Taking your research further
By this stage you should have some idea of your hypothesis and the argument you are going to develop. Be aware that these may change as your research deepens. Use tutor and peer feedback to develop your research.
Remember you can begin writing before you have completed all of your research.
Research might include primary and secondary material. Secondary sources are concerned with information that has been already gathered and interpreted by others and may include sources such as books, articles or documentary films concerning your topic.
- Widen your reading (consider cross-disciplinary sources).
- Begin to identify the theories that might be relevant to your argument.
- Read through your notes and identify key areas - this will help building a thorough knowledge of your material, which you need to plan.
- Try to relate the evidence you have found to possible hypotheses and arguments.
- Try to make original links between the lines of research that you uncover.
- Try to form interpretations based on your own understanding of the material.
- Perhaps begin to refine your arguments and form judgements and draw conclusions.
- Identify areas that need further research.
Once you have a broad understanding of the research that has already been done in your field, you might consider carrying out some primary research. Primary sources are concerned with original research and may include viewing artwork, visiting exhibitions and archives, interviews, questionnaires or email correspondence. If you intend to carry out primary research, allow yourself plenty of time to prepare and complete it.
Planning your dissertation
It is essential to spend time working out the structure of your dissertation before you start writing it. A good dissertation plan will make the writing easier.
You might start by constructing an overview of your dissertation research such as a mind-map or flowchart which you could keep updating as your research progresses. Using this you could extract a linear plan. This may take the form of a series of headings with bullet points or a more visual plan like a flowchart.
- Start by grouping your notes. This could be done by colour-coding or numbering the different sections or even physically sorting the different sections into files, folders or boxes, for example.
- Use these groupings to form the preliminary chapters/sections of your dissertation, then break down each section into a sequence of points leading to a possible conclusion.
Your introduction should immediately engage the reader and provide a 'trailer' for what is to follow:
- You should clearly state your research question.
- You could elaborate on what you are going to write about or investigate.
- You could set your parameters.
- You might want to define any terms or concepts you have mentioned in your research question.
- You must indicate how you will go about answering your research question (methodologies).
- You might give a brief overview on how your dissertation is structured (chapter by chapter).
Your course may require a literature review as part of your dissertation.