Category Archives: honours project

The start of a beautiful friendship?

Have you ever heard the old adage about the people you meet in life? They say there are three types:  Acquaintances; friends that come and go and; the longstanding variety you can count on. In many ways, I think an Honours project is a bit like the people you meet. Some of the variables or ideas remain acquaintances, never taking on a life of their own. Others blossom initially but eventually wane, serving as important stepping stones to the ideas that stand the test of time. I can see this clearly in the evolution of my study. New aspects have been introduced whilst older features have disappeared, either re-emerging or being replaced. Just like relationships, an Honours project is never static.

Inevitably, my ‘relationship’ with my project is complex. A thesis needs to be explained, defended and supported, a bit like a friend who cannot speak for themselves. At times I feel overwhelmed by it all, especially given the importance of high marks for getting into a postgraduate course. Nevertheless, support from those willing to give feedback and listen makes it seem possible.

Despite all this, if my thesis could chat to me right now, it would probably vent its frustration. I’ve identified a problem; I keep getting caught up in the details and so my arguments are not clearly structured nor do they move from the general to the specific. I’m working on it,  but I haven’t had much success. What’s worse is that I keep making the same mistakes. I’m placating myself with the knowledge that I will overcome this. Even so, I need to change my approach, but how? Does anyone out there have any tips?

At least writing this post has made me feel better. Challenges are inevitable but they’ll make it all the more worthwhile in the end. I’ll let you know how I get on.


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Walking on sunshine: When a setback becomes a springboard

Have you ever watched a musical and thought that all the singing was so artificial? That no one breaks into song to express their feelings in real life? Well, I can attest that after a meeting with my supervisor, I came quite close to it!

It all began with researching my topic area. I was disheartened to find that my original idea was well researched already. There were a few gaps in the literature, but I was unsure if they justified another project. It seemed like I might have to abandon my original plan so I sent my supervisor a synopsis of what I had found. Ironically, this proved the springboard for my project taking on a new and exciting direction. So much so, that I walked out of my next meeting with the prospect of doing an even better project that might one day be published.

I don’t mind telling you that I was walking around campus, simply grinning. I was as joyful as Maria in the opening credits of the Sound of Music. It was an amazing confidence boost to have the opportunity to take on such a great project. So for anyone out there on their Honours journey, maybe that hurdle you’re facing will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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A journey of 12,000 words begins with a single step: The first week

My journey of 12,000 words began with developing a topic for my Honours project. I’ll be researching something in the area of autism. I’m just trying to figure out what that specific ‘something’ will be. The scope of my Honours project makes this process a whole new experience.
So how do you devise an idea for a study? That’s an answer I’m still working on but there probably isn’t a single ‘right’ way. My current approach has been to read articles about a couple of aspects of autism, paying particular attention to the authors’ suggestions for future research. I’ve resorted to reading and noting in short bursts because I haven’t built up any journal reading stamina yet, but it does seem to be working.  I plan to read a few more articles and then brainstorm some specific topic ideas, ready for my first meeting with my supervisor.
My Honours year classes officially started yesterday. It was a gentle start to the year. We revised statistics, the importance of evidence based practice and remaining cautious when evaluating research. I also went to the first weekly seminar for research students offered by my university. I am so glad that I went. The seminar highlighted that other students do feel a bit ‘at sea’ in their research journey too, which is very reassuring.
 The brown object is an oar, not a bottle and the white thing is supposed to be a sail. You may have guessed but I am not very artistic…

The session also gave me some useful insights. I think the key thing to remember at the moment is that laying a solid foundation for my research is really important. Now I understand why the first few months of brainstorming, researching and designing a project are said to be the most intense! I’ll definitely be going back for the next session.

So to any student undertaking research or studying at uni…
 get thee to your uni’s learning programs

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Honours project ideas

Happy New Year! Honours year officially begins next week. I’m feeling excited but a little nervous. Honours year really is the great unknown. Everyone I have spoken to has said it is hardest year in psychology but also the most rewarding. Personally, I just want to start and find out what it is all about! 
I had planned to peruse my statistics notes to refresh my memory before the uni year began but that hasn’t happened. Oh well, I am on my holidays after all. While I haven’t cracked open a stats book, I’m really enjoying Oliver Sacks’ “Musicophilia.” It’s all about the relationship between music and the brain, and just as good as “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” For the uninitiated, Sacks’ books present case studies about people with various neurological disorders; everything from Autism to Tourette’s. They give you an insight into different conditions and what the world looks like from a patients’ perspective, posing some interesting questions. I definitely recommend adding Oliver Sacks to your reading  list. You don’t need to be studying psychology to enjoy or understand his books and you can probably find them in your local library. I should probably add, there is no ulterior motive behind this endorsement, I just really like them.

I’ve also been reading up on various areas of psychology such as autism, children with disabilities and their parents though to get some possible ideas for my thesis topic. Unfortunately, a feasible idea has yet to jump out at me. I’m sure that the introductory meeting about Honours year and talking to supervisors will help though. Ideally, I’ll devise a topic that I find interesting and that can be explored with the help of the psychology research volunteer pool. In the same vein, my perfect supervisor would be someone who is approachable, accessible, knowledgeable and patient with my statistics questions. I am reasonably proficient with stats but I still like to ask lots of questions and get some reassurance. I tend to tie myself up in knots every once in a while. I’m sure anyone out there reading this who has studied psychology understands where I am coming from. Keep your fingers crossed I get my wish list please!

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