Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Dissertationnnnn (part one)

Sorry for the delay in getting this blog to you guys, I've been swamped with my dissertation, which coincidentally is the topic of this blog :). I've touched on what this involves before but I've never really gone into detail about what is expected from a psychology dissertation, so here it is :)

It’s important to note that what I'm talking about here only applies to what I've had to do this year for my project but it may change in the years to come. Also in psychology they refer to the dissertation as 'final year project' and those terms are used interchangeably though out both the course and this blog :).

The beginning of the process actually starts towards the end of second year. Within the research methods module, we had a mini presentation from the psychology lecturers who explained a little about the past research they've conducted and what their main areas of interests are. From this it's normally pretty obvious who you’re going want as your supervisor and you can then set up an appointment with them to discuss your ideas for your project before officially requesting them as your supervisor.

A few weeks later you have to submit a form detailing a rough outline of your project and who your first and second choice of supervisor would be. They usually try to accommodate your first choice as much as possible, but sometimes they can't, hence the reason behind also selecting a second choice.

My top tip would be to pick a research area that you're really REALLY interested in, as it really does help you, in term of motivation, if you're genuinely interested in it, otherwise working on your project can begin to seem like a chore! Additionally, it's always a good idea to pick your supervisor based on their research area, rather than which lecturer you get on best with. It may seem silly but lots of people have done it in the past and then struggled in terms of finding previous research as their supervisor isn't familiar with the research topic they've chosen. Obviously having a good balance of the two is the ideal situation :)!

For me making this choice was pretty straight forward, as where I had done research work in the past, into face recognition and eyewitness testimony, I was pretty set on having this as the topic for my dissertation. There was only one main lecturer who specialised in this area, so everything sort of fell into place for me :)

The next aspect of the dissertation is getting ethical approval, and this process is slightly more complicated as what it involves varies depending on what you're doing for your project and the risks associated with it. Unlike most other university courses, a psychology dissertation isn't just writing a loooong essay, it actually involves designing and conducting a piece of research, then analysing the results before writing it all up. Because this process involves the testing of participants, you need to get ethical approval before you're allowed to begin.

As previously mentioned this process can vary greatly. The majority of projects only need to get approval from the department's ethic board, but if it involves some sort of risk, or is intended to be conducted on 'vulnerable' people such as children under 16, this needs additional approval before it can be given the green light to go ahead.

In order to get ethical approval, you need to provide a project summary, risk assessment form, and the actual ethics forms themselves. As well as those, you also need to provide copies of all the forms and measures you intend to use within your study, such as information and consent form, debrief from, and all your questionnaires. (It’s not as easy as it sounds, trust me :p) This year there were numerous opportunities to submit your ethics forms, starting in July right though till like October. My advice, GET. THEM. IN. EARLY.  I really really can't stress that point enough, and you have no excuse not too as you have the wholeeeeeee summer to work on them!

I managed to submit mine late August, which meant when September rolled around and all the new first year students started I was able to swoop in and collect the majority of my data before September was even finished. Where as some people I know left it till like the last submission date and they're still struggling to collect data now, even though our project is actually due in 3 weeks!! The problem with submitting later on in the year is that the majority of people's projects involve getting the first and second year psychology students to participate in the studies and after a few months of doing all of the third years' projects they just get bored and don't want to do anymore!! So try to submit your ethics as soon as possible and you shouldn't have a problem.

Lastly, once you submit your ethics you'll get it sent back to you with some type of pass. Either it'll pass straight away (very rare),  or be sent back with a conditional pass (most common) which just means you need to make a few minor changes, normally it's just things like spelling or correct layout/format etc and your supervisor can just sign off these changes without it having to go to the board again. OR it could come back rejected, which means major changes need to be made, and it need to be resubmitted again before it'll get approved.

Mine luckily came back with conditional changes, as I needed to change the term 'participant number' to 'participant code' and correct one of my questionnaires as the last question got cut off when I formatted it, so luckily they were simple to change, and tbh as long as you put the work in before hand, the majority of them come back like that :).

Wow, I actually can’t believe how much I've written, and I’m not even halfway through talking about the dissertation!!  Well done if you've managed to read all of that so far, but I think I’ll have to leave it there for now, and in my next blog I'll continue talking about the dissertation, particularly more about the actual testing procedure and write up of it :)

 Ta Ta for now xxx

Friday, 1 March 2013

Personal updates :)

It’s been a while since I've written about what’s going on in my personal life, so here are the highlights :)

It was my birthday a few weeks ago, which was nice but slightly stressful as the weather decided it didn't want to cooperate and snowed heaps the day before. This meant that one of my best friends Caitlin, who was coming up from Cardiff, got completely snowed in so she couldn't make it in the end :(. My mum wasn't very well at the time either so there was only a few of us there, although it was still good fun :) so not all bad!! To make up for it, Caitlin came up a couple of weeks later, and the two of us, plus my other best friend Denise, had a day out in Bluewater instead :). It was really good as we managed to get free tickets to see Wreck it Ralph, which was actually really really good, despite Denise’s insistence that it wouldn't be. And then we went to TGI’s for a meal, which was yummy, but it wasn't as nice as the previous times I've been as they were super busy and we only got our starter halfway through our main!! Luckily I had a couple of vouchers with me (as always) so we got the starter and a dessert each for free, which did soften the blow after the long waiting time!

A few weeks ago, my colleagues in the Enquiry Unit held a bake sale to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Some of us made cakes to be sold, and the others just paid to eat them instead, I did both and probably ate more cakes then I actually made, but it was all for a good cause (or that’s what I’m telling myself anyway! :D) overall we managed to raise a grand total of £171!!

Below is a picture of some of the cakes we sold at the bake sale, (mine are the ones on the bottom- I know they look a bit squished but that wasn't my fault!)

Speaking of hearts, Valentine’s Day was really nice this year :) my boyfriend and I decided to go out on the Tuesday instead to avoid paying the ridiculous amount they charged on the actual day. It was really good though :) we went to my favvvvvourite Turkish restaurant (the same one I went to for my birthday) and had lots of yummy food :) I also got some lovely surprise presents, such as an orchid and a back massager. So I was happy bunny indeed :)

Anywayyy, I hope you guys are good, and that you had a good valentine’s day :) My next blog is going to be more academiccccc, promise!! Talk to you laterrrrr x