According to my the timeline I submitted within the dissertation Research Proposal, this being late September, my dissertation should be well underway. Instead I'm at a less advanced stage than I was in April. Good work. I've now abandoned two previous dissertation plans for either re-covering old ground or following a route where I don't feel I have sufficient theoretical grounding (visual methodologies).
I'm beginning to think that I approached the research topic the wrong way.
In the first instance, I felt under pressure to come up with a topic to satisfy the needs of the Research Methods assignment. That isn't to say that I didn't believe in my original plan at the time, however my proposed research into how the distance education student visualises the university was conservative (and appropriately so considering the general lack of free thinking time I had during the assignment preparation). In hindsight, there was a certain amount of means-to-an-end pragmatism to my proposed research and, to be fair, it worked - I passed the assignment.
My second plan (which lifted some of the more interesting elements from the first) would, I felt, sustain my interest. With a bit more thinking time over the summer, I was happy and excited about the idea of a comparison between how the distance education visualises and experiences the university compared to how it is represented in the prospectus and other promotional. An interesting idea but, as I quickly recognised when I met to exlore the idea with Sian, under-rehearsed and lacking a conceptual framework.
Third time around I'm taking a different approach and, on reflection, it strikes me that this would have been best all along. It's also the route I've taken with most other courses and assignments so it's a but surprising I didn't reach this stage before now. Rather than trying to conjure up an idea that might work, I've worked through the Dissertation Guide. And then I've re-read it again, highlighting key points. As I do with any piece of coursework, I spent some time considering 'what am I being asked to do here?' The Guide is excellent and makes it seem all the more ridiculous that I was trying to propose a dissertation when I didn't even know what a dissertation was. In particular, I found the suggestion that 'when deciding on a research topic you should have 3 sets of criteria in mind'. For emphasis and clarity, I've presented these in the diagram below.
Obviously, creating a diagram isn't a substitute for coming up with a research topic, but at least I've got a better of what I'm trying to do here and for that reason, I feel better about my dissertation than at any time over the last month or so.