Nail the nerves:
* Of course you will have butterflies flying out of formation in the initial stages, but this is not the nerves I’m talking of here. Firstly, clear your head. You should be clear about the topic of your study. Don’t be overambitious and set your scope too wide. Due to the information explosion through mass media and especially the social networks, the gathering of data has become a process of sorting and finding the relevant stuff, rather than simply piling up facts. Think of this process as a dentist boring into the nerve ends. You need to bore into the nerve ends of your topic – the basic rationale. A few preliminary self-evaluating questions can help you find those nerves:
* What is the basic problem statement (which you have outlined in your research proposal)?
* What is your main aim with this study – how will it contribute to the knowledge of your field of study?
* What innovative ideas are unique to your argument and focus (that differs from the viewpoints of the various other investigators and scholars)? Concentrate on drawing through that golden thread.
* How will the conclusion of your line of arguing and your final assessment make a difference within your field of study, and also help other researchers in this field? Be bold, creative and think outside of the box; Or rather, invent a new format that could become “the box” or “the way” for future scholars. (Remember our motto: reinvent “the box”). It may sound impossible, even outrageous. But while you are focused on your topic, make “box”-reinvention your focus. You will be surprised how the creative juices can spill over when you least expect it …
* How can you, therefore, be guided to become a guide yourself – with the focus of working your way into the position of a co-researcher to your supervisor, rather than staying a student merely processing other persons viewpoints?
Tackle the winding slope:
When you have collected your data, and have begun to compile your dissertation, you enter a new stage on the way to the summit. Be prepared for the winding passage where you reword and restructure your thesis, until you are satisfied that you have given your basic thesis (what you “want the world to know”) the best exposure possible. You may use the guidelines above as a filter to flush out the debris and keep the gems.
It goes without saying that your supervisor or tutor will guide you in constructing your study. There is however the eternal time-factor and even supervisors have to juggle academic assignments (with post-doc students being only one of the cones that have to be kept in the air). It often happens that the end result of your dissertation/thesis is less than best, simply because your supervisor did not have enough time to guide your through the pitfalls and help you to focus on your strong points.
Therefore you must be much more responsible and independent in your research. One of the features that a supervisor looks for in a Master’s degree is that the student has begun to show academic individuality. You need to be your own person and know your own way around, and follow it fearlessly. Remember this inside info: This is also what the Level Descriptor for the Master’s Module informs the lecturer. Survival tip: You gain extra street-cred in academic circles for being yourself, but now as a new persona, in the role of a budding co-researcher.
(In the second article you will be guided through the last steep climbs before you attempt to tackle the summit. I will help you make sure that you take it on prepared and purposefully with all your necessary equipment double checked . You will also get the survival hints for that stage).