PIR 4th Year UG Dissertation Retreat

Written by Betzy Hänninen and Abrahim Assaily (4th Year UG Students).

During the festival of creative learning, twenty students and six faculty staff set of to the Wiston Lodge in Biggar, to attend this year’s dissertation retreat for the fourth year students. We were all excited as we entered the bus, and curious about what the following two days would bring us. We expected it to be a useful few days, but we had no idea how much fun it would be as well. It was a great opportunity to meet other students that we never previously had the chance to get to know, and it was a great chance to interact with faculty staff too.

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The main attraction of the retreat was of course the dissertation workshops with the professors, who deserve praise for their time and patience helping 20 stressed and neurotic students. There were three and a half workshops offered, each of these would have two professors sit with a group of 6-8 students and help them through different steps of the dissertation process. The first of these was a ‘research question help’ session, the two very patient professors went meticulously through each student’s question, pushing each to better their questions. The second workshop was a ‘research methods and theory’ session, in this the two hard working professors would help to shine a light on the often ignored and disliked, yet key, sections of the dissertation. The final proper session was possibly the most important, in this session the professors helped students with tips on how to deal with stress, time management and how to ‘make it through the dissertation’. In addition to the proper workshops, ‘open surgery sessions’ were offered, where professors worked one on one with students to better their dissertations.

At the retreat we were also offered opportunities to work independently of the academic staff. This peer-to-peer work would see students discuss their research questions and their dissertation plans. Although the aforementioned workshops with the professors were very help, it was in the more relaxed and open environment of the peer-to-peer work that much of the work took place. Many students re-worked, or even formulated, their research questions with the help of their peers. It was during this time that I changed my topic from a more specific study to one that is more general, after the recommendation of a fellow student.

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After a long day with filled with workshops, we had the evening off and could enjoy a wide range of activities. Some of us joined a exciting round of the board game Cranium, and research questions, literature reviews and theoretical framework were traded for drawings, miming and trivia. The night ended with the students playing mafia/werewolf into the early hours.

On the second day we were given the opportunity to go on a hike. We were about ten students and two of the faculty staff who decided to attempt to climb the Tinto Hill. After about 45 min we reached the top of the Crag, and despite a lot of fog we managed to get a beautiful view of the area. The other group of student stayed at the estate, and went for a leisurely walk in the local forest.

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Overall, it was a very successful treat, and we are sure we speak for most of the students there when we say that it was very helpful to get such close follow up from the faculty staff, and have discussions with fellow students.

To all our fellow final year students; we wish you the best with your dissertations and good luck with whatever you are doing next year and thank you for four great years at University of Edinburgh.

Best,

Betzy Hänninen and Abrahim Assaily

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