Topic and Approach
A well-planned programme of research for a dissertation should – broadly speaking – go through a series of stages, irrespective of what you are writing about and the sort of research methods you are using. Put at its most simple, you start by selecting a topic area and doing some general reading. The initial idea may derive from practical experience, from a placement year if you took one, or from your reading for a particular unit. It may derive from an item in the news that seems to raise interesting and not immediately answerable questions. For example, is this a new political development? What were the origins of this movement/party/ideology? How would an intensive study of this problem or policy question (or a comparative study of such a problem or policy area in two countries) illuminate either the problem or the political setting? A recent or imminent political development, such as an election, might allow you to do some original research before academics and experts can publish their own analyses. A dissertation often begins with a puzzle or paradox which suggests the ways in which you might break up and structure your research and therefore make the task manageable. Your question should really start with ‘why’ or ‘how’.
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