living and learning

Friday, 9 April 2010

Dissertation - keeping it together

Where have the Easter hols gone?? :( Two and a half weeks, and our dissertation proposals are due - better get cracking! A couple of lessons learnt so far:

Keep track of everything

I'd done the reading, found some meaty references, but when the weekly dissertation tutorial rolled around, I realised I had nothing to bring along! No lists or summaries, nada. It was was a grand mess - a bookmark or two here, a pdf file there - everything else resided in the foggy recesses of my brain. Not good, I figured, so I took the advice and got a 'master notebook' especially for the purpose. It's one of those fancy spiral-bound A5 project books with pockets (I tend to jot stuff down on scraps of paper), but any notebook will work just as well really. The plan is to put everything dissy-related in there, including searches and titles and ideas and whatnot. I've written down page headers such as 'things to find out', 'literature review resources', 'key papers', 'key dates', and 'questionnaire questions' (yeah my mind wanders) - the pages are mostly blank now, but if I keep adding things once they occur, I'll have a list of ideas handy for each leg of the journey!

Trawl the sea of literature...physically

My chosen area of research is rather obscure to start with, and even more so for the location I'm focusing on. As a result, my literature review tends to get stuck in a rut. A good way of stepping back to see the bigger picture is to go down to the library and browse the relevant shelves for related titles. I did a search with keywords and pinpointed 17 shelves of related material, each with perhaps 20 books. Around 300 titles to scan. Sounds horrifying, but I hit gold on the very first round - a social audit report that is the perfect working example of my vision if there ever was one! Definitely going to keep at it.

What valuable lessons have you learned?


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