Graham Kendall Advice on finding and starting your third year project
Advice on finding and starting your third year project
This page gives some advice as to how third year students should find a suitable project and a suitable supervisor and how to begin working on their project. I also say something about how I supervise third year projects so that you can judge if we are able to work together.
This page contains the following advice
I have a list of project ideas here. But you should also consider projects available from
other supervisors. It is important that you find a project that you want to do, with a supervisor that you are happy to work with.
No supervisor will be upset, angry or annoyed if you decide to work with somebody other than him/her. It's your project, find the most suitable supervisor.
If you want to do one of my projects (or an idea of your own), then EMAIL me, giving me an outline of your particular area of interest. We'll probably then arrange a brief chat and, if we are both happy, we can sign the relevant forms.
You need to start the process of looking for a supervisor/project as early as possible as we can only supervise a finite number of projects and once we have reached our limit we cannot take on anymore projects, no matter how much we'd like to.
All supervisors have a different way of supervising third year projects. This is how I do it. You need to make sure you are happy to work this way, if you want me to supervise you.
This project aims to investigate a, b and c and produce x, y, z).
Then the last words in your dissertation should be something like
The aim of this project was to ???. We know this project has been a success as we have shown that.
There are many ways of phrasing this initial statement, but what I want you to do is have a specific, measureable goal in mind,
so that you know what you are trying to do and you will know when you have achieved it.
Bear in mind that this does not restrict you in your project, we can always change the aims and objectives, but at least we know we are changing the project without it just wandering along aimlessly.
Therefore, at the start of your project, I will ask you to write down what you are trying to achieve and I will expect you to give this to me at our first or second meeting.
Many students find it difficult to get started on their project. It is especially tough when you are beginning the third year of your degree and you have lots of lectures and coursework to do. If you want my advice, here are a few pointers as to how you can get started.
Okay, so you have some idea as to what to read and where to get it, but
what do you do with this wealth of material?
There are two main things you should be doing. Firstly, you should be reading around the subject to get a better idea of the area you are working in and to gradually build up a picture of the what specific area you want to concentrate on.
Secondly, you should follow up any references you might think would be interesting and/or useful. In these initial stages you should be trying to build your own small library of your specific area of interest. With this in mind, at this early stage, it is worth setting up a card index system (or go mad and do a database :-)), or starting to keep a workbook where you record everything about the project.
It is very important that you keep a note of your references. Remember I said that you get (or lose) lots of marks for your related work (literature review - call it what you will).
The aim of your literature review is to put your work in context. With
this in mind, in your dissertation, you should be describing and discussing
the important papers/books in the area you are working in, spending more
time on the more important ones.
The types of papers you are looking or may tell something about the history of your subject, they may discuss important breakthroughs or they may do their own review of the subject area. It is also important that you discuss how these pieces of work are related. For example, ow did one piece of work lead to the development of another, did one piece of work better the results of another etc.
The last part of your literature will probably describe how your works fits in with other work in the area (i.e. how does your work fit into the context of other work.
You can see examples of literature reviews in past dissertations but (with all due respect) some of the dissertations may not be the best models to use. But if you are interested (and it may be useful to look at other points with regards to the dissertation) some of the projects I have supervised have the resultant dissertations here. You will need a password to access download the dissertations. If necessary, I will give you this in a separate EMAIL. This is so that I can monitor who is accessing the site and, more importantly, not to allow anybody in the world to access work done by students at The University of Nottingham.
It may also be an idea to visit the library and look at some PhD (or MSc) theses. Any thesis should give you a good idea as to what a literature review is trying to achieve.
It is well worth spending some time on your literature review. Not only
will it give your project a good foundation but once it's done that's it.
If you can do it before christmas then you can simply copy and paste it
from the interim dissertation into the final dissertation.
Okay, there may be a few more things to add, but you will have 99% of it done. If you are faced with doing your literature review after christmas either, you won't do it (with the inevitable loss of marks) or you'll do it but the remainder of your project will suffer (with the inevitable loss of marks).
Last Updated 27/08/99