Frequently Asked Questions


How do I get started?

(a) Choose a topic that interests you
(b) Do some initial reading
(c) Draw up a tentative plan
(d) Make first appointment with your tutor


What actually IS a Literature Review ?

A literature review is a summary of 'what is known' about a subject in the academic literature. If nothing has been written (or what has been written is not at all academic) then this makes your Final Year Project less viable if not impossible.


Within the literature review, do we need to discuss the differing opinions of the books we read to the subject we have chosen or just list the books and text we have read and why?

The literature review should attempt to: (a) summarise in a sentence or so the approach taken by a particular author (b) evaluate the approach and put it into a context You can find a practical example in the article 'The Quantification of Patient Satisfaction' in the section entitled 'Dissatisfaction with the conduct of the patient satisfaction survey' which is approximately the third paragraph of the article. This is a 'literature review in brief' but should give you an idea of the style and so on. I hope you find this useful.


Can the Literature Review cover two chapters of subject introduction and theory if referring to two separate areas?

It is only a convention that the Literature Review is the first substantive chapter. In practice, you can spread the Literature Review over two or more chapters particularly in the earlier stages of a project.

Also, remember that may well be several other references that you make in later chapters that are not in the Literature Review. Sometimes students get the impression that the Literature Review should contain every reference in the entire project but this is not the case. The Literature Review essentially sets the scene for the later stages of the project by summarising, reviewing and evaluating the principal contributions to the subject under discussion.


Is the Internet a good place to start ? 

Yes - but only in conjunction with other academic sources (textbooks, journals, official reports) that you find or access through a library


Do I need to include all of the questionnaires I have conducted in an Appendix?

No - you only need to include one blank copy of the questionnaire. It is often a good idea to include your data file if you have used a program such as MINITAB.


I am an industrial engineering Masters degree student. When getting started with my final year project work, the most difficult thing I felt is where to start my thesis.

I think that you start with a QUESTION to which you really want to know the answer! The question might be, in your case, something like: - what are the engineering implications of a new product that is being brought to market? In the case of a civil engineering project, it could be something like 'An examination of the engineering implications in the design of the box-girder bridge'.

Think of a problem that you found it interesting to write about in any of your undergraduate assignments. A tutor in your university may be a helpful source of advice to select suitable projects.

Then do some reading around the area, write a suitable plan and then you have all of the elements in place to make a good start.


Do all projects have to have a stated hypothesis?.

It is often said in the manuals giving advice to students that you should' state your hypothesis clearly' and you should follow the advice given by your own tutors. However, the word 'hypothesis' is often used to mean approximately the same as 'your research question' to which you should endeavour to assess a range of materials that help you to provide an answer to the question. Some of this evidence will be supportive, some will point in the opposite direction and some will be inconclusive. It is your task to assess this evidence and come to a conclusion as to whether, on balance, the question that you have asked yourself can be answered in the affirmative or not. If you are undertaking some questionnaire or survey work and you are collecting quantitative data, remember that you could well subject your data to statistical hypothesis testing e.g. are males more likely to buy this product than females. Then you have to demonstrate that you understand how to interpret tests of statistical probability i.e. generally a p=0.05 or less is considered a significant difference. Finally, remember that the presence of statistical significance does not point to any social scientific significance (e.g. men are heavier than women) but the absence of statistical significance can be very revealing (e.g. in this sample, contrary to the national literature, there were no significant differences in smoking behaviour between young women and young men).


Do I need to include all of the interviews I have collected I have conducted in an Appendix?

No - this would take up too much space and might cut into your word count! It is best just to include a single page of transcript (single spaced) and let it trail off like this.......
Then put at the bottom some details such as
'Interview conducted with 2nd year Drama Student ,1/1/2000, sample page only'

Incidentally, this gives you a clue how to reference such material. You should include a portion of the transcript, indented and single spaced, and then give an attribution such as this:
'Interview conducted with 2nd year Drama Student ,1/1/2000'


How do students select their projects in their own field?
Is there any guidance about it on the internet?

You should really chooose a topic that really interests you - it could be an assignment or or a project that you have undertaken. Then research what is known about it through
(a) the library
(b) the internet
Remember that your project is essentially one long answer to the question that you have set yourself to answer.


Can you suggest any tutors or tutoring service to assist me in completing my thesis paper?

No, I'm afraid not! If you are enrolled in a college, then there should be a tutor allocated to you who can offer you some guidance and support.

If you are a 'distance education' student, then you will not go too far wrong if you follow the guidance given in these pages (and in the links in 'Sources of Advice')

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