My academic year has been filled with numerous activities. Ever since fresher’s week started in September, there have been things going on (both academic and non-academic) and I can assure you that you will have a very intense and gratifying year as an MSc student.
Now that it's June and I have already finished with classes and exams, it is time to focus on the dissertation. I am writing this blog in order to let you know what to expect and my top tips for enjoying the experience.
Let’s start with the basics: what is a dissertation and what are the business school’s expectations? The objective of the dissertation is to provide students with an opportunity to produce an original piece of work and specialize in a particular topic of interest. The typical word count would be between 15,000 and 18,000 words, depending on the topic and needs to be developed between June and September.
The MSc in Business Analytics has a very pragmatical approach to dissertations; they do this, so you can try and solve a real-world problem with real-world data, which I think is exciting and will teach you applied problem-solving skills. You can either propose your own topic or choose to participate in one of the several ongoing research projects that the University has. If you have a very strong interest in one field and have the means to obtain the data, you can propose your own topic before February. However, most students decide to take part in the topics that are proposed by the University, like I did.
By the end of January, we received a list containing more than 60 different projects that were very diverse in terms of research field and industry. Many of them were in collaboration with companies that had proprietary datasets and were interested in analysing them thoroughly, while others dealt with publicly available datasets. In regards of the type of analysis there was plenty to choose from: text mining and natural language processing, machine learning modelling, simulation, operations research, forecasting, optimisation and decision analysis, just to mention a few. One of the ones that really caught my eye was to build a machine learning model to predict the best strategy for goalkeepers during penalty kicks.
We had to select 7 topics then rank them and the programme director would try to assign you the topic that was highest in your priority. My suggestion that will help you make an informed choice is to read very well the project description and understand what it is about. Don’t choose the dissertation topic only because the company has a well-known name. For me, it is more important to choose a type of analysis that you really like and feel comfortable doing. If you already know the supervisor, you could drop him an email asking for more information about the project and about the required skills.
You will be assigned a topic and a supervisor by the beginning of March and if you selected a topic with a company, some meetings might start taking place during the following months. It is very important to talk early to your supervisor and my tip would be to take the initiative and contact them with plenty of time. Your supervisor will help you to structure the research question, build the appropriate methodology and assess the quality of your work. Make sure you establish clear communication from the beginning in order to make your life easier. Another tip I could give you is to be ordered with your meetings and keep a minute for each one, so you can keep track of the tasks you are supposed to be doing.
A little bit about my topic: In case you are interested, I will be working with Europe’s Largest digital healthcare providers and I will be creating a model to optimise their medicine buying strategy. I have already met the company’s representatives and I hope to be able to frame my research question in the following weeks.
In order to close, I would like to add that the dissertation might look a little bit intimidating at the beginning. I just wanted to let you know that as soon as you begin to divide the whole deliverable into smaller sub-parts, you will feel that you are making quick progress. I hope that this article would be useful to level your expectations about this topic and I wish you the best when the time comes for you to start with your dissertation.