From the end of your second year as a nursing student, your personal tutors and lecturers will start to discuss the big one - your undergraduate major project, otherwise known as your dissertation. Having just completed mine I feel I have picked up information along the way that is still fresh that I can pass on to you guys to help you with yours. Here is a little list of things of 10 tips to help you prepare and write your dissertation.
1. Start thinking about your topic early on. It is true that there is a list of around 30 or so overarching topics that your area must come under however these are very broad and almost any topic of interest related to nursing can be allocated under one of these headings. It is really important to talk about a subject that you have a lot of interest in. This is going to take you the best part of your third year to complete and you need to have a vested interest in the subject to be able to cope with the amount of research, reading and writing you will do. Try and think back throughout your training to things you are passionate about, things that have held your interest or things you want to know more about. This will help narrow your focus and make the time spent easier to deal with.
2. Start your research early on... preferably at the end of your second year when you have a break in between assignments and starting third year. To some this may seem very early but I can promise you it is worth it. The last thing you want is to be starting your dissertation and then finding that your topic has little to no primary research on the subject, making it very difficult to write a literature review. When third year starts you will be overwhelmed with the workload and the amount expected from you in placement, so having some research started will save you hours and hours of crucial time in third year and will help you to understand your topic and focus on what to write using the research available.
3. Spend some time scanning over your lectures and notes from your research module. This dissertation is a literature review and it will help for you to brush up on your research studies as you will be critically analysing pieces of primary research throughout your assignment. I would also advise for you to take out a couple of books from the library to do with types of research. I'm not saying you need to read the whole book but I used a couple from the library and it made looking up research types, their advantages and disadvantages and criticism of the work a lot easier.
4. Please make sure that you listen to the lectures from the librarians on how to use the research databases properly and effectively. It is very easy to say we have had these lectures before and not listen properly, but you would be surprised how many students - after having this lecture every year - still return to the librarians and ask for extra teaching on this because they did not pay attention. You will need to search properly for research and write a section on how you did this in your dissertation. Not only will this give you marks but you do not want to miss out on important pieces of research because you could not use the databases to the best of your ability. Half of your workload and hours for this project will be finding and reading relevant and appropriate literature on your topic.
5. Make proper use of your dissertation supervisor. Many students make the mistake of leaving contact with their supervisor very late or even not at all. Your supervisor is there to help guide you through your assignment and is the most useful tool you have in writing your review. Make early contact once you know who they are, discuss your topic ideas and keep in regular contact via meetings and email after this. You can tell the difference between the work of those students who have worked with their supervisors and those who haven't. If you have a particular topic in mind before the allocation of supervisors you can even contact the allocator to ask for somebody who has an interest in your choice of topic. I knew I wanted mine to be cardiac based and I requested the cardiac lecturer for my supervisor and was granted this, which was invaluable to me.
6. Use the module guide, the lecture slides and the Cluedo board on the VLE for guidance on structure and writing your assignment. All of these tools will have information on the exact order in which things should be presented, the format down to margins and font sizes and will give examples of good pieces of writing in each section. I looked at these early on and made notes on each part, giving me a sound structure to follow and helping me get in the mindset for writing my work.
7. Make sure you have a plan and a good solid idea of your themes before starting writing the whole thing. Your themes take up the main part of your assignment and are what the rest of your review and the title will reflect and discuss. Your themes will come best from looking at your research and seeing what is common in them. It is much easier to guide your themes around what you have found than to make a theme and try and force your research to fit. This will be obvious and not flow very well reducing your marks considerably.
8. Take regular breaks when writing. It is important not to give it just half an hours attention here and there as this will break the flow of writing, however do allow yourself time to relax and enjoy things outside of placement and assignments as this will keep your head relaxed and clearer when studying.
9. Back up your work!!! Send it to your student email, personal email, save it on your personal computer, the university computer and a memory stick. Regularly update them with current work. I watched several students in my cohort lose sections of their work and have to start them again as they could not find them. This is unnecessary stress for sure and devastating to happen. Avoid this at all costs.
10. Finally, make sure you celebrate and treat yourself once it is over and handed in. This for most will be one of the biggest pieces of academic work and achievement in their life so far and should be celebrated. Buy yourself something nice, treat yourself to dinner, celebrate with friends. Mark the occasion in anyway as this will give you something to look forward to once it is complete and will feel wonderful.
Good luck everybody on your undergraduate major projects!