and how to find out what you already know
In June I will have to hand in my Master thesis and final project. Here I keep a diary on my progress and show how certain techniques are applicable in non-academic life.
Once I had figured out my topic, I had to write an exposé for my supervisor. This helps to let the topic sink in and explore the extent to which I can exploit it.
One problem is that often we think we don’t know enough. We don’t have enough material to fill the required pages. After all, the exposé stands in the beginning of the work, which means we haven’t actually done anything yet that we could present.
You know more than you think!
That is not true! If you write down everything that is in your head, all the unsorted ideas and thoughts, all the unclear possibilities of how you could maybe tackle the topic, even the craziest associations – you will be surprised! It will be more than you imagined.
I collected material first, like a brain dump on a piece of paper. And then I focused on what is actually asked of me: an exposé on how I want to fill 30 to 40 pages containing chapters on the significance, literature review, methodology, findings and discussion. Plus a practical part, which in my case will be a multimedia presentation.
Fill the categories and be honest about the gaps.
Those became my subcategories which I could easily fill with the stuff from my brain dump paper.
Then I realized I had a lot of questions because I couldn’t fill all those categories. Questions are very good, maybe the best start when you are at the beginning of your paper. They can become research questions and guide your research.
Some obvious gaps appeared: I am absolutely not familiar with media theories on which I could base my research. I have no idea about methods in journalism research. But that is okay, because those gaps will be starting points to dig into literature and to find out more.
I mentioned these questions and gaps in my exposé. It shows honesty and will guide the further process.
What generally applies for the exposé
Write down everything you know and everything you have in mind. Categorize it. Then specify as much as you can, narrow things down extremely. The broader the topic, the higher the possibility to get lost and to end up with a shallow paper on a lot of things instead of having dug deeply and sufficiently into one part of it.
Mention your next steps
Lastly, a good way to put yourself into action is to write down the next steps. Note the problems you have and how you intend to solve it.
It is not so difficult to write an exposé, just as it is not true that you don’t know anything about a certain topic.
So, what knowledge did you discover that you thought you didn’t have? Let me know in the comments!