Thinking about writing a dissertation was a very daunting experience, especially since I am not particularly academic or used to writing as much anymore. Inspired by the rise in recent fairy tale adaptations in film, I decided to focus my research on this but wasn’t sure on what aspect of this I wanted to focus on in particular. The proposal which I handed in at the end of my second year was very broad at first, however as I began my research and attended the tutorials, the subject matter began to narrow down and I eventually settled on the representation of women within fairy tales, using Snow White as an example.
At first, I thought I would struggle immensely with writing a dissertation, but even though the experience has been stressful and intimidating, overall it has been a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I often struggle with time management and this is something with I believed would hinder my progress, however I believe I have managed to balance this during the dissertation time period due to a number of factors. Firstly, we were introduced to the dissertation in second year and therefore we had roughly a year to work on it, which helped me greatly as it give me plenty of time to properly decide what subject matter I wanted to research and write about.
Secondly, knowing roughly what I wanted to write about for my dissertation early on meant that I could start reading and researching the subject matter as soon as possible, which I mostly did during the summer. By doing this, I then had more time to write my dissertation throughout the end of the summer and autumn term, and could really define the keys aspects I wanted to focus on as there was a lot of information to take in at first and a lot of potential avenues to explore. While I was doing this, I really worked on my organisation skills, something which like time management I have also struggled with in the past. As I was reading, I made a lot of notes and typed up important quotes from academics; referencing them properly as I was going in order to save time at the end of the dissertation. By doing this, it also made it easier for me to insert or paraphrase academic theories into my own analysis of my chosen case studies, which I had typed up in a separate document to begin with.
Another aspect of the dissertation which I found extremely helpful towards the development of my research and writing was the regular tutorials I had throughout the year. With the advise and direction of my tutor, I viewed the tutorials as miniature deadlines and aimed to achieve something by each one so I could then show my tutor who helped me greatly with the progress overall. I managed to keep this up for most of my tutorials which meant that I could keep myself organised and maintain my time keeping without becoming to stressed or bogged down with work. These deadlines also helped me to roughly write the majority of my analysis up before the Christmas holidays meaning I only had to add the theory, which I had typed up separately.
I choose to focus on fairy tales in my dissertation because it is a subject matter I have always been interested in and am familiar with. I was also very familiar with the case studies I used in my dissertation and had an idea of certain scenes I could talk about, however my research into academic studies of fairy tales highlighted themes and motifs I had never even considered before in these adaptations. In terms of relevance to my practice, fairy tales had been illustrated and adapted into film countless times and so I thought it would be interesting to see how one story can be adapted differently, showing me how I could interpret this into my own work when illustrating a well known story that has been illustrated before. I was quite surprised that I ended up just focusing on films as case studies as I originally planned to analyse illustrations of fairy tales as well. Despite this, I think the dissertation worked better with just the four films as case studies and reflected not only the different ways a story can be retold, but also a sort of journey of fairy tales within film and the current trend. As well as my current projects, I am working towards illustrating Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and have been quite apprehensive due to how well known it is and how many different times is has been illustrated and adapted. However, writing my dissertation has shown me how a story can be retold differently by focusing on different themes and using symbolism, and I can easily apply this knowledge not only to this project, but future ones as well.
The most difficult parts of the dissertation for me included the layout, cutting down the word count and the title. I kept the layout rather simple at first, mainly because I had a lot of information and got confused at times at what would go where, but the layout developed as I continued to write and edit, and I believed I still managed to have a continuous flow throughout the writing. I also found finding the right title for my dissertation quite tricky, however I did leave this till I had finished writing the entire paper before choosing a title which reflected exactly what I had been researching and writing about. As well as this, cutting information from my dissertation was difficult at first as I thought all of my analysis would be relevant to my research, nevertheless, I managed to chose what information was relevant to the dissertation and my research and edit the paper accordingly.
Despite some difficulties, overall I didn’t find the dissertation as difficult as I was initially expecting and I think this is due to me keeping on top of my time management and organisation. Also, I enjoyed researching and writing my analysis which I think really helped to keep me going. I believe that if I didnt enjoy the dissertation overall that would mean I hadn’t picked a topic I was that interested in, but I did not face this issue.