When we were asked to write our research proposal, I only had a very vague idea of what I wanted to write my dissertation on. All I knew is that I wanted to study modern history, but I did not have an immediate preference on the country or topic. Because of this, I started by thinking about what I found interesting and enjoyable. I studied The Troubles at A-level and found the causes, narratives, and consequences fascinating. Initially, I contemplated comparing the Birmingham Pub Bombings with the Brighton Hotel bombings. However, after several discussions with lectures in their office hours, I realised this was too broad and decided to focus on the Birmingham Pub Bombings. I would highly recommend finding out which lecturers specialise in your area of interest and having conversations with them in their office hours. It was by speaking to lecturers that I was able to determine what I was truly interested in. Eventually, I decided to focus on the political, social, and cultural implications of the Birmingham Pub Bombings and the subsequent case of the Birmingham Six.
Initially I found the research process extremely challenging as I was unsure where to start. From my experience, I would recommend beginning by reading general books on your topic and then following your interests and the footnotes of particularly helpful books. My main primary sources are newspaper articles, parliamentary transcripts and books written in the 1980s about the Birmingham Six’s potential innocence. These sources have come from a variety of websites, including Hansard and newspaper archives such as the Guardian and the Economist (both of which are accessible via findit). The sources I have discovered have been invaluable in helping me understand public opinion, as well as the reasoning behind and impact of the Government’s actions.
So far, I have found the writing process to be easier than I expected. However, I think this is because I began the writing process with extensive notes and analysis of both my primary and secondary sources and made a very detailed plan before I began writing. I spent around six days writing the first draft of my first chapter, just writing one or two paragraphs a day. For me this was definitely the best way to do it as I was able to keep up with my other work and keep my writing style consistent and articulate as I was not writing too much in one day. My key tips here would be to read as much as you can, particularly around key themes and to make the most of your supervisors knowledge of your topic, if they tell you that a book will be helpful, it will be!
My biggest tip other than the ones already mentioned, would be to make sure you end up writing your dissertation about something you are really interested in. The more interesting you find the topic, the easier and more rewarding the work will be. Also, do not compare your project to other peoples. Everyone has different deadlines from their dissertation tutors and works in different ways. Focusing on your own project will help you make it as good as possible!