Ahhh, the deadline for my 10,000 word dissertation is looming fast. Well, it’s actually still another month and a half away yet but with a 5,000 word case study due in the week before and a 2 hour exam shortly after there is actually very little time available. But, it looks like I am on track. I have finished my interviews and transformed my findings into themes and started writing them up into paragraph form (although there are still an awful lot of bullet points instead of sentence). And I am still enjoying it. My interviews were great fun as I got to meet loads of lovely people in my village and got made lots of cups of tea. And although it’s been very hard work, it feels very satisfying to have an analysis chapter almost complete.
However, I did have some difficulties along the way. A few weeks ago I had to make a major change to my research. I didn’t have to change my methods or anything, but I had to cut out one of my research questions. In all fairness I did see this coming because we had been frequently told not be overly ambitious in our research aims . My research is based in a village in North Norfolk and I originally planned to interview middle class gentrifiers to discover their motives for moving there as well as the locals to find out whether they believe the gentrifiers to have influenced the village community. But, when I started analysing some of the interviews I realised that this was far too much to try and answer. I therefore, after contemplating it for several days, decided to focus just on interviewing the gentrifiers. I am still looking at the influence gentrification has had on the community but from the point of view of the gentrifiers instead of the locals.
This change meant I had to change my literature review because a lot of the studies I had included were the ones explaining the ‘them and us’ distinction between the locals and the gentrifiers. So I had to go and find more research on gentrifiers’ constructions of the rural. I also had to change my introduction and methodology chapters to focus on summarising the new approach instead of the old one. This was really annoying because I thought that these chapters were done and dusted! But now that I’ve made all of these changes it all seems a lot clearer. Everything is a lot more concise and its looking more likely that I will stay under the word limit!
So, tip for you second years who are already thinking about your dissertation: don’t try and answer too much. The point of the dissertation is to assess your ability to conduct research, not to find some miraculous discovery. So stick with just one research question, even if it’s tempting to try and be ‘original’.