Biology Semester Two Highlights

My exams are over. Second semester is over. Second year is over. So it’s about time I take a look at my personal highlights from this term’s modules, Research Methods, Biochemistry & Metabolism, and Biogeography.

Facilities
The Biosciences building at Edge Hill

Research Methods:

Oddly enough, one of the highlights of research methods for me was the stats portfolio. This coursework section of the module tasked us to analyse datasets using the program “R” and usually produce a graphical representation of the data, as well as an explanation of the results. This piece of coursework relied on knowledge acquired from the taught sessions on statistics throughout the year. Although coding in “R” was tedious at times, especially when one singular spelling mistake threw off the whole script, it was very rewarding to have a complete portfolio of work – particularly the graphs and charts.

Another highlight was definitely research week which, if you’re a regular here, you should know about – as I wrote a whole post dedicated to it.

Biochemistry and Metabolism:

This module was a complex one, being filled to the brim with technical knowledge but featuring a highly unusual assessment – a collaboration between animators and biologists to produce a short video on a metabolic process. As well as the bio-animation, there was also an exam. This was a challenging module, since it is very content heavy and also required you to work in a team with non-biologists – a vital skill however, that practically all scientists need. There were a number of experiments – some of them stretching across a good few hours – that introduced us to more lab techniques and the practical side of biochem. Bio-animation Evening, compete with food and wine, was a nice conclusion to the module; seeing everyone else’s hard work and the different animation styles was satisfying.

Biogeography:

As well as a typical examination, the assessment for biogeography was a ~15 minute presentation on a scientific paper – randomly assigned. This was challenging, as we had two weeks to read and digest our assigned paper, create a presentation, and memorise the script for our presentations. That said, it was also a very rewarding assignment. I was particularly proud of my presentation, and although delivering the talk was stressful, the creation of the presentation itself was enjoyable (on reflection, it seems I enjoy creating visual aids, maybe I should work on my illustration skills!)

Western Campus – Partially showing the GeoSciences building

To see highlights from my first semester, click here. Also, the other modules available for second semester biology can be found on the university website. Also of interest may be my outline of this year’s marine biology field trip.

Edge Hill Library- The Font of all Knowledge

Hello all, hope you have had a wonderful week and end to April!

I have done a post on places in which you can study (which you can find here) in which I mentioned Edge Hill’s very own library. I only went into brief information on the library, so I thought I’d do a post to explain what is on offer and how great it is!

The library is located in the centre of the campus, across from the Hub. One of the best things about it is that for students, it’s open 24/7! During the later hours, you need your student ID to get access, but if you work better at night like I do the fact it’s always open is perfect.

Within the library, there are three floors. The floors follow a noise-based system; for group work or if you are working with friends and want the freedom to take breaks and talk, the first floor has no noise restrictions, the second floor is a quieter floor but not silent, and the third floor is for silent study. These floors are also set up in a way that compliments the type of work you’re doing. If you’re doing silent work on the third floor, there are separate desks which allow you to focus purely on what you are doing, whereas on the first floor there are bigger tables for groups of people to sit together. There are computers on the first and second floor, however, if you bring a laptop to any of the floors there are plugs for chargers if needed!

On the first floor, there are group study rooms which are available to book on demand. These are rooms which have a bigger table in them for working on group projects, and the bigger of these rooms have access to a projector whilst the others just have a computer for your use. These rooms are great for if you need to focus more than if you were to sit in the open area on this floor.

On the second floor, there are also independent study rooms available for you to book. These are smaller than the group rooms but allow you the peace and quiet you might need to finish your assignments.

The library has a vast number of books to help you with your studies. Each degree has a section within the library where you find books to help you with your research and assignments, and a lot of the books have been requested by the course leaders or students so they are very likely to have just what you need.

If you need any help academically, there is a help desk located on the second floor. This is open 8-9 during weekdays and 11-6 on weekends, however, these times are sometimes different out of term time.

Possibly one of the coolest things about the library is the stationery vending machine by the entrance. If you run out of glue, or need a USB drive or folder, they’ve got you covered! It has more or less anything you might need to study. Also on the first floor, there are food and drinks dispensers so that if you are working for a long time you don’t start to get distracted by being thirsty or hungry.

I hope this post has given you more of an idea on what the library offers! If you want to read a little more about the library, click here to be taken to the University’s page on the library and its services.

Dissertation – Aka the D word.

The majority of my workload at the moment is my dissertation write up – the 10,000 word lab report I have to hand in later this month along with my log book (a physical presentation of all the effort I’ve put into my dissertation) and believe me it will be one huge relief when I finally get it handed in. But until I do I still have another 5000 or so words to write and I thought I’d give you some tips when it comes to writing and doing  your dissertation in third year.

1. Pick a topic that interests you – This goes without saying, I originally wanted to do something on obesity/eating behaviours but got a sports psychology dissertation topic instead, it has however challenged me and that can be a good thing from time to time.

2. Do plenty of research – This is another obvious one (at least it should be). Once you find out what your topic is or your topic of choice has been approved, research it in depth. That way you can get a feel for what has already been done on it and use the articles and books you find as references in your write up.

3. Make sure you’re organised – My organisation and time management skills had never been so tested until I started doing my dissertation. It’s a long process so make sure you plan your time and keep back ups of related electronic files in different places (laptop, external hard-drive, usb stick, university pc hard-drives).

4. Meet with your tutor – One thing that’s been a big part of the dissertation process for me is meeting with my supervisor on a regular basis as my course requires us to have 3 formal meetings per term and we’re are also allowed ad-hoc (additional informal ones) meetings along the way. Your tutor will offer advice on what needs doing and will answer questions you may have

5. Methods for recruiting participants– This applies for dissertations where you are conducting a study of some kind. Whilst you should never force people into taking part (which is unethical) do use things like posters, social media and emails to tell people about your study and invite them to take part. I even used word of mouth and eventually I got the data and participants I needed.

Anyway I hope this entry has been informative and I wish you ever success when you come to do your dissertations.

Dissertation Research Organisation

I’m starting to get into the swing of researching for my dissertation. In the past, I have used the risky technique of researching and writing more or less simultaneously, which has worked most of the time even though it’s safer to read first, write later, but I can’t do that this time. The word count for the diss is a strict 8000, which to me isn’t a great deal of space to get across deep and meaningful findings… This is when planning comes in – I want to get everything I want to say within that word count, and not go severely over like I have done in previous essays. I can’t get away with it this time!

And so… a dissertation is split into 3 parts excluding the intro and conclusion – The ‘Literature Review’ (what literature is helpful or not), ‘Methodology’ (what to do), and the ‘Findings’.

For my Lit Review (2000 words), I have written a list of subjects that I want to research. To avoid putting way too many theories into my work (as I have unfortunately done before, losing marks for losing focus), I am limiting the amount of journals / book chapters to read to 10 for now, with the potential to read more if there are any gaps in my field that could be filled (I also have to say if there are gaps that can’t be filled and why).

Why 10? Well, because of maths. I wrote a concise yet deep (I think) draft paragraph the other day which linked two theories together, and that was around 200 words. My guess is that if I have 200 words for each chunk of analysis within the 2000 words limit, then analysing 10 pieces of literature will help me fill those 2000 words with some efficiency and pace. I probably need to do draft paragraphs then copy and paste them into the final document, so that I have an overview of what connects to (or even contradicts with) what, before piecing them together to make a coherent whole. Because the amount of reviews are limited, I can schedule my work better – Say if I read one essay a day, then in 10 days I will hopefully be ready to write the first draft of the full Lit Review.

And then comes the more strait forward part depending on how much I uncovered during the Lit Review. The Methodology (1000 words = 5 x 200 word paragraphs) will show how I go about turning the Lit Review findings into fully fleshed out ‘important’ Findings. Because my subject deals with real life practice as well as theory, I hope to include primary research as well as secondary – So a discussion of questions to ask professionals in the field, informed by the Lit Review, is a good thing to include. I also want to create a strong structure for the Findings, and from the research I have done so far, I have three academically informed areas to explore and relate to each other. That’s 3 out of 5 parts down to make up the 1000 words, as well as the questions taking up another 1 part. I think the 5th part should maybe talk about brand new theories (if any) I have been inspired to explore.

Now to plan the meat of the dissertation. The Findings (3000 words = 3 x 1000 word areas = 15 x 200 word paragraphs) will show how the Lit Review and Methodology will give way to myself filling the gap (or maybe gaps) in academia that I’ve uncovered. Looking into the future, I have 3 x 1000 word areas, hence I can use 5 x 200 word subheadings for each of the 3 sections. With this in mind, I can create a preliminary contents page (or formula, depending on how you see it):

FINDINGS = [Main Umbrella Idea] = (Area A > Points A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 // Area B > Points B1-B5 // Area C > Points)) // Conclusion (500 words)

With this in mind, the limits to what I can do become quite clear. I can’t write about everything and anything when it comes to 1 area, so the focus of the diss comes into play as I filter out the most important points from my research, and mention them only (a fat free essay). Even though limits are in place, I know that I will end up going off on a tangent as the writing process makes me think of additional ideas – thank goodness for that 10% over the word count rule 🙂

This so called ‘organisation’ is merely speculation and opinion about how I’m going about writing my dissertation, and perhaps after all this planning, I’ll end up playing it by ear, seeing what happens, and hope for the best. My third year will be very busy, and it will fly by, so I would like to be clear about what will happen and when so that nothing gets messed up. This is the year that, to me anyway, counts the most – Hopefully planning ahead will make sure that every day counts.

Accidental Research

I like researching. Sometimes it can get tedious, but overall it helps me see things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. My interest areas still remain in Employability and Culture, hence I find myself reading stuff about those areas, and gradually I build up a surprising amount of knowledge without even knowing it. This is one of those ironic blog posts, where I talk about how accidental research happens through, well, consuming media (like blog posts).

I’m starting to produce more music now that I know what I’m doing more than before. A lot of what I’ve learned about production simply comes from casually listening to popular music. I tend to remember arrangement techniques and complexity, as since I rarely show restraint as a music producer, it’s important to analyse how successfully a song manages to not overwhelm, while still being crowded with sounds. There is of course watching free video tutorials and learning by doing, but what makes observation work is that I have a professional level template to subconsciously work from (in a sense).

The next big big big source of accidental research is reading press articles. I try to avoid the less influential papers on focus more on The Guardian, as that website has specific sections which works for me. I’m currently following the Culture, Unemployment and Higher Education sections; some are written by journalists and some by non journalists for a more personal perspective. To me, I simply read the articles for interest, but I’ve noticed that it widens my horizon as I have accidentally become more familiar with those “worlds”.

Finally, film reviews provide not only research, but also a more cultured understanding. Although I sometimes read written reviews, I usually prefer to watch video film reviews as I can connect more when there’s actually someone on the screen talking to me. When I appreciate third party perspectives and compare / contrast them to my own, it enables me to do more critical thinking hence gain a more open understanding. I can accept or reject opinions of course, but it helps as research when others open my eyes “for me” in a way.

I call this kind of research accidental, as “research” isn’t really the goal when I perform the aforementioned tasks. That said, it’s really handy to constantly learn new things without really knowing that it’s happening, and perhaps this can happen to my readers too. Research doesn’t always have to be a (conscious) chore!

Types of Psychology

Before I came to Edge Hill  I had already studied Psychology at A-level, so I had some prior knowledge of the classic theories, studies, famous psychologists and types of psychology. However, some people begin a university course having never studied it before. So here is a brief guide into some of the different types of psychology that exist.

Cognitive Psychology 

Cognitive Psychology is essentially the study of mental processes like: memory, language, visual processing/perception, attention, behaviorism (how we learn behaviours), face recognition, problem solving, emotion and consciousness to name but a few. Whilst cognitive psychology frequently overlaps with Biological Psychology, it focuses more on the processes themselves, rather than the biology behind them.

Biological Psychology 

Biological Psychology is very much focused on the brain and the body. Topics covered in biological psychology frequently include things such as: how neurons/brain cells work, vision, audition, hormones, substance use, psychological disorders/mental illnesses and brain damage.

Social Psychology 

Social Psychology is the study of how we interact with others and they have an influence on our behaviour. Some topics I have covered in my social psychology module this year include: stereotypes, schemas and heuristics, social influence, attractiveness, inter-group relations and attribution.

Developmental Psychology 

As this suggests this looks at the psychology of how we develop throughout out lives. Topics  I have covered in my degree so far within developmental psychology include: social development, cognitive development, emotional development, debates and approaches, play, motor development and development of personality.

Research Psychology

As you may or may not already know, Psychology is a science. Whilst it hasn’t been around as long as sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics, psychologists come up with a theory/theories about something and then set out to prove or disprove it/them through research. Research in psychology takes on many forms such as lab experiments, observations, questionnaires and interviews. However these tend to fall into one of two categories

  1. Quantitative-This is numerical data
  2. Qualitative data-Data that is made up of words rather than number

I hope you have found this blog entry useful and if you would like anything answering then feel free to leave me a comment 🙂

The Library Project (Favorite Spots on Campus Series)

I am taking part in a research project that helps the uni decide what to do should the current library be given a regeneration. This is also a chance to talk about one of my favorite spots on campus. Apparently the Edge Hill library building was meant to last for 40 or 50 years, but 20 years later there are talks of getting a new library – that’s when research into what a student (out of a few) go through when using the current library comes in handy.

Essentially, I had to detail what happened to me during a day and my feelings. I then took photos of the places within the library that have a lot of meaning to me. Whilst I can’t say what I wrote on the report, I can show you the photos!

The Group rooms are great for professional meetings. I use the Group Rooms like the one above for face to face meetings for my record label work.

I’m not complaining that the HUB is quite far from the library, but it is good that there’s a cafe downstairs to eat.

I have noticed a deceptively large amount of space around the library computers.

The music section of the library is full of fascinating academia.

This is where I go to do quick reading – the seats near reception are comfy with space around them so it’s convenient for speedy research.

So hopefully this has given everyone a break from my usual super text heavy posts. I’ll go back to my Employability themes stuff hopefully next week. The library used to be in the Main Building, then the now Student Support building… who knows what it will be next!

The Child From Yesterday…

One of my absolute favourite bands is the band “My Chemical Romance” and one of their songs is called “Kids From Yesterday” and I am just that. I have been 20 for just over a month and I’m not a kid anymore. Not only that I am now roughly at the half way stage in my degree and I have to tell my tutors which optional modules I’d like to study next year soon. Also on Wednesday my “Applying Psychology” lecture was centred around careers and the importance of third year for deciding what we want to do after graduation and how the Edge Hill University Careers Centre can help students with their plans. So I thought I’d write this entry on my future plans at this moment in time.

Modules

About a week ago everyone on my course received an email about picking our optional modules for next year. After looking at the booklet for my course which details all of the optional and compulsory modules, that will be running next year I have decided that I would like to study:

  1. Clinical & Abnormal Psychology
  2. Research Technology and Tools
  3. Applying Psychology to Lifestyle behaviorurs

I mentioned third year modules in one of my previous entries (see http://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/insideedge/2013/12/30/reflections/), but having looked at the booklet that was posted up online I decided to study “Applying Psychology to Lifestyle Behaviours” alongside the ones I already knew I wanted to study.

After Graduation 

Next summer my time as an Edge Hill Psychology student will come to an end 🙁 This makes me realize that I am going to have to have plans as to what I want to do. My first career path choice is Research Psychology where I’d conduct my own research or work with an established researcher to assist them with their research. Having looked up other choices online I may also decide to become a Health Psychologist. They help people to overcome health issues like: smoking, alcoholism, drug addiction and eating disorders (e.g. obesity and anorexia). Both paths interest me but for now I am concentrating on getting my degree.