An effective Research work or dissertation, which must be submitted within a given period of time, is a fulfilment of the award of Master of Science (MSc). Thus, it is imperative for every student to organise and motivate themselves, and manage their time in order to prepare an effective research work or dissertation that would pass the test of time.
1.1 Personal Motivation
The importance of personal motivation Personal towards a research work cannot be overemphasized. It is very essential, because, an effective research requires a researcher believing in his/her ability to achieve it. Thus, student must develop the habit of becoming an independent learner by self-motivation.
Personal motivation comprises extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is motivation that inspired or affects you from the goals, values or achievement of others probably in the same line action, while intrinsic motivation is your goals, values and interests that give you momentum or drive to achieve your target.
According to Davis (1999), there are certain factors that boost or increase personal motivation of student researchers to perform to their highest level. Some of the factors are:
Believe and inspiration: Student's believe in his or her ability to achieve the aim and objectives of the research work and get inspired is the main consequence of personal motivational towards a research work. Thus, for every student to produce an effective research work, they must believe in themselves that they can do it.
A sense of purpose and achievement from reaching a set realistic goal: unrealistic goals can be disappointed and frustrating, thus, a realistic goal that will increase personal motivation towards the goal, which will enable the student to critique their own work, analyse their strength, and work on their weakness must be set.
Frequent, early and positive constructive feedback from supervisor with affirmative comment: Where a negative feedback is the case, the student's weakness needs be made clear relating to the task and not to the student as a person because negative feedback is so powerful to the extent that it can lead to demoralisation and loss of interest or focus if not properly reported. So, giving students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve it can greatly boost morale and personal motivation of the student towards an effective research.
Access to required facilities and information needed to succeed personally motivates a researcher.
Relevance of the research work to the society also gives personal motivation.
A sense of feelings as a valued member of a learning community motivates a researcher to strive to achieve the aim and objective of his work.
Open and positive atmosphere
Availability of a supervisor for proper guidance
Assistance by the supervisor to help the student find personal meaning and value in selected materials and be able to suggest ways of getting around obstacles.
1.2 Time Management
No matter how effective a research is, it must be handed in on time i.e. latest on the deadline specified by the institution in order to avoid penalties. Thus, there is the need to organise and carefully plan your research work to meet a deadline.
The first thing to do in planning your work to meet the deadline is to draw a timetable of your term or semester assigned for the research work showing dates and tasks to be completed and when the research would be handed in. However, time management entails more than drawing a plan from the school academic calendar.
It requires in details; identifying your obligations, carefully considering their importance and making rational choice on how to use your time.
Drew and Birgham (2001) gave steps you could follow to effectively manage your time to produce effective research that would be valued by the appropriate or specified time required to submit it. Some of the steps are explained below:
Identify how you currently spend your time: For effective time management, it is necessary for you to start by keeping diaries of your activities (time spent on reading, socialising, watching TV, etc.) to establish how you currently spend your time daily or weekly.
Identify target tasks and make a plan towards achieving it: Break large tasks into Actionable Easy tasks in order to effectively manage your time for a dissertation. There is the need to identify what you have to do by when e.g. A student that has sixteen (16) weeks to carry out a research work could plan is work as shown below to:
Tasks to be accomplished (targets)
Aims, Objectives and hypothesis
Week 3 - 5
Week 6 - 9
Data Collection (send and received questionnaire, prepare interview etc)
Week 10 and 11
Analysis of data and Conclusion
Week 12 and 13
Write First draft
Final editing and draft
Table 1: Typical timetable for the planning of a research work.
Prioritise your task: Once your list is ready, you may discover that you have several tasks to do together within a particular or similar deadline. It is necessary to prioritise youââ‚¬â„¢re your work by: urgent and important - do it now; urgent but not important - do it if you can; important but not urgent - start it before it gets urgent and not important and not urgent - do not do it. In a nutshell, tasks must be prioritised in such a way that you are directing your effort towards tasks that are matters.
Monitor and revise your work plan: There is the need to review your performance from time to time to ascertain that you are on the right track and maintaining the planned pace i.e. checking your work plan regularly to determine if you are meeting your set target or need to amend your plans to allow for change of circumstances and re-prioritising.
Save Time: You could save time during the course of researching by getting all information you need from a material at the same time to avoid going back to it; organising your work with systematic filing, using a reminder system for what you need to do; avoiding time waster like TV, socialising and trial and error; feedback from your supervisor; and support from the learning centre staff can save you several hours of wasted time.
In addition to all the points that have been given above, Kuther (2010) further gives some points that could help in the management of time during a dissertation, which include:
Use of Multiple to-do lists: This involves organising your research by topic, context or research and the use of separate lists for each topic, context or chapter.
Set deadline for yourself: Set a realistic deadline for every task.
Be Flexible: Allow time for interruption and distraction, which are inevitable. They can be taken care of by adding half of time required on your plan time to take care of unexpected circumstances like rush for books, computer, etc.
Avoid Procrastination: Procrastination is the most dangerous thing in life. Try to avoid it by doing what is required at the right time.
Go with your flow: It is necessary to consider your biological peaks and low during a course of researching by determining the time of the day that you are at your best or could be productive and then go with your flow accordingly.
Make use of the wasted time: Time could also be managed using a pocket work like note pad, flash card, etc. to make use of possible wasted time like time spend on commuting, standing in lines and waiting to see your supervisor, advisor, doctor, etc.
All these approaches could be adopted to effectively manage your time, which is very important and essential to produce an effective research that must be turned in on or before the deadline set by the university. Otherwise, your effort in producing the research might be worthless due to a penalty for late submission.
Strategies for Managing Research Information
The importance of managing information gathered through documenting and recording, during the course of carrying out a research cannot be overemphasised. Orna and Stephen (1995) highlighted the problems facing most students about coping with the information they gathered during research to include:
The problem of getting or pinpointing useful information from selected relevant sources.
The problem of using time cost-effectively in selecting quotations from reliable sources.
The problem of coping with the accumulation of files of notes and photocopies materials from articles.
The problem of storing gathered information for easy access when they are needed in such a way that they will not miss potentially useful information or material.
According to Drew Bingham (2001), management of information through keeping a good record and documentation will allow a researcher to:
Have details of reference materials used and save him or her the time of going back to find them, otherwise he or she may not have proof to support his or her argument.
Make reference to the information in the future time
Save valuable time
Help in structuring an appropriate format.
Information gathered for a purpose of researched should be classifiably recorded and documented by subject; topic; author and cross referencing in order for the researcher to easily find or sort them when they are needed.
Information gathered during the course of a research could be managed (recorded, documented and stored) by means of the following systems, which are:
Note taking with the use of a Card file system: during the course of a research, researchers are not reading to find a standard set of facts or figures, rather, to find a bit of information necessary to support his or her argument. So, all relevant information, points and quotes, reference and bibliographic details are needed to be noted down by using note cards and a point or quote should be limited to a card. It would be annoying, strenuous and waste of time having to go back to a book if you failed to note down your points. Shoe boxes could be used to store the cards.
Establish Files/Folders for the research: According to Stephenson (2010), information gathered for a research could also be effectively managed by opening separate files or folders for:
Copies of papers from review of literatures;
Building up the dissertation
The main advantage of using a file/folder system is that new divisions could be introduced into the system at any point in time.
Computer database and Memory stick: the use of computer is an advance way of managing information gathered for a research. Today, information is sourced for from the internet websites and this information could only be managed and stored on a database, computer folders on hard drive, and memory stick like flash drive, CD, DVD, etc. by creating electronic files/folders in systematically ways (each file/folder for each chapter, topic or task) that would enable the researcher to navigate to the required files/folders easily when the stored information is needed.
Data Summary Form System: The use of Data summary form, which is applicable to open-ended questions (postcoded) and closed-ended questions (precoded) is another system of managing raw information gathered for a research. It is use for the transfer of raw data from the questionnaire or data collection form, and the process is regarded as 'recording scheme' or 'production coding'. It is usually inserted in the appendix of a dissertation because they are raw materials Naoum (2007).
Audio Recording System: the use of an audio recording system like tape is also one of the appropriate systems to manage information, particularly if the research as to do with interviewing people. The information gathered through this means could be effectively stored on this device or transfer to CD or DVD as a backup until when they are needed or for future purposes.
Visual recording System: If the topic of the research required visual display of photographs, Information needed for the research could also be gathered, stored and manage using a camera, camcorder, etc. and the image or video systematically stored on these devices, transfer to a computer or print it out for filing in a plastic covers in ring-binders, in such a way that the researcher enables to access and navigate to the required information when the need arises.
Methodological Approach to Writing a Dissertation
Writing a dissertation is one of the tedious tasks of a research process because it requires hard work and time consuming in dishing up structured information or converting the research work into the actual dissertation that always ranges from 15,000 to 25,000 words (Stephenson 2010). Thus, it is imperative for a researcher (student) to systematically organise and plan is work, as well as manage his/her time in such a way that the research work is submitted or turn in on or before the deadline.
Methodological Approach for Writing a Structured Dissertation
According to Turk and Kirkham (1989), there are seven-point plans in dishing out information you might have gathered by conducting a research. These plans are put in stages, which are:
Analyse your aims and objectives: It is important for a researcher to analyse the aims and objectives of his/her research work and determine what has been achieved and what could not be achieved. This will help the researcher to structure how the aims and objectives of his work will be dished out to his audience.
Consider your Audience: like any other academic research work, dissertation is a piece of work that needed to be structured, well thought and flow from identified aims/objectives/hypothesis to the final conclusion that would leave your audience (supervisors, examiners, students and other academicians) that may need to refer to your work in the nearest future.
Make a Plan: The importance of planning in writing a dissertation cannot be overemphasised. It helps to avoid wasting time and mental blocks by identifying how the sections of your work will be written and later revised to suit your desire. Planning your work will help to organise points and information into the relevant sections and revising it will give you the sense of coherent communication to your targeted audience.
Discuss the Structure with your Supervisor: It is important to discuss the proposed structure with your supervisor to seek is advice as regards the writing. Being someone that has a pool of research experience, s/he might be able to spot gaps and advise you accordingly on how to structure the content of your dissertation to reflect what you set you set out to do.
Draft the Dissertation Text: After aims and objectives have been analysed, audience has been considered, plan on writing has been made and decision on content and order has been decided, the next focus is to make the first draft that will allow your ideas to at one sitting. And when some other points come up, note it down and later insert it in relevant section. When making the first draft, it is necessary to start with the section that you feel most confident in and follow the sequence of the writing in order of confident.
Forget it for a while: It is necessary to allocate ample of time for writing your dissertation, because it is advisable to leave the writing for few days and later go back to it when the precise lines of thought have been forgotten to determine if you have written what you intend to pass to your audience.
Revise and Edit ââ‚¬" Prepare the Final Draft: The stage involves revising the stages of writing by reading through the first draft without stopping to determine the flow of your ideas and note areas that may need adjustment if the need arises. Then, decide the type of writing style you wish to use before printing.
In addition to the above mention steps and stages of writing a dissertation, Naoum (2007), propose a typical dissertation structure order popularly used for academic writings as shown below:
Title and subtitle page also showing your name, department and institution.
List of Figures
List of tables
Definitions and Abbreviations
Introduction to the research
Questionnaire, interview and case study design
Analysis of the results and discussion
Recommendations for further studies and practice
The Process of Viva Voce and the requirement of a Robust Research Dissertation Defence
'Viva voce' means 'by or with the living voice' derived from Medieval Latin word. It is an examination conducted by speech introduced in 1815 and popularly used now for 'oral defence' of a dissertation before the award of a degree (Newbury 1997). It could take different form ranging from public examination with an open audience to a private situation with a limited number of examiners and candidate basically used by most universities.
4.1 The purpose of the viva voce
The purposes of the viva voce for the defence of a dissertation are:
To enable the researcher to answer questions, support or prove arguments, opinions and conclusion and reflect on what he or she has learnt from the experience of his or her research work.
To enable the researcher demonstrates that the research work is his or her findings. In order words, to enable the researcher proves that he or she has not plagiarised by mastery of the material and its literature; evidence of analysis, interpretations and conclusion.
It could serve as a point of interest to any member of the panel to further research in the area of the topic.
4.2 The process viva voce
The viva voce process of defending a dissertation could be structured to alert the candidate to the type of experience they should be expecting to encounter or structured for the candidate to psychologically prepare for the experience s/he will encounter.
The viva voce process of defending a dissertation could be brief or take longer time depending on how it has been structured by the examiner or lay down by university regulation guide for dissertation module for the number, type and how questions are asked; the degree of freedom given to the candidate to develop responses; and the degree of informality and formality.
The panel for a viva voce defence of a dissertation may comprise external examiners, programme leader and supervisor(s), who may ask questions related to the research work.
According to Stephenson (2010), some of the possible questions may include:
Can you state in one sentence what your work represents?
Explain the aims and objectives of your research
What research methods have been used?
Why were these methods used?
How where your data collected?
What was collected?
How did you reduce your biases and prejudice?
What have you concluded from your research?
Have you achieved your aims and objectives?
What are the major strength and weakness of your studies?
Who in your area of study will agree and disagree with your findings? Why?
What future area of research work have you identified? etc.
4.3 The Requirement of a Robust Defence for a Research Dissertation
According to Newbury (1997), a good viva voce dissertation defence from a candidate should reflect:
Clear well-organised and formulated sharp, concise and accurate replies to questions and substantiated by argument and/or evidence.
Speaking clearly and frankly while looking at the examiner or questioner i.e. being oneself.
Self-confidence - trying as much as possible to subdue nervousness and maintain calmness.
Flexible and agile thinking in response to unanticipated questions.
Ability of the candidate to request for clarification of unclear questions, this will reveal the precision of the researchers thinking.
Ability of the defender not to lose his/her poses and rambles.
Better understanding and awareness of breadth and depth of the appropriate research methods.
A critical and thorough awareness of the field of enquiry, which demonstrates knowledge above that within the written document.
Self critical assessment showing honesty in what has been achieved partly achieved or not achieved.
Awareness of what has been included and excluded in the research area and reasons for both i.e. conscious knowledge of changes during the research work, reasons for these changes and their effect on the result in terms of direction and focus.
Awareness of some part of the research area that need to be researched by the extension of similar or other methods and the potential implications of the findings.
Clearly stating limitation(s) encountered during the research.
A sense of candidate's personal investment, continuity of purpose, search for answers, integrity and thoroughness on the research.
In conclusion, a good research dissertation defence that is well argued evidently supported and purpose made clear would convince the panel that the research work is originally carried out by the researcher.
DAVIS, Barbara Gross (1999). Tools for teaching: motivating student. [online]. Last accessed 13 April 2010 at: http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/motiv.htm
DREW, Sue and BINGHAM, Rosie. (2001). Starter and Development Pack: gathering and using information. Learning and Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University.
DREW, Sue and BINGHAM, Rosie. (2001). Starter and Development Pack: organising yourself and your time. Learning and Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University.
KUTHER, Tara (2010). Simple steps to make use of your time. [online]. Last accessed on 15 April 2010 at: http://gradschool.about.com/cs/timemanagement/a/time.htm
NAOUM, Shamil G. (2007). Dissertation Research and Writing for construction Students. 2nd ed., Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann.
NEWBURY, Darren (1997). The viva voce: a research guide. Research Training Initiative, University of central England, Birmingham. [online]. Last accessed 15 April 2010 at: http://www.biad.uce.ac.uk/research/rti/rtrc/pdfArchive/V01.PDF
ORNA, Elizabeth and STEVENS, Graham (1995). Managing information for research. Buckingham, Open University press.
STEPHENSON, Paul (2010). Dissertation defence. [Lecture handout]. From Research Workshop lecture, held on 12 April 2010, Sheffield Hallam University.
STEPHENSON, Paul (2010). Organisation and management of research. [Lecture handout]. From Research Workshop lecture, held on 15 February 2010, Sheffield Hallam University.
STEPHENSON, Paul (2010). Writing a dissertation. [Lecture handout]. From Research Workshop lecture, held on 15 February, Sheffield Hallam University.
TURK, Christopher and KIRKHAM, John (1989). Effective writing: improving scientific, technical and business communication. 2 nd ed., London, E & FN Spon.