Most final year undergraduate students face a herculean task when it comes to selecting a topic for their research project and going about their research. The burden lies with the fact that your project work is very key in achieving your final cumulative grade point since it carries a large number of credit hours. It is therefore expedient to choose your topic wisely and conduct your research appropriately to achieve a successful outcome. This article proposes some helpful tips in choosing a viable and relevant topic as well as conducting your research effectively.
- Choose a topic that you are interested in.
It is very necessary to choose a subject area of interest for your project work. This is because you would spend quite some months researching and working on your project. If you are not interested in the topic, you would definitely face a struggle in completing it. Most students in Ghana have the opportunity to choose viable topics on their own and upon consultation with their Project Supervisors, they choose one topic which is the best fit. Most courses recommend a topic that is focused on the area of study. Therefore be diligent in choosing a topic that you are passionate about and which is focused on your field of study. Students most at times focus their topics on courses that have been studied in the final year. However, you can also choose from other modules that have been taught throughout your time in the university. The key here is that your inspiration for your project will be better maintained based on the passion for the subject area.
- Your research should have a particular aim.
The purpose of your research should be to solve a particular problem, provide more information on a particular topic and contribute to research knowledge. Your project must provide you the prospect of conducting your own research and coming to a conclusion. It may not be possible to research in a totally new field as an undergraduate. It is however possible to conduct research from an already developed area from a different perspective. Your aim should be to provide information for further learning. Therefore choose a topic with an achievable outcome. When you start your work, every chapter must be focused on the topic chosen and the work must have a very clear structure. When a very broad topic is chosen, the student finds it difficult to conduct thorough research. Here you should clearly state that the research would cover a specific area and draw conclusions that are concise whiles adhering to the acceptable word count.
Every student is assigned a supervisor who would serve as a guide throughout the project. It is necessary to have your supervisor’s support every step of the way but remember, they are there to support you and not to conduct your research for you. Therefore do not hesitate to talk to them. This is because they have acquired years of knowledge and have vast experiences in guiding students. Once in a while, one may have a supervisor who may does not communicate enough and provide timely feedback. Here the student is encouraged to fall on other forms of support i.e. other works done by other author’s in the same field, Teaching Assistants working with the supervisor, students who have completed their studies, etc. Whatever may be the case, it is key not to walk your research path alone, as the adage says ‘two heads are better than one’.
- Search and Read widely
Ensure that you conduct adequate research whilst doing your project. Do not fall on a few books and articles and make them the key sources of literature for your work. Read widely on the topic and ensure that all relevant areas to your research are covered. Submit your research proposal on time for your supervisor’s input. This would provide ample time to conduct your research. Being objective is also key to making your research a viable one. From time to time, analyse your work from another person’s point of view so that your research is not one-sided and all the bases are well covered.
- Follow laid down procedures
Most Institutions have a laid down procedure for conducting research in order to make it academic. It is your responsibility to ensure that you follow all rules laid down by your departments on conducting your final year research project. These procedures may include required chapters, word count, referencing style etc. Some departments make this document readily available for students to access. If your department has not put this in place, it is appropriate for you to ask your research supervisor.
- Do not plagiarize
In many instances, students have been penalized for plagiarizing the works of other authors. Plagiarism is a punishable offence, you would be answerable to your school Board when it occurs and the consequences are not pleasant. Plagiarism can be done knowingly or unknowingly. To be on the safe side, you should ensure that every work that is not your own is duly and properly referenced. You can make use of plagiarism checkers available online or provided by your institution. Your supervisor would be of help at this point. It is also advisable to use the checkers whilst doing the work to make changes where necessary instead of waiting until the work is completed. This may be quite stressful as you would have to change your entire work with a deadline fast approaching.
- Set a timeline
It has been said again and again that students need to set a timeline for the completion of their project work. Most students procrastinate a lot whilst working on their projects until it’s too late. The consequence of this is they have to either rush through their work or pay someone to do it for them which is unethical. It is always advisable to start your work early so that you can include all the changes made by your supervisor and produce good work. It is also key to know when to stop your project work as you cannot find all the solutions you seek to achieve in your project work.
To conclude, your research project as an undergraduate student provides certain skills that would equip you in your future career. Therefore, ensure that you do the work yourself with the requisite material available and do not forget to ask for help when you need it. All the best!!!
This article is published with the kind courtesy of the author – Naa Ayorkor Sowatey-Adjei. She recently graduated with an LLM – in Public International Law from Bournemouth University, United Kingdom.