Starting my dissertation research over summer

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billie23
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So I'm doing my degree in English Literature and Film studies and have decided to write my dissertation on Disney. However, where do I even begin. My uni don't start discussing and asking us to plan for this work in December and it's due in May, such a silly idea. But my friends who have just graduated have told me to start asap on all the reading. But where do I begin? Do I just read and find as much info as possibly, or do I read and start making notes on things that would suit my what I'm writing in relation to Disney or what?
Any suggestions/tips would be great
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Edu-Eye
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Hi Billie,

Firstly, well done for being so enthusiastic!! - I teach research methods in a university and would love to have a few more students getting to grips with their 'dissy' so early on!

So the first stage in tackling your research is to revisit your course/module guide, and see whether there are any specific guidelines you need to comply with, for example, any specific 'way' you need to look at the topic, eg. Disney as a business, their films, the wider aspects such as theme parks, stores etc, their impact on society or even Walt Disney himself! I suspect from your course, it may be the 'films' perspective, but again do consider the wider aspects of Disney's 'influence' as this may help you define exactly where to go with it.

What I mean by this is that (without any specific 'this is what you MUST do' orders from the uni) most topics can be looked at from several (and sometimes lots of!) different viewpoints - as noted, something like Disney can be seen as a business, as a film-making 'powerhouse', as a global brand, perhaps even something that has changed society (all our childhoods!), and it's often nice, not to mention interesting, to take a slightly different twist. Some of this choice will be down to you, some might be guidance from your tutor(s), but often this will be dictated by the availability of both academic sources (books/journals) out there plus what sort of research you want to do.

Obviously again you need to look back at the 'spec' for this - do you need to do a review of literature? - do you have to do primary research? - indeed can you only do secondary research? - this may shape your approach. But if you have to or can do a 'lit review', then this will be the place to start...

So, with your 'approach' defined, eg. you're looking at the impact of Disney's films on society, you can then brainstorm the key issues here and either a) create a mind map or b) create a list. You may begin with a brief overview of Disney - perhaps the history, then a note on how it developed to where it is today, perhaps including a note on the man himself (he will have 'shaped' it) - then perhaps some overview of key films, turning points if you like in its development, plus reviews of these, links to events in the country (US) or world at the time, etc - lots of scope (!!) but do try and create a logical 'flow'. For my own students, I ask them to 'underpin' all their points with 'theory' from books/journals plus good quality websites etc, so when you have the key points you want to make listed, then look for and note down sources (always reference in full as you go, which saves you doing this at the end!).

As a film studies student, you may also have to (check!) or be tempted to stick with literature in this area, but do consider other subjects that may be able to contribute - in this example, you could look at history (to see what was happening in the world at the time of the films), sociology (to see how these fit in with societal views and behaviours), psychology (to see the potential effect films can have on people) and even literature (to see how the films compared with writing and other media at the time). Perhaps also into business eg. was Disney doing this for the money or philosophy, eg. was it to make a point? BUT do keep focused on what you want to get at here - it's very easy to go off on too much of a tangent!!

When you have you 'lit review' 'constructed': points/notes plus sources, you can then fiddle around to make sure it flows well and reads logically, then begin to make it 'pretty' ie. into well-written sentences and paragraphs. Do bear in mind that when you write your research strategy - this is trickier to explain and will probably be specific to your uni/school or tutor, so I don't want to tread on too many toes! - you will probably go back and tweak the lit review anyway to ensure it fits with this, but the process of a) defining your topic and specific approach, b) creating an effective structure, c) sourcing material as per both, and d) writing this up, should get you started. You can then discuss your progress and the next step(s) with your supervisor/tutor when you go back to uni.

Hope this helps? Take care and have fun (!!)...Helen

University Lecturer & Academic Director of Edu-Eye
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