, this show began with my parents. They liked it and I managed to catch an episode and I was hooked. It’s probably why I’m researching it for my dissertation! Vera is strong, grumpy, smart and curious all into one. It’s great and reminiscent of Morse.
Law and Order SVU: I can’t even remember how I began watching this show but it’s great. Focused on the victims and the cops, you see the gritty side of New York among other places.
Lewis: A spin-off from Morse, it focuses on a worn out Lewis coping with his mentor and wife’s death. Close friends and later lovers with the coroner you see the relationships grow! It’s demonstrates how the personal and the professional can get mixed together. My parents began this one, and I’ve loved it ever since. Currently, on Netflix you won’t want to miss it!
New Tricks: Something my mum found for us to watch! It’s great. A modern female boss mixed in with three old school cops stuck in their ways. It’s funny but, also focuses on the crimes. This team investigates the old, forgotten cases providing the family answers, they could never get. While clashing with each other’s methods they always seem to get the job done.
So, these are my top five but we’ve all got crime shows we love. It’d be a crime not to watch a few! So, why not flick onto them next time you see them?