Dissertation Dilemma: Proposal Stage

This is it – final year, final semester of my undergraduate studies. I’ve been looking forward to this since I submitted my dissertation proposal end of my second year. It’s been a stressful yet decent, happy ride thus far. But I know it’s going to get bumpy, even more stressful now until May 3! It’s really soon when you think about it. So I thought I’ll share some of my tips and tricks when they are still fresh in my mind.

So I can only speak from the social science perspective and how things are being done at my university. I’m guessing it should have a similar structure that starts off at the proposal bit. It’s going to seem daunting and like the biggest project you’re going to do ever (I mean it is but only at the university level).

  1. Don’t be afraid to change: I’m crazy about YouTube and YouTubers. So it was by no surprise that I really wanted to do something about that. For the longest time I told my friends that I was going to research about that. I got pointers from my lecturers and started thinking about what aspect of it I wanted to investigate. Things changed. I realised we are in a YouTube era and many would probably be doing the same. So I did a complete 360° and about a month before my proposal submission, I was wrecking my brain for new topics. We were advised to either do (i) something we were passionate about, (ii) something that might get you a job in that sector, or (iii) something that we wanted more answers too. I had ideas for each and nothing was speaking to me. I was running out of time and just then something hit me. Ideograms – emojis, emoticons, acronyms. It fulfilled all of the three categories plus it was unique! Don’t just settle on something because you already thought of it or that it’s easy or any other excuse. It’s a year long project and you definitely need that drive in you to proceed.
  2. Read/Speak: It’s maybe a silly tip but each time I thought I had my topic, I did a massive library search and read up on what’s already done and what’s out there for me. No study is completely finished as there’s always room for improvements. See if you are able to fill in that knowledge gap. Our dissertations are supposed to attempt to fill that gap. Talk to your lecturers. We all have our favourite modules and it’ll be good to speak to them to see if your idea makes sense. Bouncing off thoughts is always good. But don’t go too drastic in wanting to change something within a year, maybe you can even continue your research into your postgraduate studies. We are all searching for information and what better way to get that than to research. We are only students and more than anything they are testing us on our research and analytical skills.
  3. Pilot Study: I’d highly recommend you to do a pilot study. It’s a good indication to show how your methodology would work and you will also have a rough survey/interview questions ready for later. This also shows to your marker that you have gone that extra mile and that you really do care about your dissertation. It wasn’t a compulsory bit for my proposal but it was recommended especially if you are doing an empirical study.

Remember that your dissertation question or area might change as you do your research. Your focus might shift and that’s okay too. Don’t panic unless if you feel as though you are completely gone or you want to change everything later on. Approach your lecturer as soon as you feel that way and see how you can improve it.

Other aspects of Dissertation Dilemma will come your way.

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