So just over a month ago I had my final trip to Aberystwyth (as a student at least) and this time it was all about my biggest fear – the dissertation.
The dissertation is something that I have had in the back of my mind since I started the course. I know quite a few people have decided not to do it, and I understand why. But I like the idea of having my own individual topic to focus on – the fear I have is the size of it. I’m one of those seemingly rare people who is always under the word count rather than over. My undergrad dissertation only had to be 8,000 so doing double that is slightly daunting!.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this trip. I knew it was for the same period of time as previous study schools, but unlike before where you have mini lectures/introductions to upcoming modules, it was difficult to envisage what they were going to fill the time with.
When the timetable was released I saw the time would mainly be filled up with lessons on different research methods, for example quantitative and qualitative methods with one lesson set aside as an opportunity to discuss your dissertation idea with your peers. I was slightly confused by the sight of research method type lessons as the one module you had to complete in order to attend this study school was Research Methods, so it is presumed everyone is read up on this already. Though once the week progressed I found some of the lessons helpful (though others not so much).
My undergraduate saw me writing research type reports/ essays as well as theoretical essays so i guess I’m quite lucky in the fact that I am aware of the processes, but for some that have not had to conduct or write-up research before, it must be quite daunting. And in this case, I think some of the lessons could have benefited from going into more detail or allowing time for questions.
I was hoping there might be quite a big chunk of time set aside for individual study time. It would have been nice to have that time to make use of the library, something us distance learners don’t often have easy access to, and read through previous dissertations and research our ideas further before talking to a tutor. Although we did get some time for this, it was mainly snatched opportunities in lunch breaks or when lessons finished early and I found this disappointing/
Another thing I found difficult about the experience was that, at the time of going, I did not have a clear idea for a dissertation topic. I had some vague ideas but nothing properly formulated. Though we had not been asked or expected to have a set idea, I think it would have helped as when it came to discussing with my peers and being assigned a tutor from there I was unprepared and therefore felt unproductive in the tutor one to one as I couldn’t properly discuss ideas and therefore the tutor couldn’t really give any advice. However, I’m sure that when the time comes the tutor I am assigned to will be helpful.
This reads like a fairly negative experience, and I suppose really I was quite disappointed by the experience, but it did get me thinking a bit more about my dissertation and it must be quite difficult to organise such a week for people who are at all different stages.
On a more positive note I did enjoy going to Aberystwyth, the weather wasn’t too bad- only raining once(!) – and it was good to catch up with people from last year and have a week living the ‘student life’ ….apart from the halls, which leave little to be desired, especially given the fact that two of the days this time the lock to the bathroom was broken!
One of the Aber library lecturers, Lucy Tedd has just retired and during the week she gave a special lecture about her career. She had quite the career full of amazing opportunities, I would really love to travel with my job as much as she did!
As much as I find can get frustrated by the disorganisation of the Aber study week, I can’t help but love the tutors and all the admin staff that help but together the week!