Dissertation

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Dissertation

When your project and supervisor have been arranged, you must submit the working title of your project and the name(s) of your supervisor(s) and dissertation partner(s) (if applicable) via a paper form, which should be handed in to the Teaching Office by 4pm on Thursday, October 5th 2017. 

In Semester 1 there will be an opportunity for feedback on the design of the dissertation.  Students will make and present a poster describing the planned dissertation research, and will receive feedback from staff and exchange feedback peer-to-peer with other students. The date for the poster session will be Wednesday 22 November 2017. There will be a short talk describing how to produce posters, held at 1:10pm on Friday 6th October, in F21. Posters must be submitted in electronic form approximately 3 weeks ahead of the poster session, at a date to be advertised, to allow time for printing. The posters will not count towards the assessment, but they're a great opportunity to get essential feedback on your work.

Slides from the poster talk are available here

Recording of the poster talk is available here

Submitting your thesis

TWO bound copies of the dissertation must be submitted in the Honours box in the PPLS Undergraduate Teaching Office (Room G.06, Dugald Stewart Building) by the deadline of 4pm on Wednesday 28th March. An electronic copy must also be submitted by the deadline via Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software. A link to Turnitin will be available via Learn. The electronic submission allows us to check for plagiarism and word count. This will also link directly to Edinburgh Research Archive (see details on the archive below).

Students should be aware that it is University policy to deduct 5 marks from the final mark for each working day that you are late with submitting your dissertation and that after 5 days the work will be awarded a mark of zero.

The submitted dissertation is part of the degree examination, and it will contribute to the determination of the degree awarded. This deadline is therefore firm, and only under very exceptional circumstances will the Course Organiser (in consultation with the Convenor of the Board of Examiners) agree to an extension for which permission must be sought in advance. You should be aware that for your degree to qualify for accreditation by the BPS, it is essential to obtain a pass mark for your dissertation.

As the second marking of your dissertation will be anonymous, you must submit one copy without your name on the title page. Instead you should include on the title page your exam number, along with the name of your supervisor(s). 

The dissertation must not normally exceed 8000 words (approximately 24 pages of single-sided A4, double spaced, 12 point font). This limit does not include the text of the abstract, references, tables or figures (but note that figure captions should only clarify what is shown in the figure - if you use them to cram in text that should not be in a caption, in order to avoid exceeding word limits, this may have a negative impact on your mark). Discourse analysis extracts are also not included in the word limit. Where it is desirable, for completeness, to include full sets of stimulus material, lengthy descriptions of procedure, or computer analyses etc., which would take the thesis above this limit, these should be put in an appendix. Material in the appendix will not necessarily be read by the examiners, and so it should not be used for evidence which is essential to the argument of the dissertation. Your dissertation should be your own piece of written work, even in a collaborative project; supervisors may provide comments on a single draft of all sections of your dissertation except the Abstract and Discussion.

In using computers (e.g., to store data and to word-process your dissertation), you are strongly advised to ensure that you back up your work adequately. Also, in case you encounter last minute computer or printer problems, you should have a draft copy of your thesis available well before the deadline. This copy should be identical in text to the final copy (i.e., it may differ only in format or in minor typographical respects). Further details regarding submission criteria will be circulated in due course to the course secretary.

 

Feedback policies and marking procedures

Your supervisor will be available for guidance and advice on your dissertation work, and it is expected that you will hold regular meetings with him/her, at which you will receive informal feedback on progress in your project. 

There is an opportunity for feedback on the design of your dissertation at the poster day in Semester 1. You will make and present a poster describing the planned dissertation research, and will receive feedback from staff, and exchange feedback peer-to-peer with other students. The posters will not count towards the assessment.

Your supervisor will also give formative written feedback on ONE written draft of your dissertation, which must be submitted by three weeks prior to the dissertation deadline at the latest. The feedback will cover the Introduction, Methods and Results sections. The form of this feedback will depend on the student, the project and the supervisor. Supervisors may offer advice on writing academic English, but they will not proof-read your dissertation. Feedback will NOT be available on the Discussion section or Abstract, and will not be available on more than one draft of the thesis. Please allow two weeks from the submission of your draft to receive the feedback.

The dissertation report is worth 90% of the mark for the dissertation project. It will be marked by two independent markers, the first of whom will be your thesis supervisor. The second marker will mark your dissertation anonymously (he/she will not know your identity). The other 10% of the mark for the dissertation project will be for your work on the project. This mark given by your supervisor will reflect independence, contribution and own initiative in any aspect of the project. A copy of the report form is below; note that not all criteria will apply to all projects. Excellent project work and student-led research can be done on pre-specified as well as student-designed projects. Excellent project work does not mean not asking questions: to know when to seek help from others, and whom to approach is an important characteristic of a successful research worker. Once you have graduated, you will be entitled to receive a summary of the markers' comments and supervisor report.

 

The forms used for dissertation marking

1) Supervisor's Report

2) Dissertation Comment Sheet

 

Writing your DISSERTATION

The Psychology Final Honours Dissertation should be your own individual piece of work, even if you have done the project collaboratively. Your supervisor can comment on your Introduction, Methods and Results sections, but not on your Abstract or final Discussion - this should be your own unaided work.

Do not hope to earn marks through quantity rather than quality, and remember that the difference between the Final Honours Dissertation and your Third Year Literature Review is that in the dissertation the important element is your own research rather than your evaluation of research by other people. You need to demonstrate that you can move on from summarising the literature to design a study of your own that can answer questions that stem from this literature-survey, that you can conduct the study successfully (dealing with any problems and challenges - including the administrative ones of liaison).

1. Try to choose a TITLE which is short and to the point, rather than a long one. In March, you can alter the title that you submitted in Semester 1 if the new version will fit better or simply be snappier.

List on the TITLE PAGE the names of your partner(s) in the project, your supervisor(s) and anyone else who has materially helped in the design, execution and analysis of the work, so that it is clear what is your own work.

2. The ABSTRACT should be brief (300 words maximum). Some commentators now believe that asking for structured abstracts (with subheadings, e.g., Objectives / (Design) / Methods / Results / Conclusions) encourages the writer to sharpen up the composition and conveys more information. But this scheme is not yet widely used in journal abstracts, and for the present it is enough to make sure you cover each of these points where appropriate - but be succinct!

3. The INTRODUCTION should be short (say, 1500 to 2000 words) and you should focus on those sections of the literature that are most relevant for your particular project rather than reviewing the whole literature. It usually helps to end the introduction with a paragraph or section on 'The Present Study' (you may even separate this out with a sub-heading) which spells out what you intend to do in your study and why. This section should make clear to the reader the point of your piece of work, and the logic behind the design of your study, and springboard them into the Methods.

4. The METHODS section should not be a slavish transplant of the kind of methods sections you wrote in second year practical reports: look at the range of methods sections in published papers in the area you are working in to see what is essential and what is optional. If procedures are well known or standard, you can get away with a short description or reference, but if you have invented your own techniques describe these succinctly but in full. You may want to write the methods and results in parallel, to see which points about the design and statistics can be explained better in the methods and which can be explained better in the results. If you are collaborating with someone else on your project, do not use a co-written Methods section, even if you will say very much the same things. It is essential also to include a statement reporting the study’s ethical approval, including the name of the body (or in some case bodies) giving approval, and any reference number/s. All projects must be approved by the School (PPLS) Ethics Committee (http://www.psy.ed.ac.uk/psy_research/research_ethics.php).

5. The RESULTS section is one of the most important, so allocate a due amount of time for writing it up. It helps if you have worked out how you are going to analyse the data before you embark on the study (but the situation can usually be rescued, even if you have not, providing that you have used a straightforward design). Because of the diversity of Honours Dissertation topics, it is difficult to lay down firm guidelines for the analysis - the guide must be what would be acceptable in an up-to-date publication in the relevant area. Exploratory data analysis is an important precursor to good statistical analysis. Think about your data before you dive into the analysis, and decide how you can best present or summarise it (e.g., Figures vs. Tables) so that the reader can understand the important features before you get down to hypothesis testing, etc. Different studies will demand different approaches, so be aware that you are trying to demonstrate that you know what would be appropriate in a published piece of work - choose a statistical analysis appropriate in kind and level of complexity (speak to your supervisor), and show that you are aware of the complications of post-hoc and multiple testing, etc. (For example, many publications now report a Bonferroni adjustment to the critical P value if they are going to carry out statistical tests across a number of different measures; in the past, some honours students have been so delighted to find that even one comparison, out of 20+ made, "was significant at P=0.05" that they disregarded the possibility that this might be the one in twenty that would reach this level by chance). Remember that analyses of the effect sizes or of the power of your study may be necessary to understand the importance of any significant or non-significant results. If you are collaborating you will want to discuss the results with your partner - but you must write your Results sections independently.

6. The DISCUSSION is also arguably a critical section in showing your own critical thinking and evaluation of your results in the light of your hypotheses. It can cover: (a) what you have discovered or achieved, and how this relates to results already in the literature, (b) strengths and weaknesses of the current study (and of any that have gone before), and (c) where now? i.e., it can suggest the next questions to be tackled in research stemming from your work. Always try to be brief and to the point - this is a discussion of what you have achieved, not a free-floating essay. Your supervisor is not allowed to comment on your discussion section, and should not see it until the thesis is being marked.

A good article on how to structure a Discussion is by:

M. Docherty & R. Smith (1999). The case for structuring the discussion of scientific papers. BMJ, 318, 1224-5, 8 May 1999

This atricle can be obtained at: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/318/7193/1224, but remember that what is appropriate for a medical paper may not work as well in a fourth year thesis reporting a project involving discourse analysis or psychophysics, so treat their suggestions as hints rather than stipulations. The best place to look for inspiration is published articles in a field similar to that of your dissertation project, particularly in journals with papers of a similar length.

7. The formatting of the thesis, including CITATIONS and REFERENCES, should follow either that of the American Psychological Association (6th edition) or the British Psychological Society (http://www.apastyle.org/, http://www.bps.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/bps_style_guide.pdf). Whichever format is used must be adopted consistently throughout.

 

Technical Support for Theses

Technical support is available for your thesis work. In the first instance, please consult with your supervisor about the technical requirements of your chosen project. There will also be workshops available for students wishing to learn to use stimulus presentation software packages E-Prime and Open Sesame. Information about these will be circulated via email. If you require further information, or you need assistance with any matter relating to labs, equipment or software, please contact the department's technical support team on is.helpline@ed.ac.uk, stating clearly what kind of support you need.

 

Procedures for honours projects involving school-children

Where students are seeking to conduct research projects in schools within the City of Edinburgh and the Lothians, there is a formal procedure that should be followed. Students should first discuss their projects with their supervisors after which the supervisor (not the students) should make a first informal approach to the relevant schools by phone or letter. At this stage the supervisor can make it clear that all projects are subject to local ethics vetting and that the students would be following through by sending the school copies of their supporting documents (see below).

If the head teacher is willing to proceed, then the students should send a brief summary of the proposed study, including an estimate of the time required for testing sessions; the age and number of children required for the study; the timescale of the project and an indication of what may be required by way of testing space and tables, electrical sockets, etc. They should also enclose a copy of a letter for gaining parental permission, and a copy of their Disclosure Scotland forms.

Note that the school may also ask students to fill out their own forms for testing approval.

These procedures apart, all students should also consult the guidelines for testing children and vulnerable adults by following the link to “Testing children” in the local-only access from the Psychology Department homepage and comply with all relevant instructions.

 

Public Availability of Dissertations

From 2005/6, the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh keeps an electronic copy of your Honours dissertation for use in teaching or research in the Philosophy/Psychology Library, 7 George Square. The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 requires the University to make available to any enquirer any information held by the University, unless one of the legislation’s narrowly defined exemption applies. Information contained in your dissertation will be made available to any enquirer unless you indicate that it should be withheld.

 

Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA) www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk

ERA is a digital repository which showcases the research output from the University of Edinburgh to the world. This online repository contains full-text PhD Theses, MSc dissertations, book chapters, journal pre-prints and peer-reviewed journal reprints. Most of the content is available to download, and indexed by the major search engines (Google Scholar, Yahoo) which give material from ERA a higher ranking in their search results.

Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature on the internet, and making it available free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions, removes the barriers to serious research. The School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences has its own closed collection in ERA for dissertations.

To put your research online you can do so by submitting through Turnitin in Learn where it will be automatically uploaded into ERA.

If you have any questions or need a hand, please send email enquiries to: era.admin@ed.ac.uk

 

Ethics Committee Submissions (Convenor, Prof Catherine Gale)

Ethics and student projects

All psychologists doing research involving human subjects are required to ensure their projects conform to British Psychological Society ethical guidelines. Researchers therefore submit their proposals to independent ethics committees for review.

In accordance with this, all staff, postgraduates and final honours students carrying out projects are required to submit information about their research projects to the Psychology Research Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee will review your proposal and will, usually, either (1) approve it as it stands or (2) ask you to clarify things or make adjustments to your protocol before your study can go ahead. It is important that you submit your proposal as soon as your study design has been agreed by your supervisor, so that your data collection phase is not delayed by not having approval from the Ethics Committee. Before submitting your proposal, it is important to have your supervisor go over it, to ensure that any obvious errors or omissions are taken care of; this will avoid unnecessary work for the ethics reviewers and delays to approval of your proposal.

 

Preparing your project proposal for the Ethics Committee

Ethics applications are to be completed online here:

http://www.psy.ed.ac.uk/psy_research/research_ethics.php either by yourself and/or your supervisor (ask your supervisor what s/he would like you to do). If you complete the application, your supervisor will be required to sign it too. Make sure that all required signatures are in place, as the application will not be considered submitted by the system if any are outstanding. If your project has already been submitted to an external committee, such as Lothian Health, please indicate on the application that you have gained approval elsewhere, and hand in a copy of your approval letter with your ethics application. Along with your submission, you must include copies of any material you are planning to hand out to your participants – e.g., questionnaires or information sheets. This is important so that the Committee can see exactly what your participants are being told and what they are being asked to do. Approval can take as long as 2-3 weeks, so plan accordingly. Once you have submitted your proposal, you will get an automatic email confirming the submission. You will receive the Committee’s response by email once review has been completed. If you do not receive any response at all after submission, check the system to be sure that you application has been fully submitted. If your proposal has been successfully submitted but you do not get a response from the committee within 3 weeks (this is very unusual), ask your supervisor to contact the head of the Committee (or send them an email yourself).

 

Health and Safety

Students are required to follow the health and safety rules for the department at all times. This means you are required to design your study so that you are not breaching these rules. See your Health & Safety handbook for the current guidelines on personal safety and times you are allowed to see participants in the psychology building.

 

Studies with children

Studies involving children may encounter significant delays because of the additional requirements regarding Disclosure Scotland. Your project supervisor will advise you on this process.

 

Wider information on Ethics

It is expected that you will be familiar with, at minimum, the BPS ethics guidelines, which can beconsulted on the BPS’s website:

http://www.bps.org.uk/what-we-do/ethics-standards/ethics-standards

 

Psychometric Tests

Many students will wish to use psychometric tests in their research projects. Psychology houses store of tests, and students may borrow some of these tests from the librarian. Some general information about choosing and locating tests, together with some information about specific types of test, e.g. personality, can be found at the following links:

http://www.ed.ac.uk/ppls/psychology/research/facilities/philosophy-and-psychology-library

http://www.ed.ac.uk/ppls/psychology/research/facilities/philosophy-and-psychology-library/psychological-tests