Friday, March 5, 2010

On MA Research... (and Its Limitations)

Well, first a disclaimer. It's only my MA thesis, so I'm not paid or have a job to go with it or anything. So I know (almost) nothing about the lives of professional researchers and I don't claim I'd be a good one because, on the basis of the work I've done so far, that would be plain bragging.

But if you're doing or have done any research that requires a nice paper summing up the results, you know what I'm talking about. It's a totally unusual experience, not something that people come across in their everyday lives. You need a totally different set of skills to put so much information into a concise but understandable read. So here's my experience.

I've enjoyed it immensely. In fact, so much so that I have some nice plans for the time I'm done with this project. I'm going to have another blog with small "amateur" research projects, about things that have intrigued me a lot while doing this one but I didn't have time to look into them. I won't have to write thousand of words about the results (which I guess I will eventually but without setting such a goal) and there will be no pressure to meet any requirements.

So how's it going?

The hardest part of the work was to defeat my own worries. It seemed such a huge project that I didn't know if I was capable of carrying it out. I had to do lots of new things that I hadn't been taught how to do and sometimes I had no idea how to set about them. But I followed the rule, only considered the next step to take without worrying about the rest (not always easy), and finally it all turned out well.

One misconception I had all along was that I cannot fill up 40 pages. I'd written fairly good papers in 20 or so and I knew I could handle a project of that size perfectly. All along I had the conviction that this would make an awesome article in any periodical, only it wasn't to be one. It had to be 40 pages, and without any babbling. And that seemed impossible. Good studies are the ones that lack all the fringe, only contain the most important figures and details and make clear statements without going too much into detail. On the other hand, an MA thesis has a set length of 40-55 pages or so and I have to make readers believe that I've done all the work.

Sometimes I really felt silly writing 40 pages about a project I carried out on my own cost and responsibility. You might well imagine the scale of such a piece of work that a student can carry out, constantly fighting against the unwillingness of the people involved. I don't mean the participants -- but you have to get to them somehow... And that's not easy without any official authorization.

But then I began to see how it all works. Forget about the length requirements. If you think logically, your paper's bound to be that long, given the amount of literature on any MA topic and the findings of any well designed questionnaire. You'll have enough things to write about anyway. So just stick to good old research styles and start putting your thoughts into words. you can always revise later. I've rewritten a couple of parts and it was much nicer to do so then writing on blank sheets, even if the outcome was totally different from the draft. It's all psychology, isn't it? ;)

Anyway, I think it's much more enjoyable if you do it as a piece of professional research. I hadn't really read theses before, they're nicely locked up in the library and I'm not a fan of libraries. (They never have the right book and you have to keep quiet, go thirsty for hours and they all smell of old paper and you can't buy the books...) So all I knew about was professional research, which usually makes up 20-30 pages (or a bit more in textbooks, but that's another matter). So I was trying to tone my quality down to get more quantity out of the project. But that wasn't the right approach.

Now I'm writing the last chapter and I'm doing it the right way. I have a concept in mind, a line of thought I want to follow. I know where I want to start and I know what conclusions I want to reach. And if something is not related to what I wish to convey, then I simply won't go into details. I'm sure I'll reach the 40 page limit by the end, but if I don't I can always add some bits. I'd rather write a very short and concise thesis than a long, boring one.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Breathtakingly Beautiful and Charmingly Cheap ... the Chinese Wedding Dress Syndrome

I'm sure you've all seen the breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly cheap wedding dresses that are all all over the web nowadays.

Usually it's about amazingly beautiful studio photos with a $50-200 price flickering next to them. There's no ironi in this, it's only the truth. Well, part of it. For after browsing the pages a bit more you're sure to find the firm policy, which starts like this: "We are Chinese dress maker company, make beautiful dress for you". But why should it be a problem if a bride wanted to order her gown from China? It's true that the poor seamstresses work for the smallest wages, but if you have a tight budget yourself, should you just ditch the idea of a beautiful gown?

Because wedding dresses are very expensive nowadays. (Sometimes so much so that the poor bride -- literally :D -- can really feel she should forget about her dream princess gown altogether.) Not to mention the dresses in the studio photos on these sites -- I mean the originals. But then how could the knock-off be so cheap? The sites say it's because they have no shop, no salon, they work with local fabrics and employ local people. Well, that's good as may be but I still think $50 would hardly be enough for the fabric...

So I've been looking into things a bit and I can say it's all "IKEA policy". Which is no real problem if you're aware of it. The Swedish manufacturer is considered really cheap in Switzerland and really looked down on. However, we all know that there may come moments in everyone's lives when one's not buying furniture for 100 years that looks a millions' worth -- and the price is really an issue.

Well, these firms work just like this. They make dresses that follow the latest fashion, as the pictures on their sites are from the newest designer catalogs. And their business models are similar, too. There are lots of people at the local IKEA store every Saturday, and I'm sure they don't leave empty handed (after all it's not really a family event to be queuing up there...). This is the basic idea behind the brand, that lots of people buy their products, which are not very beautiful (mind you, we have the apartment full of them and they look nice) but there's plenty of them and they're cheap. And all this despite the occasional quality issues. If you're really complaining, they'll exchange everything (and I mean everything!) willingly and in a very friendly way.

Chinese wedding suppliers have similar principles. Brides choosing simple gowns are usually very satisfied with their purchase. Those who call them and keep in touch throughout the manufacturing process give positive feedback as well. The rest often get horrible dresses, which really have the feel of the infamous Chinese quality to them. Then it's time to send it back and start complaining. But most of the time the shipping cost is just more than what you've payed for the dress, so the bride won't bother.

So is it a "do" or a "don't"? If you're a risktaker, definitely a do. It might be worth it, even if it doesn't turn out well. If you have the time, also a do. If you can track the production throughout, they won't cheat you. (It's a good idea to ask for photos during the process!) If you've set your heart on a simple gown (sot much beading and decoration) and you can specify your needs exactly, do it. As I said, it might work out.

But if you'd like to click and forget about it -- well, forget about it. It's not as easy as that. If your dream dress has lots of frills, beads and flowers, don't do it. These gowns are not made in China. If you're prone to be nervous, I wouldn't advise it either.

So it's really like 50-50. It can either turn out really well, or it's just money wasted. It's no pessimism on my part, I've just been summarizing hundreds of pages of reviews here. (Before you order, google the manufacturer/seller and read the reviews carefully. Some are obviously planted there.)

Well, it seems that my dress might be the most expensive thing about the whole wedding. Hope not. (Definitely not counting the paperwork: that'll be a fortune in itself!)

Anyway, it's one of the things I stuck to at the very beginning (we both had 2 each) so this is only fair. I could also cut the groom's expenses and feed the guests sandwiches. =D =D =D Just kidding! I'd never touch his "babies", one of which was the food. We both have the right to stick to what's really important to us. It's our wedding, after all. But I'm not giving up on my beautiful dress. So we'll see how's it gonna go.

I'm not ordering from China. It just feels too fishy to me and I can invest the $200 in the second plan, which I'd have followed if the China thing hadn't worked out. I am a risktaker normally. It's just too much risk at a time when I'm having plenty. And I want to get on with the dress business too. I'll tell you later how plan B's going.

Thanx for reading! Have an awesome day! (Though it's gloomy here. Supposed to be snowing, which I doubt would happen after weeks of spring. Well, we'll see...)

Cheerio!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Perfect Wedding Dresses... from the End of the World...

I might have just found the perfect dress... it's in China.

I don't know what's got into me, I usually don't do this sort of thing. I don't order stuff from the internet in general, let alone clothing. I love taking things off the shelves before I buy them, try them out/on, even go outside to see them in daylight (should see the face of shop assistants! =D). So I'm really not into this sort of thing. So what happened?

First I started browsing (that's where many a good plan plunges into its doom...) and I saw the huge differences on the price tags of salon stocked versus online custom made dresses. And as I love saving money (to spend it elsewhere =D), I was half hooked.

Then I realized how fast I have to act, with the wedding coming up in 4.5 months and how difficult it was with me in such horrible countries, market-wise. I mean Switzerland is so unreasonably expensive and Hungary... well, it's a totally different style and vendors hold to their belief that a bride can pay any sum (therefore imagine huge princess dresses for a month's salary).

And then, finally, came the dress. This dream of  slender lace magnificence with enchanting details and a hint of old time glamor lost forever... and my heart skipped a beat.

So what do I do? Am I crazy? Ordering from a site where they state things like they can send me the dress as a gift so that I won't have to pay taxes?

Here's the thing. The dress is from www.wedding-dress-gown.com.
I don't know what to think of them. I might just order it anyway and cross fingers it wouldn't be $200 thrown away. I haven't found any reviews so far.

Please if you've ordered a dress from them, be so kind as to comment. I'd really appreciate any advice!

I've read good things about Little Coral (also China-based), but I haven't fallen for their dresses, though some seem to look the same (even the pix...). But they're reviewed throughout the internet, which is something...

What do you guys think? Come on, let me know! ;)

I really like the dress...