Final Reflection

Please reflect on your progress with the dissertation to date and put up a short post of between 250 and 500 words in which you consider:

a) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?

b) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?

c) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?

d) Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?

16 thoughts on “Final Reflection”

  1. a) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?
    I have found accessing the essential literature problematic in putting together my research project. My area of research lacked a variety of online accessible sources which often left me lacking information on key aspects of the Viking age.

    b) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?
    To overcome this, I have been in contact with my supervisor who has helped to provide me with multiple sources to enable me to continue working on my research project. I have also made numerous journeys to the university library to access to resources in person and prevent my work from falling behind the planned deadlines.

    c) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?
    This has taught me that it is important to have a detailed plan to ensure that there is sufficient time to deal with any problems or issues which may arise. Writing the dissertation will be a long process and issues will always come up, but provided I remain calm and stick to my plan I will overcome them with ease. Also, to overcome these issues help from the supervisor will be available throughout the entire process which can help to keep you on the right track.

    d) Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?
    I found that putting us students into contact with our supervisors from an early stage has been extremely beneficial. While Cawood has been very helpful when it comes to questions regarding a specific aspect for the dissertation it has been helpful to speak to someone who is an expert on the topic. Furthermore, the seminars regarding the assignments have also been extremely helpful as they have laid out examples, made the project much clearer, and helped me understand what is expected.

  2. Final Reflection on 9X6
    My Research project will assess the impact of counsel on Mary queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. For me so far as the proposal essay went the main obstacle is the vast amount of literature on both queens that is available. I have often found myself lost in books – then realising they are not as useful as I had hoped at the outset. The sources have also been a challenge, the state papers are vast and looking at them is a challenge to grasp what is relevant for my topic. The main strategy is condensing the time period. I was worried at the outset that the time period was to large. Having discussion with Dr Cathcart I have narrowed it down to predominantly Mary’s personal reign c.1560-1567. This has allowed me to be more direct in approaching literature. Looking at key works on the queens and delving through the most relevant chapters has been the main lesson I have learned. Instead of reading information – that although interesting, is not relevant. 9X6 has provided me with the tools I need to start this project well. The Methodology paper was a great way to make me think about how to use the sources and what particular methodology would be most relevant. The support and guidance on this module have really helped me develop the skills I need to carry out a decent research dissertation. I was a bit overwhelmed in January worrying about how I would approach. But looking at archives etc has allowed me to grasp how to interpret sources and thus will help me when writing my dissertation towards the end of the year.

  3. I think motivation has been a significant obstacle that peers can agree with. As it is necessary for us to become excited and enthused by our own topics in order succeed, it is difficult to do so alone and through only reading sources found on our computers.
    Another obstacle I faced specifically was accessing articles on Jstor and other outlets that were only accessible to American universities as my subject choice centres around an American and his legacy.
    Thirdly, I found it difficult specifying my research questions and slimming down from a vague, general topic of discussion.

    To overcome these obstacles, I developed several different strategies. When it came to motivation, it was incredibly useful to have my enthusiastic Dissertation Supervisor to bounce ideas and sources off of. I also wanted to order books so that I could vary my working habits instead of just staring at a screen all the time – these unfortunately didn’t arrive in time but it’s the thought that counts! The second obstacle is still slightly present, but with some of the articles I managed to contact authors and ask for specific permission. Those who got back to me were very willing to give me access and cite their sources in my work. Lastly, narrowing down my arguments was much easier once I had widened my knowledge base and was able to more clearly see where there gaps and what specific parts of Paul Robeson’s life interested me the most.

    These things have taught me that it will be incredibly important, throughout the process of creating my dissertation, to remain in constant communication with my supervisor, academics and tutors, so that I can absorb knowledge, advice and support.

    I found the seminars with Dr. Cawood extremely useful, especially when looked over the structures and marks for example essays/assignments. Personally, this really helps me map out and plan what I want to express and also allowed me to be less self-critical of my abilities (especially when we all marked an essay significantly lower than it actually achieved).

    – Aylie Fucella

  4. a) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?
    – The main issue I ran into with my research project was the overabundance of sources, both primary and secondary, meaning it was difficult to sift through the sources and pick useful ones.

    b) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?
    – I narrowed down my research question significantly, and made use of advance search on Jstor to keep my inquiries related to my research project.

    c) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?
    – This has taught me that it’s important to stick to your plan and to waste no time on tangents

    d) Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?
    – I found the seminars based around the assignments the most useful, because they helped make the project clearer.

  5. In putting my research project together, I found narrowing down my research question particularly difficult in the early stages. Gaining access to secondary materials online proved to be a slight issue, as many of the key studies in my topic area were not available to read online, and access to some primary evidence was also difficult. In order to overcome these challenges, I used reviews and pieces of secondary literature which explored the arguments of the sources I could not read myself in order to gain an understanding of the content laid out in the central texts. I used further secondary materials which utilised the unavailable primary evidence so that I could gain some comprehension of the initial information in the subject area. Having to face and overcome these challenges has taught me that, when writing my dissertation, I will have to adapt to changes and that my plan will have to be altered as it progresses. I also found that researching for a dissertation is different from researching for a standard essay as you are required to do more on your own (no resource list for example), and so found this module helpful in terms of practice and gaining an idea of what research later in the year will be like. I found the feedback on the methodology essay very helpful in increasing my understanding of both the topic and the ways in which I will use primary materials. The example assignments and dissertation were particularly beneficial as they gave a clear idea of what was expected of me. Carrying out the literature review for the proposal essay was useful as it forced me to think seriously about existing arguments and ideas on the topic and to challenge these before writing my own arguments in my dissertation.

  6. Whilst putting my research project together I encountered various obstacles. Firstly, devising my initial question was quite difficult, I had a few ideas but turning them into a suitable project and a question that had good detail and was not too broad I found quite challenging initially. Also, making sure not to recycle ideas was something I was wary of. Secondly, and I’m sure most people have encountered similar issues, was the problem of services being unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Places where I may gather research, such as libraries and archives have been closed for a long period of time and restrictions will still be in place when they re-open.

    To overcome these obstacles, in terms of my initial question; I emailed back and forth with my supervisor who was very helpful and helped to develop my ideas by suggesting different authors and places to look for further analysis. This allowed me to then decide on my final question which was suitable and accepted by my supervisor. In terms of searching for materials given the current situation, I researched online through various archives to see if there was enough digitised materials in the event that physical archives may remain closed for a further period of time.

    This module has taught me various aspects of the dissertation and the research project I probably wasn’t aware really existed. Learning how to look for materials and the different methods used to approach these materials has been invaluable, as I am now able to confidently research and know exactly what I am looking for, and how I will use this within my dissertation. The two assignments have also helped me approach my dissertation better as reviewing literature, deciding on a methodology etc has helped form the basis of my project and I feel I am in a good place to continue on myself once university is finished for the summer.

    Finally, the most useful aspects of the module to me were the two assignments. They allowed my project to take shape initially with the methodology paper, laying out exactly how I would carry it out and some of the issues previous authors have discussed allowed me to also from the basis of an argument which was really helpful when it came to writing my dissertation proposal which I have found challenging but also has aided in forming an argument by reviewing more sources and setting out my aims and objectives has made the project feel like it is eventually taking shape. The module overall has been very valuable as it has helped to understand more about what the dissertation will consist of and with a year until it is due, having a good start on it in terms of research and reading will prove invaluable when it comes to working on it over the summer and into 4th year.

    -Eilidh Sinclair

  7. a) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?
    – The biggest obstacle I have faced in putting this research project together is grappling with historical methodology and its application.
    – The vast majority of secondary sources regarding the Russian Civil War (RCW) has made it difficult to narrow down the most important and relevant historiography for this research project.
    – Another obstacle was finding suitable translated primary sources.
    b) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?
    – Extensive reading on methodological approaches (archival research, cultural etc.).
    – Time management.
    – Prioritising the reading of the most recent and commended secondary sources on the RCW.
    c) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?
    – The importance of originality and ambiguity when it comes to identifying a suitable research topic.
    – The importance of time management so deadlines are met.
    – The importance of carefully reading secondary sources as to ‘read between the lines’ so important ideas aren’t missed. Also, the importance of making notes on what may be useful about a source (after reading it) should I need to return it in the future.
    – Most importantly, this course has taught me the importance of getting ahead and doing a lot of reading over the summer to put me in a better position come 4th year.
    d) Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?
    – Understanding methodology has been a big help in getting me started working with the relevant primary sources.
    – Some weeks without seminars has eased the pressure and has helped me with doing extra dissertation work and alternative coursework.
    – Getting students into contact with supervisors from the beginning was most useful in starting to think about and share ideas from an early stage.
    – The example methodology and proposal essays provided in seminars were very useful when it came to writing and submitting coursework.

  8. a) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?

    The major obstacles I faced while putting a research project together mostly focused on methodology. This is something that I have not consciously thought about prior to the HISU9X6 module and initially struggled with.

    Another obstacle was attempting to understand what the dissertation involved and how to approach such a piece of work.

    b) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?

    Following the first assignment (Research Methodology Paper), with the group work and feedback, the different types of methodology have become clearer. The main strategy therefore is perhaps reflection.

    From listening to the lectures and contributing to the seminars it appears that to approach the dissertation independent hard work will be the key strategy to undertake this extensive piece of work. By setting goals and having self-reliant deadlines I should be able to meet the deadlines for my dissertation and utilise my time more wisely.

    c) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?

    This has taught me that reflection throughout the researching, and eventual writing of my dissertation, will help simplify complex ideas and solidify my argument.

    This has also taught me that I will have to use my summer wisely. This will be the only opportunity to extensively research different historians’ arguments and discussions and, towards the later half of the summer, engage with the primary sources.

    d) Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?

    I found the group work with others regarding the Research Methodology Paper extremely beneficial as it made me reflect on my own dissertation and allowed me to understand how my classmates attempted to address their own dissertations.

    I also found the Proposal Essay extremely beneficial as it prepares the research for my dissertation in a format that I can add to over the summer. Ultimately, the Proposal Essay has provided me with a format that I feel comfortable with to continue researching my dissertation over the summer.

    The lectures and seminars were particularly helpful, especially at relieving the stresses of approaching such an extensive piece of work. By outlining possible approaches and providing suggestions, the lectures and seminars have helped me identify what the next stages are for writing my dissertation.

  9. Final Reflection
    a) For me so far the main obstacle has been narrowing down and picking out the right and most useful sources, doing the Nuremberg Trials there is thousands of literature that is all available but picking the right one has been proven difficult as I have wasted time reading ones that ultimately didn’t do me any advantages when I was writing my proposal essay.
    b) To overcome this, learning and following the guidance we have been given from our supervisors on how to narrow my searching down so i know exactly what I’m looking for for example when searching about the Nuremberg Trials to type in key words to do with my dissertation like Britain and America, 1945-1946 or Human Rights.
    c)This has taught me that I can use and ask my supervisor for help and support even if i think the questions I’m considering might seem easy that’s what they are there for! Knowing how much reading and work will be going into my dissertation is a scary thought but this has taught me that i am able to make it as easy as i can for myself with resources and literature that is only relevant to my specific topic.
    d) I have found that his entire module has been useful, it has gave us head start in the process of our dissertation from choosing our topic, learning how to write about methodology and pairing us with our supervisor that are most suited to our topic. The assignments and seminars have been challenging but in a way that we know it will be beneficial to us next year when it comes to writing our dissertation and it has prepared me a lot more for what i know will be expected.

  10. a) What have been the major obstacles?
    – My biggest obstacle was finding secondary sources because my topic (attitudes towards Russia during French Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars) has not been the topic of many if any published items but is instead just featured or mentioned briefly in seemingly unrelated books or articles.
    – Another big obstacle is just the sheer volume of primary information. At the moment my topic covers twenty years which means a lot of newspapers and periodicals.
    b) Strategies to overcome these obstacles?
    – One of the little things I have been trying to do is read and take notes on a piece of primary and a piece of secondary material everyday or as much as I can around other module work.
    – Another strategy has been narrowing down newspaper and periodical searches to surround key dates or figures rather than just the blanket term of ‘Russia’.
    c) What this has taught me about approaching the dissertation?
    – That it is important to keep chipping away at it, this is not a regular essay where you can read a half a dozen to a dozen books and then write it, this takes really detailed and specialised knowledge of names, dates, places and links between people.
    – And that going down a rabbit hole of research is both helpful and not. It has taught me to be extremely selective of my readings in a way I haven’t had to be before.
    d) What aspects of this module have been most useful?
    – As much as we are all very critical of ourselves and each other I think it is very useful to get other students input and ideas on our work because if there happens to be overlap then they can maybe help point you in the right direction. It is useful to know that it is a solo piece of work but it isn’t a solo project and that reaching out for secondary input or getting someone else to glance over your work is very helpful and though-provoking.
    – It’s also useful to gain a proper understanding of methodology as compared to other modules where you just ‘do’ the reading and the essay and your methodology is just whatever it happens to be naturally, whereas this module gives you a sense of how to properly research and put your thoughts out there.

  11. a) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?
    The major obstacles I have encountered have been narrowing down my research area to a manageable project and not having access to archival materials due to the current pandemic. Although many archival materials have been digitised, the majority of the archives I require for my topic have not yet been digitised. I struggled greatly with my methodology paper and despite engaging fully with the resources, seminars and lectures, I still found this particular element very difficult. I have also struggled with the lack of open access to the library and not being able to discuss thoughts and ideas with peers as would be the norm in seminar groups.

    b) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?
    I have spent time reading more broadly around the subject area to try and narrow down my specific topic area, as well as regular discussions with my dissertation supervisor who has been extremely supportive and helpful. In terms of archival materials, I have been in touch with the archive centres so I am prepared for when they open and know where I can access the materials I require. I spent time going over the feedback I received for the methodology paper and have taken the comments on board and will take them forward with me into the next semester. I have spent more time engaging with peers from previous modules, discussing our ideas and progression with projects.

    c) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?
    I have learned I need to spend a lot more time reading around the topic area, taking notes and following references from key pieces of work to find further resources. I have realised I need to spend more time making detailed plans of work, before heading straight into my task. I have realised I need to be flexible and adaptable in my approach to the dissertation in case archive centres are not open in time for me to access materials. Going over the feedback I received has given me a better idea of what is expected of me and I will take this on board going forward, I realise it is also important to use the knowledge and expertise of my supervisor, tutors and academics.

    d) Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?
    The whole module has been very helpful in understanding what is to be expected of us in our history dissertations. I felt being able to see, analyse and discuss good quality papers from previous students was extremely useful and good to understand what the “finished article” will look like as it is difficult to see how it will go from an idea in my head to a finished dissertation. Getting started so far ahead of the deadline has definitely helped to calm nerves and disperse overwhelming feelings had we not have done this module.

  12. What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?

    Reflecting on my personal progress with the dissertation up until now the major obstacle I have faced in putting a research project together is narrowing down my study. When we did the methodology peer marking my question it was noticed by a peer that my analysis is not matching my introduction and thought I was in danger of comparing too much. I have now decided to discard the role and attitudes to women in the workplace and now focus on attitudes to women in the workplace. Another obstacle I faced in putting a research project together was establishing a gap in the historiography when writing my methodology paper. I think I did not completely understand this task at the time but now that I have narrowed down my study and had discussions with my tutor, I find it really easy to notice gaps in historiography in relation to my research.

    What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?

    For both of these obstacles I approached my supervisor and the module coordinator to discuss my methodology paper and the research my project is planning to address. After working closely with my supervisor my research has become a lot clearer. I was overwhelmed with information in the middle of the module and my supervisors support has strengthened my research skills.

    What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?

    I have learned to not overwhelm myself with too much information and to take my time and take each reading slowly in order to establish a full understanding. I have had a lot of practice of this throughout the module and I think I have come out of this module a better researcher.

    Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?

    Overall, the 9X6 module has been extremely useful for my understanding of what is expected in a dissertation. I particularly liked how we got given an example of each paper we had due to see what is expected and an example of a final dissertation. I am glad that we have been given this module at this point, it has calmed my nerves on what time scale a dissertation should be written and has given me the opportunity to do some solid starting research in light of writing my dissertation in the next year.

  13. a) For me, I struggled with narrowing down my research focus. The history of interracial relationships is full of nuances and theme overlaps. This became most apparent when reading the secondary literature as I would often read articles that were interesting but maybe not the most useful. Also, I struggled with understanding and identifying all the methodologies I would likely use and how they work together. All in all, starting my research has been quite a complicated area to navigate.

    b) Giving myself plenty of time to establish solid themes within my research. After that, I could spend my time reading more effectively. This was helped further by knowing whether it was better to give articles a close reading or brief overview. Also, I listened carefully to all the advice my supervisor gave me which helped tremendously in narrowing everything down.

    c) I think time management is key. To make sure I understand everything in the detail I need and that I don’t miss anything out, I need to set out large blocks of time to fully immerse myself in the reading.

    d) The course itself has made me view my dissertation much more critically. Exploring methodology and ‘the history of history’ helped me consider what type of historian I want to be- something I haven’t exactly thought about before. Also, as starting a dissertation can be quite daunting, the assignments were particularly useful to give me the push I needed to begin my research. Generally, it has me to feel more confident in developing my dissertation over the next year.

  14. Final reflection

    I decided on my topic quite quickly but have made some changes to it after meetings with my supervisor. When I started researching the Channel Islands Occupation, I thought I would be able to go to the Islands and conduct some research there, such as by visiting museums, heritage trails and bunkers, but with the uncertainty of the pandemic, I had to direct my dissertation to a more online-based theme and research. This meant, for example, analysing how exhibitions, trails and such represent the Occupation will have to happen through an online analysis which changes the focus a little bit compared to what I had thought about at the start. On the plus side, the pandemic has led to many resources and information being put online, which has, for example, also led the Liberation events to change from a street party to an online celebration making it possible for me to analyse how these showcase the narrative in which it is presented without actually visiting the Channel Islands on Liberation day.

    I am aware of the obstacles that I have to overcome, and I can address them by looking at ways to gain information differently. For example, it would have been interesting to visit an exhibition on the Occupation, as that is, as of now not possible. I decided to approach heritage professionals and interview them to gain insights into their exhibition and museum strategy. Contacting archives and museums from the Channel Islands directly is another way through which I hope to gain access to some information on the Occupation, its commemoration and liberation.

    These obstacles have taught me that there might be some problems in gaining information for my dissertation topic, but there is quite often a different way of finding information; it might just take longer. Another aspect raised in this module is to have good time management over the summer, and until the dissertation has to be submitted, I feel like that is very important, especially as the dissertation involves a lot of thorough research.

    This module was beneficial, as reading other people’s dissertations and assignments provided me with examples and a direction to what is expected of me. Moreover, working with my supervisor has helped immensely as she gave me ideas of what to consider in my dissertation, what is possible to do, and in general, having someone to discuss aspects of my topic with was beneficial. I also think that having this preparation module this semester gives us a lot of time over the summer to conduct in-depth research, which hopefully includes some visits to archives and libraries. Even if this will not be possible, I hope to conduct interviews with professionals from the Channel Islands museums and exhibitions through an online platform such as Microsoft Teams, which is more likely to happen.

  15. Final Reflection- Chloe Nash
    My research project is on the depiction of the enemy in propaganda in WWII, comparing Britain and Germany.

    What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?

    The most difficult thing I found when putting my research project together was figuring out what I actually wanted to study, research and write about. I had many different ideas but I couldn’t decide what one would be best. I also found it hard to get used to finding the appropriate sources and I also found it hard initially to figure out what sources were useful and good quality. After learning what websites had reliable information and sources I found it a lot easier to see what topics had enough sources and information and therefore, it was a lot easier to decide what I wanted to research and write about. I also felt anxious about writing my dissertation at the start as I found the idea of the dissertation itself daunting but after attending the classes and speaking with my supervisor I felt a lot more comfortable and I am now enjoying organising my dissertation and doing my reading for it.

    What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?

    One of the strategies I found that helped me overcome these obstacles was trying to plan my time equally through the semester, for example, look at when all my due dates were and schedule specific time to sit down and read and write my assignments up whilst also taking time to go a walk and take time out. I also think speaking to my supervisor helped as it allowed me to be reassured on any questions I had and also it allowed me to ask for help when I felt stuck or overwhelmed. Speaking to other students has also helped me as I can see that they either feel the same or they sometimes have answers to some of my questions. The classes each week have also helped clarify everything for me and hear other students’ opinions and questions.

    What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?

    This has taught me how to plan my time out appropriately whilst not overwhelming myself with everything at once. It has also taught me to sit back and look at what I have to do and planning it in a way that allows me to meet deadlines and also take breaks to do something else to make sure it doesn’t all get too much. This has definitely helped me find a good balance. It has also taught me the importance of reading for my dissertation as I have actually enjoyed sitting down and doing the reading as all of my assignments were submitted on time.

    Which aspects of the 9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?

    The class each week has been really helpful as it has clarified a lot of things for me. I also find the meetings with my supervisor has helped as it allows me to ask any questions I may have. The examples my supervisor has provided of other peoples’ work has also really helped me as it has allowed me to look at what they have done and it has helped me with any worries I may have had around structuring my assignments. The module overall has really settled my mind about the dissertation and I feel like it has gave me a clear plan of what I have to do over the summer and in my dissertation on a whole.

  16. Final Reflection

    During the time I’ve spent trying to put together the start of my research project I’ve came up against a few obstacles, one of these was actually deciding what topic I wanted to write my dissertation on and trying to narrow it down to be more specific. To overcome this issue I tried to think about what topics I actually enjoy learning about and find myself drawn to in my spare time. Once I finally managed to decided on a more general and broader area of study to narrow it down I began reading up on the current literature available on the topic and found myself being drawn to more specific areas that met my interests, luckily enough my area of interest was also one that several historians have regarded as being neglected. I then emailed my tutor with my idea and he made suggestions to help me narrow it down even farther to make it more manageable for an undergraduate dissertation topic. This obstacle has taught me that when approaching a dissertation or a large piece of work it soon becomes a lot easier if you actually enjoy the topic. During the 3 years I’ve spent in university I’ve never really came across a topic I actually enjoyed in any of my modules, so every essay has been a massive chore but hopefully I’ll enjoy this one a bit better. It has also taught me to make realistic targets and expectations when carrying out a project by ensuring I have chosen a manageable area of study that I am able to cover in detail in the given time and available resources. Another lesson I have learned after facing this obstacle is to accept and consider the suggestions of others and that should you ask for help and guidance it will most likely be given. The HISU9X6 module has been extremely helpful in helping me begin my dissertation, before this module I never really knew or understood what methodology was, whenever I’ve written essays or carried out work before I’ve never thought about how or why I am doing it I’ve just done it without a second thought. However, after the first assignment and the seminars we spent discussing methodology I now realise the importance and value of choosing the right method for my research topic. The example essays and assignments have also been a good guide on where to start, also marking them by going through the rubric scheme has also given me a better idea of what will be and is currently expected of me and my work.

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