Coursework, Future, Student, Study, Time Management, Uncategorized, Uni Life

Tackling the Dreaded Dissertation

I shall begin by letting you know my dissertation is almost definitely different to yours. Mine is split into two halves, both worth 50% of my final grade. My first half, a 10,000 word creative piece, was due in December. The final half is my essay, due at the end of April, like most other courses. Luckily this submission is only 5,000 words!

Having already done the bulk of it in December and receiving a good mark in January I feel I am in a good position to discuss how to tackle them! I am well on my way to finishing my first draft of April’s submission now and am finding myself with even more tips for the essay.

1. Start early!

You will hear stories about the girl who did it in 16 hours and still managed a 2:1. Okay, maybe that girl was super-woman and managed it but chances are she’s lying. Start reading and making odd notes over the summer between second and third year. Buy a journal/notebook and start noting things down – potential questions, interesting points on the subject area, a little reading list, the occasional quote you’ve found, chapters of particularly useful books (ANYTHING).

2. Read! Read! Read!

You cannot write if you do not read. Start collecting some useful books or at least titles you can look up. Use the library website to search for books, journals and articles which may be of use and write them down in your notebook. Print articles off and get highlighting! Once you’ve done the reading you can start the writing. Little and often, little and often.

3. Pick something you’re genuinely interested in.

This is so so important. How on earth are you going to write 10,000+ words on something you don’t care about?! Don’t dread writing your dissertation because you aren’t interested in what you’re writing about – that’s no fun! Pick a topic which you can’t wait to find out more about, pick something you are motivated to research and make your essay something you’d want to read. Don’t see it as a chore but as something you actually want to do. I am excited to learn more about my subject. The beauty of dissertations is that you can pretty much do whatever you want, within reason. You can tailor your research and question to a topic which you are enthused by.

4. Do the bibliography as you go along. 

DO NOT leave the bibliography until the end. It will seem like such a chore! Portsmouth has an absolutely incredible referencing tool – so good that other Universities use it! So make the most of it! If you haven’t got to grips with it yet this tool is sure to help you – it’s a real life saver. You can compile your bibliography before even writing your essay. Every time you read something put it in your bibliography, fully referenced. That way, when you are writing in your essay, it’s already there ready and done. You can always keep adding to it and if you find you don’t read a source you thought you would then just take it out.

5. Make a note of where you found quotes.

This is crucial and I, along with many others, have fallen into this trap too many times. I was determined not to make life difficult for myself with this ever-so-important assignment. When you find a quote and copy it into your journal or word document ensure that you know the author, date and page number for citing. There is nothing more frustrating than having a perfect quote but no idea where you found it, or knowing it’s somewhere in a 500+ page book with no hope of tracking it down again without reading the entire thing cover to cover. If you don’t make note of where you got it, that quote will then be unusable and wasted.

6. Book as many tutorials as you possibly can.

All courses are different. With some you may only be able to show one draft, but with others there may be a lot more flexibility. I was able to book pretty much unlimited tutorial slots and took full advantage of this. The more feedback you have before the final submission, the more likely you are to do well.

7. Create a document or page in your journal with loads of useful quotes divided into sections/topics to use at ease when you are writing.

I have found this to be so immensely helpful. Whilst writing now if I need a quote I just consult my document with all my useful sources in. I simply copy and paste the most relevant one out of my already carefully selected quotes. Making this document is a good place to start before you actually begin writing because that way you have everything already ready and set out for you.

8. Take breaks!

The beauty of starting early means you have lots and lots of time. It is so important to take regular breaks away from you work so you can come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind. It will be much easier to proofread and to improve it if you’ve taken a step back. Work on it solidly for a week then leave it be for a week and come back to it. Breaks are incredibly healthy and will make the process feel a lot more natural and easy.

Good luck everyone, if you’re halfway through yours now or you’re just looking to get an early start on next years!

It is with a heavy heart that I remind you this is likely to be the last thing you will ever write for submission at the University of Portsmouth. Enjoy it!

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Course, Coursework, Exams, Free time, Future, Island Experience, Portsmouth, Reflection, The city, Uncategorized, Uni Life

Two Years Down, One To Go

I feel like I should be feeling a lot more relieved right now than I actually do. I HAVE FINISHED MY SECOND YEAR AT UNIVERSITY. Wow.

There are so many mixed emotions which come with finishing a year of study. On one hand I feel immensely proud of everything I have done. I have achieved so so much and come so far in the last year. Yet also I feel quite sad. The looming reality of life after uni is starting to really dawn on me. One. More. Year.

It’s insane how quickly the time seems to be going; it feels like mere months ago I was a fresh-faced first year, battling my way up the stairs in Bateson Halls armed with a load of cooking utensils I would never take out of the packaging but needed ‘just in case’, ready to meet my new housemates. It feels like weeks ago I moved into my house I have now been living in for 8 months. I feel a little scared if I’m honest.

I can’t believe my time at Portsmouth is slowly but surely drawing to an end. My heart is sinking as I am writing this just to think about the prospect of leaving. I am so blessed to have spent the time here that I have. A year seems so far away: so much will happen in that time… And yet I think back on the past two and fear that the third will disappear into memories just as quickly.

For now, I am going to enjoy the sea, take trips to my favourite little cafes, exploit the fact we have countless outlet stores at Gunwarf Quays, ride my bike around the most flat city ever and breathe in the sea air! I love Portsmouth so much. I am going to make the most of my remaining time here like I have tried to for the previous two years. I am lucky enough to have the advantage of my course finishing early, meaning I have free time to appreciate Portsmouth.

To all students here: enjoy your time here, do not take it for granted. To future students: coming to Portsmouth will almost certainly be the best three(+) years of your life. And to myself? Here’s to the next and final year!

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Coursework, Exams, Free time, Home, Student, Time Management, Travels, Uncategorized, Uni Life

Busy Busy Busy Busy

I’m a little ashamed at how long it’s been since I’ve written a post (*cough*two months*cough). From September to February I can proudly say I wrote one roughly every two weeks but alas with the tightening grip of deadlines I have been somewhat absent from the blog.

I haven’t spent this time shying away from writing though! I have written a short story, a screenplay, twelve poems, two articles, a review and a lot a lot a lot of essays! It’s been rather hectic to say the least. I can imagine any of you reading this right now can sympathise.

Still, no excuse for how long I have been gone. I did also take a trip to Spain amongst all that so it hasn’t been all work-based! On Saturday I return to Portsmouth to finish off my second year here. It’s insane how quickly the time has gone. I remember returning after Easter last year and feeling a slight sadness that my first year at university was coming to a close. I had achieved so much in my short time and met some wonderful people who I can confidently say I will be close to for life, now. It’s jarring that I am now here again. Where does the time go? I imagine I will be writing a very similar post this time next year (apart from the not posting for two months part – let’s not do that again!). This time next year, when I am weeks away from being an actual graduate-cum-real-life-adult. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I’m not convinced I ever will be!

However, I am beginning to take some (sort of adult) steps towards my future. I am setting aside money for driving lessons/car/insurance when I graduate so I can get myself from A to B when I’m living God-knows-where. I am also going to move my life savings bit-by-bit, when my current ISA ends in August, into a home-savers ISA. As very kindly explained to me by my Auntie who works in a bank, you can put away a certain amount per month and when you go to put down a deposit on a house/mortgage the Government give you 25% of what you’ve saved for free! Wahoo! So, if you have a partner and you both save £12,000 each, the Government will give you £3,000 each so you have an extra £6,000 total to put down on a house. So maybe it’s not so much of a hopeless dream to get our feet on the housing ladder after all?

I have also applied to do work experience over summer with my favourite online magazine ever – The Debrief. So fingers crossed there! I feel like now that I’ve written it down I’ve jinxed it. I won’t even write it in my calendar because it’ll make me too sad to have to cross it out if I don’t get the placement.

I have one more final exam in about two weeks which makes me feel so scared I want to cry but I’m slowly getting there with my revision. I’m writing my lists and breaking it down so it seems more manageable.

I’m really starting to have to think about life after uni now, not that I want to! It’s ever so exciting but also absolutely terrifying. With how busy this academic year has been I can only imagine what I’m in for when my final year begins. Big things are coming up and I hope I manage to take the right steps to lead me to a happy future after this big university adventure draws to a close.

This blog post has been rather disjointed as it is really just an update – these are the many things I have been up to and here’s where I propose to go from here! I absolutely promise promise promise I will post within the next week. The deadline hell is over and I can get back to what I love most: writing.

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Coursework, Exams, Portsmouth, Student, Uncategorized

Intense Times!!

Hi!

We’re at the middle of March and the pressure is on! I will have to submit a 5,000-word report on a topic of my choice, a 4,000-word proposal for a paper cut artist and after that I will have to start working on my final project, which is basically working with a business in order to improve their digital presence and promotion. I know a lot of students are in the same situation, trying to get everything in order and done before Easter break so they can go back to their countries without too many worries on their minds.
I have been spending these past days at the library as well, trying to get everything ready, as I might be heading to Athens, Greece at the start of April so I want to have most of my assignments done before this trip.

 

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A good tip that I always follow and I urge other students to do so as well is to start early. Even if the assignments are due in a month or the exams are after Easter break, always start as early as possible. Students need to utilize the time that they have efficiently and not take it for granted because days pass quicker than we think! So by having time to study, students can re-examine and analyze their course’s requirements as many times as they can. You know what they say: practice makes perfect 🙂
What is your technique at being prepared for assignments or exams?
XOXO Ntina

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Coursework, Study

R is for Referencing (& all things dissertation)

Yes, it’s that time of year! The deadly dissertation hand in!
Whilst I’ve spent my Easter (and months before) planning and prepping for my dissertation it’s now that I’ve actually found myself sitting doing it. Finding relevant references, citing them (for some reason this brings me more joy than it probably should!), justifying them and then trying to make it sound a bit more academic; not much of a wild Easter but – don’t fret – I am counteracting it with eating lots of Easter eggs and seeing my friends during my breaks!

For those of you not doing your dissertation at the moment this might be overwhelming – or maybe you don’t know what it is. Well I’m here to give you my top tips:

  • Start early
    Every single third year doing a dissertation will tell you this. Start now. (Unless you’re in 1st year!) Having your idea and research done quickly will motivate you more and won’t leave you in a last minute panic
  • Get your head round the ‘lit review’
    It’s tricky. Few people enjoy doing it. But it has to be done. 1000 words (give or take) about who else has studied the area you’re studying in.. When you want to get into the nitty gritty of your own topic it feels like a pointless/annoying process but it’s relevant! Learning how to write it earlier on is better than struggling later
  • Do something you enjoy
    This is the biggest downfall. You could choose a topic you think is easy to write about but if you find it mind-numbingly boring then don’t do it! You’ve got to write 6 to 12 000 words on it so make sure you’re in love with the subject!
    I chose to base mine on creating and marketing a welfare broadcast for the students and community of Portsmouth. Now I love TV, I love live broadcasts and I wanted to do something to help people; I think (finger’s crossed) I’ve achieved that!
  • Learn how to reference/cite
    If you don’t know how to reference or cite in text – learn now! You will have anywhere between 20 and 200 references for your dissertation and citing each of those is going to be a nightmare unless you learn how to do it properly. In my first year I could never reference but I learnt and now – inner geek coming out – I love it and it’s one of my favourite parts of academic writing!
  • Ask for help
    Your supervisor is here to help you; to bounce around ideas, how to actually get down to writing, if you change ideas.. that is what they’re there for! And if you feel you want more academic support there are so many places you can go in the University for academic skills help. This is a huge unit towards your final degree mark so don’t be afraid to ask for a second, third and even fourth opinion!

Dissertations are difficult; there’s no doubt about it. But it can be done; make sure you take breaks, socialise, get some air. Find yourself a motivator to get it done – if it’s 1 square of chocolate for every 100 words or maybe it’s 1hour of a tv show for every completed chapter – give yourself a treat that suits you.

And to round this off a bit of shameless plugging with my artefact for my dissertation called ‘Mind Matters’. Make sure you check it out as it’s 5 months of planning, filming and scripting all rolled into one!

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Architecture, Clubs and societies, Course, Coursework, Free time, Home, Portsmouth

New Term

It takes a little while after summer to get back into the swing of things at Uni. Getting up at a reasonable time, going to bed at a reasonable time and sticking to a routine is not necessarily something that happens during the summer months. Luckily I was really looking forward to getting started again, dare I say it but our break was almost a bit too long, I wanted to see my Uni friends again and actually have a purpose to my life! The novelty of summer wears off pretty quickly when you realise you haven’t actually got many plans. That being said, I went away with friends to Wales and Turkey, went to Cornwall with my boyfriend and family, as well as going to Victorious Festival here in Portsmouth! I also did some part-time work and had plenty of pyjama days.

Starting back with our course was as busy as we anticipated; as per usual our tutors had no delays in dishing out the work. Our first project was set during induction week, though we’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that induction week just doesn’t exist in architecture, there was no plan to coax us back in slowly. It was inevitable from the start that this year is going to be tougher. Our current design project is twice the size of our last and worth half the credits, plus we have half the time! Just a small challenge! However I’m really happy with my tutor this year, he’s been one of my favourite lecturers throughout my first two years and is really constructive when we’re talking about our designs.

One of the most exciting things about this year is that I’ve made it onto teams for the University of Portsmouth Equestrian Club. I was part of the club last year but I can’t wait to get into it a bit more and ride on a regular basis. It’s so nice to still be able to carry on with a sport I really enjoy, even when I’m away from home and my pony!

I’ll be going home for the first time this term next weekend, which is a record for me! I’m still a home girl at heart but I am finding it easier to spend longer periods of time away from my family. That being said, I’m really looking forward to going home and seeing everyone, mostly for going to my brother’s tennis club on Saturday morning where they make the yummiest cakes ever! It’ll be lovely to have one of Mum’s roasts too…

x

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Course, Coursework, Future

DOs and DON’Ts of coursework.

It took me over two weeks of doing nothing to recover from the not-sleeping-till-i-finish-this-coursework phase I was in at the end of term. Luckily, after spending another sleepless night with my theories of self, I managed to complete, print off and hand in two 4000 word pieces of coursework by Wednesday morning – a day before the final deadline. Then I hopped on the train home.

The next morning I received an email from King’s College inviting me for an interview! The fact they’re giving me an interview means a lot, and I now believe in my chances of actually getting in even more! Now I have to prepare a research proposal presentation, which isn’t going that great… But I still have time!

Anyway, back to the point. Now that I have officially finished all coursework I thought it was only fair to reflect on the entire experience over the last three years of my degree. Although the coursework pieces differed from each other, I found that there are some general rules that cover all of them. So I prepared a list of DOs and DON’Ts of coursework. Yes, I know you’ve heard it all before! I have too, but I never took it seriously enough. I guess you really have to experience something to be able to take it all on board. Anyway, here it is.

 

DO:

plan in advance! Seems obvious that you need to plan, right? Not necessarily. What I mean is plan what you’re going to write about weeks before the deadline, not right before you’re about to write it. Some essay questions are easy, and you know exactly what points you’d like to get across; however, often lecturers give topics that are very broad, so they can be answered in many ways, and that’s when it might get difficult to concentrate on a specific aspect. And it WILL give you a panic attack if you leave it too late.

–  research! Lecturers always give us core readings that can be used to answer the essay questions, but one book and lecture slides are not enough to write a strong 2:1 answer! Psychology department encourages its students to think critically about any given issue in psychology, and without evidencing further reading and independent research, you cannot show this ability. I am sure this is the case for any course out there; after all, University is meant to teach us to think for ourselves.

make notes! There is nothing more distracting than trying to navigate between numbers of papers, journals, websites and books all while trying to get your points across. What always worked for me was making notes on only the things I needed for the essay. It really does cut down on the time you spend on a piece of coursework, makes it easier to organise the facts and thoughts, and most importantly, helps you focus.

avoid all-nighters! Personally, I find that I work best at night, but staying up all night doing work really messes with your body clock. Especially if you do more than one in a row. You might think that by staying up you’re buying yourself more time, but the truth is that it makes you more tired and it is harder to concentrate. Instead, get a good night sleep and get up earlier than normally to get more time.

set yourself mini-deadlines! For example, if you have an essay due on a Friday, aim to have if finished by Monday so you have time to read through it a couple of times, and make changes where necessary. If you have to do a portfolio made up of sections or a dissertation, set yourself deadlines for specific sections, so you can do them throughout the year.

use formative assessment! If you have an opportunity to hand in a piece of work for a formative assessment, do it! It will make it so much easier to finish the whole thing and it will give you tips and some peace of mind when you come to writing the rest of it, as you will now know how to go about it.

 

DON’T:

leave things till the last minute! Some may find it more helpful to work under pressure (I was one of those), but you really don’t need all that stress! It only makes it worse, and panicking is quite common. Always leave yourself some extra time in case of any emergency changes you need to make.

procrastinate! Of course, scrubbing your bathroom floor is more important than your coursework at any given time, but let’s face it, you’re not getting anywhere with it. Have breaks, but don’t let them turn into movie marathons or 3-hour naps. Just get the coursework over with, and you’ll have all the time in the world to do whatever you want.

proof read when you’re tired! By tired I don’t mean after a long day of reading/notes making/writing. I mean tired after an all-nighter and a few (not enough) hours of sleep. Trust me when I say this, no matter how many times you try to proof read, there will always be something you missed! It wasn’t until recently that I realised that one of my pieces of coursework that I’ve handed in reads: “The effectiveness of goal setting on human performance has been established in many studies (Locke & Latham, cited by Cochran & Tesser, year)“. Yes, I said “year” instead of inserting an actual year of the publication. And I promise you, I proof read it many times!

compare yourself to your friends! Just because they finished sooner than you, doesn’t mean you’re behind. Just keep working at your own pace and make sure your coursework represents a high standard. Their work may not, especially if it was rushed.

 

I hope someone will find this useful. I wish I knew all these things earlier!

Good luck to everyone in their dissertations, dissertation interviews, courseworks and exams. We can do this!

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