Starting my dissertation…
Being in my final year of university, I was recently faced with the choice of whether or not I was going to undertake a dissertation. In PAIS, taking a dissertation is completely optional, and it counts for 30 CATS (25% of your year). It is 10,000 words long, and can either replace a third year module, or it can alternatively be an area you have not yet covered within your course.
Although it is optional, I had personally always planned on completing a dissertation. For me, I felt that it was a great way to finish my 3 years at university, and conclude my studies with a long independent piece of work that I could be proud of. Taking a dissertation is the perfect opportunity to pursue any areas that may have interested you over your years of study, or it can give you the opportunity to explore an area that you have not yet had the opportunity to explore. What really appealed to me, was the fact that your dissertation is something that is truly your own from start to finish; it is highly independent work, you are completely responsible for your own dissertation, and you are able to create and research whatever you want (as long as you can find someone to supervise you). As there were areas that I was excited to research in further depth, undertaking a dissertation was the clear choice for me. I do, however, think that it’s fantastic that PAIS students are provided with the option of taking a dissertation, as it means that if you have other modules you would rather take instead, or if you want to play to your strengths and don’t feel that a dissertation suits your skill set entirely, there is the option to not undertake one.
Once you have decided on taking a dissertation, it is then time to decide upon a general area of study. For me, I knew that I wanted to utilise what I had learnt surrounding International Relations theory (that I had explored within my first year World Politics module and my second year Theories of International Relations module), and apply that to the area of migration, a topic I was particularly interested in. This was enough of a general idea of the sort of dissertation I would be pursuing to be able to start the next step of finding a supervisor for the dissertation, and to get them to agree to supervise my work. For this, a list of possible supervisors was released by PAIS (but was not limited to this list), and this meant I could identify which of the specialities of these potential supervisors most closely aligned with the area of study that I wished to pursue.
Once I found my supervisor, it was then time to start my research and finalise a research question and title for my dissertation, as a final title and research question had to be submitted by the end of Week 5 of Term 1, and could not be further amended following this deadline. I spent quite a lot of time researching the general area and reading around the topic in order to pinpoint any key debates within the literature, and any potential literature gaps that I could explore within my work. Throughout this, it became easier to identify which areas interested me the most, and which I thought would be the most feasible to tackle within my dissertation. By the deadline, I had submitted a research question and title that was centred around the co-constitution of migrant and national identity during the UK’s Brexit referendum campaign, which I thought nicely combined my current political interests with the International Relations theory that I was keen to incorporate.
It is now week 9 of term (I can’t believe how quickly its gone!), and I am currently in the process of further research and putting together a plan that I intend on having completed by the end of Week 10. After meetings with my supervisor, we have decided that I should try to have finished my literature review by the end of the Christmas break, and potentially start working on further chapters if I have time.
I hope to keep you updated as I progress through my dissertation! Thank you so much for reading, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions comments at all.