How to get through the MPharm dissertation

Ausaf Khan

Ausaf Khan

Source: Ausaf Khan

The MPharm dissertation is one of the longest pieces of writing we create as pharmacy students. I remember feeling quite anxious about it all. I wasn’t too sure how I was going to write 10,000 words on a topic which at the time I had no idea about, however once I got into it, I really enjoyed writing my dissertation.

The dissertation is usually a lengthy process composed of weeks filled with intense research, several draft versions, blog entries, and supervisory meetings. I was fortunate enough to get a research project in the area of pharmacy education. My project focused on student learning in integrated pharmacy curricular. At the time of receiving my title I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was intrigued to see what developed once I started. I began my dissertation by conducting a literature search which allowed me to access the plethora of literature available within the field of pharmacy education. I made sure my literature search was as specific as possible to ensure the papers were relevant and accurate for the research topic. I remember when I would hear or read ‘buzz words’ like ‘integrated’ or ‘curriculum’ my ears would crop up and my eyes would become fixed on the particular article. It was also ironic that during the end of my dissertation the GPhC consultation on the initial education and training standards for pharmacists began. However, the MPharm dissertation is not always plain sailing and everyone’s experience varies, here I share four-tips which helped me get through the MPharm dissertation. I hope they will be useful for MPharm students starting their dissertation.

Firstly, organisation. Dissertation deadlines may seem like a long time away, but make sure you are aware of your deadline and start planning in advance. Within a qualitative research project, you may need to conduct interviews or focus groups with participants, and therefore ethical approval is necessary before you start data collection. This process can sometimes take a couple of weeks and slightly delay data collection, so it’s important to account for this. The best way I found to organise my time was by making lists and drafting a timeline or timetable. Aim to plan each week and write down what you want to get out from that week. It’s important to have a clear and coherent plan to keep on top of things, just make sure you know what your aiming for each week. Don’t worry too much if you don’t meet your plan or something else comes in the way that’s normal, but just getting into a habit of planning is really good. You can use post-it notes, diaries or the reminders app on your phone to maintain your progress.

Secondly, don’t panic. This is sometimes easier said than done. The dissertation can sometimes be stressful so try and be enthusiastic and remain positive. Speak to your peers, supervisor or module co-ordinator if you’re feeling overwhelmed, they will be more than happy to re-assure you that everything’s ok. There are also organisations like pharmacist support who can help you if you’re feeling like you just need to speak to someone anonymously.

Thirdly, work hard play hard. Make sure you give yourself at least one day of the week where you don’t think about your dissertation. For me personally this was Friday. I used this time to go out and see friends and visit the new restaurants and cafes that had opened in Newcastle. This was a great way for me to catch up with all my university friends who I would rarely see during the week. This becomes more important nearer to the end of your dissertation, as you will notice your stress levels increase, and you get a lot of encouragement from your peers to keep soldiering on.

Lastly, Enjoy it! Although the dissertation can sometimes feel overwhelming, the skills you learn from the MPharm dissertation are invaluable and the process is a real learning curve. You definitely strengthen your friendship groups during this time but also build good rapport with your supervisor. Once you have your dissertation printed and bound in your hands the surge of pride and achievement is just indescribable, and you soon realise that the good times at university are coming to an end.

About the author:

Ausaf Hayat Khan, recently completed his MPharm  at Newcastle university. He will soon be pursuing his preregistration training within the hospital sector and will be presenting his dissertation at the 10th Biennial Monash Pharmacy Education Symposium 2019.

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