Keynotes Lecture 1 – Dissertation Preparation

 This weeks keynotes lecture was with Sarah Smith and was about dissertation preparation.

This was out first keynotes lecture. The overview of the next upcoming few weeks includes: several keynotes lectures, individual tutorials for initial dissertation planning, allocation of our own dissertation supervisor, and then more individual dissertation tutorials throughout term 2 and 3.

The first and foremost thing we have to do for our dissertation preparation is to fill out a dissertation planning form. We need to hand in the form to our constellation tutors (Cath Davies, in my case) by February 10th. The planning form includes:

  • a possible topic – key designers, artists, theorists, case studies
  • a possible question or angle of investigation
  • associated key words, for your research

Before our dissertation, we have to write and hand in a 4000 word dissertation proposal, as well as an accompanying 1000 word Constellation reflection on our blogs. Fortunately, I am one step ahead as Cath had already told us about the Constellation reflection, so I have already done this blog post. For our dissertation proposal, which will also be our summarative assessment, it will be made up of:

  • an overview (rationale and context for my research)
  • background reading/review of key literature/critical context
  • a research plan (what I plan to do)
  • a bibliography (relevant studies to my research proposal).


  • What type of dissertation do I intend to write? – I think I am going to choose the 8000-10000 word thesis option.
  • What is my dissertation going to investigate, and why?
  • Why am I interested in this topic? Are there possible links to my Graphic Design practice? – I definitely want to pick something Graphic Design related.
  • What is my overall argument and critical position?

Background reading / Review of key literature / Critical context

  • Who has already written about my chosen topic?
  • What key concepts and debates are evident in already existing studies?
  • How will this contextual research inform my own ideas?

Research plan

  • A detailed plan of what case studies/images/designers/branding are going to be discussed in my study, with a rationale as to why they have been chosen.
  • An overview of which theoretical concepts/positions/methods from my background reading section that will be applied to my critical analysis of these examples, and what I expect to come out of doing so.

Key skills for writing dissertation proposal

  • Depth and breadth of contextual research
  • Ability to position my specific angle/argument in relation to wider contextual research
  • Coherent structure
  • Evidence of examples to support my argument
  • Critical reflection on my findings

Initial planning approaches

Most important – background reading in relation to my chosen idea. Do this by finding out:

  • Who has written what already about this area, before I have arrived on the scene? – Do I agree with what they said? Do I disagree?
  • How can this research inform my ideas? How is my study going to be situated in relation to these existing contexts?

What am I going to do now?

My next steps from here is to, firstly complete and hand in my dissertation planning form. I have a rough idea of what I’d like to do – perhaps something to do with subcultures, which was what one of my constellation study groups was based on last year that I found really interesting. I want to aim to somehow link the subcultures to graphic design – maybe looking at how subcultures are affected by graphic design, such as branding in particular. I will need to do some academic research into this possible topic and find some key concepts with it, perhaps a designer or specific subculture or movement – the first thing that immediately comes to mind is some of the album cover artwork of the time, such as the Punk band, ‘The Sex Pistols’. I will also book a tutorial with Cath Davies to talk through my ideas so far to see what feedback she can give me.


Published by

Amber Lloyd

Graphic Communicator

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