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English Dissertation: Three core questions

The most basic core of a dissertation plan hinges on three main questions:

  1. What do you want to know?
  1. How are you going to find out?
  1. What will you do with the answers?

The answer to the questions will hinge on your initial narrowing of a research area.   The range of research or project areas can be varied, but a very generic approach might suggest that for a literature project the answers could include:

  1. What do you want to know?
    • How or whether a text, or texts within a particular period demonstrate a particular characteristic, or reflect a historical or sociological context.

  • Whether concrete evidence can be identified which adds to our understanding of a particular text, or whether a group of evidences can be analysed in ways which allow for different conclusions

  • How different critical approaches to a text or texts can add to our appreciation / understanding of it.

  1. How are you going to find out?
  • Through primary research and close analysis of your key texts.
  • By looking at either primary historical documents, or through a critical review of secondary texts which explore primary historical evidence.
  • Through research of secondary texts (critical articles, essays, etc.), and a synthesis of theoretical ideas with your own.

  1. What will you do with the answers?
  • Conclude how they can inform our reading of the text, or our reading of the historical period, conclude how they allow the text to inform our understanding of ourselves or or society.
  • Conclude how they can inform our knowledge of the period or place in history, and with what degree of certainty.
  • Ascertain to what extent they either prove or disprove your hypothesis, and conclude how this result adds to our understanding of sociological contexts and behaviours.

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