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Rachels cat laying on her notes

Preparing my dissertation – from home!

Dissertation is a word that most prospective and current students dread. It’s undertaken in the final year of your course and is worth a ton of marks towards your degree. Personally, this was something I wasn’t looking forward to, but also I didn’t really know what a dissertation entailed. I am now in my final year and have just started this year-long process, so I’m going to shed some light on what a dissertation is and what you can do to prepare.

What is a dissertation?

A dissertation is essentially a long research project. In Media Studies (and many other courses), you have a choice to do either a 10,000 written word, creative media project (photography/video), or a community media dissertation. Which one you do is choice, but also depends on the modules you’ve taken in previous years. For example, you may not be able to complete a creative media project if you don’t have any experience in photography or video production. My choice was to do a written dissertation (brave, I know!), so I’m going to be breaking down this option.

It’s broken into two parts; the first a 2,000-word Critical Research Plan, and then an 8,000-word dissertation. This sounds like a lot but by your final year, you’ll be more than prepared to write this much, and honestly, you’ll probably end up writing way too much.

Rachels dissertation notes

Written dissertation components

Your dissertation is then broken down into different parts again, which will be explained before you begin. They may differ depending on the type of dissertation you choose and the course you are on, but for Media Studies, the sections are as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Concepts and Theories
  • Research Methods
  • Research Results/Findings and Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Prologue and Appendices

This might seem daunting but as I said before, your entire university career is preparing you for this moment!

Rachels dissertation notes 2

My advice – Boss it before it begins

The best piece of advice I can give you is to use your time at university to figure out what you enjoy and what interests you. Your dissertation is YOUR work, so the topic you choose should be something you enjoy.

You can also build a great range of literature to fall back on by looking at previous assignments – pop them in a mind map and you’ll be shocked at the quantity you have before even beginning research. Also, look at the layout of journal articles and you’ll notice you’ve already read many pieces that look like the structure of a dissertation.

Before you begin the first term to your final year, try to use part of the summer to think about what you’d be interested in researching. This may be one topic or a few, either way, try to engage with some readings to see what exists on this topic and to figure out whether you’ll enjoy spending time on the topic.

Finally, remember if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed during this time to speak to your supervisor and personal tutor – their job is to help, support and guide you during this time.

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Rachel Bulman • 12th November 2020

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