Hello again! In my blog post last month I told you about some of the things I get up to in my spare time at York – spare time which at the moment is unfortunately becoming scarce! It might seem a long way off for you, but time at university seems to speed by and before you know it, like me, you’ll be writing your third year dissertation!
I thought I’d take you through how it all works for Politics students at York as it’s something I found quite daunting when thinking about coming to university.
Politics dissertations are 8,000-10,000 words long and are on a subject of your choosing (the only condition being if you are doing a course which includes International Relations your dissertation must have some international focus). This seems like a big task, but when you start writing you begin to think you could do with a lot more words!
My own dissertation will explore whether an ‘Obama Doctrine’ can be more clearly defined, in the same way we think about the ‘Bush Doctrine’, for instance. But the possibilities are endless, with some of my peers exploring House of Lords effectiveness, The US-UK Special Relationship, nuclear weapons, new application of International Relations theory and many more.
Each student is allocated a dissertation advisor who is an academic in the Politics Department whose research interests are as closely related as possible to the subject of your dissertation. Advisors are allocated based on a research proposal which you’ll hand in before you start your third year, so it’s worth putting time into making sure your proposal is as good as it can be so you get the best advisor for you!
You meet your dissertation advisor at least twice a term and they give you advice on focusing your project and how best to approach your research question. The advice I’ve been given so far has been invaluable in improving my arguments and the structure of my work!
Throughout the first term of third year there is a weekly dissertation workshop which gives advice on refining your research question, finding literature, structuring each section and general information on writing a good dissertation. These sessions, alongside meetings with my advisor gave me a better idea about how to approach writing my dissertation well.
At the end of first term you have the opportunity to hand in a literature review to your advisor. They will give you feedback on this so you can improve it before you hand it in as part of your dissertation for real.
Each week, in the second term of third year, around 30 students create posters summarising their dissertation, which are displayed in the Department reception. Academics from the Department and other Politics students come and look at other people’s topics and offer advice to the students whose dissertations are being displayed. For me the poster session was invaluable. I was given some really good advice on some of the more specific features of my dissertation which I hadn’t fully discussed with my advisor, and given some new ideas on how to think about the issues I am examining. It was also good to see what other people are researching and talk to them about their projects.
Like at the end of first term, at the end of second term you’ll have an opportunity to hand in part of your dissertation to your advisor for some feedback so you can refine it before handing it in for real. (So by the second week of March I’ll have almost half of my dissertation written and it’s not due until May… I don’t think I’ve ever been this organised in my life!)
So, as you can see you get lots of support at York when you’re writing your dissertation and although it is largely an independent research project you’ll be guided in the right direction to get the best mark you can!
So from now until May it’ll be a busy time for me finishing off my dissertation and other work… Seeing as my time at York is coming to an end, in my next blog post I’ll be giving some advice on moving on from York, getting a job or thinking about further study – so keep your eyes peeled for that! Hope you all have a good few weeks!
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