- Coursework 1: Group Presentation (10%)
- Coursework 2: Essay Proposal (30%)
Each individual student will prepare a concise essay outline, which will identify their proposed methodology, chapter outline and preliminary reading list. The content of the essay will reflect an area of interest that the student has selected from the lecture programme. 500 words. Fill the Essay Proposal Form, and the deadline for submission: 2 December 2014.
- Coursework 3: Essay (60%)
Individual students will produce a 2,500-3,000 word essay, which will explore one (or more) of the issues covered during the module programme. deadline for submission: 9 January 2014.
1.The Topic (Choose an essay topic that a) falls within one of the lecture topics, or b) is not is inspired by something you read for the course, heard in the lecture, or discussed in tutorial.)
2.The Research Question (Narrow your focus from a broad interest to a specific question. For example, “In this essay, I will analyse…, I will explain… , I will answer… ”)
3.Importance to the Field of Your Research (What is the significance of your work? Why should others care? Why is this research a worthy enterprise? Try to do two things here. First, explain whose work you are building upon; Second, explain whose work you see yourself evaluating. Situate yourself in the relevant scholarship. )
4.The Outline for the Essay (How will you structure your essay? What will be some of the sections and subsections of your argument? For example, 1. Introduction to your topic and research question; 2. Literature review; 3.Your Argument; 4. Your sub-arguments; 5. Your Conclusions)
5.Bibliography (Place a listing of all sources that you intend to use in your essay. Focus on scholarly [peer-reviewed] sources. The bibliography has to be in Harvard style, for example: Greenberg, D., ed.(2011) Building modern criminology: forays and skirmishes. Farnham Ashgate.)
Stage 1 What are the broad themes that interest you?
Think about what interests you in the general area of Animation Studies. Be broad. Write down a list of themes, by answering the following questions:
- What themes particularly interested you?
- What are current “hot” topics in animation research?
- What topics are being discussed either in research papers or in the popular journals?
- Are there any issues in the field that are particularly important to your own national setting?
- Are there any themes or topics that have always interested you? What styles/genres/national animaiton do you enjoy watching? What are your favourite animaitons and what categories do they belong to?
For each of these questions write down a list of the topics that come into your mind. This might be a long or short list, but it is helpful to have at least one topic under each heading.
Stage 2 What are the interesting topics within those themes?
Narrow down this list to a smaller list of topics. Do this, for example, by seeing if there are any themes that have come up in answer to more than one of your questions in Stage 1, or by listing the themes in Stage 1 in order of interest for you. By doing this you should be able to narrow down your choice to a short list of two or three topics of interest.
Stage 3 What questions might you ask about those topics?
Think about the key questions that might be appropriate in relation to each of these topics. An important aspect of any research project is that it should be investigating a question, so try to think of all the questions of interest or importance in relation to each of the two or three topics you have considered.
Stage 4 Choose a question and check its viability
From the list of questions you have it should be possible to identify two or three that are particularly interesting or exciting for you, and then to choose one that grabs your interest. This is a good starting point for checking whether it is a reasonable or sensible question. At this stage you need to check whether it is a viable topic. By viability we mean is it a question that needs answering and is it a question that can be answered in your size of essay.
Stage 5 Make your final choice
The last stage is to make your final choice of project. This may only be possible when you have been through Stage 4 several times, since there may be several possible projects you need to investigate for viability before you come up with a suitable topic. The final check to make when you are ready to settle on a topic or title is to ask yourself one last, but very important question: Does this topic really interest me and excite me? The answer needs to be “yes”, for you will be living with the topic for at least 2 months – a long time.
In the process of choosing a topic there are a number of important issues to think about.
The key issues are:
- Do not choose a project that is too large. Most students’ first ideas about a research project are too ambitious, involving large amounts of data collection and questions that are too general. Keep your project very focused on a very specific topic.
- Your research does not have to change the world. For a doctoral thesis you do have to make a contribution to knowledge, but this is likely to be just a small advance in understanding. Your essay may just say something in a fresh way, or look at a subject from a different perspective.
Start your project with a research question. Having a single overall question that you are investigating provides a very clear focus for your work – and you can keep asking yourself throughout your research “Is my work going to help answer my research question?” to check that what you are doing is relevant. Having a research question does not mean you have to use any particular methodology – it just keeps you on track.
You need to start by thinking through what stages there are to your project. For most research projects we can identify some stages:
Stage 1 – Choosing the project
We have already looked at this above.
Stage 2 – Initial literature review
The literature review is a critical early stage in your project. A literature review has many purposes. It enables you to find out what research has been undertaken in the field, what is “known” and what the important questions are that others are investigating or have suggested for research. It helps you to understand the history of your field, to know how ideas have developed, changed, appeared and disappeared over time.
You will become aware of the range of methodologies that have been used to research your field, both in the past and in the present, and you should start to develop a critical view of the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. It will also enable you to discover who else is working in the field and what they are working on. Most importantly, though, it will help you to look at your initial ideas for your research and develop and refine them to produce the project that you will undertake. It is almost the most important stage of the project, for if you do this thoroughly and well you will be saved many potential problems later on.
Stage 3 – Finalising the research questions
Ideally your research questions will emerge from the literature review. The literature review will have shown you what is already known in the field and what important topics need to be researched.
Stage 4 – Choosing and developing the methodology
Whatever your subject and field, there will be a range of different research methods available to you. At this stage you need to choose the best approach to enable you to answer your research question. Many students though, unfortunately, start with an idea of the methods they want to use and then apply them to their research question whether or not they are the best way forward. The correct way forward is to read and reflect very broadly on possible research methods and then choose what is most appropriate, even if this involves you in learning new approaches or techniques.
Stage 5 – Data collection
Do not be put off by the word “data”. Data refers to the evidence you will use to arrive at your conclusions, and there are many types of data.
Collecting the data can be a short or a long process – in animation research your data will come from primary sources (animations, videos, screenplays, soundtracks, etc.) and secondary sources (books, documentaries, interviews etc. that deal with your topic).
(Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal; Animation magazine; Animation Studies; Animation Xpress; Computer Animation & Virtual Worlds)
Stage 6 – Data analysis
Data analysis includes the systematic organising of the data and its presentation in a form that readers of your project can understand. It also includes the interpretation of the data to identify the important ideas or new bits of knowledge that they reveal. You will need to choose the methods best suited to the data you have collected, and will need to be able to justify your choice of methods.
Stage 7 – Drawing conclusions and interpretations
Stage 6 involved very detailed analysis and interpretation, working with the detail of the data and drawing out important ideas about every part of the topic that has been studied. Stage 7 is the “big picture” stage of the research, where the detailed interpretations are drawn together to try to “answer” the overall research question. It will certainly involve a critical reflection on the conclusions you have drawn and the methods you have used, and will probably make recommendations for future research in the field.
Stage 8 – Preparing the final essay
The final stage of the project is assembling the final version of the essay. You may have produced drafts of individual parts throughout the project, and these can be assembled into an essay. At this stage, though, the work needs to be prepared for submission – making sure the whole work is coherent; writing, re-writing and editing; assembling information; completing and checking the citations; printing and binding the work. This all takes a significant amount of time, which needs to be built into the planning of the project.
Points to remember
This looks a straightforward path to understand and follow, but there are a number of important points to remember with this model.
First, your real project will not follow this path in a neat sequence:
- Some stages will overlap – for example, you will certainly start to develop interpretations and conclusions as soon as you start collecting data, and you may of course want to test some of your conclusions by collecting further data.
- You may need to return to earlier stages – for example, Data analysis may indicate you need to make changes to the methodology.
- Some stages will continue throughout the project – for example, you will need to keep reviewing the literature throughout the project to be sure that you have not missed anything important or that there have not been new publications on the topic. Even while you are preparing the final thesis you will need to do a last-minute literature check so that you do not miss the latest publications.
Secondly, you will need to be writing the essay from as early in the project as possible. Do not postpone the writing process: it is important to carry out your research first, but it is equally important to begin writing so that it does not develop into an impossible task. The more time you give yourself to write, the more enjoyable the experience will be.