Dissertation series part 1: Final year

As I’m writing, I’m half-way through my final year at university already and I thought it was a good idea to document the process of me writing my dissertation. It’s going to be a series and I think it will be both beneficial for me personally, but also for people who will write a dissertation in this discipline in the future.

First I want you to know that I’m nowhere near the ideal student and the way I conduct my research, might not be the best way to do it. But it works for me and it might give you an idea, that you can still succeed even if you are have difficult moments.

Last year at university
So, I’m at my final year of university and let me tell you a few things about it all:

  • I’m an Bachelor Arts & Culture student at Maastricht University in the Netherlands with the specialisation Media Culture. My study aims to look at different contemporary problems from the point of view from 6 different disciplines: Art, Technology, Science, History, Politics and literature.
  • This year (and every other academic year at my uni) consists of two semesters. The first semester is the so-called free fifth semester. In this semester you are free to choose to go study abroad, go on an internship or do a minor of your choosing. I opted to go on an internship in Rotterdam, also in the Netherlands.
  • During this year there are few things I have to do, before I can successfully end my studies. I have to conduct a literature studies connected to my internship and finally my dissertation, which I will really write about more
  • This may be a point of frustration, but I started the study in Dutch and they changed the study into English after one year. Now this isn’t really a problem for me personally, but it’s kind of complex with writing assignments and making exams. It’s bloody confusing.

Getting my shit together
Before I can get started with writing my thesis or dissertation, I need to set a few things straight. Actually just one, but nonetheless very important: myself. I’m all over the place with everything I do, but if I want this dissertation to be a success, I need to be organised. Really organised.

  1. Communication. That’s the first thing to do when you are dealing with something vast like a dissertation. I have to communicate with myself, my fellow students and above all, with my lecturers. To find out my options are and to have a proper discussion about several topics, I need to make appointments. Communication is very important, because without it your dissertation might get into a real sloppy start and that’s no way to start this project.
  2. I need to get a supervisor and that’s quite a tricky thing. I spoke about communication above and you want your supervisor to communicate well. But in – my experience it’s also very important to have a supervisor that knows his or hers stuff. You are going to want a supervisor that is an expert on the field that you are researching. For example, if I’m writing my dissertation on the 16th century Reformation, a supervisor with expertise in post-modernism isn’t the best choice. Communication + expertise = the best combination.
  3. Contrary to popular belief, this is not something that you can do in one week. Well, you can but your end product won’t be good. You need to make a decent planning, so you can progress in your dissertation, step by step. In a way, writing these blogposts is a form of planning and fragmentation as well.
  4. I’m reviewing the papers I’ve written before. I look at the ones I liked regarding the topics, but I’m also look at the ones I really wrote well and got a decent mark for. This way I know what aspects of writing a paper I’m good at and which aspects I need to improve in the very near future.

Next step
The next step for me is going to look at thesis frames, which I will touch upon in the next blogpost. In combination with my specialisation of Media Culture, I will make a balanced decision which thesis frame and which topic I will choose to conduct my research to write my dissertation.

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