Time to start cracking. We are two weeks away from the start of term – and with it year two – and proactivity is very much on my side. Holidays (another 2 weeks away from the office!) may have well spurred me into action, but it is rather the long cross-country train rides on the way to football over the past few weeks which have started long discussions on the degree, my dissertation and the endless possibilities derived from either.

Since my last post I have more or less decided my dissertation topic and even arranged a meeting with the programme director ahead of the start of term – before he is inundated with requests. And while the topic may yet be completely rejected, putting me right back to square one, I’m admittedly pleased with the sense of progress – however ephemeral it may turn out to be.

I’m told there are a couple of dissertation workshops every academic year. This is the first I’m hearing of this, but then I wasn’t really concerned with my dissertation up until a couple of months ago. Now it’s all about rushing to set up meetings, listen to feedback and finalise proposal forms until the December deadline while starting to think of structure and the best method to approach the chosen subject.

While I’m not quite comfortable sharing my research topic just yet, suffice to say I decided to tackle it from a very practical approach. I realise this is something of a paradox and against general dissertation best practices as it is supposed to be an academic piece first and foremost, on the other hand it seems foolhardy not to make use of the extensive research – the time, effort and dedication put into it should surely amount to more than a strictly theoretical 12,000-word piece which reaches its apex in a year’s time. Particularly when I am well into my career and can make use of some industry contacts, it all boils down to how best to make use of the dissertation rather than simply treating it as a percentage of my overall markings.

Back when I first started this series I wrote about how postgraduate education was theoretically meant to deepen one’s knowledge on any particular field of study. If the dissertation too were to not be guided under this same motto arguably the entire degree would be somewhat moot. While most of the modules I have studied so far have been interesting, they have also been very punctual – one needn’t know any far beyond exactly what was being asked in the exam to get a satisfactory marking.

The dissertation meanwhile is supposed to test a student’s overall ability to critically analyse a topic of choice in making an original contribution to the overall subject of study. For a working professional, it seems foolish not to marry this already daunting task to either your field of work or your career ambitions. Not that there isn’t value in study for the sake of study, but given the opportunity to make a simple demand into a concrete challenge, how could anyone not jump at it? If it sounds somewhat intimidating to make the dissertation into a bigger project than it already is, it would be downright naïve not to outstretch its limits to a personal development project which far outshines the confines of University.

Date published: