Friday, 4 September 2015

Thinking of your DIssertation as a Story


This post is aimed at MA ILTUS students (an amazing bunch of trade unionists!) coming to Ruskin College 12-13 September for the additional weekend prior to the start of the 2015-16 academic year.

The image below is taken from Hart (2005), it is in chapter 4 (Imagining your dissertation) where a key theme that Hart is developing is the idea of the dissertation/research as a story.

As Hart states "Seeing the dissertation as a story has a number of useful advantages. In particular it can help you think about your topic as a story, what you intend to do, how you will do it and that you will need to have an ending, the conclusion"

As with any good story you also need to think about the interconnections between differing chapters. I will ask Matt and Paul to discuss this in detail when they attend the Oct and Jan workshops (you'll have a copy of their dissertation by then) as they will be able to relate the concept (again important to a good story) of 'narrative flow' i.e. how central focus, drive and direction is maintained throughout.

This sense of narrative flow is generated, in part at least, by the way in which you will shape and structure the assignment to achieve a form of interconnectedness. So, for example and as you can see below, a key influence on the way the introduction is written, is drawn from argument/theory in the literature review.

Similarly, your findings and analysis chapter must cohere with your core research aims/question and the literature review so that (a) you are seen to 'answer' the research questions, but also (b) you are seen to 'fill the gaps' in the literature.
From: Hart, C (2005) Doing your masters dissertation. Sage. London
Additionally, and particularly important, is that your methodology chapter is written so that it is seen as being informed by (a) your research aims/questions, (b) the literature review. The reason why the image below also connects the methodology chapter to the findings and analysis chapter is that in this chapter you are expected to discuss, for example, how/whether the research methods chosen enabled you to generate findings as anticipated or whether you gained more/less, and what you learned from this.
This latter point is particularly important as (you'll be bored of Fenella and I making this point during your second year) the dissertation is not just research, it is also evidence of being able to do research.

And, in the notion of the dissertation as a story, this focus on what you have learnt from undertaking the research. is such a valid component. It really does provide a sense of the highs/lows of getting the research done and getting the dissertation written.

So, please prepare for a discussion on Sat/Sun on (a) how you see the dissertation as a story, (b) approaches to maintaining narrative flow, (c) your thoughts on developing interconnectedness and (b) how you will manage all of this during what will be a challenging, but hopefully enjoyable second year of the MA.

See you on Saturday.

In Solidarity


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