Dissertation and the British Summer Time by Shayda

Hey everyone!

Today’s entry is about staying balanced, while maintaining focus, during the dissertation period. This discussion couldn’t be more fitting for this time of year: we’re in mid-July now, which means there’s only a month and a half to go! Summertime in London creates an interesting predicament for MA students who need to stay atop our research, while also enjoying the rarity of a sunny afternoon.

In the dissertation period I’ve realised that it’s very easy to dip in and out of productivity, and unfortunately I’ve experienced it firsthand.  I had a strong couple of weeks researching in the middle of June but, rather than keeping up the momentum, I found myself neglecting my responsibilities as I subconsciously felt justified in taking a long break. The problem for me is that I also work full-time. I had a pretty big reality check last week as I noted my August rota and came to realise how little time I have left before my dissertation is due.

The million pound question is then how do we successfully balance work and study? First and foremost, be honest with yourself and your capabilities. If you’re planning to be employed during dissertation time it’s important for you to make yourself a realistic research schedule. Outside of my “relaxation period” I’ve made weekly goals of either reaching a specific word count or finishing a subsection. I try not to push myself too far and make individual goals catered around what my life is like each week, as I feel it’s important to avoid feeling discouraged by failure of not achieving those goals.

The second important thing is to make some time for your friends. Yes, they will be there when you finish, and yes there will be social events after your dissertation deadline, but it’s important to stay sane during this intense period. Reward yourself for meeting your goals by allowing yourself a cheeky day or night out with your friends to unwind and give your brain a break. As it stands, I research after work and typically allocate all of my days off work to research as well, but give myself one to two nights a week after work to socialise. I have found this to be the best way of maintaining research alongside employment and friends (assuming I make the most out of my days off)!

Shayda: Advice during the exam period

Hello everyone!

As I sit here writing this post I can feel the warm rays of the sun coming from a nearby window, and I’m just marveling at the fact that it’s already May! I feel like it’s just snuck up on us! This month will forever be associated with deadlines and coursework as it is just as hectic of a time for a Master’s student as it is for those working on their Bachelor’s degrees. We’ve officially got four months to go until our dissertations are bound and handed in, so, as you can imagine, the air is very tense at the moment. As a part-time student, however, I can’t deny that I am at an advantage. I’m in my final year now, so I’ve been able to fine-tune tips and strategies to make the most out of my revision time. My previous strategy of combing through everything, line-by-line, left me wasting hours on reading that wasn’t specifically relevant to my research. My personal tutor advised me to instead start by reading the abstract, introduction and conclusion of articles, etc., in order to determine their value in relation to my research, and then proceed with reading the entire piece of work if I thought it would benefit my argument. Sounds pretty intuitive right? Sometimes when we’re stressed it’s hard to think with common sense, so I’m glad she spelled it out for me! My dissertation supervisor has also pushed me to think systematically, which is really important. I naturally think creatively, so I often focus on the bigger picture when conducting research, which can be good, but can also cause me to miss important details as I go along. Instead, I now try to focus on each section of my work in and of itself.  This has allowed me to better build the subdivisions of my research, and work on tying up any lose ends once I’ve finished a first draft. If you’re a bit stubborn like me and can’t get out of your head, try jotting down notes for your other sections as you research, complete with links and references to material you stumble upon, so you can better concentrate on the subsection you’re dealing with, safe in the comfort that your good (but momentarily irrelevant) ideas aren’t lost.

Advice on how to cut time while still researching efficiently is useful to any student, but these tips were especially useful to me as I also work 32 hours a week. I’ve discussed balancing education and employment in previous blog posts, but I’d like to stress for any new readers that it can be challenging. My best advice is to know, but more importantly accept, your limits. Between uni and work, I’ve gone weeks without a day off, so in order to get the most out of my time I do my best to get a hold of my rota as far in advance as possible, so I can coordinate my days off/early shifts with my deadlines. It’s hard to motivate yourself when you feel a bit overwhelmed with deadlines and coursework, so just do your best to remember that you will feel much better if you allow yourself to break up your workload rather than leave it to the last minute.

When it comes to efficient study, one thing that is sometimes over looked is allowing yourself a break. Again, I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t stress it enough! I’ve had my fair share of times when I’ve let my academic and occupational responsibilities get the best of me, and my body has never failed to let me know when I’ve pushed myself too far. It’s so important to give yourself some time to be social or to immerse yourself in a hobby that isn’t uni or work related. The one thing I’ve found to truly help me relax is going to gigs. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was fifteen, but ten years on I’ve realised that I rely on them now more than ever. The energy at a gig is incredible, and the best part is that the moment the music comes on you can’t help but forget about the fact that you have a deadline in a week or work in the morning, because the music is so loud and you’re so distracted by hearing your favourite songs that you’re forced to live in the moment! It’s not the cheapest hobby in the world, but I’d recommend it to anyone who’s feeling the pressure of student life!

As for prospective students, I’d recommend taking this time to slowly familiarize yourself with the topic you’ve chosen to study. Build relationships with published work in your field and find specific topics you’re interested in. Start asking yourself how you think this degree can impact your life, and likewise, how you think having this degree can impact the world. Getting yourself in this frame of mind will help you choose topics for research and allow you to hone in on an aspect of your area of study that you can expand on in your dissertation.

Until next time!
Shayda

Shayda: Accommodation in London

Hello offer holders and prospective students!

Spring is almost here, and with the influx of sunshine I’d mark it as a great time to visit London and familiarise yourself with the transport links and vibrant corners of the capital city. Finding accommodation in an unfamiliar city can be daunting for anyone, so it would be a great idea to plan a visit to London ahead of moving here. Signing up with letting agencies can get a little pricey, so I’d recommend being open to alternatives like spareroom.com and gumtree.com (while being mindful of your safety, of course!). Facebook is also another avenue worth exploring, as there are King’s student groups, sometimes specific to a course or just for students in general, where spare rooms are advertised. This might work more in your favour, as someone else has already done the hard work of finding accommodation close to university and mapping the most efficient route of getting there! The best advice I can give is not to put it off too long; the earlier you start looking, the better!

Shayda and a friend crossing Abbey Road.

Shayda and a friend crossing Abbey Road.

Travel around London quickly becomes second nature once you start a routine, so don’t feel too intimidated by the Tube map! Sign up for your student Oyster card as soon as you’re able to, so you’re not stuck paying expensive travel fees, and then go and explore! You’ll soon find that London is actually a lot smaller than you might think. While the Tube map is great for underground navigation, it can also be quite deceiving as a lot of stops are only a short walk apart from each other. If you have a smart phone, download the City Mapper app (it’s free!) and give yourself a day to try and walk to all of your destinations. Our roads are a bit spaghetti-shaped, but soon you’ll be navigating them like a pro.

Good luck!

Shayda

Q&A with Shayda, MA Bioethics and Society

PG Shayda's photoWhich book changed your life?
Practical Ethics by Peter Singer.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
The 100 Club on September 20th, 1976. The line-up was the Sex Pistols, The Clash and Siouxsie & the Banshees.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
In all honesty, getting accepted into my master’s programme. Education is hard work!

What is your most treasured possession?
My dog, Sophie.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
The giant HMV on Oxford Street.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
John Cusack’s character in Say Anything… I melt every time.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Probably “dude” and “awesome”.

How do you relax?
I spend a lot my time (and money) going to gigs around London. The wild energy and loud music force you to forget your troubles, live in the moment and have an awesome time.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Dr Greg Graffin. I’d love to discuss punk rock, academia and politics over a meal and bottle of red.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Stop leaving things to last minute.

When were you happiest?
When I was at my first gig. I was nine, and it was Steps, and I loved every minute of it.

What is the best advice you’ve ever given?
Don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t change; learn from the past and look to the future.

What inspired you to study your field?
John Harris’ work on human enhancement. Everyone should read his stuff; he packs in a lot of punch in his work.

What would your best friend say is your best quality?
Probably loyalty; I never leave my friends behind.

Born in London, Shayda Kashef is a part-time Bioethics & Society postgraduate student in the Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine. She graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from King’s College, making her the only King’s alumni in her programme. While she enjoyed studying philosophy, her passion is in applied ethics. Her research primarily focuses on the ethical obligation behind the use of PGD to select out the Huntington’s gene. Her dream is to be at the forefront of new advancements and technologies related to human enhancement, pushing for a healthier tomorrow.
For more information about Shayda’s course, please follow this link.