A Reflection on my Dissertation Experience

Crisis, confusion, and academic motivation crammed into 7,000 words.

It is a lengthy piece of work that seems to define your undergraduate academic journey; an essay that makes you feel like an expert but also makes you question yourself and your academic capacities. This is the dissertation.

Summary

I chose the topic: British Gothic Monsters in East Asian Culture.

I developed the topic into: An Investigation into how Western Gothic Monsters in Children’s and Young Adult’s Japanese Literature Represent the impact of Cultural Globalisation on ‘Other’ East Asian and Western Cultures.

To create an in-depth focus, I curated the research question: How do the monstrous characters call upon the implied child and young adult reader to respond to globalisation, and how is the implied child and young adult reader positioned to critically respond to globalisation’s impact on themselves?

I split my dissertation into three themes: the superflat theory, hybridity, and the sexualisation and demonisation of the ‘Other’ body. I use these themes to explore how the presentation of gothic monsters in Japanese literature reflect the impacts and processes of globalisation on East Asian cultures, by Western ones.

My dissertation was different to most of my peers in the department. Instead of using Qualtrics and SPSS (ew) and human participants, I studied a corpus of children’s and young adult’s Japanese literature, including the infamous Black Butler series. I do think the corpus of texts I chose inherently made my dissertation process slightly more enjoyable than many would assume.

Reflections

I remember at the end of my second year we had to choose our dissertation topic. Most of the list did not spark my interest but there was one: British Gothic Monsters in East Asian Culture. It was also the most outlandish topic on the list, especially as a student studying in the Education Department. Nevertheless, I was truly drawn to this topic and I was actually quite excited to explore more about this.

Of course, there were some instances where my motivation dipped. However, this is completely acceptable and prioritising your dissertation over everything is not advisable. I will admit that I did not work on my dissertation during the Christmas holidays because I could not think of anything to add. Thankfully I did manage to get back into it before the supervision meeting after the holidays! I think that was the only ‘mad rush’ I had to endure.

My topic was quite a niche once and strayed quite far from the majority of my course content. Although I did regret choosing that topic at first, I am certain that the dissertation gave me a much-needed breath of fresh air. There was only so much learning I could handle about educational theories, lesson plans and educational research.

I did genuinely enjoy aspects of my dissertation. Sometimes I would suddenly feel these ‘sparks’ of motivation and ideas and could write/plan for hours on end. However, this would become a double-edged sword:

There were a few struggles I faced. I am quite a convoluted writer. The word limit was set at 7,000, and I had reached nearly 14,000 when I had finished my first draft. With guidance from my supervisor and hours of work dedicated to cutting it down by nearly half, I whittled my dissertation down to 6,994 words. Yes, it will be painful to do so but keeping within the word count is required. However, I did keep previous drafts of my dissertation, where the word count was in the five-digit range. Keeping multiple versions of your dissertation was helpful if I needed to refer back to something I had accidentally deleted.

It has been a few weeks or so since the submission date. I could not tell you how I think I have done but what I can say is that I worked tirelessly on my dissertation and I can only hope my markers can see that. For now, I am trying to forget about it, not because it was traumatic, but because I need a break from it. I have not dared to read it over and I can officially say I will not be reading about anything Gothic for a while!

However, I had recently picked up a physical copy of my dissertation to take photos around campus! Locations include: in front of my department, Central Hall, Heslington Hall and Greg’s place. Photos are an aesthetic and pleasing way to round off the dissertation process. They shall be scattered around my social media accounts, of course.

Moody’s Most Important Tips

The dissertation process, for me, was actually mostly positive. Here are a few tips and tricks that I utilised to make the experience as pleasant as possible:

  1. PLAN PLAN PLAN: Planning is such a vital step throughout the dissertation process. I often found myself making multiple plans to guide me through the writing process.
  2. Organisation: Organisation is key. For instance, make annotated bibliographies for your literature, keep a track of your references, and keep a track of time! There is no point in leaving everything until the last minute if you know you have the time.
  3. Google Drive: My department recommended we could make a shared Google Drive with our supervisor. This is something I really recommend for other students. Even if you aren’t a fan of Google Docs (like myself), it’s simple to just convert a Word Document into your Google Drive. This also helps you to have smooth communication with your supervisor.
  4. Communication: Communication truly is key with your supervisor. They are there to help you so make sure you attend all of your supervisor meetings and tell them if you are struggling.
  5. Allocating time: I read that students should spend at least two hours a day writing their dissertation. However, do what works for you. The time I spend working on mine varied, ranging from fifteen minutes to even over six hours a day. Make use of the time you have when you feel motivated and don’t half kill yourself when your body and brain do not want to cooperate.

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