My Dissertation and Me

My silly submission day selfie
My silly submission day selfie

I have found in my personal experience that writing dissertations has been a work in progress. My archaeology undergrad dissertation focused on the changing significance through time of the trees surrounding a rag well outside of Inverness. I loved my topic, and spent about 15 hours a week for 6 months working on it. Let’s just say that I did not do exceedingly well, and I was crushed. I remember thinking, “I want to continue on in education, and I suck at writing. I just suck period.” I passed, and I graduated, but wow what a low point in my academic career.

Well I might have been a BIT dramatic, but it came as a shock to someone who took honors English and AP Lit in high school. So when confronted with a dissertation or a work placement for my masters in museum studies, I decided to go with a dissertation. Redemption time. If I wanted to pursue a PhD, I needed to prove to myself that I can do this, and at least do it decently. My work was not planned out as well, I was editing until the day before I got on the plane to fly back and submit it, and there were several questions that I was unable to address due to my case study not responding to my enquiries in time. But all in all, I am proud of my 2.1 and feel that I have redeemed myself.

My topic was about museum digital catalogues, and whether they are meeting user expectations or not. My conclusion, well, in my opinion my conclusion was consistent with that of most academic articles- confusing, open ended, and over before I realized. I do not want to relive all of the ins and outs of my research, but I did find what most museum staff know to be true in all areas of the museum industry- there is not enough time, money, staff, or interest. Digital catalogues have a lot of potential to change and revolutionize museums. They allow everyone access to collections, whether they live around the corner or on the other side of the world. I also touched on the need for museums to include user feedback of the various groups who use their digital catalogues in the construction of their current and future platforms- we all know, that no one thing works for everyone. Museums need to push the boundaries, and not necessarily ‘keep up’ with what is going on, but strive to do new things, and make plans to continue the improvement of their services.

But at the same time, taking an ‘upload and dismiss’ approach is not beneficial either. Sometimes going back to old servers for a facelift is what needs to be done. In my case study, the majority of the users preferred a traditional catalogue format with some interactive features. Speed, aesthetic appeal, and information were what people wanted most. This also means that funding bodies who may provide the means to do this, need to also have interest in projects that are not ‘shiny and new’- going back to basics is important as well.

While trying to sum up my work in two paragraphs does not really showcase my work very well, these are some of the points that I remember off of the top of my head that stuck out to me holistically as having meaning and significance. I do feel that I have redeemed myself now, and I can continue on in my education without feeling like a dissertation or thesis is impossible for me. Thanks for reading, and if you are working on a big project right now, I wish you the best of luck! Live long and prosper…

…Peace and long life.


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