Polishing up your Masters dissertation – info tip

Student studyingAs you get into the last few weeks of work on your Masters dissertation or major project, it should all be coming together. This info tip aims to give you the tools to get everything done in time – and make your dissertation a shining success!

Editing, proof-reading and referencing

At this stage, you should be starting to think about editing and proof-reading. It’s best not to leave this till the last minute as it’s rarely just a matter of checking your spelling. There may be missing citation details to find, arguments that would be better placed elsewhere, repetition to remove, and word count to reduce. All these things take more time than you think.

Study Advice have a guide on writing at Masters’ level which will help you to see what you need to aim at when editing your writing. There is also a guide on academic writing including tips for more effective proof-reading. If you have five minutes, you could watch one of their video tutorials on dissertations.

It can make a real difference to your mark to make sure your citations are all correct, complete and consistent. This can be a slow process so allow plenty of time. There is information about different referencing styles and how to reference more unusual sources in our Citing References guide. You could also look at the Study Advisers’ video tutorials on referencing. If you’re still not sure, ask your Liaison Librarian or a Study Adviser.

Incomplete reference? What to do?

You may find you have a key piece of information, but not all the details you need for your bibliography. If you have some information, it still may be possible to find the complete reference.

For a journal article, try Summon or one of the Library’s databases; for a book, try checking your reading list, searching the Library catalogue, or a database specialising in books such as Worldcat or Copac. Ask at a Library Information Desk for help. You can also look back through your Library account to see the titles of books you’ve borrowed over the last 6 months.

If you want to use a direct quote from your reading but don’t know where it came from, try typing it into Google, framed with quotation marks e.g. “the City’s collusion with slavery”. Google will then search for the exact quotation. You may find it’s better to use a short phrase rather than a longer quote; try to find a grouping of words that stands out. What you must never do is invent details, or include things in your dissertation if you cannot be sure about the source. This may lead to accusations of academic misconduct.

For more help watch this brief video tutorial on how to find bibliographic details.

Get the edge with up-to-date information

The best dissertations include the most up-to-date research so, if you have time, you can check for recent publications that you may have missed in your literature review. Many databases allow you to re-run your search for an author or on a topic to find only the most recent items.

For example, Web of Science allows you to save your searches to re-run against the latest updates to its databases. You can also set up feeds and citation alerts so that you are notified when someone cites your key articles. Watch the saving your search and setting email alerts video for detailed instructions on how to do this.

This service isn’t only available in the sciences, however – you can set up alerts in services such as BrowZine to find the latest articles across all disciplines and subjects. Most databases will have this function available, but each one will work slightly differently. If you want to set up alerts for a particular database but aren’t sure how, get in touch with your Liaison Librarian.Female student writing

For more, see our further tips on keeping up to date.

Staying motivated

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to get to the finishing line, and it’s easy to underestimate how long the finishing touches may take. Breaking your remaining tasks down and setting deadlines to get each ticked off can help. You might turn these into a Gantt chart and pin it up on your wall, so you can see your targets at a glance. Study Advice have some further suggestions on staying motivated.

Layout and binding

Find out ahead of time what is expected in terms of layout and binding and you are likely to save yourself from last-minute panic. The Study Advice website has some general principles on finishing up. More specific information should be in your course or module handbook. It may also be possible to look at past dissertations in your department to see how they have laid out their work: ask your tutor.

You do not need to hard bind your work, but if you choose to do so, do be aware that you will have to leave considerably more time. The Library have teamed up with experienced university binders Hollingsworth & Moss to offer a hard and soft bound printing and binding service.

Acceptable binding styles include thermal binding with a hard or soft cover, spiral and comb binding. These can be done at many print shops with a little notice, including Mail Boxes Etc in the RUSU building on Whiteknights campus.

If you have any last-minute queries, you can always come and ask your Liaison Librarian or a Study Adviser.

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information.

This tip was written by Kim Shahabudin, Study Adviser and Caitlin McCulloch, Trainee Liaison Librarian for Chemistry and Pharmacy.

Becoming an open researcher – info tip

Becoming an open researcher means sharing your research so that others can read, use, re-use and build upon your work. This approach is gaining momentum as research funders, institutions and researchers seek to make their methods, materials, data, software and results easily discoverable and accessible to maximise the pace of discovery.
Making your research open means that members of the public can gain access to your research as well as interested researchers, students and commercial companies, potentially increasing the impact and reach of your work and boosting citations. An open research approach may also help to alleviate the perceived reproducibility crisis.

Open research activities can include:

  • Pre-registering your study hypotheses and protocols
  • Keeping an open lab notebook so others can keep track of your research
  • Sharing data by depositing it in a repository such as the Reading Research Data Archive
  • Sharing software using sites such as Zenodo or Github
  • Posting your articles to a pre-print server, for example arXiv, bioRxiv, SSRN before submission to a journal
  • Publishing in an Open Access journal
  • Depositing your research articles in an Institutional Repository such as CentAUR
  • Contributing open peer reviews if you are asked to review a manuscript

See how the Wellcome Trust, a research funder, explains open research in this YouTube video.

You may not be ready to embrace all these activities without first checking with your funders, supervisor, co-authors and the policies of the journals you might want to eventually publish your work in. However, there are some simple steps that you can take now.

Sign up for an ORCiD identifier

Make sure that all your research outputs are credited to you and not to another researcher with a similar name by signing up for an ORCiD identifier. This free and easy process will give you a unique identifier that you can use throughout your career when you are publishing your outputs, conducting peer reviews or applying for funding. Over a thousand staff and post-graduate students at University of Reading have already acquired an ORCiD identifier. Find out more in our handy LibGuide.

Publish your research in an Open Access journal

Not all students and researchers are lucky enough to have access to a library with subscriptions to lots of journals and books. By choosing to publish your research as Open Access, you are making your work available to everyone in the world that has an internet connection. There may be funds available to you to pay for open access publishing – check out the guidance for University of Reading researchers.

Databases such as Scopus and Scimago can be used to find open access journals in your subject area and to compare journal rankings.

Remember to check that your preferred journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) before you submit your precious manuscript. There’s also good advice on how to make sure you are submitting to a reputable journal on the Think Check Submit website.

Deposit your outputs in CentAUR

Make your research available by the Green Open Access route by depositing your paper in an institutional repository. Most publishers allow the author’s accepted version of the manuscript to be made available, usually after an embargo period. Deposit in CentAUR is required by the University’s Open Access policy. It ensures visibility of your research even if you can’t publish in a fully open access journal (Gold Open Access). If you are University of Reading staff, you should deposit your outputs in CentAUR by logging in with your usual credentials. For students, you’ll need to contact the CentAUR team. Adding your outputs to CentAUR can help you comply with funders’ Open Access requirements and those of the next Research Excellence Framework exercise. Check out the latest CentAUR download and deposit statistics on the Opening Research at Reading Blog.

Share your Data

Many STEM journals now ask for the data behind the research article to be made available either in a suitable data repository or as supplementary material to accompany the paper. Your funder may also require you to have a data management plan. By putting the data in a suitable repository (such as the Reading Research Data Archive, Figshare or Dryad) you can preserve your data and even get a digital object identifier (DOI) to make your data easier to share, link to and cite. You can also add a Creative Commons license to your data to let others know how they can reuse it and to make sure that they give appropriate credit to you for your work.

Find out about Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons logo used under a CC-BY licence

An important aspect of sharing your research and allowing reuse is making sure that you apply the right license to your works. Creative Commons licenses can help you to make your research more open by stipulating what can be done with the work and making sure that you still get credit. The most open license is the CCBY version.

Read the University of Reading’s Draft Open Research Vision Statement

The University of Reading is committed to Open Research and has published a draft statement on how Open Research can be integrated into all stages of the research lifecycle. The presentations from last year’s Open in Practice conference organised by University of Reading are available on the Opening Research at Reading Blog.

 

Additional resources

Open Science Training Handbook

 

This is one of a series of tips to help you save time and effort finding or using information

This tip was written by Dr Karen Rowlett, Research Publications Adviser.