I repeat. 15’000 words.
It’s a pretty daunting prospect; particularly given that classes finish in May and therefore a large proportion of the project will be done when tutors are off on conferences/well-deserved holidays or when you will equally be trying to complete internships/get that elusive foothold in the industry.
Structured differently to a dissertation, a marketing communications project is built not around the exploration of a specific idea or concept, but around the actions/issues facing a specific brand.
Choosing a topic area and question is easily the hardest aspect of planning a project. This part of the planning process can be made so much easier however when you consider topics or concepts that:
1. You are interested in
Given that you are spending six months planning, researching, writing, and reviewing a paper that will not only cost you a fair chunk in printing let alone the risk grey hairs thanks to stress levels, at least finding the subject of the research interesting is (for me at least) a basic prerequisite.
2. Makes use of your academic/professional skillset
Are you great at content analysis? or interviewing? Are you an uber whizz at social media? Why not use that in your report? (so long as it’s relevant of course for your analysis/subject area)
3. You have a career aspiration to use/work in in the future
In many creative industries, its pretty rare nowadays for people to specialise in one single area. But, saying that, if you really want to work in Media Relations (even just as a starting block to expand from) then knowing how to interview brilliantly (for example) is probably a clear ‘I’m-amazing-with-people’ skill you’re going to want to hone and show off in your work.
Even if you don’t feel confident in any one particular area though, is there a framework or topic you feel could be useful for employers? I’m not talking putting yourself out with statistics if you are clueless with them, but… if you do want to use statistics because Market research is your passion, why not bury yourself in your research now? So long as you have a clear focus and are dedicated in your research, then there really is nothing stopping you from building up skills you feel are important either professionally or even for your own personal growth.
It’s not enough to be interested or even passionate about a subject though. That’s just going to make it bearable. To have a project that’s feasible and also is going to get you a great mark you also need to make sure you:
4. Have information available for research/analysis
Breaking new ground can be fascinating, but be realistic here. You cannot base your entire project on primary research alone… Before you start properly planning a focus, do some reading and make sure you have a well of secondary research to delve into and work from – trust me, it will make your life SO much easier.
5. Have an idea that isn’t too broad in focus
Ahhh… tapping too many areas of interest; my personal area of weakness.
Its completely understandable to have a relatively broad area of focus to begin with, after all you are going to be conducting a crazy amount of reading and if you’re anything like me, it can be super easy to fall in love with all the fascinating frameworks and data on offer.
But, despite that, pretty soon you’re going to need to refine and re-refine that idea down to a workable, beautiful and practical topic question, which takes me onto my final point.
6. Have an idea that is realistically practical to conduct and execute
Realistically look at the time you have, your word count (I know 15’000 words looks like a mountain you’re expected to climb in slippers and a onesie (which in all honesty may be how you intend on tackling your dissertation/project – no judgement here)), and your research idea.
Don’t just look though, but look critically. Finding out now that the idea you have means you’re going to have to conduct the bulk of your primary research in May (like me) means you can plan your assignments, your extracurriculars, and the rest of your life in all honesty, around that fact.
It also means you can warn your loved ones when you’re going to be a grumpy stress-head so they can throw chocolate and coffee at you to make you feel better.
Most importantly though, don’t stress.
You have people who care about you and who want you to succeed. Family, friends, your supervisor; they’re all there to bounce ideas off, to help you (but not bottle feed you), to push you when you need it, and to give you a pep-talk when you feel swamped.
Plus, when you break it down, 15’000 words isn’t so much. Especially if, like me, you’ve got an awful lot to say.