Having suggested topics for dissertations in my last two posts and spoken about my dissertation, I didn’t want to use another blog post to talk about a dissertation (let alone mine). However, presently there is nothing else happening in my life. So I am going to talk about my dissertation, but, more specifically, about the obstacles one can face along the way.
When proposing a dissertation, you tend to be quite optimistic about what you plan to do. For example you may propose to end starvation around the world but end up only learning how to cook bacon (which, to be fair, is really the only skill you need in life). There’s nothing wrong with not meeting your initial objectives, and you can still get a good mark or, ahem, bring home the bacon as long as you reflect in your report on the challenges that stopped you from bringing an end to world hunger (e.g. vegetarians don’t eat bacon). Many students are reluctant to admit to their shortcomings in the report but that’s exactly what the examiners look for and expect in a report. Students are more likely to get a good mark if they don’t sugar-coat their report by hiding the challenges they faced (sugar-coating bacon won’t do you any favours either). Examiners know you will hit obstacles since that’s the way the cookie crumbles (so hungry right now…). You may argue that as long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew when writing your proposal, you will never be confronted by such a situation. However, conversely it could be argued, if you managed to succeed with everything you proposed, you probably didn’t propose enough. That’s definitely not a situation you want to be in as you want to be seen to be taking risks, after all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs (the same can be said for cake, and where would we be without cake?).
Let me give an example from my project (and take a break from the food idioms). Now I realise that my audience aren’t all technically minded, so I’ll try keep things as easy as pie (OK that was unintentional). As you may be aware, my project requires me to program an Android application (if you weren’t aware, read this). One would assume that the Android programming language, having been created by Google, would be rather robust and well-designed. Unfortunately, one would be wrong (there goes my job at Google). The Android programming language looks like something created by Microsoft (that’s two multinational corporations I’ve offended now). Here’s an example, if I asked you (a non-programmer) what the command “Close Socket” does, you would say it closes a socket and think yourself rather funny (stop laughing). However, the command “Close Socket” does NOT close a socket; it doesn’t even pull the plug (you can laugh at that one). All it really does is tell you that it’s closed this thing called a Socket despite having not closed the Socket. Now look, I don’t mean to gripe, but if Android doesn’t close this Socket thingamabob when I ask it to, the phone my application is running on runs out of memory and crashes. Now when I was proposing my project, I couldn’t possibly have anticipated that Android would have been this buggy (as in, full of bugs, not, the pushchair for babies), nor could I have anticipated the time it would take me to overcome the problems this caused. Therefore it’s perfectly acceptable for me to not achieve all the objectives I initially set out to do. So, if I can reflect on that obstacle in my report, I could actually get marks from it thereby having my cake and eating it too (sorry, but that food pun was the only way I could get the message across).
Now although it’s true that the more obstacles you come by, the more you’ll have to reflect on, don’t let that be a motivation to go searching for obstacles (unless your dissertation is about the 110 metres hurdles). Achieving something from your project won’t just be beneficial for your mark, but for your future. You’re likely to be asked about it at interviews so the last thing you want is for your project to look as appealing as a rotten Apple (that’s three multinational corporations – Oh no, wait a minute).
However, in a nutshell (OK that one was slightly intentional), the main point I want to get across from this post is: don’t be afraid to go for the whole enchilada (as was that) (this is a man who had a biscuit for breakfast) when choosing a topic for your dissertation! Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll feel slightly more confident going the extra mile (or having the extra slice) for your dissertation, or, failing that, for lunch.