DSA8030 Worked Based Project
Introduction to Work Based Projects: A Quick Guide for Students and Companies
The MSc Data Analytics course offers opportunities for Postgraduate Taught Masters students (PGTs) to translate their learning from an academic to a vocational setting through a Work Based Learning Project (WBP). This project is undertaken with an external organisation such as a business, public sector or non-government organisation (NGO) instead of a more traditional dissertation. The WBP is typically proposed by the external organisation and a member of that organisation will act as a mentor. An academic supervisor is compulsory to ensure the project is realistic and meets the academic requirements of a Masters level dissertation project. WBPs will normally be based offsite where the student works at the organisation or in some cases is bases both at a mixture of the University and the organisation.
Undertaking a WBP has many potential benefits:
• You will be working on a ‘real world’ project defined by the organisation’s needs. This is likely to challenge and reward you and increase your motivation.
• In addition to enhancing your specific skills (e.g. technical, intellectual), it also offers an opportunity to further develop your generic skills (e.g. communication, team working).
• By working closely with an organisation you will be able to gain an insight into that organisation and the sector in which it operates.
• This is an opportunity to refine your career plans
• You could use the opportunity to network and raise your profile or to ‘try out’ a sector which is new to you.
• You will gain valuable experience of the workplace and of managing a project within it
• Completing a WBP will enhance your employability as well as provide you with material for your CV and to talk about in interviews.
On completion of this module, the successful student will have achieved the following learning outcomes, commensurate with module classification:
• Deep knowledge and understanding of a given problem.
• Critically evaluate an analytics problem.
• Conduct a detailed analysis of the literature or previous case studies.
• Act autonomously and creatively in planning and implementing tasks.
• Develop complex supporting code and analytical model for the data.
• Critically analyse results
• Communicate conclusions clearly
Successful completion of this project module will enable students to develop skills in the following areas:
• To evaluate a real life problem and make an informed judgement as to the most suitable analytics approach to take.
• To implement the analytics approaches using real data.
• To effectively present the results and recommendations of the analysis to expert and non-expert colleagues.
Students should meet with their supervisors (both academic and company based) every week. This may be in the form of a skype or conference call or alternatively can happen in person. The purpose of the meeting is to allow the student the opportunity to update the supervisors on what they have been doing, to review their work and to propose what they wish to do the week ahead. In the first meeting it is suggested that the meeting should be focused on ensuring that there are clear project objectives and it is the responsibility of the student to ensure that they can provide these at this first meeting. Students should also consider preparing an agenda for the meeting and writing a very short summary (minutes) for each meeting as a record of what has been discussed.
The placement agreement is to be signed between the organisation, student and project coordinator following project preparation where initial project outlines are refined and where input from all parties has been agreed. This should happen in the first meeting with the student and placement supervisors.
The assessment consists of the written report worth 70% and three presentations the final one of these worth 30%. The presentations should take place in weeks 4, 8, and 12 of the project and be made to the academic and company supervisor. This provides the opportunity to supervisors to offer feedback on the work and to acknowledge the areas of work which are going well and to guide and support the student in areas where improvement may be made. The project report is due for submission at the end of the 12 week placement. Students should provide supervisors with a draft report on an agreed date so that the supervisor can again offer feedback on the work.
The placement report should be summarizing the student’s work placement experience. Students are also expected to demonstrate insight in the analysis of the challenges faced, skills acquired and opportunities developed. The report is graded by the programme director and academic supervisor and is worth 70% of the overall mark. The report should be approximately 5000 words in length and should include the following four major sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. There are additional minor sections that precede or follow the major sections including the title, abstract, acknowledgements, references, and appendices. All sections are important, but at different stages to different readers. You have to convince the reader that what you have done is interesting and important by communicating appeal and content in all sections. It is also essential to include your own personal reflection of the experience.
The following is a short description of what is expected in each section.
Title: Convey the essential point of the paper. Be precise, concise, and use key words.
Abstract: Condense the whole paper into miniature form. A sentence or two summarizing each of the sections should suffice. No new information, no supporting material, limited details, just the essential message that explains what you did and found out. Write this section last of all.
Introduction: Introduce the problem, moving from the broader issues to your specific problem, finishing the section with the precise aims of the paper (key questions). Craft this section carefully, setting up your argument in logical order. Refer to relevant ideas/theories and related research by other authors. Answer the question “what is the problem and why is it important?”
Methods: Explain how you studied the problem, which should follow logically from the aims. Depending on the kind of data, this section may contain subsections on experimental details, materials used, data collection/sources, analytical or statistical techniques employed, study area, etc. Provide enough detail for the reader to reproduce what you did. Include flowcharts, maps or tables if they aid clarity or brevity. Answer the question “what steps did I follow?” but do not include results yet.
Results: Explain your actual findings, using subheadings to divide the section into logical parts, with the text addressing the study aims. Link your writing to figures and tables as you present the results. For each, describe and interpret what you see (you do the thinking, do not leave this to the reader). If you have many similar figures, select representative examples for brevity and put the rest in an appendix. Mention any uncertainty in measurement or calculation, and use an appropriate number of decimal places to reflect it. Make comments on the results as they are presented, but save broader generalizations and conclusions for later. Answer the question “what did I find out?”
Discussion: Discuss the importance of what you found, in light of the overall study aims. Stand back from the details and synthesise what has (and has not) been learned about the problem, and what it all means. Say what you actually found, not what you hoped to find. Begin with specific comments and expand to more general issues. Recommend any improvements for further study. Answer the question “what is the significance of the research?” A short reflection of your personal experience on the work based placement should also be provided.
Conclusions: Restate the study aims or key questions and summarize your findings using clear, concise statements. Keep this section brief and to the point.
References: Attribute every idea that is not your own to avoid plagiarism. In this reference section list alphabetically only the people and publications that you cited in the report. Provide sufficient detail to enable somebody to actually track down the information. List all authors for the “et al.” publications. Follow a standard format such as the examples below, and note the distinctions regarding italics, capitalization, volume/page numbers, publisher address, etc. between the various kinds of references. Full information on the “Harvard Style of referencing” can be found at http://www.citethisforme.com/harvard-referencing
The student should give a maximum of a 15 minute presentation to their academic and company supervisor at the end of the 12 week placement. This should be an overview of the placement project, the objectives, how these were/were not met and a reflection of the student’s personal experience of the project. This is worth 30% of the overall mark.
Things for Students to Consider
Make meetings useful
You will find yourself attending meetings. To ensure you use them to your best advantage:
• Prepare for the meeting – be prepared to take responsibility for the meeting
• Consider what you want to achieve
• Read the agenda circulated to others attending the meeting, or set an agenda yourself and circulate in good time
• At the end of the meeting, check whether there is anything else anyone would like to discuss.
• Set a date for next meeting
• Circulate action points following the meeting
During the project
• Put your plans into action, learn about the sector and those who work there
• Build good networks and maintain them
• Consider how you can present the experience to potential employers
• Keep a record of what you are doing and have achieved – it will be very useful later when you present the experience to potential employers
• What skills and experience do you bring to the project?
• What are the areas you need to develop further?
Knowing What’s Available
• Take every opportunity to talk to people and learn about their career path, the industry and organisation
• Consider how can you use this time to enhance your employability?
• Given what you know about yourself and what you can gain from this opportunity where will you go next?
• What goals will you set yourself and how do you plan to achieve them?
Finishing your project
• Ensure you have completed everything you said you would and provide the University with a copy of your final report
• Prepare and rehearse the final presentation and arrange this for week 12 of your placement.
• Maintain the networks you have built up – share contact details and connect with colleagues via LinkedIn as these could be useful in the future
• Reflect, review and evaluate the project – how do you feel the project went, What went well?