Dissertation writing

One of the highlights or perhaps scariest things about your final year at uni (or even your final piece of work for your masters) is the dissertation. But fear not! Dissertations are actually your friend, you will love it and cherish it and actually be so flipping proud of yourself when you see it all bound and printed and ready for hand in! In fact, when you read this I’ll have just handed my masters dissertation in!

There are definitely some phases you’ll go through when writing it. It’ll probably go something like this.

Oh cool, my own piece of research for the year!

Erm, what the **** am I doing…

I can’t do this….

I’d rather do anything but this right now…

I can’t do it!

Oh wait, I have no choice, I *have* to do it.

I don’t know what I was so worried about I can do it!

Oh, what will my supervisor say? I don’t think it’s any good, what if I have to write it all over again?

Oh… You mean it’s actually OK!

I CAN DO THIS

Oh wow, look at this piece of work. I did it all myself. Look how pretty it looks, all 50 pages of it beautifully bound.

Ok, so maybe it won’t go like that for everyone, but it has definitely been a bit like that for me! You will definitely feel love and hate towards it! Now for some of my tips for dissertation writing πŸ™‚

1. Plan, plan, plan and plan some more!

Yes, planning is so important! It’ll really help you write clearly and concisely if you have a good idea of what you’re going to put in and where. It’ll also stop you repeating yourself.Photo 08-08-2017, 19 43 53

2. Keep a separate dissertation notebook/file

A separate notebook dedicated to your dissertation will allow you to keep everything in one place. It’ll also mean you know where everything is! Plus some universities actually require you to hand in your dissertation notebook for marking.photo-13-09-2017-15-21-23.jpg

3. Set achievable targets

Don’t set yourself too much to do in one go. You’ll only get annoyed if you can’t achieve it. Sometimes baby steps are better for dissertations. You’re less likely to make a mistake if you take it a little at a time.

4. Make use of family, friends and your supervisor

They’ll help you make it the best it can be. OK maybe not your family and friends, but if they’re willing to read it give it to them. They may pick up small typos/errors that you keep overlooking.

5. Print a copy to proofread

I know a lot of places these days don’t require you to hand in a physical copy of your work, but I still am! You’re more likely to spot mistakes and errors if you print a copy off to read.

Photo 13-09-2017, 15 24 586. Check your references

Don’t get accused of plagiarism! Some people like to use EndNote or other softwares. I just do it all manually! I don’t trust the softwares. Then go through your work checking every reference in the reference list has been cited and that every citation in text has one in the reference list.

7. Take a break from it

Sometimes it is important to put it away for a few days and come back to it another time. You will get sick of it! In fact you’ll get so used to it you’ll know exactly where everything sits on the page that when you make a change you wonder what you’ve done wrong to make a sentence shift down the page!

8. Keep readingΒ 

Make an early start on your reading, that way you’ll have all the literature there for you when you actually start to write. It’ll make your life so much easier! Also keep reading until you can’t find any more papers. Don’t just stop because the paper isn’t accessible. Get inter-library loans if you think the paper is relevant.Photo 13-09-2017, 15 21 30

9. Stay in contact with your supervisorΒ 

Your supervisor is there to help you. Ask them questions, no matter how stupid you think the question is. Find out if/when they’re away and when they want a draft of your work by. Contacting them is important!

10. Don’t panicΒ 

Your dissertation isn’t worth getting upset over. It is supposed to be fun, not stressful!

So there are just a few of my tips for writing a dissertation! Does this bring back memories? Are you starting your dissertation soon? I hope everyone starting theirs this year has fun!

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University Checklist: What Should I Pack for Uni?

It’s that time of year again! A Level results day has come and you can now start thinking about moving away from home for the first time and what you want to take with you to university! I remember how excited I was. I’d found a list on the internet of all the stuff I thought I needed to take with me to university… Fact is, I didn’t need everything on the list! I’ve now “moved” to university 3 times (we don’t count the fourth as I just just moved my stuff from one house to another between 2nd and 3rd year) so I think I’ve now got a good idea of what the essentials are to pack πŸ™‚

So here is my little checklist of what I would recommend packing for university πŸ™‚ Bear in mind that some of this you can pick up when you actually get to uni if space is tight πŸ™‚

Bedroom

  • Mattress topper and/or protector – your bed will probably be a bit uncomfortable and probably had a few people sleeping on it before you’ve got there so something to go on top isn’t a bad idea!
  • Duvet + Pillows
  • 2 sets of bedding
  • Blanket
  • Cushions – your bed will double up as a sofa so cushions make it a more comfortable πŸ™‚
  • Fairy Lights to make your room a little more homely
  • Photos/posters – BUT in 2 of my 3 uni rooms even using white tac marked the walls so maybe try the tac in a hidden place to see if it marks before putting photos up.
  • Little things to make your room homely – like photos of friends/family
  • Clothes hangers – you won’t have any when you move in so it’s an idea to bring some πŸ™‚
  • Bedside light
  • Books – I don’t mean textbooks, but some books to relax πŸ™‚
  • Coaster – you don’t want to get coffee/tea stains on the desk or bedside table!
  • Dressing Gown

Study Things

  • Pens/Pencils/Highlighters/Coloured pens
  • Hole punch and stapler
  • Staple remover! So useful!
  • Scissors and sellotape
  • Pins
  • Bulldog clips
  • Post-it notes
  • Diary/wall planner
  • Folders
  • Refill pads/notepads/printer paper
  • Pencil case
  • Calculator (if you’re doing maths or science)

Electrical things

  • Laptop + charger + a decent case for carrying it around in your bag
  • Wireless mouse
  • Memory stick/external hard drive
  • Printer – yes it can be a bit expensive but it is so much more convenient! BUT if your uni offers you free printer credits make sure you make use of them too.
  • Chargers
  • Desk lamp – because the lighting in university halls in generally a bit rubbish!
  • iPod/iPad/Headpones
  • TV (+DVDs/DVD Player/HDMI cable) – Remember you need a TV licence to watch iPlayer now though! Don’t worry about the DVD player if you’re happy with Netflix.

Bathroom

  • Shampoo/Conditioner/Hairbrush/Hairbands/Comb/Dry Shampoo
  • Shower Gel
  • Towels – 2 hand towels and 2 bath towels
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Mouthwash etc.
  • Emergency toilet roll – especially if you have a shared bathroom!
  • Some kind of caddy for taking things to the bathroom if you have a shared bathroom

Kitchen

  • Saucepans and frying pan (maybe 2 saucepans and 1 frying pan)
  • Baking tray or one of those pyrex dishes/trays
  • Colander
  • Plate and bowl
  • Cutlery
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Tin opener
  • Grater
  • Mugs
  • Glasses
  • Wooden spoon and spatula
  • Measuring jug
  • Weighing scales (These are honestly soooooo useful to have – especially if you’re rubbish at working out how much pasta/rice is one serving)
  • Plastic storage containers – for when you have leftovers or as a lunchbox
  • Tea towels
  • Oven gloves
  • Cling film and tin foil
  • Herbs/spices
  • Water bottle

You may find people use your stuff, if you don’t want this then keep it in your room. Try to force yourself to wash up, I only had 1 plate and 1 bowl so I had to wash up once I’d eaten!

Other bits

  • Painkillers and a basic first aid kit (I mean plasters and antiseptic cream)
  • Airer for drying your washing – it’ll save you so much money!
  • Some kind of laundry basket, whether it is a proper one or one of those big Ikea bags.
  • Slippers! Kitchen floors can be gross so slippers are a must!
  • Hot water bottle/microwave wheat bag for when its cold or you have a stomach ache.
  • Documents – like your passport, driving licence, certificates, etc.
  • Water jug – I have this Brita one πŸ™‚
  • A suitcase! Don’t do what I did and it gets to near the Christmas holidays in first year and find out you sent your suitcase home with your parents!
  • Extension leads
  • Shopping bags – I don’t mean the cheap plastic ones. Invest in some of the better quality ones from the supermarket they’ll last forever.

Obviously this isn’t a complete list of everything you need to take with you to uni it is just an idea of the main things you might want/need to take. Bear in mind though that you can get some of this stuff when you arrive at uni you don’t have to get it all before you go. πŸ™‚

I hope this list helps with uni preparation! πŸ™‚ Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything! πŸ™‚

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What University Has Taught Me

It’s weird to think that I’m less than 6 weeks away from finishing my masters now. It feels like I’ve got so much left to do still though! :O Since my time at university is coming to an end and I don’t plan on taking my university education further I think now is a good time to share some of the things that university has taught me πŸ™‚

How to save money and budget 

At some point as a student you’ll be poor, it’s a well known fact that students are poor. Plus you’ll have some ridiculous amount of student debt to your name. But you’ll quickly learn how to save money and what value/own brand food is actually OK.thumb_IMG_1585_1024

Be yourself

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you don’t want to do the whole freshers thing, don’t! There will be other people like you who also don’t want to do the whole drinking/partying thing!IMG_3296_1024

Don’t be afraid to try new things 

I don’t mean pushing yourself totally outside of your comfort zone, but occasionally it may be good for you.IMG_0407_1024

You’ll probably change 

You’ll probably become a different person in some ways having been to university. I know I’ve definitely changed since going to uni!IMG_1137_1024

It is OK to get homesick

You’ll probably miss your parents/friends/dog at some point and that is OK. There will be others feeling the same way too. Homesickness didn’t really hit me properly until December of first year, but it hit me alright!

You’ll probably feel like you’re dying at some point 

You’ll probably get really ill at some point during your time at university and it will feel like you’re dying. You have to hope it’s in your second or third year when you can text your housemate and ask them to bring you hot chocolate or a hot water bottle! Or if its not dying because you’re ill, you’ll probably feel like you’re dying with the amount of work you have to do at some point. But it happens to everyone!

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When Laura bought me this! ❀

You’ll learn how you work

It wasn’t until I came to university that I began to learn and appreciate how I learn best. I’d be surprised if you came out of uni still not knowing how you work and learn.Photo 25-04-2017, 20 09 59

You’ll learn how to do your washing 

You’ll probably have at least one disaster working out how to do your washing during your time at university, but if you’ve never done your washing before, you’ll definitely learn!IMG_2179_1024

You’ll learn how to clean something or the other

I never knew how to clean a toilet with bleach until 2nd year of uni! :O You’ll probably learn how you clean something else random like how to get those blu-tac marks off the wall or how to clean food/drink stains off the carpet.Photo 04-05-2017, 11 32 29

You’ll probably hate the people you live with at times 

So you can’t really do much about the gross kitchen, hearing every word of your neighbour’s conversation, your neighbour singing or you neighbour and their boyfriend/girlfriend’s late night shenanigans in first year. But in second and third year when you’re living with your friends you’ll still probably find something to hate someone for, be it their sloppyness in the kitchen, not taking the bins out on their turn, hogging the washing machine, or not taking their turn on the cleaning rota. You will hate them at least once …. But you still love them dearly! Photo 07-03-2017, 15 26 19

You’ll make some of the best friends 

You’re all thrown together in this new situation. Everyone wants to make friends, and I know I have made some of the best friends through my time at uni. I may not talk to them every day now, but I know I can text them whenever and still pick up any conversation with them! Miss you Penny, Becky, Laura, Reg and Sara! ❀IMG_9126

 

 

My A-Level Story

I’ve never really spoken about this and it is only really my closest friends and family who know my little story about how I got in to uni. So I decided that with A level results day today I would share my story in this one off post.

I’d done great at GCSE, I had 11 GCSEs, 4 A*s and 7 As. I picked my AS Levels, biology, chemistry, physics, German and maths (although I dropped maths about a month in to year 12). I was so excited to finally be studying what I wanted to and be on my way to becoming a marine biologist (although I think at the start of year 12 I wanted to be a doctor but I soon changed my mind back to a marine biologist).

thumb_IMG_1792_1024I really enjoyed my AS levels… Up until March of year 12 that is when I found out my first set of grades. I can’t remember my chemistry grade but I got a D in my first biology exam of my AS levels. It wasn’t great! Especially as I had my mind set on biology in some form!

So I retook that biology exam in the summer of 2011 along with all my other exams. I’d started looking at universities. I was still predicted As and Bs so I was still looking at the “better” universities. Then AS results day came… I’d got a D in biology, and Cs in physics (I was so flipping proud of that C in AS physics), German and chemistry. I was so disheartened by the D and suddenly my hopes of getting in to the unis I’d already looked at all but disappeared.Photo 01-07-2017, 12 55 03

So I had to start looking at other universities, those who would take me with lower grades and my predicted grades for A2 suddenly dropped to Cs. I sought help from teachers, one of my chemistry teachers patronised me, but the other one (who was only part time) went out of her way to help me. I’ll forever thank her for that! And biology… We went through the process of entering me for again another re-sit (so I would be taking 3 biology exams in January of year 13) and getting my papers back. I remember sitting through them with my biology teacher and we were so frustrated. My teacher could see I knew what I was talking about I’d just keep missing one key word in my answers which meant I wasn’t getting the marks that I should! So frustrating!

Anyway… My marks for my January exams and resits of year 13 were mixed. I remember getting a U in one of my chemistry exams and a C in the other, an A in my German resit, and bad grades again in biology!

Anyway, by now I’d selected my university offers and was still holding out any chance of getting in to one of my universities. Especially after my A in my German resit! Anyway, I took my A levels and I was done… Then came the nervous wait for exam results.DSCF1968

Let’s just say this, A levels and me didn’t go well. It wasn’t that I didn’t work hard for them, I just struggled more than anyone should at A-level!

So at 6am on 16th August 2012 I had an email with my A level results and I was so shocked, I’d managed to get a B in biology and a C in German and chemistry. I had a B in biology!!!! Anyway, UCAS went live early and my UCAS didn’t say anything. When you log in that morning it tells you straight away where you’ve been accepted, your first choice or your insurance choice. I fully expected to log in to see it saying Portsmouth (my insurance). But it didn’t! Uh oh!

Soon after 8am when UCAS was supposed to go live I had a phone call from Newcastle University (my first choice) saying that although they couldn’t give me a place on Marine Biology they could offer me a place on their zoology course instead. They kindly gave me some time to think and investigate their course and after finding out I wasn’t going to be able to get accommodation at Portsmouth I decided to take up the offer to study Zoology at Newcastle.DSCF1988

I was happy, I was going to a good university. I remember going in to school to collect my paper copy of my results to be met by teachers who assumed I was going to Portsmouth. But no! I had great delight in telling them I’d got in to Newcastle!

Anyway, when I accepted that place on Zoology I was told I wouldn’t be able to transfer to marine biology but I was going to study somewhere I knew I liked, and study something I was interested in.

So basically I was lucky, A-levels didn’t go my way but somehow Newcastle liked me and took me on. I also think that applications were lower than normal as I was going to be the first year group to pay Β£9000, which probably helped get me in.IMG_3539_1024

I expected to struggle at uni after struggling in A-levels as much as I did. But weirdly I was doing well. I was getting pretty decent marks. Anyway, fast forward to Easter 2013 I decided to approach the school of marine science at Newcastle and asked them if there was any chance at all of me transferring. I was shocked when they said I could transfer on to their marine zoology course in second year if I passed first year with a first.

And guess what I did? I passed first year with a first and I became a marine zoology student. It was so crazy the journey I’d been on to get there… But I got there.

Moral of the story? A levels aren’t the end of the world! You can still do it and you can still get there. Yes maybe I was lucky, but I really wouldn’t change that journey I’ve been on for a thing. I’ve met some of my best friends on both of the two courses I was on and looking back now I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved. Every A level results day I am so thankful that Newcastle took me on, and I think to myself I wouldn’t change anything. What I’ve achieved at uni I’ve worked hard for, and I know I wouldn’t have achieved it without that hard work. I always wish I could go back and show my school teachers where I am now too, show them what I’ve achieved and that my “failure” at A level (they made me believe that Bs and Cs were fails because they were expecting us to get As and A*s) has really been the making of me and since then I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I could academically.

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My Tips for Success at University

I’ve been struggling a little bit to think of ideas for blogging at the moment. Also I’m busy trying to work on my dissertation that blogging has kind of taken a back seat. I asked my friend what I could blog about today and we picked “study tips”. I suppose it makes sense with the new university term coming up soonish, so today I’m going to share with you some of my tips for staying on track at university! πŸ™‚

1. Stay on Top of Lecture Notes

Trust me, this will make it so much easier when it comes to exams. I know it can be tempting not to write up lectures straight away but actually it really helps. You’re more likely to remember what has been said in the lectures the sooner you write up your notes. It’ll also save you a lot of time and panic when it comes to exams!

2. Make Good use of Stationery

We’re talking project books, highlighters, coloured pens, files etc. whatever takes your fancy. Having nice stationery may motivate you to stay on task πŸ™‚ Also, using coloured pens and highlighters can really enhance your notes!

3. Don’t Scrimp!

When you’re a student it is easy enough to fall in to buying the cheapest things possible… Well for some people anyway! Money can be a concern when you’re a student but there are some things you just shouldn’t buy cheap. My biggest one is refill paper, it’s got to stand up to the wear and tear of flicking through your work, so try to go for 80gsm paper. Also, pens. You want pens that are comfortable to write with that you know you’ll be able to use for hours on end. Some people may be able to do this with your standard value biro, but I can’t!

4. Write

Yes, I mean get your pen out! So many people rely on technology and type notes these days. Do you really learn by writing your notes on the laptop? Do you really take it in? I know I don’t! Plus, you actually need to be able to write legibly, don’t forget you won’t be able to type your answers in exams (not in 2nd and 3rd year anyway). So could you really write for 3 hours if you never write anything by hand? No? I don’t think so.Photo 08-08-2017, 19 36 07

5.Don’t Fall in to the First Year Trap of “it doesn’t matter”

Actually, it really does matter. Sometimes decisions are made during second year about project supervisors or who gets first choice on field trips, and they’ll probably look at your first year performance. So your first year does count! Also, get in to the habit of working hard, it’ll help in the long run.

6. Don’t Throw Notes Away

So many people throw away and delete lectures. Don’t! You’re paying Β£9000 for them so why would you throw it all away! They’ll probably comes in useful again at some point. Like I’ve looked back at my old notes so many times this year while doing my masters!

7. Get on with AssignmentsΒ 

So many people leave assignments to the last minute. Don’t! Get on with them as soon as you can, that way if you’re stuck or have problems you have time to ask for help. Also, if you’re unexpectedly ill the week before deadline you won’t be panicking about asking for an extension, because you’ll have got the majority of the work done.

8. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Your lecturers are there for you and want you to do well. If you’re stuck, let them know you’re stuck, don’t suffer in silence. They want to help. Also, when you leave uni and start looking for a job the chances are your tutor or other lecturers will be your reference. So it helps both you and them if you talk to them!

9. Plan and OrganiseΒ 

Buy yourself a diary, or a wall planner or whatever it takes. But make sure you write down important deadlines and make plans to get your work done. It may also help you to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve for the day when you start studying!

10. Treat Yourself

So you’ve done all the above? You’re already way ahead of everyone else. Remember it is OK to have a day, or evening off. Treat yourself. Although going to uni is about getting your degree, it is also about learning about yourself. So don’t be afraid to have an evening off, go home or spend time with friends.

 

Why I Chose to go Back to University

Today’s post is all about university, so I’m sorry if it’s a bit boring! πŸ˜› So I’m going to tell you today why I decided to go back to university to do a postgraduate degree.

When I graduated in 2015 I was foolish to believe that I’d fall in to a job in my field. So many of my friends were staying in Newcastle, some having found jobs and some going straight on to do a masters.

IMG_9158I didn’t have the luxury of being able to afford to go straight in to a masters, nor did I really want to. I’d had more than enough studying and doing exams. I also wanted to move home. I personally think that renting is dead money so I had to move home to find a job and be able to save up for things. Luckily my parents weren’t anti me moving home, and I did at least do 90% of the cooking and all of the food shopping for them during the year I was home!

Anyway, I was applying for jobs in the science sector, most of which were in London. I stood no chance. In fact, of the 14 jobs I applied for before even getting a job, I had an interview for one.

September came around and I was getting fed up of being at home, my parents were nagging me to find a job. I decided to start applying for teaching assistant positions at primary schools, and eventually I got one. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I enjoyed my job, it was incredibly rewarding, but I didn’t want to get stuck in a job like that forever. I hadn’t done my degree for nothing.Photo 01-07-2017, 12 55 03

I worked out that through the year if I set aside 2/3 of my pay each month and took out the postgraduate student loan I could go back to university. So I started looking for a course that was relevant to what I wanted to do in the future.

My undergraduate degree in Marine Zoology was too specialised. I knew I didn’t stand much chance for any terrestrial based jobs, so I decided my best option was to take a degree which would broaden me out into the terrestrial environment too. I hope that by doing this course I’ll be able to enhance my prospects of finding a job at the end of this!

So that’s my little story about why I came back to uni! I do not regret having a year out between undergraduate and postgraduate and I really would encourage it for many people before falling straight in to a masters.

I hope today’s post wasn’t too boring! See you all again soon πŸ™‚