The Importance of Planning for your Dissertation
When you’re in first year, the prospect of having to write a dissertation may seem daunting and will be a matter that you will most likely put on the back burner for a while. In second year, however you really should start thinking about your specific fascinations and enthusiasms so that you can begin to narrow down some topics for your dissertation.
Your dissertation is an extended essay that should demonstrate your research skills, and your ability to formulate an independent perspective on a given subject. It is your chance to truly pursue and develop your interests in much greater detail than coursework can allow and results in a significant piece of work which could impress an employer, or could lay the ground for postgraduate research as well as giving you an opportunity to make a significant contribution to your discipline.
Dissertations also represent a significant proportion of your final year marks and a good dissertation can make a significant contribution to your final degree classification. This means that it is very important to plan your time in a way which allows you to do justice to your chosen topic, to clarify the topic in your own mind, to work out the sorts of questions you are interested in pursuing, to do the necessary research and to make sure the final draft of your dissertation is clear and coherent.
You must ensure that you speak to your dissertation supervisor about your ideas for your topic as you may realise that some subjects are not appropriate. For instance, a topic may be too broad or too niche, it may not be original or there may simply not be enough evidence to support your argument and you can come up with some better ideas. Once you have decided on your topic, make sure that there is enough reading on your subject, but that not too much has been written about your specific approach.
When you’re sure you have the right topic, you can now begin your research, start compiling a bibliography and solidifying your ideas and approach. Once these details are more defined, you can begin writing the sections of your dissertation. For Art Historians, there is a guide to presenting written work as well as a dissertation guide on the departmental website if you need a helping hand with the structure and formatting.
Most importantly, make sure you give yourself enough time to get these stages done. You may think that you have oodles of time but the days, weeks and months will soon tick down so make sure you’re prepared. Even the binding, presentation, formatting, punctuation and grammar can take a lot longer than you may imagine and just formatting your footnotes, coming up with a varied bibliography of research and doing the preliminary background reading can take up a huge chunk of your limited time, never mind having to formulate and write a bulky 8000 words on your chosen topic so make sure you plan ahead!
Thanks for reading, Kristie