Dissertation: Reflection

Upon completing this thesis, there is a sense of pride at how far I have come. At the beginning, I struggled to define just what I wanted this dissertation would focus on. An initial sense of excitement was felt upon the news that there were almost no boundaries to what could be chosen, followed by an unanticipated issue – having too many ideas. I feared committing to one idea and then halfway through, having regrets about another but it being too late to convert. I am glad to say that I have not felt this, and am still content with what I chose to explore. My chosen topic is important to me. Like many others, I believe in gender equality and that women and girls should be interested and active within politics in order to be accurately represented. If it is not being given to us, we must demand it.

I knew I wanted to look at ‘the role of women’, and, obsessed with the film ‘American Psycho’, explored that first. I was happy with my dissertation proposal at Easter, written on the portrayal and role of women in ‘American Psycho’, but after discussion with my tutor, it was not the right choice. At the time, there was buzz around the General Election, and so I began looking at how media coverage can influence voters. Over the Summer, I tried to read as much as possible however, when writing began in September I realised I had not read widely enough, and had been reading the wrong kinds of texts. As I have analysed newspaper articles, there are some included in this thesis, however there were not enough academic texts to contextualise and provide theories for my argument. After meetings with the librarian and research on MetSearch, I found a wealth of sources to explore. I had to read alongside writing which I had not wanted to do, but I enjoyed constantly finding more, rather than stopping after the Summer holiday had finished as I had first intended.

For the formative deadline, I had not written as much as I had hoped I would have. I felt lost within my work, as if it wasn’t going anywhere and my argument was unclear. I received a ‘low good’ for my submission with valuable feedback. Initially, I felt disappointed with my result. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why. I have definitely felt the weight of this thesis on my overall degree throughout the process, adding to the pressure to succeed. I know that, as someone who always succeeded in lower level education, I find it difficult to fail or produce average work, as I always want to be the best. This is not the best quality to have at times and is something that this process has helped me acknowledge. I was not completely happy with what I submitted, and I knew it did not deserve an outstanding grade. With the feedback I received, I manage to completely transform what I submitted into something I am certain would have qualified for a higher grade. I was thankful for the guidance that allowed me to edit my work to be something I was proud of and motivate me to write to a higher standard. After the initial disappointment had subsided, I felt that the grade I got was fair and accurate and hoped that this would increase for my final mark, provided I kept working to a high standard, motivated by the feedback I received and follow up tutorial with my tutor.

I found writing this thesis more difficult than I had expected to. I frequently found it frustrating that I was only writing small amounts at a time, rather than passionately writing pages and pages as I had hoped. The further I got in to the work, however, the easier I found it to write; with more reading came more knowledge and more context for my opinions. I found subjectively analysing images and news articles easier than attempting to objectively acknowledge the work of the Suffragettes, for example. I believe this was due to the fact that the Suffragette period was factual, and I feared writing about it incorrectly. Obviously, to research this time period I read a number of sources, though there is so much to write about that I found it more useful to acknowledge their work briefly throughout, rather than attempt to retell history in a chapter.

My organisation skills have improved considerably through this process. Feeling unfamiliar with referencing and afraid to be penalised for referencing incorrectly, I kept track of my references and quotations from the beginning, so to avoid having to panic over this near the end. I was thankful for having done this in the final weeks. I am sure my academic tone has improved further also, hopefully improving the sophistication of my writing. Though I have never struggled with writing in an academic tone, I have struggled with concisely conveying my idea. Tutorials with my mentor and answering the questionnaire provided on Moodle weekly helped me to sharpen my argument and relay it effectively without loosing sight of my thesis title. In the past, I have had a habit of tip toeing around what I am trying to say and of going off on a tangent, being momentarily inconsiderate of the relevance of some aspects of my work. I feel that this has improved through working on this thesis, and these are details I have been reminding myself of often and working hard at.

I can only measure success in how I feel when I submit the work. As I come close to submitting this thesis, I feel proud and content with the work I have produced and the way in which I have pushed through and overcome obstacles. Having attended all of the organised sessions and also personally organising others, I feel that I did all that I could do, and so I cannot possibly be disappointed. Obviously, there is still an aspect of the unknown, having never written a dissertation before, and I’m sure there will be nerves until the grades are released. Despite this, I feel that I should remind myself, in times of doubt, that I worked to the best of my abilities on this thesis, and I have come a long way since beginning my dissertation journey just over a year ago.


Dissertation: Referencing !!!!!

I cannot wait to have this dissertation done just to have a break from referencing. There are a ridiculous amount of different things you could possibly want to reference and so it is terrifying to consider the fact that something may be referenced wrong. I also did not realise I needed page numbers until late in the writing process – while I thought I had been organised throughout I then had to go back over every source and find the pages!!

Anyway, almost there. I have been extra careful (and pretty obsessive) over my referencing out of referencing wrong. It was also mentioned in my feedback that my referencing was ‘sporadically good’, and so I needed to make sure this was perfect as it obviously does not come naturally to me! The end is in sight…

Dissertation: Writing, writing, writing

Since receiving my feedback I have been working hard on completing my dissertation to a consistent standard. Ashley gave me great advice and a lot of it – this has helped me enormously to find new sources and academics to explore which have supported my argument. I will be almost finished writing by the Christmas holidays. Over the holidays, I aim to be writing my conclusion and abstract only, as well as checking and perfecting my referencing.

Update: I became unfortunately behind my initial schedule in the lead up to Christmas and so wrote the majority of my third chapter over Christmas too. I still feel in a good position leading up to the deadline, however, and am sure I won’t be rushing last minute!

Dissertation Feedback

Upon first reading my dissertation feedback I felt disappointed – I have been worried about how my diss is going because I feel like it is so important and heavily weighted but I am so unsure of my progress. I have felt/known for a long time that it will most likely be my dissertation which pulls down my overall mark at the end of this year and I still feel that this is the case, which does frustrate me. I think, without sounding too overconfident, as someone who always generally does well and puts in maximum effort it is incredibly frustrating when my best efforts do not equal excellent grades. While discussing dissertation progress with a subject tutor recently, they asked if I was giving it my best efforts, I said yes. They said that that is all that can be asked of me then. I have always believed that if you put everything you have into something, you cannot possibly be disappointed with the outcome, because you tried your best. But I don’t feel that here. Despite my best efforts, I know I will be disappointed with my dissertation score, because I completely doubt it will be high.

Ashley’s feedback was full of helpful advice on where to take my writing next and what to change. I need to more consistently enforce my views to constantly remind whoever is reading my dissertation of my point of view and my question. I have begun looking into all of the people and theories Ashley has suggested and so far they have been incredibly helpful in supporting my argument. I have also changed my topic from a question to a statement as I need to avoid a yes or no answer. After initial disappointment, I came back to my feedback. Everything Ashley wrote I actually fully agree with, and receiving this feedback with some solutions to my problems will be a great help in really pushing my work forwards.

Dissertation: Lit Review

For the deadline on the 31st October, I submitted two drafted chapters of my argument and my introduction for Ashley’s feedback. Since then, I have been working on my literature review as I feel this is the part of the dissertation I am most confident with. I have decided I would like to write my lit review as a 2,000 chapter at the beginning rather than threaded throughout, though I am sure there will be lit review style extracts weaved into my argument too. In my last tutorial, we discussed how we can come across as intelligent and well researched in our writing. One way was to acknowledge research done that might not be entirely relevant, taking note that you have done it and of it’s potential worth elsewhere, but dismissing it for this thesis in particular.

I am finding it far more frustrating to write my dissertation than any of the essays I have done in uni before (obvious, I know). I feel that this is because, for my 4,000 word dissertation proposal, I had an appropriate amount of research and quotations to include for the size of the body of work, and it felt managable – in that I could easily find the quotes I needed as I was writing in order to make the writing flow well. In a similar way, I am finding dissertation hard because I have so much research and so many quotations to include, that finding the one I want with the correct reference as I am writing it is difficult and often stops the flow of writing and my train of thought. I have been as organised as possible throughout the whole dissertation process, sorting my references into chapters and putting the bibliography together from the very beginning to avoid trouble later. I have this both on screen and printed, annotated with ways that I can intertwine quotes into my argument. And despite this, I still find it difficult to sift through the work. I realise there is not a lot that I can do to prevent this in future or solve this issue apart from being even more organised than now and staying focussed and on track as I write. I think I need to just keep going, knowing there will be many many edits after the writing of the body of work is done.

Dissertation Progress

With one week to go until the dissertation progress deadline, I must admit I am stressed. Working on subject and constellation side by side, on who projects which demand so much time and are so essential to do brilliantly, I am feeling the pressure. It’s not like we haven’t had to balance multiple projects before. Ian spoke last year about how second and third year were all about balancing spinning plates, so we are used to this by now, but everything feels so much more heavily weighted this year.

My dissertation is progressing, but very slowly. I know that I keep reading and reading as a way of avoiding writing – this is technically not procrastination but it is beginning to feel like it. Tactical procrastination maybe! As I am writing I feel that I am almost getting lost in my argument. I am well aware from my feedback from my dissertation proposal last year that everything I write needs to be backed up with fact and evidence and theory and I think I am scared to get too deep into a paragraph to then find out I need to remove it and start again because there is not enough theory to back it up. I am passionate about what I am talking about, but that isn’t enough. I could have a passion filled rant on my blog about why women are not appropriately represented in the media, but backing up everything I say with fact and including theories is a whole other story.

I am going to go back to writing and hopefully get another 1,000 words done today. I want to submit chapters of argument for Ashley to give me feedback on – I know I can and I enjoy writing literature reviews so I don’t think I will have too much problem with that. Back to it then!

Dissertation Tutorial

This morning I had an individual tutorial with Ashley in the heart space. In general, I currently feel very okay with my dissertation. I know what I need to do and I know how to do it now. The only real stress I have at this stage is that I know how heavily this one section is weighted, and I desperately want it to be brilliant so that I can have the grade I want overall. I am trying not to let this creep up in my mind yet though, as I realise I need to write it first!!! I am aiming to give Ashley quite a large chunk of writing to read on the formative deadline at the end of October, and so hopefully I will have even greater direction of what I can change and improve after that.

Writing an introduction and chapter headings in June, before finishing second year was definitely a great thing for Ashley to have asked us to do. It has given me so much clarity with my own ideas and has helped me to stay on topics throughout my research and writing. Having categories, though only a rough idea has allowed me to split research into groups of where they will be relevant to the overall dissertation. I am hoping this will help the overall narrative of the argument to flow better.

After my meeting I headed over to the library to see what other books I could find. I have taken out a few and so hopefully I can gather up some more strong quotes before I properly dive in to writing.