Dissertation Drama: Week 1
Last Friday (28th of April) I had an informal first meeting with my dissertation supervisor, launching me into the final leg of my master’s degree and Dissertation Drama: Week 1. For those of you who don’t know, my dissertation will be an analysis of the different kinds of creativity used in fanfiction, as well as the notions of authenticity involved (at least at the moment).
Not gonna lie, I left that first meeting feeling mildly nauseous. I’ve never written a piece of research longer than 4k before. The End of Atlas is currently over 80k, but I feel like creative pieces are somewhat different to extended academic research…maybe because I’ve been working on that since I was 7-years-old.
But I know I’m capable of writing a 15k dissertation. It is something I can do. Step by step. And I thought, perhaps, y’all would like to come on this magical journey with me.
Everything I’ve learnt about writing a dissertation in Week 1:
- All supervisors differ – Having spoken to one of my course mates, and friends who’ve also done a master’s at UoB, I’ve noticed that they seem to have pretty different descriptions of how their supervisor approaches(ed) helping a student deal with their dissertation. Some are strict, dictating what they expect by the next meeting, others are more flexible. I imagine, in part, it’s due to the kind of students they’ve dealt with in the past, or maybe they just have a different approach to teaching in general. The key thing to remember is, whoever you’ve got, you need to learn how to work with them. Be flexible and be motivated. Keep going.
- Having a diary/notebook is key – During lectures, you take notes. When you read, you take notes. When you’re working on your dissertation TAKE NOTES. And do it in a way that works for you. Back when I started throwing ideas around, I bought myself a standard notebook, and made the first two pages into and Index/Contents page, bullet journal style. I don’t keep a bullet journal, but I figured the Contents page element would be super useful, given that it’s almost guaranteed I’m going to need to flick back and look at my notes on something at some point.
- Literature reviews should be about 4k – Here’s the thing…I’ve never written a literature review before. A number of friends had to do one in the first year of their undergrad as part of the “Independent Study Module” they all had to take. Problem was, as a creative writer, I didn’t take that module. This year, however, a number of lecturers have brought up literature reviews when talking about essays, mainly to say, “Don’t waste 1000 words just talking about background literature. Sow the criticism of other works throughout your essay.” Then I started sketching my plan, based on a dissertation without a “Literature Review” section…but with a 4k Methodology section. It wasn’t until I dug back through my notes, and spoke to a few friends that I realised, yup, a literature review is about 4/5k of a dissertation. Glad I noticed that one.
- There is always more to talk about – Going into this, I thought I would only need to talk about models of authenticity and highlight the one’s I was going to need to use. By the end of my first week, I’m now up to three model areas I’m probably going to need to discuss: authenticity, creativity and narrative. I already know the models I’m likely to use, but the wonder of that sneaky 4k literature review, means that Imma have to find out what models I’m not using too 😉
And that’s about it for Dissertation Drama: Week 1. I’m hoping these entries will help me keep track of everything, but will also prove useful for others in my situation. If you’ve just started your dissertation, I’d be interested to know what you’ve learnt so far. And if you’re a veteran dissertation writer…hit me up with your hints. Come at me bro, plz 😉