Geography Dissertation Experience Blog
By Izzy, MA (Hons) Geography and Social Anthropology
As I have settled into fourth year, I am currently embarking on the most treacherous task of University life – the dreaded dissertation. When I first joined Edinburgh University, I knew it was coming, however as I am finally here – it seems so surreal!
A little back story to the dissertation process:
We started planning and brainstorming for our dissertations in the second semester of third year, which has long since prepared me for this semester. The process was really inclusive, and although it was online, it was nice to cross-compare ideas with peers, and give each other advice. We had to submit a mini-dissertation proposal (which was not our final idea|), and then with the feedback from that we had to create a full proposal for our dissertation.
Since then, my dissertation has changed A LOT. I started looking at what my interests were, and what I could do within the bounds of COVID-19.
Seeing as I love Edinburgh and am living here, I started with that geographical location. I am also a human geographer, so I wanted to draw in elements of cultural/humanist geographies and an understanding of how people use the space within the city centre. From this I created the title “living in a beautiful city…” and looking at monuments and how the city’s histories are expressed in the everyday. My personal tutor and dissertation supervisor have been really helpful in brainstorming with me and solidifying what I might want to study.
Then we had summer break! And I had to do a lot of reading to set in motion where my dissertation fits within the literature. This is where I began to solidify my ideas and do not feel pressured to ‘know’ what you’re going to be writing about. Seeing as we have to read so much, it is December and I am still reading… my advice would be to get cracking on your reading as soon as possible!!!
Where I am now:
2 weeks ago we had a dissertation conference (online) where we all critiqued each others presentations explaining the concept and where we are now. This was again really useful to contextualise everybody’s works, and see the stage that everyone is at. It was really nice to know we are not in this alone!
So now, I have conducted 7 interviews and am starting to transcribe them. This process has been helped massively by Word Online’s transcribe feature, it is the best one I have come across in the past few years.
My dissertation is obviously still a work in progress, but I am finding the interviews really interesting. The focus for these interviews is centred around changing landscapes in Edinburgh’s New Town, and how long-term residents are affected by this. I have met some really interesting people and it has been really lovely to do a variety of interviews: walking, coffees, and over zoom too. I am trying to enjoy the process as a whole, and stay on top of the workload throughout the first semester so I am not swamped by it in the second semester.
As we go into Christmas and my finals are submitted, the dissertation will be my whole focus. Reading, transcribing and making sure to take care of myself and others around me!
Don’t be afraid of the dissertation process, and make sure to ask for help from the staff.