Tuesday, December 06, 2011

To do a Post-graduate MSc studies.

Often people have asked me how to go about doing an MSc, specifically in Podiatry and especially straight after an undergraduate degree. More often that not, I would encourage them to do it but with kind warning. Also to make them realise, there are other options. Minutes ago, another new graduate asked me on how to go about doing the course as she struggled getting a place. It was different in my case =) Afterall, it just reflects that universities are not running after your money alone, they will also look at realistic issues and being fair to the student themselves.

Here's a sample of an email sent to a student who asked me about doing the Masters. I generally tend to say what I experienced rather than saying what should be done etc. So perhaps, this could give an idea to anyone out there thinking of embarking to this path of the journey. There are many out there, MSc isn't the only option =)

HI ,

First of all, congratulations for making the brave decision to proceed to the MSc. It is a worthwhile journey indeed. So far, I personally do not see much difference between doing the MSc full-time and paoprt-time as the modules are laid out such that it suits for the part-timers. The only difference probably, you have 15-18/24 months to complete 6 modules and a dissertation, compred to 3-6yrs part-time. As long as you choose your modules carefully (timetabling wise), then you're ok.

So far, the transition from the BSc to the MSc is such a huge jump. Although very subtle as you get through it, you will only realise the big jump once you have progressed and apply some of your knowledge in the clinical settings. With the MSc and even as you get through it, you will be like having new pair of eyes, seeing things in different perspective. Research wise, you'd be able to critique it better and appreciate research (no matter how much we dread it).

Biting off more than you can chew? Well, where have I heard that before? Yes, from me! =) I used to say that, but I think it's all different now. It's all a challenge/gamble we have to take anyway. We'll never know until we try it.

Although, I wouldn't recommend a specific course per se, a more general MSc would be the best option. That's the beauty of the course at Brighton, as you have the option to create your own "course" by choosing your own modules. Like myself, I chose to do MSc Podiatry, but I chose modules similar to MSc Podiatry (Rheumatology). The only difference would be, with the latter, you'd have to stick all your assignments and dissertation with reference to rheumatology. With the former, you can write your assignments in much of a flexible way without having to worry whether or not to write rheumatology.

It is also gives you the advantage if you choose to do the general one as you may not necessarily have enough experience to narrow it down. It's good to be general at this point. In fact, with any MSc you'd choose, you will still be good at almost everything cos that's what the MSc is about. To prepare you to understand and appreciate research. You'd be doing the inquisition and researching yourself. Lecturers are only facilitators at this stage.

Here's a suggestion. Perhaps you'd wanna do MSc Podiatry, and look for modules which are of your interest and shape it the way you think it would help you with your research (dissertation). Try to reason out the modules you choose. Here's mine when I chose my modules

Research methods - i need this as a basis for my research and dissertation writing.
Anatomy for podiatrists - because all podiatrists need to be good with anatomy, and as a foundation to understanding pathomechanics and rheumatologic pathologies
Rheumatology for the lower limb - this is the area of interest and I need to understand rheumatological conditions in the lower limb
Offloading the high risk foot - this would help me to understand what is the high risk foot, how is it applicable to the rheumatologic foot and what ofloading strategies could I offer in the future
Analysis of function - as rheumatologic foot highly associated with biomechanical disorders, how would I use equipments to quantify it?
Surgical management of the lower limb - what else could I offer besides conservative, I need to be able to advise my patients should they need surgery for their rheumatologic foot.

So once you have those questions, it would help you to choose your modules nicely and then to formulate your research ideas.

Completing assignments, well... most case studies at MSc are around 3000 words. Not much compared to our undergraduate. But the amount of work and effort you need is probably equivalent to the final year portfolio. You'll need good amount of time formulating questions as a planning point for your case study, then researching for materials. Cos, at this stage it's all literature review. But you will develop that skill as you go through the modules.

Each module generally runs for an intensive week long. And you have like 3 months gap to finish any submission. Within that 3 months, it would be busy times.

It helps if you have a part-time job. Not only with the finance bit, but also helps you to take time away from just the MSc work. You'll need fresh new minds and ideas every time you start writing. Also, it helps you to apply that critical thinking in practice should your part-time job is related to podiatry. My recommendation would be, finish all the 6 modules in one year (or quicker) which entitles you a Pg-Dip. Then concentrate on your research, even as a part time student.

In my case, I finished all the modules in one year and before concentrating on the research. However, as I'm an international student, I still have to keep my status as a full time student. However, in your case perhaps you could change that as a part-time student which means you can finish your research in two years, but just carry on working as if you're a full-time student in order to finish it within that 15-18mths time frame. But, start formulating your research proposal and do the ethics as soon as you're enrolled, cos it's time consuming!

Sorry if it's a very long email, and I hope I have shed some light on your future path =) I wish you all the very best and hope to hear from you soon.
Please feel free to contact me anytime if you have anymore questions.

Kind regards and best wishes
A.Sani Kamis