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Choosing a dissertation topic
#1
Ok, this is probably not the most ideal place to ask this question but I'll have a go anyway.

Has anyone got any advice on where to start in choosing a dissertation topic (BA Archaeology Undergrad)? I've got a while yet (going into second year) but I'd like to have as much time as possible to consider it.

A few things that may help advice
* I'm interested in mainly British (but getting to like European)Prehistory (all- which doesn't help if/when it comes to specialisation). Unfortunately I can't take ALL the second year modules allowing me to pursue my interest in the "Early Medieval European 'migration' period", which would have helped, but would have involved learning more about the Romans :face-confused:
* I'm not bothered about it being a groundbreaking revolution that will stun the academic community. I don't want to be an academic...
* ...BUT I still want it to be good
* So does that mean it HAS to be a groundbreaking revolution?
* I'm not especially knowlegeable about either area I have lived... *...but I would maybe like to do something a bit local (for access to archive purposes) rather than anything concerning 'popular' sites - you know the ones!!

So...any pointers on where to start?
Thanks in advance for the help
~Pip
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#2
Undergrad dissertation-wise it's better to do a smaller topic well than a big topic badly. I got a first and I only looked at secondary sources.... you don't necessarily need archive material. The important part is to not just repeat, but try to add something new to whatever you're doing. A few ideas:

*Pick a period, pick an artefact type and analyse it to death with some insightful interpretation. Sounds easy if you say it fast!
*Pick a method - 'how has the use of isotopes informed the (pre)history of XX?'
*Pick a theoretical stance 'Feminism and the Iron Age' or 'Phenomenology and the Bronze Age'

Lastly, pick something you KNOW you like and try not to change your mind! I'd just read some general texts and peruse. Find something you really enjoy. About twice as many dissertations are started than finished!

Good luck
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#3
I would also add that you should use the time you have to pick a dissertation supervisor. The best thing you can do is ask some of your PhD student tutors who makes a good supervisor in the department and who doesn't. A dissertation is a 2-person job: if you're both motivated you've got a chance of putting together a decent dissertation. If your supervisor is unable or unwilling to meet you, answer your emails or give you feedback on chapters then you'll be on to a loser from the start. Likewise, if he/she doesn't know or have an interest in your chosen topic, you'll find it tougher.
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#4
Quote:quote: I would also add that you should use the time you have to pick a dissertation supervisor. The best thing you can do is ask some of your PhD student tutors who makes a good supervisor in the department and who doesn't

Cheers for the advice Windbag

I already have a personal tutor within the department, who is allocated from when we are freshers to when we graduate, and I assume would be the person who guides us through our dissertation too. She has a PhD in prehistory (not entirely sure what aspect) and a lovely person but is a bit...scatty, shall we say.

I'll certainly ask around the postgrads and fish for more information. Unfortunately the Department's in turmoil with building works and has had a significant changeover of teaching staff in the past couple of years, and may of the supervisors they had have moved to greener (muddier?!) pastures.

Thanks also to deposit-it. That's certainly given me a few angles to start looking at thing from now on.

"Kids, go get a proper job and don't take mine" - Derek Alexander
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#5
Rule 1 - don't panic. It's good you are starting to think about it already, but you have plenty of time. Your interests seem pretty widespread at the mo, over the next year you may well find that one period or theme will become your preferred one.

To the above, I would suggest that you talk to a number of lecturers and tutors about it, sound them out. No doubt your uni will offer a list of 'off the peg' titles at the start of your 3rd year- nothing wrong with grabbing one of those, it will quickly become 'your own'. If you talk to the staff beforehand, they may well have topics they want researched and can agree a title with you before it gets to be up for grabs.

Your personal tutor is just that, and probably will not be the one in charge of dissertations generally or to guide you through yours: your dissertation supervisor will be someone else again and will be the most important one, as Windbag says.

Size is relative and opinions vary: I chose an 'off the peg' title, but when I gave a presentation on it, one of the tutors marking complained that the topic was too big and I'd never do it! (It all turned out fine).

But make sure you enjoy it. It is actually great fun. Good luck.
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#6
You say you have also an interest in local studies, this is potentially a good route as one af the elements you will be marked on is origional work and local level work is not often delt with by acedemics.
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#7
If you're interested in a local issue, have a look at the regional research agenda, and in particular your county and specialist period. It may provide some good starting points.
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#8
Cheers for the advice everybody, it's all duly noted and I look forward to starting to think about it!

"Kids, go get a proper job and don't take mine" - Derek Alexander
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#9
Good luck there... and thanks for asking us.. we is nice folk Smile

"I don't have an archaeological imagination.."
Borekickers
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#10
One thing I'm not sure anyone's mentioned so far, especially if you do have an interest in local or at least British archaeology, don't forget that there are loads of unpublished developer funded reports out there (see OASIS etc, or better still visit the HER of your choice) many of which individually were not significant enough to be published, or contain some snippett of information that, combined with similar information, could probably say something quite useful. I'm slightly dismayed but not surprised by how little use is made of such vast bodies of information by the academic community.

I have seen at least one request for help regarding research on how PPG15/16 has affected the nature of archaeology and there has been research into modern archaeology, conditions etc, but not enough making enough use of the actual information that results from it.
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