Masters blogs: Making strategic choices

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For most Masters courses students have to write a dissertation or a final project, which is the most important commitment required of them before obtaining the degree. The dissertation often consists of an original piece of work, which is an important opportunity to critically apply the knowledge acquired from the taught units.

Each Masters course has its own rules on how to choose from several topics available. Traditionally, for MSc Business Analytics students have to select from 5 to 7 possible theses and rank them in order of preference. Of course, everyone would like to be assigned his/her first or second choice in the list. However, sometimes it doesn’t happen and students should be prepared for the event of working on the least preferred topic.

So how to cope with dissertation’s choices?

Here you can find a few suggestions according to my personal experience that I would like to share to help future students to maximise their strategies.

Search and do not have prejudices.

The first golden rule consists of gathering as much information as possible on the list of topics. Sometimes very brief titles and few notes added from dissertation supervisors are not enough to have a clear idea of a theme and its application. Even if some titles do not seem very appealing or just scary, then that is an important moment to collect more information, since your mind could be seriously biased by a lack of awareness. Therefore, researching as much as possible on dissertation subjects is certainly a good strategy and can help to reach effective and informed decisions. The internet and University libraries can offer all the support needed at this stage.

Discuss your choices with your Tutor.

Formulating a winning strategy to get your preferred dissertation isn’t clear at the beginning. However, consulting the tutor can add an internal perspective to the selection’s strategy. In fact, the tutor is a lecturer or professor from the Masters course. They know supervisors, their interests and above all they can tell you about previous students’ experiences on similar topics. The tutor can also have a better knowledge of the amount of effort and specific competences required for a specific project and, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, can guide you on the best strategy to adopt.

Contact your Supervisor, if possible.

Sometimes a lot of titles are available, but no information is provided on the dissertation supervisor. This is mainly to ensure a fair distribution of students between all available supervisors. In fact, students should choose topics irrespective of the supervisor. Nevertheless, it can happen that students enjoyed some units more than others and can be very interested in developing a project from those specific disciplines. In this case, it is certainly possible to directly contact lecturers and professors to obtain desired information on their personal research interests and decide whether they fit with yours.

…And do not make an own goal!

Once you have all the required information and knowledge from the tutor and possible Supervisors, it is time to shortlist the available topics and rank them. At this stage it is very important that even the least favourite choice is something of interest, even if less stimulating compared to the other preferences. Putting a hated topic as last choice is certainly a risk and would turn in an own goal in case of bad luck. On the other hand, if your last selection is a despised theme, it might be the case that the search stage was not really effective or just hastily concluded. In my experience, if the crucial stage of search is carried out in depth, it is very likely to find several interesting subjects to include even as final options.

Web page of the University of Manchester - Dissertation's section.

Web page of the University of Manchester – Dissertation’s section.

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