I decided to do a blog post specific to dissertation writing for any future or current student midwives, and to hopefully give some tips and advice.
I finally handed in my dissertation! Our dissertation module got launched in February, a month after starting our third year of university and the deadline was the 13th September. Which I think, goes to show how large the assignment is. Although, in comparison to other universities and courses, the word count of 6000 is actually relatively small for a dissertation. I actually would have liked more words as there was so much content to compact in. A dissertation consists of four chapters, and our structure was:
- Chapter 1 – An Introduction (500 words)
- Chapter 2 – Methodology (500 words)
- Chapter 3 – Critiquing between 4-6 research papers on your subject area (3000 words)
- Chapter 4 – A comprehensive service improvement plan that you have identified will enhance current practices (2000 words)
Before even beginning my research, I read Sara Wickham’s ‘101 Tips for Planning, Writing and Surviving your dissertation’. Although they’re all really useful, I went through and book-marked each page with a particular tip that I found helpful so that I could easily access them when needed. So, because this blog post is not going to be anywhere near that extensive I would recommend getting that book if possible as it is really helpful on knowing where to begin.
Some of the girls in my cohort were really lucky and knew instantly what their topics were going to be. I however, really struggled because there were so many pathways I wanted to explore. Therefore I began by conducting loads of database searches and assessing what research was available.
My second top tip is to get a new notebook specific for all of your dissertation documentation. Every single database search you complete should be documented in a notebook, because one of the requirements is to complete an appendix showing your journey to selecting your research papers. This process can take a long time, because ultimately you need to narrow down a lot (usually a couple hundred) of literature to between 4-6 primary research articles. So try not to put it off too long! You also need to take into consideration the amount of secondary research that’s available on your topic area, as you are going to need more evidence to critique your selected research papers.
My next tip, and how I came to decide my dissertation topic, was to make the most of every learning opportunity, including study days. I attended a Cardiotocograph (CTG) Masterclass study day conducted by Mr Edwin Chandraharan, a consultant obstetrician in London. It was amazing, and ultimately what inspired me to write my dissertation on CTG Interpretation and fetal hypoxia. Therefore, any study days which you think might be able to inspire you, book onto them and get researching as soon as possible. It’s so easy to think that you need to start writing straight away, but the research process does take a long time, and ultimately the more you can plan each chapter in advance including this research, the easier it will be to write when the time comes.
Throughout the time our dissertations were launched, we also had another 4000 word essay to complete, an optional module, and a lot of placement hours to complete. So basically the earlier you can start the better. A lot of universities do have academic writing planners for you to be able to schedule what time you should have completed certain areas of the assignment by. If not, it’s worth going through your diary and dissecting your dissertation into these four sections:
- Preparing, Thinking and Planning
- Searching, Reading and Note-Taking
- Reviewing, Editing and Proof-Reading
Ultimately, organisation is key when trying to juggle all of the requirements of you as a student midwife. If you can do a couple hours of research on your days off, it really will benefit you in the long run.
Another point that will really help is making sure you have a genuine interest in your topic. It will not be motivating to blindly pick something and hope for the best. Because it is such an extensive piece of work, motivation can be hard at times, therefore there is no point in making it even harder by picking something you don’t find overly interesting!
I hope this has been helpful! We get our results back in 20 working days so fingers crossed the hard work has paid off.
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