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.

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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.

Dissertation: Feedback

Last week, I received my feedback for my dissertation research proposal. I got a 2:1, 63 marks, which I was really happy with considering whilst writing it, I was never 100% that what I was doing was right. From my feedback and from talking to Ashley, I can now see where my strengths and weaknesses lie. While I can write and argue in a sophisticated way, my ideas are a bit jumbled and it is clear when you read my proposal that I have not fully decided what I am looking into yet. My dissertation needs to have a purpose, otherwise it is a pointless study – but I have not yet totally found this.

The fundamental concept in all my potential ideas is the representation and treatment of women. However, this is an incredibly large subject matter and I need to look into that it is that I am looking at the representation of women in, and what my unique point of view is. As Ashley said, it can be a tiny question, a tiny differentiation on what has been done before, but for it to have purpose, I need to be exploring something I have no yet found anywhere else.

After a minor panic, and a helpful talk with Ashley, I feel in a much better position to move on. I need to:

  • Read dissertations to fully understand structure and what fills those 10,000 words
  • Do more reading of and around the topic
  • Try idea generation techniques
  • Get things down on paper, mind map, make lists, narrow down what it is I’m writing about

Dissertation Research Proposal: Reflection

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.

The Overview

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

Well.

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.

The Bibliography

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.

Dissertation Breakdown: Part 1

My dissertation has been on my mind. I’m not excited about my topic as I feel I should be and I can’t help feeling that I am missing out on writing about something I would be more interested in writing about in place of something I feel is more sensible and appropriate. I feel really torn between topics that I ‘should’ write about and are perhaps more directly related to graphic design and more ‘intellectual’, and topics that I know I would enjoy writing about and could probably more easily write about because of my interest in them, though they are less directly relevant to my course. I think speaking to other people about their topics scared me about my own ideas and made me narrow my thinking to ‘graphic design topics’, when I loved my constellation study group last term and would probably enjoy writing about things taken from/related to theories from those lectures. I think I’m just having a bit of a fear of the commitment to a topic, because I want to enjoy it and equally I want to do really well.

All of the reading I have done to date will be relevant no matter what, as the different topics I am battling between overlap in places. I am interested in socially and politically driven graphic communication (massively!), however I basically want to gush about how amazing I think design for activism and tackling political issues is in my 10,000 word dissertation – far too broad and unfocussed for real life dissertations.

After a meeting with Ashley, and a late night break down over email, I feel much better about my dissertation and have decided to go with my original dissertation idea as a foundation to build on and develop. I will be looking at American Psycho – the film and book – and the representation and treatment of women within this, looking at magical realism, metaphor and social commentary. I think my diversion of looking at socially and politically driven graphic design grew from my adoration of the metaphoric nature of American Psycho and the way in which it approaches the unpleasantries of society to expose them in an over exaggerated manor, so to disgust the observer and hit them hard with the ugly nature of society. The way in which American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis and Mary Harron (in the book and the film) approach these topics is similar to the way in which designers approach important moral and political issues, exposing the shocking nature of reality in order to spark a change. Though I do not feel American Psycho was actively trying to spark a change in the world, it definitely highlighted certain elements of society, masculinity and consumerism that are now shocking to look back on.

 

I already feel much better about my dissertation. I know that, by choosing a topic I will enjoy, I can have no regrets. I was scared to get half way through and realise I had made a mistake, though I cannot regret not choosing another topic if I choose this topic, which I feel I can speak at length about, with a personal opinion and stand point.