Thursday, 12 September 2013

Dissertation & Postgraduate Funding

Postgraduate funding

Hi guys here is a link that may help many of you find some funding, sign up and you shall obtain information on postgraduate funding (scholarships and bursaries) some of which is exclusive to the site, and you can also request information on specific institutions and courses if you are thinking about further study:


What a dissertation looks like:
  • A dissertation is an extended piece of written work and whilst there is no set structure, have a look at finished dissertations from your department of study to get some ideas. I believe at Aston university you can go and request dissertations from the library. Also Google does have some dissertations (undergrad and postgrad) available, which you could look at however you may have to search quite a bit. EThOS ( ) is also another avenue, which holds thousands of dissertations - whilst some you have to pay to access others are free.

Finding a topic:
  • This can take longer than you think, but that shouldn't worry you. My best advise is to do your dissertation around a topic that fascinates YOU, so that there is less chance of you getting bored half way through and losing the will to live.
  • Remember that you can do a library- based dissertation or a research based dissertation - do what will best suit you within the time you have. However this isn't something you should seriously worry about at this stage unless you're like me and can't help yourself.
Good sources of ideas are:
  • Something you've always wondered about or found fascinating
  • Lecture notes, old essays
  • Current journals and academic books
  • Media and news items
  • Things you disagree with fiercely
  • Controversies, current affairs issues
  • New areas in your subject
  • Talking with friends, family and lecturers
Just remember it is never too early to start thinking of ideas. Keep them in one place so they are easy to access when you need them. Also start an ideas book or something similar, it could really help. Also the student handbook should have a section on what the University and your department expects in general terms of your dissertation, take a look and keep a note of the key requirements.

Going from your topic to a question
  • Now a dissertation question is not the same as a topic, it has to be phrased so that it can be answered in a 'specific and focused way'. There are numerous ways that you can get from your topic to a question.
  • Here are a few ways, just remember do what you are comfortable with, and if unsure discuss with your supervisor if you have one or if you have started early a lecturer/ staff member you are comfortable with: first, do some reading around your topic: are there any gaps in the current research that could provide a question? Second, if you usually write too much – think smaller and focus on one narrow aspect of your topic. Third, if you usually don't write enough – think bigger and link some related areas of your topic together.
  • Remember your initial question is not set in stone at this stage, it definitely can be altered over the course of your project to suit what you end up examining.
  • It is a good idea before you make any final decisions to discuss your choice of question with your supervisor. 
Once you have a relatively clear initial idea construct a proposal, you may find yourself altering your proposal numerous times, I did, but the proposal helped me to lay out my ideas and aims clearly and was a great way of showing my supervisor what I wished to investigate and why.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Dissertation Methodology

Hi guys hope you're all having a fabulous time. Now I have just completed what is my final dissertation draft, all I have left is to do little more editing (YAY). But there are some things as a first time researcher that I didn't know at first or lucky did yet friends didn't, so here are some pointers in regards to the methodology section of the dissertation which I hope help.

First no matter your research design and methods always critically read literature available that has scrutinised the methodology you are using. Here are some for mixed methods and qualitative:

  • Bazeley, P (2004) Issues in mixing qualitative and quantitative approaches to research. From: Buber, R, Gadner, J and Richards, L (editors) Applying qualitative methods to marketing management research. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • De Lisle, J (2011) The Benefits and Challenges of Mixing Methods and Methodologies: Lessons Learnt from Implementing Qualitatively Led Mixed Methods Research Designs in Trinidad and Tobago. From: Caribbean Curriculum, Vol. 18, pp. 87-120.
  • DiCicco-Bloom, B and Crabtree, F.B (2006) The qualitative research interview. From: Medical Education, 40, pp. 314-321.
Next in order to begin as you wish to finish, create a skeleton draft and/or template of the layout you wish to have, so that you begin with a coherent structure. Here are some headings  you may wish to use, of course you may also end up with sub-headings like me.
  • Sampling Methods and Participant Characteristics
  • Data Generating Approaches and Procedures.
  • Data Analysis
  • Ethical considerations
  • Summary
But remember to have an introduction: a paragraph or three introducing your methodology and perhaps the intent of your work and how it fits into to your methodological framework and vice versa.
Also when it comes to your ethical issues think beyond the basics of what research methods books mention about informed consent, safety, anonymity and so forth. Remember that consent is always provisional and that‘(t)hinking about ethics at the beginning of the research process’ or completing an ethics form ‘does not constitute ‘critical engagement’’ (Rogers and Ludhra 2012:45) with ethics.

Crucially remember to be REFLEXIVE. About for instance: your research design, methods of data collection and analysis, your position as a researcher etc.

Monday, 15 July 2013

CV Guidance

Ok so fine-tuning my CV has recently almost driven me made, especially since I had to remove so much voluntary and employment history, so here is some advice on constructing a CV which I hope will ease the process for you, I have used information provided from both Aston University and BCU University. So hope it helps.

The structure below is for guidance purposes, the actual order and structure of your CV may vary depending on your experience and what type of role you are applying for.
Personal Details:
·         Located at the top of the page, including name, address, contact details and a professional email address.

·         No information relating to age, sex, nationality, marital status or health, unless specifically requested in the job description.

Personal/Career Profile:

·         A profile which is a brief (apparently it should be three or four lines maximum) summary of current situation and career objectives, and perhaps evidence of two or three main strengths.

Key Skills:

·         A short bullet pointed summary of key skills developed (no more than 5 or 6) through work, study or extra-curricular activity, along with a relevant example to illustrate each.

·         If adopting a skills-based CV, this section should be longer and more detailed, with several examples provided for each skill.


·         Includes subject studied, dates, the name of the institution, and town.

·         Is in reverse chronological order, with the most recent experiences first, going back to relevant secondary level education (these can be summarised e.g. 5 GCSE’s grades A-C).

·         (Optional and only if relevant) Lists relevant modules studied at University and information about dissertations and projects.

Employment History:
·         Details of all work experience, including paid, voluntary and shadowing.

·         Each role has examples of key responsibilities and achievements (max 6 bullet points for each job).

·         Highlights any skills gained during work (unless CV has a separate skills section).

·         Is in reverse chronological order, with most recent experience first.

Interests and Achievements:

·         Lists of any extra-curricular achievements or successes

·         Details of (relevant) personal interests with a focus on contributions made and skills gained .


·         Two referees (either both employment or one academic and one employment) or stating “References available on request” if short of room.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Scholarships - Financial Life-savers

Hi guys hope you are all having a fabulous time off, I've been talking to a couple of my friends who are in the second and third year of their undergraduate course (once term starts) and if they're any indication money is still a big issue. So here are some places to look for scholarships, bursaries. Just take my advice and do not apply for any type of short term loan I have one friend who has she is is regretting it big time. Also make use of  student services to obtain advice on finances if you're really stuck. - you'll have to register but there are loads of funding opportunities for international students studying in the UK and students who are UK citizens. - this website is specifically for international students, and it is a free site meant to help international students with life and study in the UK. Granted it has no funding opportunities but it is an 'interactive learning tool which contains learning resources which are activity based to help you find out different aspects of academic life in the UK and the skills need for effective study' and provide opportunities to increase your English language skills. - this site appears most useful for postgraduates/researchers. - This is specifically for first year undergraduates at the University College of London. Here is some additional information:
The HSBC Scholarship was set up in 2012, funded jointly by HSBC and UCL. The scholarship is aimed at providing tuition fee funding for UK students from low income households who are joining UCL from schools in the state funded secondary sector.
  • Five scholarships will be awarded each year between 2012/13 and 2014/15.
  • Eligibility requirements
  • To be considered for the scholarship you must:
                        - be a Home (UK) student entering the first year of their programme in 2013/14;                         - hold an offer of admission to study at UCL on any full-time undergraduate degree programme;
                        - be joining UCL from a stat funded secondary school (based on UCAS data).                                                                                                   
                         - Application Deadline is: Monday, 29 July 2013 at 4pm.

I know the above scholarship is not for Aston university students, but it illustrates that the banks can be a great source of funding, so get online and take a look.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Want an MA scholarship?

Hi guys are any of you undergraduates thinking about applying for a Masters course but are worried about the costs? Well there's loads of funding out there it's just difficult to locate the information at times, so here is some.

Any of you who would like to remain at Aston university for your Masters take a look on line they have some fabulous scholarships, and whilst the scholarships may come with stipulations, I for one can personally say they are worth it and in fact the stipulations help you meet new people and do things you may not otherwise do.

Also Cardiff University has announced a new University-wide scholarship package for masters' study. £500,000 has been invested. Each scholarship is worth £3000 and is available for full-time taught masters' programmes starting in the 2013/14 academic year in any of the University's three Colleges.

More information about the new scholarship is available at:

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dissertation: Some Tips

Hi guys hope you're all taking some time out you have fun and relax.

Here are somethings I hope will help anyone undertaking a dissertation or anyone who is considering it for next year.

Firstly even if you are not required to do so do a dissertation proposal it really will help.

Literature Review - critically appraise all the research and theories you look at, I found the use of sub-headings kept me on track and ensured I had a solid structure. Also utilise the appendix for historical time lines, tables of definitions that aren't essential to the literature review but strengthen it.

Research Methods and Design - this is regarded by many especially in MA as one of the key chapters. Here are some books I found useful:
  • Bazeley, P (2004) Issues in mixing qualitative and quantitative approaches to research. From: Buber, R, Gadner, J and Richards, L (editors) Applying qualitative methods to marketing management research. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.  
  • Becker, H. S (1963) Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York: Free Press.
  • Bryman, A (2012) Social Research Methods. 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Coleman, J.S (1958) Relational Analysis: The Study of Social Organization with Survey Methods. From: Human Organization, 16, pp. 28-36.
  • De Lisle, J (2011) The Benefits and Challenges of Mixing Methods and Methodologies: Lessons Learnt from Implementing Qualitatively Led Mixed Methods Research Designs in Trinidad and Tobago. From: Caribbean Curriculum, Vol. 18, pp. 87-120.
  • Giddings, L.S and Grant, B.M (2007) A Trojan horse for positivism? A critique of mixed methods research. From: Advances in Nursing Science, 30 (1), pp. 52-60.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Anyone want some useful advice to help ensure success?

Hi everyone hope you're not working too hard and are taking time out to have some fun. I have and because of it I feel fantastic so don't get immersed in university work to the degree that it's all you're doing, taking time out, will help you work better when you  get back to assignments, dissertations or exam revision. So go watch a movie, take some friends out, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the night or bring the party to your place, or just have a lazy few hours or a lazy day. Just make sure you take some time out for yourself.

However sooner or later you're going to have to get back to university work, so here is some advice and hints that I hope help, the following advice will be especially helpful for dissertations but it could be useful more generally as well:

  • anyone undertaking analysis of data obtained using quantitative research methods, in either an assignment, small research project or in your dissertation start as soon as you can, I have just spent two days sorting data and putting it into excel (heaven knows how long it would have taken using SPSS) .
  •  Get a hold of a selection of two or three books that have an invaluable use generally. Whether it be for research methods, politics, sociology or something else.
  • Here are two really useful books to get hold of, especially for qualitative research, but also in thinking about theory and concepts:
                            - Becker. H. (1998) Tricks of the Trade: how to think about your research while     you’re doing it London, Chicago Press

                             - Mills, C. W. (1959) The Sociological Imagination USA, Oxford University Press.
  • Anyone intending to analyse interviews or something similar may benefit from using thematic analysis, it's a really useful research method when analysing data but you rarely hear much about it in research methods modules or books.

Also for anyone interested Bon Jovi shall be playing at Aston Villa on the 9th of  June 2013 and I think tickets are still available. Just check around for ticket prices, some are reasonable whilst other prices well lets just say they're okay if you have deep pockets.