How to Get A in Final Year Project/Post-Graduate Research

In Maritime Technology Programme at the School of Ocean Engineering, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, the final year project typically start at the third year second semester. At the start of the semester, the student roams around to find supervisors, eventually getting the final year project title assigned to them.

Normally in a semester, there would be at least 10 active lecturers are able to serve the 60 students per semester. Therefore ideally a lecturer shall be assigned 10 students by the Final Year Project Coordinator. However, as some of the lecturer hold some university administrative duty (e.g. Dean/Deputy Dean of School, Director/Deputy Director) they might be assigned two or three students.

In discussing about surviving Final Year Project, such topic can be divided into two facets; supervisor’s responsibilities and student’s responsibilities. A Final Year Project is a mutual cooperation between the student and the supervisor, where both shall diligently spend time together in solving the assigned problem. With that said, the content discussed below can also be applied to the Post-Graduate Research as well.

Supervisor’s Responsibilities

A supervisor’s responsibility is to make sure that the student is mentored to solve the assigned student’s project. In Final Year Project, a student is expected to conduct an individual independent project that combines various subjects to solve a problem that span across 2/3 research objectives. In this phase,  the term independent doesn’t mean that the student are being left to solve the assigned title. The supervisor must make sure that the student are given enough resources (notes, discussions, hardware, consumables) to assist the student to finish the project.

Student’s Responsibilities

A student’s responsibility is to finish the Final Year Project properly using the tools, knowledge obtained spanning across the earlier academic years and discussion with the supervisors. The student must catch the supervisor through appointments and ready to present progresses from time to time. Typically students who registered in the Final Year Project have small number of credit hours. Therefore the most of the time, the student shall spend their time in the lab/workshop to finish his/her projects.

Issues

Student’s readiness: I believe in maturity. That said, it should be made clear that maturity doesn’t really tied with age, but through experiences. Historically, for a 4-year programme, the university send their student to internship in the second semester of the 3rd year and come back to finish another year in the university which the student finally took the Final Year Project in the last two semesters. These students are hardened, matured due to the internship in the third year, which results for high quality work and overall great attitude in finishing their project.

Nowadays, the system was changed. The students are required to take the Final Year Project in the second semester of the 3rd year and the first semester of the 4th year, then on the last semester the student shall leave the university for internship. During this time, it is up to the lecturers to harden up the student to get the student ready with suitable work attitude before leaving the university. This, of course a tough job, which calls for blood, sweat and tears for both the supervisors and the students, to equip the student with maturity while finishing the project.

Setting Expectations: A Final Year Project is normally assessed based on the objectives defined in the earlier stage.  Therefore having a proper plan of execution is very important. As one wise guy said, ‘execution is king’, which means that a great idea is not really worth that much compared with the set of good execution. Frequent progress meeting calls for good progress, based from the expectations being set earlier. With that, I honestly think a weekly meeting on start of the week or the end of the week is important to make sure the student can progress with sensible directions and guidance from the supervisors.

To end this essay, I list here some tips for a smooth journey in completing Final Year Project/Post-Graduate Research:

  1. Make a point to see supervisor at least once a week. This is to make sure that the supervisor know that you are alive and progressing in your work.
  2. Utilize your log book. A log book is not for collecting your supervisor’s signature. A log book should be used to plan your experiments, record the relevant literature, record your findings and your ideas.
  3. Use time wisely. When I was in Japan, I notice the student do sleep in their lab. It was an engineering lab, so imagine how serious they take pride of their work.
  4. Be honest. Telling your supervisor that you work so hard without showing your results is only revealing that you are dishonest. Show the supervisor what worked and what doesn’t. Normally a project given are impossible to fail, anyway it’s a Final Year Project, not really to uncover the frontier of unknown. Never cheat your result. It will bite you later.
  5. Say no to plagiarism. Now, say it and repeat it 100 times, and put it deep in your heart. I’ve seen people lost their degree, and their jobs due to plagiarism. You don’t want people to lost their trust to you, right?
  6. Work faster. Yep. Never spend a year to finish your first objective. Move fast, break stuff, learn something.
  7. Write. At least one paragraph per day. It’s not that hard doesn’t it?
  8. Speak. Learn how to deliver great presentations. Don’t be a wood on the stage. In the age of internet, there are various of sources in the internet to conduct presentations properly.
  9. Focus. In the age of internet, I’ve noticed that our young minds of today are only interested in four things; Useless articles in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. Don’t waste your time to be entertained, start working, earn billions, or millions or thousands.
  10. Attitude is everything. Great attitude bring you to places, bad attitude (coming late to the lab, absent from the lab without telling your supervisor in advance, run away from project, unnecessary defensiveness) will earn you bad rep and bad future. I have tonnes of stories, but let’s just leave it there.

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