Today, I found a nice surprise in my email inbox – a notice that my journal article based on my MSc dissertation has finally been published. It’s now available here for anyone with an internet connection to read (no paywalls here!)
I also had some interesting notifications on my usually-dormant Twitter account as a result. Seeing a couple of “likes” from people who had attended my OER17 presentation was nice, especially as that was close to two years ago.
Completing my article is also helpful for me for another reason. I’ve wanted to talk about the process of research, and about academic publishing, on this site, but I didn’t want to do so until after I’d had at least some first-hand experience.
After submitting my article in September, I recently received my reviewer’s verdict. I had some revisions to do and two weeks to do them in, but now V2 of the article has been completed and re-submitted.
Luckily, most of the sections were satisfactory. My abstract needed some extra information, to which I initially thought “that’s impossible, I’ve only got 150 words!” However, I was wrong — my new abstract fits way more information into the limited space.
Yesterday, I finally pushed the big green “Submit” button on the research article that I’ve been working on sporadically for nearly two years. Pressing that button provided a relief, though an anticlimatic one; seeing years of my life summed up in a file just 46kb small felt more painful than joyous.
But for now I’ve done what I can, and I need to wait for the journal staff to give their verdict. However, that could be a slow process. When I and two other students helped with another study during our undergraduate degree, it wasn’t fully published until three years later. Hopefully my paper won’t need too many revisions, but I’m not naive enough to think it will be waved through unchanged.
I’m glad to have completed a version of the paper, and I’m fairly happy with my work. So far, I’m annoyed about only one aspect. As part of studying science communication, and from my own interests, I’ve read quite a bit about the failure points of academic writing — how it can be jargon-laden, hard to read, and artificially exclusive. I’ve read about how to make academic writing more lively and well-crafted, and how to make it better do its job of communicating. After diving into this new topic, I wanted to try out those new techniques and approaches. But in the end I stuck with the conventional approach, the passive, impersonal “view from nowhere”.
November’s deadlines were supposed to mark the unofficial end of my MSc. However, I’m going to be in academic-land for a little longer now, as I’ve been offered two really cool opportunities involving my MSc work. (So these should really just be called academic updates now…).
The first opportunity I’ve been given is presenting my findings at a conference on Open Educational Resources in April. That’s somewhere between awesome and terrifying right now, especially as I’m really not a fan of presentations, and that I wasn’t expecting to be accepted when I applied!
On November 15th I handed in my dissertation, and officially completed my MSc.
Having finished is a strange concept; I haven’t got used to not spending most of the day writing yet. Not spending all my time thinking about my dissertation and the ideas surrounding it also means I’m catching up with a lot of ideas I had been ignoring (and plenty of tasks I had been ignoring too).
It also means I’ve had some time to think about the dissertation module as a whole and about elements I wish I’d done differently. Beyond the obvious wish that I’d procrastinated less, one part that I know I would change is supervision.
I’ve now received the marks back for my presentation from Tuesday, so that’s two out of three dissertation elements complete.
While my actual score (62, one mark higher than my proposal score) was unexpectedly high, the feedback I received was what I had already assumed: the weakest point by far was in not explaining my sample and method clearly enough, while the strongest point was in how I explained my results. Also, the feedback said I made sense of why the research is taking place within UWE and right now- that I got its relevance across and connected it to the study aims. I’m glad I got that feedback, as I struggled with explaining the research relevance in my proposal, so to know I successfully communicated it this time is reassuring.
I’m now in the final month of dissertation writing, and thanks to completing my presentation defence today, I’m 20% closer to finishing the overall project too.
Overall, I think the defence went quite well- given how long I took to get it finished, things could easily have gone very wrong. I only finished the script on the morning- repeatedly changing my mind about how much context and history I needed to include, combined with doubting my ability to explain the idea well, meant I’d repeatedly put it off until I felt more confident about what I was doing. In hindsight, that was a really bad idea, and I got lucky.