independent research project | My Assignment Tutor

1LCF SCHOOL OF MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONDISSERTATION GUIDELINES 2020/2021WHAT IS THE CHS DISSERTATION?A dissertation is an extended piece of writing (7000 words in our case) that focuses on atheme or topic that you have selected, and that is divided into a number of sections or“chapters”.This unit is your opportunity to work on an exciting, independent research projectculminating in a 7000-word dissertation.In this unit you will build on the research and analytical skills that you have developed overthe past 2 years of CHS. You will identify a topic, choose a method for undertakingresearch, gather primary and secondary research, and write what you have found out over anumber of chapters or sections.The dissertation is a 40-credit unit, which equates to a third of your final grade for the year.WRITING AND RESEARCHING THE CHS DISSERTATIONWriting a dissertation will enable you to explore your intellectual and creative concerns andto investigate cultural phenomena that interest you. The dissertation should demonstratean engagement both with an existing body of scholarly research and with primary materialsthat you have gathered yourself. It is a substantial piece of writing that gives you the scopeto explore a well-defined topic in depth by interpreting first hand research, academic texts,and the ideas of relevant theorists.A successful dissertation will advance a coherent argument or line of reasoning and willhave a clear focus. By the end of the research process you should be able to explain thebroader significance of your topic. Researching and writing your dissertation will requireyou to work with greater independence and dedication than in previous CHS units, but youwill benefit from the expert advice of a tutor in both one-to-one supervision tutorials anddedicated dissertation group tutorials.A GOOD DISSERTATION WILL INCLUDEo a well-defined, focused area of studyo analysis and interpretation of primary researcho a discussion of your choice of research methods and why they have been selectedo a thorough engagement with relevant academic literatureo clear links between the academic literature you explore and your primary researcho correct use of Harvard referencing including accurate use of quotation marks, intext citation, and the inclusion of a bibliography/reference list2o a clear and engaging writing styleo a clear argument or line of reasoning that emerges over the course of thedissertationo a clear research question that can be answered within the scope of a 7000-worddissertation and/or a clearly phrased dissertation title that explains the purpose ofthe dissertation.YOU, YOUR TUTOR AND THE SUPERVISION PROCESSIn producing your dissertation, you are expected to work with a high degree ofindependence, maturity and dedication. You will not be set an essay question, you willcome up with your own title, and you will undertake your own reading and research.o A dedicated tutor will support you through a series of 4 one-to-one supervisiontutorials and 2 group tutorials all of these will be online.o One-to-one tutorials will provide you with an opportunity to discuss your writingand research in depth and benefit from expert advice.o In the group tutorials you will join your tutor and a small group of students todevelop your skills in research, analysis and academic writing.o You will be expected to develop the dissertation iteratively over the course of the 6sessions: you must attend all these sessions – if you do not, you will put yourself at asignificant disadvantage.Your tutor’s role is to guide you and support you:o they will advise you on the scope of your topic,o they will discuss your research and your ideas,o they will advise you on research methods and approaches to analysis,o they will help you to develop your structure and argument, and they will support youin developing your academic writing.However, your tutor cannot come up with ideas on your behalf: they cannot tell you exactlywhat to do or undertake research or analysis for you. You will have to make your ownchoices and decisions about how to proceed with writing and research. Support will begiven during tutorials and workshops but not outside of these times, but you may contactyour unit leader by email if you have any concerns about your dissertation.Students who benefit most from the supervision process are those who prepare for theirtutorials and who come with specific questions or areas of concern.ASSESSMENTYour grade will be based on the 7000-word dissertation submitted in week 12 after theWinter Break (slightly later for students with a validated ISA or validated extenuatingcircumstances). For full information on submission refer to the unit handbook on Moodle.To pass, your dissertation should demonstrate the following:31. a clearly identified and focused research project and related research questions2. an ability to identify and critically review a relevant academic literature3. the collection of primary and secondary data* and reflection on research method(s)4. the application of appropriate cultural and historical studies theory in an analytical way5. an ability to present a well-researched, cogent and sustained argument following theconventions of academic writing.* The word data is used here to mean research and information in general includingimages, archival research, interviews and academic texts. Most students will undertakequalitative, visual, or textually based research.FORMATTING YOUR DISSERTATION & USING ACADEMIC LANGUAGEYou should remember that your dissertation may be read by several people some of whomwill not be familiar with your research process or your ideas. For this reason, it is importantthat your dissertation is clearly written, logically organised and persuasively argued. Youmust use the Harvard referencing style and include a bibliography/reference list.o Your tutor will offer you guidance on writing in an academic style: you will need touse technical terms and to refer to key concepts, but you do not need to adopt anextremely elaborate writing style or vocabulary. It is often better to use clear,precise, grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs than to use an elaboratewriting style that is difficult to understand.o The dissertation should have an introduction and conclusion and should be dividedinto a number of chapters or sections using headings and sub-headings.o Double-space the dissertation so that your marker can make notes; use a neutral,professional, unobtrusive typeface/font such as Helvetica or Times New Roman; anduse page numbers.o Any images that are analysed in detail can be included in the body text, imagesshould be numbered and captioned in a consistent way, additional images and othermaterials relevant to your dissertation but not discussed in detail (such astranscripts from interviews) can be included in appendices that come after yourbibliography.o Where relevant, interview data should be included either as a clearly labelled link toan audio file, or as a transcription in an appendix. You will also need to quote fromthe interview in the dissertation itself.o It is better to avoid slang terms unless they convey an important idea that cannot beotherwise expressed (in this case use italics or quote marks and, where relevant,include a definition of the term).o It is more unusual to use the first person “I” or “me” in academic writing than inother forms of writing, but it is not wrong to do so. If you are discussing your own4experiences (for example if you are using autoethnography as a research method)then you should use the first person.o You may include an abstract or table of contents at the beginning of thedissertation, but this is not mandatory.o It is important to offer your interpretations of your research. You will need to discussthe significance of your research.ACADEMIC SUPPORTAcademic Support can offer advice on all matters relating to academic writing, academicreading, research, and developing strategies to successfully complete your dissertation.Their support should be used in addition to (not instead of) the support offered by yourdissertation tutor. They can help you to write in an academic voice, to format your work,and to improve your analysis. Academic Support offer bookable one-to-one tutorials,workshops and drop-in sessions. They are not a proofreading service:[email protected] .Your course librarian will also be able to support you in researching your topic, finding anacademic literature, accessing scholarly journals, and even gathering primary research.The language development service provides excellent support for students working in asecond or other language: [email protected] ACADEMIC PRACTICE – AVOIDING ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT & PLAGIARISMMost forms of academic misconduct that we see – both deliberate and accidental – involvestudents not acknowledging other people’s contribution to their work.Any writing taken from elsewhere and included in your dissertation must be surroundedwith quotation marks and cited. This goes for both English text and text that you havetranslated from another language. All sources must be listed in the referencelist/bibliography.It is important to acknowledge when ideas discussed in your work have been drawn fromelsewhere using in-text citation and an entry in the reference list/bibliography. It is goodpractice to read widely and to reference authors’ ideas in your writing. An absence ofreferences to other academics will make your work appear poorly researched.Turnitin Feedback Studio (which is available via Moodle) can help you by highlightingquoted text in your dissertation: if this text isn’t surrounded in quote marks then you needto correct this error. Checking your work prior to submission using the practice area ofTurnitin is highly recommended.Your tutor, Academic Support, and the online resource http://arts.ac.libguides.com/citethemrightcan provide advice on Harvard referencing. See also the Library Guide to referencinghttp://arts.ac.libguides.com/referencing5Paraphrasing is the practice of summarising other people’s ideas in your own words.Providing that you include citations and acknowledge your sources, paraphrasing is verygood academic practice. However, simply reordering an existing sentence (or swappingwords for close synonyms) is not paraphrasing (this can count as a form of misconduct).You must not commission somebody else to write your dissertation for you. You can seekas much advice as you like from UAL/LCF Academic Support: [email protected] UAL Language Development: www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/international/english-languagedevelopmentIt is perfectly acceptable to ask a friend to read through your dissertation if you’reconcerned that there may be grammatical, punctuation, or language errors, but theyshould not contribute to your ideas or analysis: you should acknowledge their help in adedication.AVOIDING COMMON PROBLEMSCommon areas which lead to a low grade in a dissertation are:o Academic Misconduct (see previous section).o Lack of focus, an attempt to cover too broad a topic, or too many very differentexampleso Unclear research questions which lack focus or are too broado No primary research or an unfocused and anecdotal approach to primary researcho Failure to make connections between a discussion of academic literature and yourprimary researcho Lack of engagement with academic literature and/or literature on methodologyo Work that is under-researchedo Work that is poorly structuredo Over-reliance on non-academic sourceso Weak and limited conclusionsSTUDENT SAFETYMany forms of research used by dissertation students including textual/visual analysis are,by and large, pretty safe. This academic year, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,students must conduct any research involving other people (such as interviews or focusgroups) online or by phone. Students should not meet participants or interviewees inperson as this represents an infection risk.Regularly updated additional UAL guidance on Covid-19 can be found via this link:https://www.arts.ac.uk/coronavirus-important-guidanceIf you plan to undertake research that involves interviews, focus groups, fieldwork,ethnography, participant observation, oral history or meeting people that you don’t know,you must discuss your approach with your CHS supervisor or unit leader well in advance.6Your tutor will help you to assess risk levels and where necessary help you to complete riskassessment paperwork. The Risk Assessment form can be located on the DissertationMoodle site under the heading “Research Resources”:RESEARCH ETHICSWhere your research involves interviewing other people, you should ensure that they havegiven informed consent for you to quote from their interviews (preferably in writing).If you wish to analyse very explicit materials, you should discuss this with your tutor andseek their advice.Images or text taken from private correspondence, dating websites or similar should onlybe used with the participants informed consent – if informed consent cannot be obtainedthese materials should be anonymised (all identifying information/imagery should beremoved).It is not necessary to seek permission to use images “in the public domain” (for examplepublicly available Instagram feeds), images from magazines, archival materials.You must avoid putting participants in your research at risk (whether physical risk,psychological risk, or risk to their reputation or livelihood). If the participant could beharmed or disadvantaged if their identity were revealed, you should take extra care tomake them anonymous (by removing identifying information such as name, address, orphotographs of the respondent). When in doubt, it is advisable to anonymise respondents.UAL’s principals of “respect for persons”, “justice“ and ”beneficence” guide ethical researchin the university – the full undergraduate research ethics guide is available here:https://www.arts.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/43328/UAL-Code-of-Practice-on-Research-EthicsFebruary-2017.pdfYou are not permitted to include participants under the age of 18 in your research. Youshould avoid working with participants who are very vulnerable or experiencingpsychological distress.

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