Dissertation Planning Tips

As students we all use the library.

Like most I like to think that being half way through my second year, I’m pretty confident in finding the what I need.

Last week however out tutor arranged a specialist session with Chris out librarian. I went asking myself “is this really needed?”

The simple answer is yes! He explained that research is not just about knowing where to look for information, its about the way you think about  what you look for.

Lateral thinking is key, along with organising what you find.

After the class session I booked for a one and one meeting. I came out not only feeling positive about going forward, but excited.

Here are some tips on starting the planning and organisation process.

One Note: I love one note! It’s a one spot shop for keeping notes on everything

one note image

It allows you to keep your research organised. You can easily copy links of articles that interest you or quickly note a thought.

Apps are available for all devices and online which sync up so no matter where you are, you can access what you need.


Key Words

Make a note of key words to search for.

This list should expand as your research grows.

If there are words which keep coming up make a note of it.


When using e-resources in the Uni library there will be the official Harvard citation available.

If you find something of interest dont just note the article note the citation as well. It will save time later

Keep an open mind

At this early stage don’t dismiss anything. We are told time and time again that our initial idea and final piece of work will probably be quite different.

Think Laterally 

The key will be to think laterally not literally. In reality there may not be exactly what you need, so break it down into sections then try and join the dots. It will also help with analysis.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

After seeing how much time my other half has given  to his research, and speaking to my tutors start the research as soon as you can. There’s not way it can be done with only weeks to spare.


Self-initiated project: Website Plan

The Hull Central website is getting a face lift.

One of the biggest things to consider is the layout and how people will negotiate the site once they are on there.

This is the current home page format

Whilst it is functional, it does feel a little underwhelming.

Below is the first draft of a basic and easy to follow plan

Self-Initiated Project: Hull Central Makeover Plans

Redesigning a website is not as easy as you may think.

Planning what you want to achieve on a digital platform, in many ways can be approached in the same way as you would if you were redesigning your kitchen.

By answering a few simple questions you can build the frame then add the fun bits.

What is it going to be used for?

What style do I like?

Does it need to be more practical, visually pleasing or both?

What gadgets do you need?

What extra gadgets would you like?

What do you want it to say about you?

I began the process by looking at four hyper-local sites: York Mix, HU15 Online, Thorne Times, West Leeds Dispatch.

I looked specifically at three area’s.

The home page:

They demonstrate a mix of styles. Three are quite traditional, yet York Mix has a more contemporary feel.

The news page:

There is a clear difference’s between the four examples shown. West Leeds Dispatch and York Mix are very clean, uncluttered,  easy to read pages.

HU15 Online is almost to busy for my personal taste. Everything seems to merge into one.

Thorne Times is clearly structured with news articles clearly running down the centre of the page, however, it also contains advertising at each side.


The contact page:

Though the different pages vary slightly, however some similarities the primary being an email address which encourages people to tell them what is happening in their area, and what is important to them.


Self-initiated: Time For A Rethink

Recent events, and decisions regarding the course has led to a major shift in direction.

The original intention was to help increase the number of people applying for the degree, however as the college made a decision to pull the degree this was no longer needed.

In  a meeting with Jackie it was decided that we should use this as an opportunity to promote the college and the students.

To be fair it was no great shock when the news was given to me, but things happen and it’s all about adapting.

I said I’d have a think about what we could do and get back to her.

A couple of days later in one of Johns classes he was talking about ‘mending the leaky bucket’, then we had a news day and it hit me.

We have a platform existing platform, which is under utilised, we have great students and most have something to say. So lets start shouting.

My idea was outlined in an email to both Jackie and John.

Self-initiated: Follow up emails

Following recent events things needed to be re-though.

This is a copy of the email which was sent to Jackie outlining my ideas going forward.


Hi Jackie and John.

I hope this outlines how I feel I would like to take this project. 

Following our recent meeting regarding the best way forward with this project and the decision to use this as an opportunity to promote what is going on within the course and the projects that the students are undertaking.

After looking at the resources that we already have, and using knowledge gained from work experience I feel like we have a useful tool which we overlook Hull Central.

This is our platform and outlet to show off what we the students can do.

Currently it’s only ever used on News Day as a Hyperlocal site, which is great, however with a bit of work I think we can take it to the next level.

Most news organisations rely in part on people contacting them with stories about their community, usually by phone or email. They also rely on press release and connections with companies, as well as scouring the internet and talking to people.


After looking on the website we have no contact details so even if someone did have a story for us they couldn’t tell us. Creating an email address and signing up for press releases would be a start. It would also give a professional point for correspondence.  

The about page seems a bit vague, we could make it more personal by including headshots and brief bios about of the students who populate the site. This will make the site personal for the readers and give the students a greater sense of ownership.

The site can also be used to publish features or stories produced in other lesson, an example would be the work produced with Carmen or Mike.

If students have things happening with outside projects these can be included.

Increase social media output to increase awareness of the site.

Up and coming events in an events guide.

The reason for these additions is simple, to attract people to the site and to show off the course and its students.

The use of Hull Central forms part of my plan going forward as it could be the showcase of what we can produce.

As journalist we cant hand what we produce on a model or frame in on the wall, we need a digital platform which screams look at how great we are.

The JDM twitter is well established so like to two together, they can compliment each other and the students.

At any chance possible the achievements of students need to be highlighted, as well as what is happening with other courses within HSAD.

I realise this may sound a little vague and will need approval. We have some great talent in both staff and students. Its time we found our voice and started shouting about it.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts

Kind Regards


On 9 February 2018 at 14:33, Jackie Goodman <Jackie.Goodman@hsad.ac.uk> wrote:


Below is a copy of Jackie’s Response


Sarah I think this is a good idea – will you check with John as he set it up.

Self-initiated: First Email Communication

The above image is a screen shot of an email to Jackie explaining where I was with regards to research.
Below is a copy of the text.

Hi Jackie,

I’m currently hunting for details of writing groups around Hull and the wider area (East Riding, up to Scarborough across to York)
I have found some adult learning centres which my be worth investigating. They run creative writing courses and social media courses. 
Hull centres are: Craven Park training and enterprise centre and Preston Road Adult education centre.
East Riding: Cottingham, Goole, Beverley and Bridlington.
There are similar in places such as Pocklington, Dunnington etc. 
I just feel that Hull only could be restrictive.
Regarding the interviews I have a list of some people including the usual suspects such as Nicky, Sophie, Amy, Kai, Jools, Ian, Aaron.
Over the next couple of days i’m going to send off some email to see if I can either meet them or they can send me a short audio saying what they got from their degree and what they are doing with it.
I’m going to go a bit more in depth with Ian and Nicky asking them to tell their stories.
We can then put these into a promo video or use small extracts on things like social media.
I will speak to John about any social media strategy he has at the moment as I’m currently thinking how we can possibly expand it. I’ll put together some suggestions with a few example posts to show you both. 
In the interim I’ll send some posts from my account and tag in JDM and the general HSAD account.
I have thought today about starting a blog where I will write about my experience on the course as an older student and include a quite frank account about the learning process and the satisfaction of when a new skill finally clicks and the elation of thinking ‘I did that’.
I appreciate this is only a starting point and look forward to seeing how the ideas will develop and hopefully help in recruitment numbers
Kind Regards 
Below is the screenshot and copy of Jackie’s reply

HI Sarah

All sounds good and fine to expand to E Riding etc.  Bear in mind that creative writing is different from journalism and that journalists may come from other backgrounds too. 
The video interviews will be very useful – keep them short and snappy.