Dissertation Essays Learning Student-made

Lessons I’ve learnt: How I overcame disappointing academic results

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Do you feel like you are struggling with your studies? Either you can’t seem to find the motivation, or you just don’t know where things are going wrong? If so, I completely relate to your situation, but here’s what my dad says: as much as we would love it if things were going smooth, it’s the joy of overcoming the challenges that make life worth living! I know it’s easier said than done, but if it’s helpful I’d like to share my story on how I overcame my academic struggles over the past few years.

To begin with, I am Harveen Kaur, a final-year International B.Sc. Biotechnology student at The University of Manchester graduating (hopefully!) in July 2019. In my second year, I faced quite a few difficulties due to the massive shift in assessments (from multiple choice question-based exams in my firstyear to essay-based in my second year). I guess I wasn’t prepared for the change and did not devote enough time to each module. Eventually, however, it was all well and good as I started to spend more time in the Ali G and the library to complete work faster, which also improved my concentration levels.

What concerned me the most was my dissertation result (which you complete in your second year in Biotechnology). It was way lower than my expectations, and I couldn’t understand why?! I thought I did well, but clearly not! It was hard for me to accept this, but I motivated and encouraged myself to use this as a learning experience to perform better in my literature review the next year.

In relation to my dissertation and literature review, I am going to share a few tips that really helped me improve my marks for those struggling with the same problems.

  • Regularly meet your advisors (at least once every two weeks)

A face-to-face meeting with your supervisor is much more useful to resolve any doubts than over an e-mail. Also, as foolish or unnecessary your doubts may seem, your supervisor will always have a better understanding of the topic and a clearer vision, so never hesitate to resolve them. A meeting with your supervisor is essentially a discussion where one topic leads to another, widening the breadth and depth of your knowledge and improving your thought process. So, I’d recommend maintaining a healthy relationship with your supervisor (where you’re comfortable enough to discuss the progress of your research) as it will make sure you’re heading in the right direction and will make you feel confident about what you’re doing!

It was very unfortunate that I did not meet my dissertation supervisor after my first meeting and I’m sure you might agree that it might have affected my final mark.

On the other hand, for my literature review, I met my supervisor every two weeks to clarify the tiniest of doubts and discussed my progress every two weeks, which drastically improved my grade 😊 And I had a fun time doing that!

  • Set yourself deadlines

According to research, you’re more likely to achieve your goals by taking one step at a time, breaking down your final goal into smaller chunks. This is a great way to make your time more productive. For instance, we can divide our task into several sub categories and set deadlines for each of the sub-categories to get things done on time.

For example, if your dissertation deadline is on 1st May and you have two months, you could split this into smaller tasks like finding research papers, planning the outline of your draft, making conclusions, finishing the first draft and refining the draft from the feedback received. If each of these tasks had a deadline planned according to the necessary time each task requires, you’re more likely to stop procrastinating and complete the task with high efficiency.

In fact, you could finish each task and plan a meeting with your supervisor accordingly to discuss any concerns you might have or just the progress you have made. They will be able to provide their input to your research that could be beneficial.

  • Make the most of your time!

Following a routine will help you make the most of your time in turn helping you accomplish your tasks on time! Especially in your finalyear, consider working 9am to 5pm like a job and then enjoy the weekend! You could go to the library if you cannot study at home and it will help you remain focused. As a result, you’ll have enough time to even improvise and proofread your assignments considering the work is not submitted last minute.

Also, when things don’t go your way, it is extremely important to recognize where you’re falling out and missing on something. For instance, when you write an essay, your content could be very accurate and in context to the question, but you could still lose marks if you haven’t formatted or referenced correctly, emphasized each paragraph or included any figures and figure legends. These little things add up in terms of marks dropped, so remember to be smart worker! A nice way of doing this is by analyzing the feedback you receive from your professors. Be aware of any annoying habits which might have lowered your mark in previous work – use them to improve your next piece of work.

I hope you find my tips useful to help improve your mark 😊

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