a) What have been the major obstacles you have faced in putting a research project together?
Although it is excellent that a vast variety of the primary material I will use in my dissertation – newspapers, periodicals, and satirist journals – can be accessed online (especially with fluctuating Covid-19 restrictions), I have found scouting specific material very overwhelming, and I believe that this will be an issue I will be faced with later on down the line. Moreover, I have found condensing my research questions and specific aims and objectives rather difficult. I faced great apprehension over missing out on something crucial or making my research questions too specific or too broad. I have found knowing what to read rather challenging though fear of wasting time on something that may not be relevant.
b) What strategies have you adopted to overcome these obstacles?
Honing in on which specific press publications to use in my dissertation with the help of my supervisor, whilst developing an effective methodological approach, has made accessing primary material online less of a challenge, and has set me up for the deeper research I will undertake over the summer and in the next academic year. In addition, the support and advice given by the History librarian on advanced search tools and keyword searches have made navigating the ‘Aladdin’s cave’ that is the newspaper database easier. Speaking to my peers and my supervisor has helped greatly in developing my research aims/questions, and consequently, this has helped in knowing what to read. The university library have also been very accommodating in regard to this.
c) What has this taught you about approaching your dissertation?
Working by yourself can often cause you to overthink. This results in unnecessary confusion. Thus, though a dissertation is often assumed to be an exclusively individual piece of work, knowing when and who to ask for help and guidance is very important – whether this be your supervisor, librarian, or classmates.
d) Which aspects of the HISU9X6 module have been the most useful in helping you get your project ready to start?
The module itself has been brilliant. I was always a little confused, as were the people who I discussed the module with (friends studying history at other universities, friends in other subjects, family, etc), as to why we were encouraged to start looking at our dissertations at this stage in our undergraduate studies. But, after completing the module, I can’t imagine having to prepare for our dissertations without it. Although I still have some anxiety about the process, which I think is only natural – the seminars, discussions, and assignments in 9X6 (showing examples of previous students’ work was very helpful for completing the assignments) have been imperative for my understanding of what it takes to write a dissertation. This module has made something scary and rather alien, seem familiar. In addition, finding a supervisor at this stage and developing initial rapport with them has made the process far less daunting. I am excited for my dissertation, and I am looking forward to spending the summer researching and developing my subject!