Dissertation Update: Is No Participants Really a Disaster?

You might have guessed from the title that I had no one turn to take part in my dissertation workshop. For most people, this would be a complete disaster. No participants means no research or data being created. No data means nothing to analyse for the dissertation. No analysis means no thesis. Basically, a huge disaster.

Well, for a normal MA dissertation it would be. Public Humanities MA’s thesis is a little bit different. As much as I would love to write about how family is represented in Arthurian literature (any excuse to read Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle), the focus of my thesis has to be the form of engagement I chose to do the research through. In my case, this engagement was through a workshop that I had hoped would be an example of participatory research. In other words, the workshop participants would be doing the research with me through the discussions about family in Arthurian literature.

However, no participants means no one to participate in research. No participatory research for me to evaluate and discuss in my thesis. But that’s not a disaster because I still have a failed workshop to talk about. There are so many questions for me to answer about why it failed.

“Did I not sign the workshop properly?”

“Should I have made more of an effort to build relationships with my partner?”

“Should I have run the dissertation on a different day or time?”

“Was my topic too niche to attract people?”

“Can I blame the sunny weather for pulling people outside?”

Like I said, there are so many questions. And those are just the superficial ones from the top of my head.

So what’s the next step? The next step is evaluate where I went wrong. And from there, write 2,000 words reflecting on why and 8,000 words explaining why. It’s going to be a fun couple of weeks.


Dissertation Update: Workshop Woes and Evaluative Essays

So I haven’t written on here since my birthday over a month ago… Oops! Sorry about that and my excuse isn’t even that great. I literally have had nothing particularly positive to write about. Well, that and I had two assessments to complete, a group project to finish and job applications to fill out so it’s not like I’ve been bored.

Now that is all over, it is full steam ahead with my dissertation. I am holding a workshop on Saturday, with members of the Story Forge taking part with the various exercises. If I’m totally honest, I am worried about the workshop because using Arthurian literature to explore non-traditional families is a potentially tricky concept to explain as well as being one I’m ridiculously passionate about. So this is either going to be a huge success or a total disaster. I really can’t see there being any room for an in-between result. Plus this is the third workshop that I have tried to run. No matter what happens, I will be running this event and that is that!

Fortunately, it seems that the dissertation is not contingent on a successful event. In fact, the main thing is that we are able to evaluate the event no matter what the end result is. So if no one comes, I can evaluate why no one came after three attempts and how I would improve the event’s PR and advertising next time. If people do attend, then I can evaluate how the event went and what I would need to change if I was repeating the workshop. Either way, I should have plenty to write about in my reflective essay.

In regards to the academic essay, I have 8,000 words to write. Thinking that means I’m going to need a bit of research and reading to help support any arguments or points that I make. Better get reading some more essays on public engagement, outreach and how to create an effective digital archive.

The End is in Sight

Milestone marker!

This week I turn 25. For many of my friends, they’ve been freaking out about getting older. For me, I’m concentrating on completing my Masters at the highest standard I can (and maintaining my lifestyle blog).

This week also marks seven months since I started at the University of Sheffield. With just five months to go, the end is in sight. This fills me with both excitement and fear. I’m looking forward to what life has to offer me in the next stage of life. Plus, the next five months is the dissertation phase and therefore the phase I have been looking forward to the most. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s time to start looking for jobs, thinking about where I want to live, and the practicalities of adult life.

So here’s to the next five months of dissertation research and writing. Oh, and the small matter of deciding whether or not I am going to continue into a PhD.

The Power of Storytelling

I’m have a confession to make.

This post is another plug for another event.

On Thursday 11 May at 6.00pm, I am going to be one of the researchers sharing stories about their research as part of Tales from the Ivory Tower. Maybe researcher is stretching it a bit as I’m a MA student who hasn’t started her thesis research yet. However, getting up in front of an audience to share a story seemed a really good way to throw myself out of my comfort area and into something completely new.

So why storytelling?

Stories have a power that presenting a research paper doesn’t have. They welcome in people to share your experiences and knowledge. When we share a story, our audience comes with us on a journey. By the end of the story, it is as much their’s as it is ours.

I’m going to be sharing a little about how being the granddaughter of divorcees and having an obsession with Arthurian legend has led me to the thesis I want to study. I will be effectively inviting people to share in my life in the hope of changing their minds about how the choices of one generation impact the lives of their children and grandchildren. Telling this as a story engages their emotions, their sympathy, in a way that presenting an academic paper cannot do.

Being the storyteller

Developing my own story has been as much about learning about myself as it has been learning a new technique or more about a subject area. I’ve discovered my limits about what I’m willing to share and how I am willing to share it. I’ve realised how much my own choices are impacted by other people. You could say I forced myself into a corner where I had to accept certain things about my family that I had ignored before.

The power of a story is in it’s ability to make the audience sympathise with the narrative. Once you have gained an audience’s sympathy, then you can explain your research,


If you are interested in how researchers turn research into narratives or what has been their inspiration, we will be sharing our stories in Brood Cafe Bar at Roco on 11 May, You can register here.

Why Choose a Research Proposal as an Assessment?

This term, I have had some weird assignments. Namely, I have to write a research proposal and a project proposal to be assessed for two of my modules. My first question on both occasions was, “what’s wrong with a good old essay?” I mean, I’m here to learn and then show what I have learnt and how I can apply that to my own work. That is why we write essays.

To be honest, it was a good opportunity to practice writing one for my PhD applications next year but I thought that would be all it was. Then I started writing the research proposal. It turns out that not only is writing a research proposal concisely really tough (how do I know what I need to explain and what I don’t) but it also requires a lot more knowledge than I thought it would, both of the subject and the methodology. So I’ve been refreshing my memory on the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, who’s in dire need of a reassessment, reading up on politeness (crucial and not restricted to the British) and trying to make sense of notes from my textual analysis seminars. In other words, I have had to put a lot more work into this proposal than I expected.

So do I now understand why we’ve had such weird assessments this semester? If this research proposal is anything to go by, our tutors and lecturers are trying to prepare us for the “Real World”. Let’s face it, the reality is that we won’t be writing essays for the rest of our lives, unless you become an academic. No matter what job you are in, you are probably going to create proposals of one nature or another at some point. So being assessed on our ability to create a convincing proposal is probably a lot more useful than another “good old essay”.

The Role of the Closed Cemetery

This week I guest posted on the website we have set up for the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery. You can see the whole website at http://www.wardsendcemetery.wordpress.com

Friends of Wardsend Cemetery

Hi. I’m Katy, another of the students studying Public Humanities at the University of Sheffield. I’ve also benefitted from the cemetery local to my parents’ house in Wiltshire since I was 15. Attached to the St. Denys the Minster, it provided me a place of refuge when my sister was watching rugby, somewhere to read poetry without interruption, and a place to think things through. It also bought me closer to my town when I discovered a WW1 grave, who’s occupant died 10 days before the Armistice was announced.

Why am I telling you all of this?

When we had our brief for the partnership with the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, I was excited to find that we were focusing on a cemetery. This was a fantastic opportunity to be part of reclaiming the cemetery and turning it into a place of refuge, like my cemetery back home.

Many people…

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