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. My article is freely available here, and my questionnaire is available to read (or use in your own projects) here.
I also had some interesting notifications on my usually-dormant Twitter account as a result of the journal tweeting out each new article in the current volume. Seeing a couple of “likes” from people who had attended my OER17 presentation was nice, especially as that was close to two years ago.
“I find the whole enterprise daunting”: Staff understanding of Open Education initiatives within a UK university https://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/article/view/918/541#.XH1tUS9iBrA.twitter by @Sinead_Harold & @VivienRolfeOriginally tweeted by Open Praxis (@ICDEOP) on March 4, 2019.
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.
Part of the issue was my project being unique among the external projects. Each person doing an external project had two supervisors, one based in the Sci-Comm unit at UWE and one based within the organisation they were working with. The intention was for the external supervisor to handle questions about the research and practical advice, and for the UWE supervisor to cover academic advice, assignment questions, and writing feedback.
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.
After the great few days of releasing the survey, everything uni-related has slowed to a crawl again.
So far I’m disappointed- I may have got 33 responses after two days, but two weeks later I’m only at 40. There’s been so little progress, and literally zero response from the UWE Facebook group.
This month I’ve finally been able to release my questionnaire, which is a relief.
After my and my supervisor’s attempts at piloting gained a grand total of 7 participants, I wasn’t feeling optimistic. But checking over the results from the 7 pilots showed that my questions were well-designed, and worked better than expected.
I’d expected that I would have to revise the survey inbetween piloting and releasing, but my alpha scores were high enough (a fixable 0.655 for the lowest section, up to a surprising 0.926 for one section) that we could release it straight away.
The majority of my MSc time is now officially over, as a few days ago we received our finalised marks for our completed modules. I got a Merit, with an overall average of 64% (and my 90-second-late essay was reprieved, which was nice). Due to how our marking system works, the maximum I can now get is a Merit even if I somehow aced the dissertation. I’m finding that knowledge helpful- it means I can’t be worrying about trying to reach a grade that’s actually impossible to reach.
On Wednesday, I got an email from my dissertation supervisor about a potentially-useful meeting based on research and what UWE’s Open Access policies are. This sounded interesting, so I went to investigate, and it actually did give me a lot of information about how researchers understand Open Access.
The meeting opened with a talk from one of the staff responsible for running UWE’s research repository. This talk focused on what the new research guidelines are around Open Access research, and what researchers need to do to comply with those rules.