Researching an Essay Theme


As a photographer it is important to have an understanding of contemporary debates on photographic practice. This includes theoretical and philosophical critical thinking on this artistic medium. Over the last semester I have to set out the subject matter that I  intend to research and critically analyse in a written academic essay, as part of my final degree submission.  This essay’s subject matter is reflective of my final practical project that I will also produced for the final degree submission for this BA Hons degree.

In my last post I outlined the critical processes that I undertook to set out my essay theme and how it related to my practical project. This process of evaluation and critical analysis lead to me defining the essay’s subject matter and title.

Has documentary photography become just a manipulation of the truth?

Should documentary photography be a record of the truth or a platform to influence change?

I began the research process for this essay by setting out a mind map, of initial topics

and critical debates that I would like to define more with greater in depth research . This process enabled me to identify some of the key themes that would enable me define the critical arguments I needed to debate in this essay.
I chose to predominately find sources of research using online reference centres. This included using Studynet, which is an online library of available academic papers and written works, which are relevant to your area of research. I used this site initially but found that it contained such a broad spectrum of reference material it became challenging to refine the suggested resources to define what was relevant to my essay theme. I therefore decided to use Google Scholar as the reference point for identifying the research sources for this essay. I referenced each topic or critical debate by referring to my original mind map list.   Whilst reaching my theme I encountered some key academic writings and books on my essay’s theme, this research material will provide some important theoretical and philosophical thinking that will support some important context to this essay’s debates. I found that using a online libraries to research academic books enabled me to access more writings of the books author or suggested additional readings on the subject matter.

The foundation of the research for this essay has come from academic books written by tutors on the subject matter or published authors and journalist who specialise on writing about photography.  I have also chosen to research some emotive , inspirational resource material such as the creative thinking of Susan Sontage in her iconic book On Photography.  I wanted to ensure that this essay provided context and reflective the emotional connection between a photographer and their audience. Sontage’s books debates both these points.

I found the most challenging point of this research was trying to find a broad spectrum of research . I found at times that there was a lot of research information of some aspects of the essays debates and less of others. I took a while to decipher what was duplicate research I didn’t need to read again.

My goal for this essay is to critically debate a reasoned argument which is reflective of my research into this subject matter.

Discussing my critical thinking  behind my essay themes with both my tutor and my peers was pivotal in helping define the subject matter and critical debates I have now set out in my essay plan.











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