Worried about selecting a graduation project?
I have seen students doing a literature review over and over on multiple topics and remain undecided when they have to pinpoint a single topic. This is not because of a lack of interest or focus but due to overthinking. They are too worried that they think of multiple things. But while working on multiple things, their way of thinking becomes too broad and they will be confused. I have also seen students waiting for the inspiration to select a topic and for most of the students, inspiration is the anxiety before one day of topic submission to their supervisor. So here are a few suggestions to select a graduation project.
Brainstorm your ideas. Considering this is the first time you are trying to do a project, you will feel that everything you read is of interest. You can follow these small tips to make yourself free from your overthinking.
- What do you enjoy doing or passionate about?
- Which is that specific thing you are best at or you can teach best?
- What can you read continuously without getting bored with it?
- Which is that striking thing that you read recently or in the past for an assignment or an exam and got excited?
- Can you see yourself completely immersed in just this project for the next few months?
- Skim through journals related to your subject regularly
- Was there anything interesting at a recent workshop or conference you attended?
- Ask people around. Anyone with a fair knowledge of your subject interests can help you in giving an outline
- Write a paragraph of what you want to do. Writing down on paper always helps in moving forward. Look up literature. See if there is a gap in the literature, see things required.
In conclusion, at some point, you have to accept that you are obliged to decide on something and start working towards it rather than still thinking whether you will be able to do it.
Calm down. Be determined. Decide strongly that you are supposed to select and work in a stipulated time. It is not always that you will find your queens. Sometimes you might have to find them and then make her your queen. Sometimes you might not understand your interest in a subject but when you select it as your project and once you start exploring it further you may love it.
Below are the few things you need to keep in mind before selecting a project.
As long as you are a student, it is mandatory to have a mentor to guide you. Any subject experts or leading scholars in that field, who wanted to work in that field would serve the purpose. If you couldn’t find anyone in your institute working in your area of interest, you might have to search for people from other institutes, it could be national or international, it is not necessary to have your mentors to be present physically. Nowadays, with the advent of technology, it has become very easy to contact anyone. You can just drop a mail or call to their official contact displayed on their institute’s website. Sometimes you can have a guide from overseas who can guide you through emails and a few video conferences.
It could be a device or a questionnaire or things needed for your experimental set-up. If your institute has them, then your job is easy. You can go speak to the person heading the lab, take necessary permissions and go ahead. If not, find out which institute has them and contact them and ask for help. If you couldn’t access them, Try applying for grants. Apply for grants which will enable you to buy instruments you need.
If you need a questionnaire developed earlier, you would have to take permission from the original authors to use in your research project.
All the projects done as a part of graduation or post-graduation will be time-bound. Check for the feasibility of your project. You need to take your seniors or faculty decision to analyse whether the project you selected can be finished in the given time. To understand the timeline better, look up for the people in literature who have done similar projects. Plan accordingly.
Feasibility of the sample:
Check for the feasibility of the sample. If it’s a laboratory material (like chemicals), you need to approach the labs which use them. If you can not find any lab using them, you might have to purchase it. In the case of public health or medical or paramedical research, you would have to think of subjects or patients availability. Provided, it’s a common disease, you might not have to worry about recruitment. Check if the prevalence of the disease is enough to recruit the sample you require in the given period. If you are interested in a retrospective study, you will have to speak with institutes maintaining those data and take their permission to use the data.
Check journals for your area of interests. If you find the exact study in the literature you might have to rethink about your idea. If you still do it, it comes under duplication. Keeping in mind that ultimately any project you do, if not publishable, it goes to waste. No one will pursue it further. Hence making sure that your project idea is novel is important before you start doing it.
All the projects you do require permission from the ethics committee of your institution. You should submit a proposal along with a questionnaire for your ethics committee. In these submissions, you need to declare the potential harms, risks and benefits for patients or animals participating in the study. You also need to write who will be taking care of the subjects involved if there’s any adverse effect during the study or because of the study. Make sure that you read the Declaration of Helsinki before you start your project. Apart from these, each country has its guidelines, make sure you adhere to them before planning the project.
Informed consent is the most important part of the ethics if the project involves humans or their samples or data. You must explain the participant about the purpose, procedures, risks and benefits of the study. If they agree to participate, either you get their signatures(called written consent) or ask orally (oral consent) about their willingness. In a few projects, it is also mandatory to prepare a withdrawal form and have it in handy when the participant wants to withdraw during the study.
I think with these points in mind you can easily select a project. All the best.
Disclaimer: This article is purely based on personal experiences, However, there could be other perspectives also.