Which project should I do for my undergraduate dissertation?

Information on research, statistics and publications - tips including how to recruit participants, gain funding, understand your results and get them published.
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Which project should I do for my undergraduate dissertation?

Post by nettyb » Thu May 03, 2007 7:04 pm

When it comes to choosing a topic to investigate in their final year many people panic and assume that they need to conduct a clinically relevant and novel project or they will have no chance of ever getting an AP post or a place on the training course in the future. This simply is not the case; many people succeed without having completed research with a clinical population during their first degree.

Choosing the right topic for you is important and may potentially mean the difference between a successful project and a publication or a miserable final year. What follows are some hints and tips to help you make the best choice for you:

1) Keep it simple. In research terms you have very little time to design and complete a study. Some people recommend that you choose a project that is on offer by teaching staff within the department. Doing so means participants may have already been identified or recruited, ethical approval gained and the project is practically ready to go. If you are considering using a clinical population a major consideration is whether you will need to get NHS ethics and Research and Development approval as well as approval from your university ethics committee, this could take a significant amount of time which you really don't have. Recruiting a student population is significantly easier than finding a clinical population, it is highly stressful when, one month to hand in, you have no data because of difficulties with recruitment, students on the other hand are far easier to sample. Whilst many people will want to do something novel and interesting the expectation is that you will conduct a feasible piece of research (relatively independently) and learn about the research process rather than make a ground breaking discovery.

2) Do something that a) you are interested in or b) something that you think you may do well at. Your project/dissertation has to sustain your interest for anything up to two years (depending on your university). Choosing an area that you don't mind spending hours and hours working on will make all the difference to your final grade and your enjoyment of the research process. Don't do a research project that you have strong negative feelings about; you will lack motivation and find the whole experience miserable and stressful.

3) Meet with potential supervisors and discuss your ideas. Arrange meetings with a few supervisors that have differing interests and see which one you get on best with, this is one of the few times you get the chance to choose who supervises you so you can afford to be picky. You will need to work closely with this person for months so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them. Speak to people from the year above and find out what their experiences with different supervisors has been. You need a supervisor who is reliable, interested in your research and supportive.

The main thing however is to learn from the experience. When the time comes to apply for Assistant Psychologist and Research Assistant positions people will be more interested in how differently you would do things if you were to conduct the study again and whether you have a good understanding of the process of research, the stats or method of analysis you used rather than your findings.

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Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on DATE and checked by ell (moderator) on 01/04/12
Last modified on 26/02/2012

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