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LT901 Research Methods Dissertation Structure
Essay Structure • Introduction - situates the inquiry in a context • - establishes scope of essay • states your argument / aims • Body of essay • provides evidence / analyzes primary sources • each paragraph focuses on and develops one idea / topic • paragraphs should be linked in logical sequence • secondary sources should be used to argue with or against (don’t rely on secondary sources to make your main points or use them as the basis for your structure; create your own structure) • Conclusion • summarizes findings & underlines your ‘verdict’ • elaborates wider implications
Dissertation Structure Title page Abstract (optional) Contents page Acknowledgements (optional) Introduction, including statement of scope, aims / questions, context, methods, and chapter outline Chapters - analysis of primary texts; for creative practitioners, exploration of writing / filmmaking styles that have inspired you & reflection on process Conclusion - for creative practitioners, self-evaluation; summary of findings and implications for our understanding of the topic Bibliography (& filmography, if appropriate)
Chapter-by-Chapter Structure • Number your chapters (e.g. Chapter 1, Chapter 2 …) and give them individual titles • Each chapter should be devoted to a specific aspect of the overarching argument of your dissertation • Each chapter should have its own Introduction, Body of Evidence, and Conclusion (i.e. each chapter is a kind of essay in its own right) • Interweave the threads between chapters, e.g. signpost how the next chapter develops the concerns of the present chapter
The Conclusion • Summary of findings of the dissertation • Elaborate the wider implications for our understanding of the topic / field • Self-evaluation Hint: Don’t leave the conclusion to the last minute! A rushed conclusion can weaken an otherwise good dissertation.
Quotations • Select your quotations carefully, isolating the words or phrases that best capture the essence of the writer’s argument • Provide a footnote to acknowledge the reference, placing the footnote numeral after any punctuation marks, including quotation marks or full-stops, like this.1 • If your quotation is over 50 words, you should remove the quotation marks and indent the quotation - see the example on the next slide. • If you make any alteration to the quotation, you should indicate this with square brackets […] • Leave the spelling as you find it in the original source. If you wish to acknowledge any mistakes you find in the original, then do so by adding [sic]
Layout of long quotations • In the opening of Water, a wide-angle shot establishes a verdant landscape, a body of water over-grown with lilies and coconut palms visible in the distance – conjuring up an uncultivated garden for imperial eyes, especially as signalled in the script: • 1. EXT. TROPICAL VISTA – DAY • A green lush landscape, peppered with coconut trees and banana groves as far as the eye can see. • CLOSE-UP of creaking wooden wheels as they enter the frame … • We are behind a bullock cart as it plods along, its passengers hidden by their own long shadows. • ON two tiny, bare feet, encircled with silver anklets, dangling by the side of the bullock cart. The small bells on the anklets ring sweetly as the feet swing back and forth to the easy rhythm of the cart. • We reveal the seven-year old CHUYIA.2 • However, the film, in contrast to the script, creates ambiguity as to whether what we see is land or water, highlighting instability of vision, rather than mastery of the visual field.
It is good practice to use illustrations - including film stills or any other type of image or diagram as supportive evidence. A well-chosen illustration can help to enhance certain aspects of your argument, and will draw the reader’s attention. However, you should ensure that you elaborate on each illustration - developing several points in relation to it - and not use it for a purely ornamental purpose. • Insert illustrations into the body of your dissertation, near the relevant part of the argument • Number each illustration (e.g. Figure 1) and provide a caption with a brief description. Use of Illustrations Figure 1. The first dream sequence in A Gleam (Ioanna Tsilidou, 2009)
Writing Style • Use of First Person is acceptable • Address an intelligent general reader • Clarity and precision are essential • Explain any specialist terms on first usage • Proofread your work carefully
How to find a dissertation supervisor • Check staff profiles on departmental website • Ask your scheme director whose research interests match those of your topic • Process:SLR – mapping the field • Dissertation Proposal (May/ June) • Work on dissertation with your supervisor (June – Sept)
Build in time for each of the following: • Planning • Wide range of reading & thinking through your subject matter • Drafting (chapter by chapter) • Re-writing • Checking references
Example of a Creative Practice Dissertation Structure • (Discussed here as an example of ‘good practice’, but not necessarily as a prescription of what all MA creative practitioners should do) • Ioanna Tsilidou • - short film, A Gleam (2009) • critical commentary, ‘Representation of Death: An Observation of a Phenomenon Passing through Time’ Main research inquiry: how to represent the subjective experience of time of a man undergoing the passage from life to death
Structure of this critical commentary • Introduction – States intention and what the film is about, summary of concerns & inspirations • Chapter 1 – Relates theories (Deleuze & Tarkovsky on time in cinema) to the chosen form of her film • Chapter 2 - Explores film styles which have been a source of inspiration (Pasolini’s ‘cinema of poetry’ & Tarkovsky’s filmmaking) & her attempt to find her own film language • Chapter 3 – Reflects on Process • - How the idea of time is elaborated in the film through decisions of mise en scene, camera movement, performance & editing • - How practical constraints impacted on the form of her film • Conclusion - Evaluates the finished product in relation to her intentions
Further points of good practice: • The creative piece forms the primary object of analysis throughout the commentary, even when she is discussing theories / other filmmaking styles • As her secondary sources, she draws on • the work of filmmakers whose styles have inspired her • these filmmakers’ own reflections on their practice