The value of 12,000 words

14 May

As an almost graduate, I’m sure you can imagine that much of my world has been recently occupied by the madness that is the final year of a degree, hence the reason it is the subject of my first real post.

I handed in my dissertation six weeks ago and I was proud of what I’d achieved. 12,000 words and months of research into the impact of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, specifically on relationships with the media, from the perspective of communication professionals in Primary Care Trusts in England. A bit of a mouthful to say, and indeed a real effort to achieve, but thoroughly worth it as I was very proud of the finished result.

But what do potential employers think? My dissertation supervisor confided that they had fought to keep the dissertation a compulsory module on the PR degree at Leeds Met, vouching for its value. And now safely out the other side of it, I agree. The worth to my own personal development is invaluable, as anyone who has written one will agree; it does require a lot of self-discipline. But when job-hunting, will a graduate with a dissertation behind them hold more ground than one without? And does the topic of the project bare relevance? I would like to think that having spent so much time on this one particular issue, I could hold more appeal to a public sector employer for example, who’s PR department would undoubtedly be affected by FOI and appreciate any new employee with an understanding of this particular piece of legislation.

As dissertations begin to gradually disappear from the syllabus of many degrees, and the number of people entering higher education continues to rise, does my own dissertation add value to my qualification?

I hope so, and I hope the PR course at Leeds Met continues to keep it as a compulsory module. Whether it holds value for an employer or not, it holds value to me personally, even if that is just a big sense of personal achievement!

9 Responses to “The value of 12,000 words”

  1. Stephen Davies 14/05/2006 at 7:27 pm #

    At Sunderland uni we don’t do a dissertation. We do a practical project which consists of approaching two organisations (commercial and non-commercial) and asking both if we can develop a PR campaign around any issues that particular organisation is facing.
    There has to be a high level of trust around this agreement as we (students) have to ask for a lot of information regarding the organisation to determine how it stands in the current situation. Depending on the problem, this could be financial information, the problems it is facing, its profits, staff turnover, competitors etc etc.
    Once we are aware of the problem we have to carry out a significant amount of research, plan the strategy, tactics, how it’s evaluated etc. At the end of the planning, research, interviews, focus groups, questionnaires etc we have to produce two 6,000 words (at least) documents of the full campaign with related appendices at the back.
    Okay, two problems I’m having.
    My first campaign which is just about finished is 7,200 words long, with around 2,000 words of appendices. So that’s over 9,000 words.
    My second campaign, which fell through after I carried out all of the research and pretty much wasted four months on because the organisation didn’t want me to do it anymore had to be started again. Which is where I’m at now. This one looks like it’s going to be the same in word count so there’s 18,000 words.
    Plus, over the course of the academic year, we have to do four presentations which are marked on and to finish with we have to write a 2,000 word critical evaluation on the both projects.
    Instead of writing this I know I should be really focusing on my project, as the deadline is really close. But one incident, which I had no control over, is seriously going to impede my overall degree. If I’m honest, I’m really annoyed about it.
    Give me a dissertation any day.

  2. Carly Pattison 15/05/2006 at 9:55 am #

    The thought of writing a dissertation did initially fill me with complete dread but now it is handed in has become a fond memory.
    I have alreday used my dissertation on job applications and I feel that it could give me the edge for certain roles.
    So I agree, the dissetation should stay, I mean it’s either that or more group work!

  3. Emma Knight 15/05/2006 at 10:09 am #

    I agree Amy, I too got a real sense of personal achievement from doing my dissertation, no matter how hard the struggle up to the deadline. Contrastingly I’m not sure I will ever use my subject (an analysis of al-Qaeda’s PR campaign) in the workplace, but still see its value.
    I felt as though I could actually fly for a whole day after hand-in, and I think employers can associate with this feeling as well…as opting out of a dissertation is a relatively new concept, no doubt our future employers’ dissertations were compulsory.
    For the future…obviously as more graduates and Universities opt out of dissertations, its value may be lessened in terms of securing a job. It will be down to unversities like Leeds Met to argue its worth and try and keep it compulsory.
    I still believe taking another module over a dissertation is the easy option. If not, why are additional options so popular? Nothing can prepare you for what a dissertation is like until you do it. I also think it is crucial to keep some solid academic piece within the syllabus, especially as nearly every module in final year at Leeds is for a real client.
    I’m pleased Leeds Met decided to keep the dissertation. It must be easier here on in? Surely?

  4. John Megaughin 15/05/2006 at 1:37 pm #

    I agree again, the dissertation was one of my favourite pieces of work that I did this year.
    I think the academic nature of the dissertation, coupled with the hands-on Industrial Placement Year, makes for a good all-round University experience.
    To anyone considering attending Leeds Met to do PR next year, don’t let the dissertation put you off because it really is a rewarding piece of work that you’ll always look back on and smile. Even though you stayed up for 48 hours before the deadline to get it finished!

  5. Ellee Seymour 16/05/2006 at 4:00 pm #

    Congratulations on your dissertation, an interesting subject. Are you going to have it published? I love researching and the challenge of working academically, so different to my normal PR style.
    I wondered if you would be interested in this USA PR link I came across this week:
    http://mikespoints.com/

  6. Alexandra Pullin 16/05/2006 at 5:22 pm #

    I reckon that everyone is going to think what they did is going to have been the toughest option – although your one Stephen sounds a bit of a nightmare.
    My dissertation was a really struggle in places(after all the research which I enjoyed) – especially the ‘oh god I have to write up all this information down on to the page’ stage and the ‘I hate this topic so much I can’t be bothered any more. I hate it all…’ stage.
    But a month on I am really proud of my achievement and although I am apprehensive about what I’ll get I’m glad that I had the opportunity to do a dissertation.

  7. Amy Golledge 16/05/2006 at 9:53 pm #

    Ellee, I find the thought of having published research very exciting, and although I am very pleased with the finished result, I don’t think it’s likely to get published!
    Mike’s points looks very interesting, and I’m sure RB will agree upon his return – I know he’s always on the look out for good links for this site.

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