Hello! It’s me 🙂
I know it’s been a while but I have been busy working on a few bits and pieces, which I will be announcing soon (I hope) however, I know for some of you it is a stressful and very important time… Third Year of uni, your final year and that lovely dissertation making you want to cry… yeah I’ve been there…I remember that. I also remember reading a whole bunch of my friend’s dissertations last year and planning it with them – so I get the struggle, trust me!
Recently, a few of you have been asking me questions about my experience with my own final year project so, I am going to bullet some main points that helped me through that time.
Just for your information, in case you don’t know, I studied Human Biology and Journalism with majority of my degree focusing on the Biology part. I decided to do my disso on something combining the two and what I came up with was a project looking at the accuracy of health information in newspapers. I was really interested to see whether what we were reading in our papers was scientifically correct. I actually enjoyed doing my disso, it was stressful I can’t lie and took A LOT of work BUT… I enjoyed it…..
The advice I would give anyone doing their final year project would be….
Make sure that the topic you have chosen, you have some sort of interest in it... you will be writing a huge report on this and I have advised people before on my curious cat (who asked how to choose a disso topic) to choose something they will actually enjoy researching about. If you genuinely like your topic, researching and going through books and journals won’t be as much of a task.
Do your literature review right – now, this part does seem long… you have to get your initial research done in order to lay out the foundation of your entire report. To make sure you have an understanding of what you’re doing… research properly into your topic and what has already been done in that area. Literature Review is literally that – reviewing literature already in that area. Everyone’s topic is different and different things need to be covered in a lit review but when starting my review, I was told to keep these points in mind:
- What research has already been done in your topic area? What did they find?
- What are the strengths of the research already done and the weaknesses?
- Where is there a gap in the research already out there and how can you fill it?
Organise yourself! Decide how and when you will work on your disso. I created a timetable for every month and noted down all my deadlines for uni (Exams and assignments) and would note down what I wanted to get done each day. Note down when you want to work on your disso, what days and try your best to stick to it! (give yourself break days too!) – I always used to set my deadlines a few days before the actual hand in date, to ensure I had time to leave the essay aside and then proofread and make edits later.
I also made checklists everyday of things I needed to get done. You know all the minor bits and pieces you would usually tell yourself ‘remember this’ – yeah, I would forget so what I did was get a sticky pad stack and scribble down anything important that came to mind.
Don’t leave your planning till last minute!! Actually! Don’t leave ANYTHING till last minute… Structure and plan how you want your final project to look – you should get support from your lecturers (some sort of layout and structure). What I did was type down all the different sections in a word document, bullet pointing what I intended to put in each section. I did this from the very beginning because that gave me a structure to work on.
- Abstract: brief explanation of what the report will include – with an aim, brief of the method, key results, key finding and brief conclusion [note: your abstract is a blurb of your report, someone reading this should have an idea of what your whole report is about]
- Introduction: ‘short intro to the topic and explain what I aiming to do…’
- Method: ‘explain what I did, outline of questionnaires or any sort of method used, whether that be researching for articles on Google or an experiment – every detail needed…’
- Results: ‘present my results – use graphs/tables/images – explain them and what I found’
- Discussion: ‘discuss my results– the reason for them, good points to my study, things I could have improved on, things to look at in the future – my conclusion should go here – rounding up my whole project – need final statement’
And don’t leave any part of your dissertation till last minute… usually you might be given deadlines for each section – stick to them!!! And make sure you get feedback on anything you are unsure of, go to your tutor and ask them. Which leads on to my next point…
If you need help, ask! There will be points where you will feel like pulling your hair out and will be confused and need some guidance… GO TO YOUR TUTOR! They are meant to be helping you so take advantage of that and email/call/visit them. Don’t feel like you are bugging them – it is your grade, your final project – you want to do the best you can and you will 🙂
Don’t risk ruining all your hard work by copying another’s work or not referencing what should be referenced! It can be easy to see some text or a paragraph (in a book/journal) that says exactly what you want but don’t just copy and paste the whole thing and not bother to reference where you got it from. Sometimes you can paraphrase what you found and make it your own words but make sure you still reference where you got that information from so it doesn’t seem like you’re making it up! Remember, all work is checked from plagiarism and you really don’t want your hard work to be wasted just because of a minor mistake. My advice would also be, IF there is someone doing a similar topic – do NOT send your work to them… they may just end up copying it (without meaning to) and that could cause you and them a lot of trouble. Don’t do that… I never did because I didn’t want to risk it however, that doesn’t stop you from helping someone and giving them advice. [If you are unsure about the rule on referencing someone’s work, ask your tutor – don’t assume it is ok or that you know the rules].
Proof read your work! What I did was, every time I got a chunk of my report done, I would print it out (with the graphs and tables) and read through to make sure it made sense. I did this with every section and when I was done with the final thing, I printed out the WHOLE project, left it and then read it through a few days later (the reason why I say set your own deadline a few days before hand in date) – and I say a few days later because you are so used to staring at the same thing, your eyes are used to it and you might miss minor mistakes SO… by giving yourself a break and reading it through later, helps you pick anything up. I also gave it to my siblings and parents to check and make sure it made sense.
Use all your resources!! Take advantage of the fact your university has given you an unlimited supply of journals and books! A lot of unis give us an ‘Athens’ login to access articles you would usually pay for. Just say you search for something on google and come across a journal/article or a book but you can’t access it and you are asked to pay – simply copy and paste the title/author into your online university library and see whether you find anything. I always found the article for free with my uni access!
Also take advantage of social media. Because of Twitter I got over 200 responses for my questionnaire and that was a huge help to my project. If you need help promoting a survey/poll of yours or anything to contribute to your report, let me know! I will happily retweet and promote it across my platforms.
Note ALL your references! Doesn’t matter what it is, how small or big the information is – copy and paste whatever you find into another word document and make sure you note down WHERE you got it from – if it’s an online journal; copy and paste the URL, the author, date you accessed, date it was published… all these details you will later need for referencing! Do this for EVERY piece of information you get… honestly it makes your life SO much easier. I had SOOO many journals and random pieces of text but it didn’t matter where I got them from, I made sure I noted the source!
Back it up! Don’t just assume your 10,000 word essay will be safe on your laptop. Use One Drive, email it to yourself, keep it on a USB… whatever method you use, HAVE A BACK UP(S) – don’t risk losing all your work. I learnt the hard way – my laptop died half way through my project and I was distraught. Luckily Apple fixed it but I definitely learnt my lesson there and then – BACK IT UP!
Give yourself time to chill – seriously, you will need it. Don’t overwhelm yourself and work non-stop, you’ll only tire yourself out and then feel unmotivated. I always gave myself some time to watch a TV show or do some writing (yes i know, how could I possibly write after typing a dissertation… I asked myself the same question)
Be Unique and Confident! This is your final piece of work so put your all into it. I assure you, the moment you have that dissertation in your hand, all bound and fresh, you will feel so relieved! So, these next few weeks, knuckle down and have faith in yourself. Work hard and do your best. If you have put all the hard work in, you shouldn’t worry.
To be honest, I would not have been able to do my dissertation or get through uni without the support of my friends and family – they were/are amazing – it is tough but it’s not going to last forever and one it is over – you feel so good. I promise!!
Good luck 🙂
Have a read of my Uni Q&A blog where I share some of tips and advice on how to organise life, when it comes to studying.
p.s – below I have attached a snippet of my dissertation contents page… it might help some of you set out your project (maybe!)