Sociology is fundamentally the study of human society and the groups that operate within that society. My undergraduate dissertation investigated the impact of stereotypes on women's academic performance in maths and science.
A key skill developed over the course of my degree and fined tuned during this extended research project has been the ability to take issues of social significance and critically analyse them through the application of academic concepts and theories.
My knowledge and understanding of research methods is evidenced by my compilation, presentation and analysis of statistics and application of quantitative research methodologies.
An equally important research and transferable skill of relevance to a variety of employment contexts is the ability to gather, assess and synthesise complex empirical data and present complex academic arguments in a form accessible to a variety of audiences.
As part of my dissertation project I undertook a formal presentation of my work to my undergraduate peers and my academic tutors and supervisors. This involved the presentation of complex statistical information in an easy to understand visual format, and the compilation and delivery of a clear, concise and engaging verbal presentation. It also required me to 'think on my feet' and respond to spontaneous questions from my audience.
My 12,000 word dissertation also gave me the opportunity to perfect my written communications skills. Throughout my dissertation I was required to demonstrate a clear, concise and well-referenced written style, accessible to a range of both practitioner and non-practitioner audiences.
To successfully complete a project of this length and breadth required excellent project management skills. By managing my time carefully, working to a clear and detailed project schedule and setting up specific time-bound goals and deadlines I was able to complete this two-year project on time and to specification.
This 'individual' extended project amply demonstrates my abilities to work autonomously and with little direct supervision. However, the qualitative aspects of my research also required me to build relationships of trust and empathy with my research participants. During the early research training stages of this project we were required to work creatively as teams while developing our research skills and exploring possible research topics.
As my project progressed I was required to react quickly to a range of obstacles and problems that presented themselves, including locating and contacting research participants, retrieving research data, analysing complex statistical data and critical theory.
My abilities in conducting sociological research, applying and communicating complex research methodologies, managing large-scale and time-bound projects, and analysing and synthesising complex arguments, are all abilities amply evidenced by my undergraduate dissertation and are directly relevant to a variety of workplace contexts.
Helpful Tips for Improving Thesis or Dissertation Writing Skills
For the grand majority of postgraduate students, writing a thesis or dissertation will be the most challenging writing project they have yet attempted. Most students will have written essays and reports during their undergraduate days and while completing postgraduate coursework; some may have given class or conference presentations; fewer may have successfully published a little of their writing in a scholarly journal or collection of essays. Only an extremely unusual student will have written a lengthy text based on a large research project, presented the findings in painstaking detail and developed and sustained a sophisticated scholarly argument over hundreds of pages. Producing a long and successful academic or scientific document is therefore likely to be an entirely new process that places significant demands on a student’s writing skills.
If you have had difficulties with writing clearly, correctly or in an effective formal style prior to beginning your thesis, you will definitely want to be proactive in improving your skills. Keep in mind that whatever problems arose in shorter, less complex documents will increase and multiply in a longer, more sophisticated piece of work. Unfortunately, most thesis supervisors or dissertation mentors will have neither the time nor the inclination to help advanced students resolve practical problems with their writing, and such tutoring is not really part of their jobs in any case. If your university has a writing centre, that is an excellent place to seek help. Students can usually receive assistance with correcting and improving their prose before they submit chapters to their supervisors and other committee members, ensuring that their ideas, procedures and analyses are presented as clearly as possible to those who will be assessing their work. More expensive but extremely beneficial are the services of a professional academic or scientific proofreader or editor, who can bring expertise in language and writing as well as your subject area to bear upon your prose.
If the difficulties you are facing lie not in the practicalities of writing clear and correct prose but in the subtleties of formulating and developing a sound scholarly argument or providing detailed descriptions or analyses of your research, a slightly different approach will be needed. Your supervisor may be willing to help you with this aspect of your writing, or he or she may be able to suggest someone who can. A fellow student who works within your discipline or is conducting research similar to your own might also prove very helpful. Establishing a writing relationship in which each of you reads the work of the other before it is submitted to supervisors and committee members can be extremely productive as long as the criticism remains constructive and professional objectivity is maintained. Another sound policy is to read or reread particularly fine scholarly articles and books with your thoughts tuned to how each author deals with the presentation of complicated data and successfully develops a sound and persuasive argument. If these books and articles are related to your research topic, you will not only provide yourself with writing to emulate as you draft your thesis or dissertation, but also familiarise yourself with content that will prove useful for your own work.
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