I am back from my 10 day trip to Italy (which I will tell you more about in my next post) feeling so much relaxed and refreshed to get back to my dissertation. Thought I should tell you more about doing a masters dissertation which can come in handy for when you’ve to do it.
A dissertation is a year-long research project or study that is compulsory and carries the most number of credits. For my course, the eight modules I need to complete carry 15 credits each and dissertation 60. It is necessary to pass all modules and the dissertation to obtain a degree. For my dissertation, I am studying how people feel about their homes and the quality of urban homes in general and affordable and social housing in specific. It has always been my topic of interest and I think it is important you take up a study which you are interested in or feel comfortable doing as it can be a little daunting at times and you don’t want to lose interest over time or feel demotivated to finish it.
Although it is a year-long project, we did not do much in the first semester of our course. This is probably because of the nature of our programme – we were expected to probably focus more on getting our environmental psychology basics right before we learn how to start with a literature review – which is the first step of a research. I do know some students from a different course who were expected to start early, send in a research proposal of sorts in the first semester.
Here’s how I did it:
(please note, this is a psychology research and might be very different from what you are expected to do for yours)
Oct-Nov: we had a rough idea of what our topic is going to be around. We had to fill out a form with three options for topics and our preferred dissertation supervisor. Before you send this in, you have to talk to your lecturers about your ideas and see if they’ve done any research around your topic of interest and if they’d be interested in supervising you for the year.
Dec: This was the exam time and we didn’t bother much about the dissertation. But, right after it, did a full literature review over the Christmas break. At least we were expected to.
Jan: I was trying to apply to the student research workshop at a couple of conferences on environment-people studies. I had to send in my dissertation (which was still an idea) as an abstract first and then as a research proposal of 2000 words later in March when I got selected to present at the conference.
March: This was when I got most work done on my background, research questions, hypotheses and also measures as I had to send in my full paper for the conference. I’m so glad I did this.
April-May: Shamelessly ignored my dissertation for the two months that saw a lot of submissions and exams for other modules. Regret it now, but thankfully I had enough work done cause of the conference.
June: Devicing my online questionnaire. Thought It’d take me a week and I could send it out by the second or latest by the third week of June, but took me a month, a month! I wish somebody had told me it’d take longer.
July: I was hoping to have finished data collection before I left for the conference in the second week of July. I was now late by a month but finally had my survey up and running.
10 days to August (i.e NOW): panicking and collecting data. It’s going slow but I’m sure I’ll have enough by the end of this month.
August: Was for writing up my report. But now I’ll have to squeeze in data analysis as well. Which means while I collect data now, I finish writing the first half of the report.
September first week: submission
Panicking comes naturally to me and it helps me get work done on time. You will be more than fine as long as you have a plan and stick to it which is very difficult to do at times, especially when you have to handle everything else along with it (like cooking, socialising and going out, travelling, exercising, applying for jobs, or your part-time jobs, binge-watching series, anything and everything). Some tips from me might help and here goes:
- It is always advised to stick to the timeline suggested by the faculty. It seems like an easy thing to do, but throughout the semester you’ll have other modules to study for and other activities on your schedule that it is very likely (and tempting) that you would leave dissertation to June – for when you’ve given all your exams and completed all modules. this is a bad idea.
- You know how you work and how much time you need better than your friends or your supervisor. If you feel you should start early – start early! Do not worry how others feel about this or if you’ll get enough support (cause I did).
- If you need it, never hesitate to ask for help. We are here to learn new things and being reluctant doesn’t help much, does it?
- We had a dissertation support workshop kind of thing in the first semester to get us started and going. If you have one scheduled for your course attend it.
- it always takes longer than you’d presume. if it doesn’t then great! but be prepared for the worst.
- you will enjoy it as it’s not like other assignments with very specific and defined tasks. It is your project and you get to shape it the way you want it to be (as long as it makes sense).
Writing this out actually helped me I’d say. I’m now feeling motivated to finish it with a blast! Time for me to get back to it. Fun Italy pictures for you in the next post.