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Don't panic: Staff

The Psyc/Soc Student's Guide to Fourth Year by Hope Christie and Karl Johnson

Don't be afraid or intimidated by the staff - they're here to help

We cannot stress this enough; the staff at QMU are fantastic. All of them, in their own unique ways, but they all are. By now, through your four years you are bound to have found a member of staff that you get on with, or feel you can speak to. We’re not talking about you making this staff member your 24/7 agony aunt who will sit and speak to you for hours about life, the universe and everything. However, if you are genuinely struggling with an academic problem, such as not understanding reading (we mean a particular academic paper, not the actual practice of reading itself – we would hope you understand how that works), or just generally struggling with how all aspects of psychology/sociology fits together then email them!

 

Granted, they are busy people who have lives of their own and other students to see, classes to teach and essays/exams to mark, but they will try to help you where they can. Don’t abuse them, by emailing them every time the smallest issue comes up (e.g. you can’t get access to a particular journal and life just isn’t fair), but they are there to help you.

 

The same goes for your dissertation supervisor. However, the same rule applies; your dissertation supervisor is not supposed to be your best friend. They're supposed to be an expert whose knowledge will benefit you. All academic staff want you to produce the best research project you can, although they differ in the ways they bring that out of you. If you get along personally, it's a bonus. Don't let it be a distraction. But just because you're not making bracelets for each other, doesn't mean that your mortal enemies either, as your work is as much a reflection of your supervisor as yourself.

Your first analysis meeting with your supervisor will most likely have you awake for hours, stressing that you don’t know enough about SPSS or what analysis you are going to do. Your supervisor is not expecting you to know everything there is to know about SPSS or recall your data analysis classes from first and second year. They want to see that you’ve thought about your data, and now it’s all in SPSS sitting pretty and ready to be analysed, they want to know what you think is the next step. The trick is to think about what your hypotheses were; what questions were you trying to answer with your study? If you know the answer to that (which I’m hoping you should), then you can start to frame your analysis round that.

All academic staff want you to produce the best research project you can, although they differ in the ways they bring that out of you.

Nobody expects you to start out with a complete knowledge of the sociological theory(ies) you want to use in your project.
Likewise, nobody expects you to know the ins and outs of your proposed analysis.  That's what reading is for.  And use your supervisor, meet with them regularly to bounce ideas off one another; there are really no words to describe how helpful that practice is.