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The NUS Education and Learning Blog

Month: March 2019

Follow These Tips So That You Don’t Fail Your Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is your chance to stand for your research and results. It’s also your chance to know what other experts think about your work. Their questions and comments can be the base for further research and improvement in your expertise in your chosen field.
However, you also have to consider certain things to effectively defend your dissertation. These 10 tips discussed in this article will be very helpful in getting ready for a successful defense of your work.

1. Maintain your physical and mental fitness

The reason this tip is in the first position is that everything will depend on your fitness on the day of presenting your dissertation. It’s quite obvious and normal if you feel nervous, but a strong mental state and good memory can help you overcome nervousness. Remember that a strong mind and a powerful memory depends on strong physical health.
So take care of your health. Do exercise and meditation daily, eat healthily, and sleep well. This is as important as research for your scientific paper. It’s also equally important as your preparation is for the dissertation defense.

2. Learn public speaking and presentation skills

If you have done this before, i.e. public speaking or presentation, it would be relatively easy for you to present and defend your dissertation in front of the questioning committee. If you are going to do this for the first time, you should learn and practice it.
In either case, you have to observe yourself for improvements. Check if your speech is smooth and voice is steady. Also, check if you feel anxious while speaking. Watch conferences and research presentations given by successful people. Observe their style and tone, develop your own, and you will be better at defending your dissertation given that you know the answers to every question.

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3. Know what it takes to defend from the successful students

Being ready for the presentation and being fit for the day is good. But knowing about real experiences from the past successful students can be a great help. Meet the students and discuss how they felt while defending their scientific thesis.
Also, ask for their suggestions and feedback to improve your defense. You can also have an idea on deep the committee members can go to know about your research and it’s worth. It will help you get yourself ready for the dissertation presentation before your professors.

4. Gather as many questions as possible with their answers

One of the best ways to win any discussion or debate is to be ready with the answers to any possible question. Do the same preparation for your defense day. Get your dissertation read by as many people as possible and get possible questions from them. And have answers to all the questions.
Also, get ready for the unexpected questions. Re-read your paper for several times and think from the point of view of a reader with the same level of knowledge and expertise as you. This way, you will defend your dissertation against most of the unexpected questions.

5. Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field

Knowing what is going on in your field can make a big difference. There may be a question which is not clearly addressed. It may be the case that a development is completely new, and you have not included it in your dissertation. In that case, it would be very helpful if you have all the latest updates regarding your field. However, if you have a fear to miss the necessary information, you may try this out.
Stay tuned with the latest news on researches on your chosen subject. Read magazines and journals regularly to stay up-to-date. It will save you from stress and nervousness in the room while defending your dissertation.

6. You are the master your dissertation

Though you will be asked the questions from the experts and experienced people, remember that you are the master of your work. You are the person who knows the most about your dissertation. You have done your research and you are the person who understands the results and outcomes better than any person in the room.
So be confident and have faith in yourself. Assure yourself that you are the expert and the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the discussion on your dissertation. It’s ok not to know everything, but you should be high on confidence for whatever you know. This will help you stay strong and relaxed during the presentation of your work to the board.

7. Know who are you going to face

The committee members are experts in their fields. There are great chances that they will be knowing something that you don’t know in the subject you have chosen for your dissertation. So, check updates on their work and see their recent contributions.

While you will be knowing more about your dissertation, knowing about the recent work of the committee members can help you a lot. Try to figure out possible questions from them. Some may be friendly and will share their questions before the meeting, others may keep you in suspense. Thus doing some hard-work in guessing their possible questions will help you in defending your dissertation effectively.

8. Know the place and arrangements

If you know about the tools and arrangements of the meeting room, you will save last minute stress. Make a list of gadgets you should be carrying in the room so that you don’t have to look for help from the staff.
Ask the administration staff about the procedure and set up and prepare accordingly. Some universities use an overhead projector while some use a tabletop projector. Some provide laptop while other require you to bring your own. Some may also require you to hand over the prints of important charts and diagrams. So, get ready with your tools like a laptop, microphone, pen drive and other tools to avoid confusion and save time.

9. Have a positive end in mind

Stay relaxed and be positive about the results. Also, get ready for the celebration with your family, relatives, and friends. It will be your day and will not come again. So have complete faith in yourself and see yourself successful as it will have a positive impact on your physical appearance and mental state during the defense of your dissertation.

10 Take feedback and comments positively

Even if you have worked very hard and taken care of every small detail during your research, there may be some points missing in your dissertation. Comments, suggestions, and feedback on those points from the questioning professors will be useful for your further research.
It’s completely acceptable and is your chance to broaden your knowledge in the field. So, take them positively and assure yourself to be ready to work further on them.

We hope you will be better at defending your dissertation with the help of these tips.
Best wishes!

The worldwide mental health crisis in higher education

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Each of us are different from one another. Just like these differences in ourselves, we all have our own unique experiences with big events in life. Education is one of them. We all feel the pressures of education when we are students. At some point in the game, there is a moment – or multiple – that feel like they are swarming us too much. Whether that moment presents itself when looking at the GMAT test series before the big examinations, or when we are struggling under the mountain of assignments that are all due within five days – or less – of one another, we have all felt it.

For some students, it is an unfortunate reality that they feel the pressures more so than their peers do. Constantly, in some cases. It can feel like the weight of the world is squarely on your shoulders, and you have no way to escape it. The light at the end of the tunnel feels dimmer and dimmer, until it seemingly disappears altogether. It is the single greatest misconception that students who struggle do so because they have weak mindsets. This is not only incorrect, but it is incredibly damaging.

One of the biggest problems with the global education system right now is that it largely still operates on a broad curriculum, that functions on the ideal that every student is to complete the same assignment, at the same time, in the same way. This approach to teaching is unhealthy, because each student has different learning capabilities, and essentially forcing them to all conform to the one learning approach is not only unfair, but positively brutal. The pressure is overwhelming to a fault.

In fact, it is the reason why it is not difficult at all to understand how there is a growing epidemic in schools around the globe that centers around the mental health of the students that go to those schools. The mental health of anyone, in any circumstance, should be of the utmost importance, but it is perhaps never more intense than when it is a student that is struggling to find the light in what should be an exciting, progressive stage in their lives. All over the world, students are struggling. This is not a geographical issue. This is a globally collective issue that is fast becoming an epidemic.

The mental health crisis spanning the globe is catastrophic. There is no denying this fact. What is fundamentally more heartbreaking again is the fact that people under immense pressure – i.e. students, for example – are dealing with the pressures by collapsing in on themselves, due to lack of honest, open, and non-judgmental assistance. This is something that must be changed. The time for action was yesterday, it was last year…it was even last decade. But it is better late than never, and we are responsible for pioneering that action forward and ensuring its longevity now and into the future. We cannot afford to keep losing students. We just cannot.

Contributing knowledge to the scientific community and to society

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Research is a term that individuals use on a daily basis but which they do not completely understand. It refers to the systematic investigation into materials and sources so as to establish facts and reach important conclusions. When it comes down to the field of science, research is conducted with the goal of making life better for people, while at the same time preserving natural and cultural diversity. The main purpose is therefore to find an explanation to why things happen in the natural world and to aid humanity. It is needless to say that undertaking scientific research is rewarding. There is the opportunity of doing something that matters. People who carry out organized and system investigation are currently working on issues that have no solution whatsoever. In other words, it is about the unanswerable questions that science has not been able to answer so far.

Can every research be considered scientific?
Research is of paramount importance in scientific, as well as non-scientific fields. The question now is: can every type of research be classified as scientific? This is a tough question to answer. News channels are supposed to conduct scientific research in the form of viewer polls. There are also online platforms claiming that they offer forthcoming information. It is important to not forget about graduate students who gather and analyze data relating to their topic. How is it possible to know if research is scientific? What is certain is that it is not possible to label every analysis as being scientific.

An investigation has to be conducted in order to reveal new information. There should be sufficient evidence to support what is being asserted. Even the best interventions need to be questioned in terms of reliability. As a rule, scientific methods consist of:
• Observation
• Posing a question
• Collecting data
• Forming a hypothesis
• Testing the supposition
• Analyzing the results
• Drawing conclusions
• Offering the scientific community and society solutions

Special emphasis needs to be placed on the research methods. Inquiries need to be carried out with rigor. Being extremely careful and thorough is actually what mainly distinguishes scientific research from other forms of investigation. Those who are not well acquainted with the research methods need to take into consideration the possibility of acquiring the services of a tutor. Just as it is possible to tutor science and connect with a tutor instantly, it is within the bounds of possibility to get a consultation with an expert in research methods. The tutors are selected by the best universities and they work with professionals at all levels. Getting back on topic, it is necessary to choose the adequate research methodologies and apply them in the scientific research process. They represent the means by which knowledge is created. Two principal methodologies can be identified as far as human knowledge is concerned:

Authoritarian
Rationalistic

In addition to what was mentioned before, it is worth acknowledging replication and validity. The main concern should be validity, as any kind of research can be negatively influenced by outside factors and the findings can, therefore, be invalidated. The point is that if the best practices are not applied and the criteria is not met, the research cannot be considered scientific. Generally speaking, research that is limited to analyzing secondary sets of data, records, or specimens does not count as innovation. The project should no doubt be reviewed.

Making a scientific contribution
There are many innovative research topics in chemistry. Chemists have long been inspired to make advances, motivation which is more or less synonym for passion. The main areas of interest include biomolecular catalysts, nanotechnology, and, last but not least molecular diagnosis and therapy for all sorts of illnesses. Research facilities enable brilliant minds, i.e. members of the scientific community to gain access to specialized instrumentation and expertise that they cannot find elsewhere. Scientists have all the necessary tools and the techniques at their disposal to establish a foundation for success.
Contributing to science and, implicitly, the community, is not difficult. After a topic of interest is chosen, it is necessary to identify a problem. In academic slang, this is called the research question. Owing to the fact that the research question is the thing around which the investigation is centered, it is very important that it is clear, concise, assertable, and complex. If there is information available on the topic, even better. It is impossible to work on the question in the absence of resources. By resources, it is understood funding and laboratory equipment. For instance, Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering (CSE) division has numerous facilities for advanced chemistry research.

Formulating a hypothesis is the next step of the process. This is basically an educated prediction that offers an explanation for an observable event. Finally, the research plan is outlined. The investigator needs to keep in mind the aim and design the experiment accordingly. What happens when someone contributes their results? Important questions are answered. The results are set to the database and scientists will be able to update their knowledge. Each project enriches the next. That is the way in which things work. Linking results enables researchers to obtain a comprehensive perspective of things. Attention needs to be paid to the fact that science is not only a body of science, it is also a way of getting to know the world.

Final considerations
The denomination scientific research is stricter than it used to be in the past. An enquiry supposes the use of thorough methodologies, the ultimate goal being to make a contribution to the scientific community and to society/ humanity. Doing research is a key part in the career of any scientist, of engineer for that matter. Something that is important deserves to be undertaken. It is not required to be a good writer, but it does help to write down words carefully. The findings will gradually uncover some truth relating to the universe. Even when the study has ended, the work can be continued.

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