Having turned in my dissertation research proposal last night, I can’t help feel both relieved and agitated. The whole process has been one which I have not embarked on before and has been a completely new experience to anything I have previously done – both exciting and terrifying. Creating a piece of work of this size has not been too much of a problem for me – I studied English Literature and Spanish at A-level, meaning essays of great length are no stranger to me and I do really enjoy writing, unlike many creative people I know. What has terrified me about this project is the road ahead to completing it in full, and the weight of its worth towards my final grade. I have analysed books and plays before (in two languages!) but nothing has been as challenging as writing this dissertation research proposal. Centred on a topic completely chosen by myself, I have had doubts in my ability and lack of knowledge to, firstly, choose an appropriate topic and to then investigate and research this topic before delivering my findings in an academic and high quality way. This being my first dissertation proposal, the structure and way of writing was completely new to me – it was like learning a new skill altogether. For this reason, I feel part of my agitation post-submition lies my fear that I have written it ‘wrong’, missed the point or been too vague. The problem with asking your friends to read your work is they are (in the most part) 90% complimentary no matter what and 10% constructive criticism – very good for the confidence but no so good for bettering your essay for real. Below, I have split up this reflection into sections, evaluating how I found each element of the essay.
I didn’t find it too difficult to talk about why I wanted to write about this topic. Obviously phrased more sophisticatedly, I wanted to write about this film because when I saw it I was obsessed. Following Cath Davies’ study group, I seemed to watch the film at just the right time and it amalgamated everything I had learnt in the study group sessions. I am also (obviously) incredibly interested in the feminist movement, past and present, and therefore interested in the treatment of women in the creative industry. I also strongly believe that as a graphic designer, I should use my platform to encourage good change in society, and so should other creatives. Abusing the platform we have can have an effect on society and the way in which potentially harmful opinions have the opportunity to progress and become socially acceptable.
I did start to feel that I was repeating my lit review in my overview. I was attempting to summarise the theories and concepts I was hoping to explore, but I felt it was becoming a shortened lit review.
The Literature Review
At the start of this year, I wouldn’t have even known what a literature review was, so on that point I have come a long way. To say I am still not a lit review expert would be a very fair point, and I know I still have lots to learn and more importantly, lots to read. I never felt short of things to say and include in my lit review, as I do feel I had done a good amount of reading in preparation, especially perhaps considering I could not make my mind up and came to a final topic decision so late in the term. I enjoyed the reading process and it helped open my mind to so many more theories and ideas than I had previously considered. Thankfully, there is a wealth of writing on my chosen topic and surrounding areas, and so there is still endless things to read and write about in the coming months. The structure of the lit review itself was challenging. I read examples of literature reviews provided by my dissertation tutor, in the graphic communication studio and on the internet in an attempt to tune into the style of writing. When I came to write my own, I found it incredibly difficult to include no biased angle or influence, and to express no personal opinion at all. I know that I did not fully succeed in this, as my literature review is not 100% a collection of other people’s theories with non of my own views thrown in. When I came to attempt to edit this out, that seemed even harder. I was confused about how to review a persons work without agreeing or disagreeing with what it is they are saying, and how you could prove a piece of work was relevant without somehow touching on the topic you were investigating. I hope, anyway, that I manage to present the different theories I have discovered in a sophisticated manner, with NO spelling or grammatical issues (I read over that thing about 1,000,000 times!!!)
The Research Plan
I found the research plan particularly difficult, especially not using personal opinion or ‘I’. I think this section of the proposal is probably more vague than it should be however I did include everything I am hoping to explore and investigate. I think I still need to investigate topics widely in order to properly narrow down what it is I am exploring in-depth as there is a lot I am interested in. I have collected a list of books I would like to read from research and the bibliographies of things I have read.
Bibliographies always terrify me. To say I have a phobia of referencing is definitely a dramatisation but somewhere close. Though I know the structure of Harvard referencing for a standard book, coming to actually assemble these references is nerve-wracking for me. This time around, I collected the (I PRAY) correct references for the bibliography and in-text citations whilst reading and before even beginning the proposal so that I would have them all when I came to write the bibliography and wouldn’t have to stress to find them, or, potentially cut out sources because I could not locate the reference. This definitely gave me one less thing to worry about, as I had a list of references which only grew as I read more and just had to double check all of my in-text citations had corresponding references in the bibliography upon finishing the lit review. In my literature review I referenced two youtube videos and one online article. These provided more stress, as I felt they were important to convey my research around the era ‘American Psycho’ was written, but I was not sure how to reference these sources. I looked online, used University resources, asked peers, and so I hope they have all been completed to the correct standard.
Overall, I enjoyed writing my dissertation research proposal, though I found it stressful at times. I was considerable less stressed once I decided on a topic and could jump in to it, and I have enjoyed reading around my chosen topic. I look forward to receiving feedback and improving my skills for further dissertation development to come.