Dissertations: a two-step guide for students

19 Sep

It’s that time of year again. I’m holding conversations with students, receiving emails and this blog has new visitors searching for answers to common questions.

In an attempt to help, here’s a simple two-step guide to dissertations for public relations students.

  1. Choose a broad topic, based on your interests. At this stage, it could be celebrity, social media, evaluation or dozens of others. Then check that your topic is covered in recent textbooks (eg Theaker, Theaker and Yaxley, Tench and Yeomans to name a few). The relevant chapters in these books should give you a start, and point you to dozens of further sources (books, articles, news reports etc). If you can’t find a chapter on your topic, you may struggle to develop a good literature review, so perhaps should think again.
  2. Ask a specific question about your topic.  As well as being based on a review of published literature, your dissertation requires you to conduct some original (or ‘primary’) research on the subject. So make sure you’re asking a specific question to give a strong focus to your research. Research can be done in many ways, but typically students use a selection of interviews, questionnaires, observation, content analysis etc. An example of a specific question on the topic of evaluation might be: ‘What measures should replace advertising value equivalency (AVE)?’

Some students view the dissertation as a chore. But it’s one of the few things you will take away from your course to show for your efforts, and it can differentiate you from other graduates at job interviews. So it’s worth doing well.

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