Masters dissertation advice? Watch

charmander12
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Hey,

I guess this is for anyone who has done one, or to those who are going to do one.

It's coming to that dreaded time - I need to come up with my proposal within a couple of weeks. I have a few ideas circulating in my head - but I'm worried it will run the risk of being unoriginal. I was thinking (it's a sketchy idea) of focusing on some aspect of Marxism/Leninism, or Stalinism as a political doctrine. However, I know that these topics would have been done to death, but obviously one of the good things about doing a popular, well researched topics is the amount of literature there is on the matter.

To any one who has done a Masters dissertation - is it worthwhile to stick with something typical, or did you try to come up with something original and a topic which has rarely been focused on?

Any tips would be appreciated.

Thanks
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gutenberg
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On my Master's course, originality was expected and so practically everyone had carved themselves out a topic that hadn't really been 'done' before. Of course some of these topics occurred in areas that were heavily researched (I did history, so there were topics in witchcraft, the Reformation etc., all heavily researched), but we were expected to focus on some less-researched aspect, but still with the backing of wider literature. So yes you can pick something like Stalinism say, but you'll do better if you can identify some neglected aspect of it and make that your niche for original research.
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Jantaculum
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Big bonus points for originality in my Masters. Apart from anything else, it's more interesting for the markers to read (slightly joking here but there is some truth in it).

I would also say that choosing something that's well researched gives you too much reading to do - you can waste quite a lot of time on wider reading and it takes longer to find your specific area.

One possible way of finding originality in popular topics is to choose a neglected theory - something that was fashionable 10 or 20 years ago but has since been abandoned - find out why it became unpopular - examine its merits in the light of more recent writing - then conclude whether it is time for the abandoned theory to be revisited.

Above all choose something that interests you because there will be times when you HATE your subject!
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Klix88
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If you have vague ideas, try meeting a couple of staff members - potential diss supervisors would be best - and talk them through. It's OK to have general ideas and then get help to focus in on a topic.
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iceflyier
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I've just finished an English MA and my dissertation was on John Ruskin, which is about as mainstream/typical as they come, a fact my supervisor actually commented on when I got my feedback. I do remember worrying a little as well about the fact that my topic of interest had probably been done to death when I had to hand in my initial research proposal, and I seriously contemplated switching to an obscure/non-canonical author just for the sake of it. At the end, though, I reasoned that since it was going to be a hefty piece of work I would be spending a lot of time on, I might as well do something I loved, even if it had already been "researched thoroughly." When I did the literature review, I found a very nice niche in which my research could fit, which was apparently "new" and "original", and went from there. I really enjoyed writing/researching my dissertation and incidentally got a distinction for it (only about 5% of the year were awarded this mark).

Basically what everyone else here has been saying is it - what matters in the end is that you choose something you're really interested in, that you can see yourself devoting lots of brainpower to. Probably a tad cliche but hey, it works

Hope this makes sense and helps you a bit! Good luck with your proposal
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evantej
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(Original post by charmander12)
Hey,

I guess this is for anyone who has done one, or to those who are going to do one.

It's coming to that dreaded time - I need to come up with my proposal within a couple of weeks. I have a few ideas circulating in my head - but I'm worried it will run the risk of being unoriginal. I was thinking (it's a sketchy idea) of focusing on some aspect of Marxism/Leninism, or Stalinism as a political doctrine. However, I know that these topics would have been done to death, but obviously one of the good things about doing a popular, well researched topics is the amount of literature there is on the matter.

To any one who has done a Masters dissertation - is it worthwhile to stick with something typical, or did you try to come up with something original and a topic which has rarely been focused on?

Any tips would be appreciated.

Thanks
I agree with the other posters. If you can do something original then do that. If you cannot then it is about striking a balance between something being generic, where there is too much literature to engage with, and doing some so specific that it ends up being rather trite and meaningless (the representation of washing lines in foreign-national writers based in Russia in the first half of 1961).

The obvious choice would be to pick someone who is relatively important but who has not been covered all that well for whatever reason (usually methodological reasons, but sometimes other figures - like Marx, Lenin and Stalin, for that matter - draw critics attention). There are always characters like this in every period I have looked at. I do not know much about Russian politics in the 20th century (more of a 19th century man myself) so I cannot help you more specifically unfortunately.
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charmander12
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Thanks everyone for your insightful comments


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charmander12
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(Original post by evantej)
I agree with the other posters. If you can do something original then do that. If you cannot then it is about striking a balance between something being generic, where there is too much literature to engage with, and doing some so specific that it ends up being rather trite and meaningless (the representation of washing lines in foreign-national writers based in Russia in the first half of 1961).

The obvious choice would be to pick someone who is relatively important but who has not been covered all that well for whatever reason (usually methodological reasons, but sometimes other figures - like Marx, Lenin and Stalin, for that matter - draw critics attention). There are always characters like this in every period I have looked at. I do not know much about Russian politics in the 20th century (more of a 19th century man myself) so I cannot help you more specifically unfortunately.
That's really helpful and I see what you mean. I could possibly look at Bukharin but I know there's only a handful of biographies written about him, so it's kind of obscure in that sense. It's just finding that balance between something with next to no literature on it and a decent amount of literature. Food for thought though


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gingerfoxy
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Hello,
I am currently doing a Msc in International political economy at LSE.
I am in the process of finding a dissertation question, yet unsuccessfully.
I am quite interested in CSR and tax evasion/avoidance but I am quite unsure if it is possible to link both in a novel way.
Does anyone have any potential ideas? Or perhaps even suggestions for a different topic?
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