UM Convocation 2012

The convocation 2012 for University Malaya (UM) is from 1 – 6 Oct 2012. The convocation for my faculty is scheduled on 2 Oct 2012, afternoon session. It’s only my 2nd convocation in my life so far but I have noticed a big difference between UM convocation and my college’s last time. For one, the convocation process is so much organized and systematic. We get all the information online here including the procedures and schedules.

I just collected my graduation attire yesterday according to the schedule. The collection process was smoother and faster than I thought. No long queue or running here or there for verification. Everything was nicely arranged in a big hall and I only needed to move from one counter to another along the way from the entrance to exit.

Here’s my ‘goodies’ bag. I didn’t expect to get gifts for graduation too.

Special gift from the Alumni office…

Four nice postcards from the Institute of Postgraduate Studies (IPS). These flowers are real flowers in the UM botanical garden.

A photo frame from IPS too. I really didn’t expect to receive so many gifts for graduation. So happy! Now I don’t have to find a nice frame for my graduation photo later.

This is my graduation attire. Our faculty color is violet and I think it’s nice. I also think I still have problem remembering how to wear it correctly. Doesn’t matter, I guess. I know I’ll see some of my friends during the convocation and I’m sure we can help each other. Haha!

I’m just happy that I’m not graduating alone this year. There’s no actual due date for completing the Master’s so normally most of us (who started the courses together) don’t get to graduate together. Lucky for me, I have at least 4 friends who graduate together with me this year. Simply happy! Of course, I’m also very thankful to my Twitter friends who are probably reading this post. Thank you for all your support for as long as you know me. I seriously don’t know where I’d be without you all, cheering and accompanying me throughout my journey. Thank you very much!

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The Final Milestones

When I finished writing chapter 4 and 5 and show them to the supervisor, she advised me to submit the 3-month notice form to initiate the submission process. At that time, I was thinking the time was near. I would definitely submit everything within that 3 months or even earlier. I was thinking I could finally be done with the dissertation. It was January then. I did make it before the 3-month notice was up and submitted the manuscript for examination in April. Never have I thought the whole process from that 3-month notice until hardcover submission could take almost 8 months. Totally out of my expectation.

Here are my final milestones starting from the 3-month notice to final submission (those highlighted in bold & italic are important milestones):

16 Jan: 3-month notice submitted

5 Mar: Final drafts (all 7 chapters) submitted to supervisor

4 Apr: Supervisor’s feedback after reading my drafts

12 Apr: Submission for examination

18 Jun: Examiners’ reports were back to the office

26 Jun: Result – pass with minor corrections

28 Jun: Collected examiners’ report for corrections

20 Jul: Corrections finished and sent to supervisor

25 Jul: Supervisor’s feedback on corrections

30 Jul: Corrections submitted to internal examiner

3 Aug: Examiner’s feedback – corrections are satisfactory

14 Aug: Final submission for hardcover binding

Sometimes I do feel it’s unbelievable that it took so long to finally complete  the whole submission process. What I learn from this is planning and timing are everything, if you want to graduate on time. Generally, it takes 3 months for the examination process and another 1 month for corrections. After submitting the corrected manuscripts, things are much faster and should be easier.

If you are still struggling with your final chapters and are ready to submit soon, please check your timeline and the required milestones. Have a plan in this crucial final milestones is essential so that your submission will go smoothly that will  lead you to graduation on time. A plan is also good to make sure you are motivated to work accordingly to achieve your final milestones. Do anticipate enough time to get proper feedback and to do correction. It’s important too to have time provision for proofreading the manuscript before submission.

All in all, I’m truly glad I have completed everything now. I can finally relax and enjoy (though I still have a paper to revise which I have yet to do. Guilty of charge!). I have called to the faculty today and confirmed that they are processing my final submission so that I can graduate this October. I’m so proud that I finally make it! 😀

Examiner’s Recommendation Guidelines

I had always wondered how a dissertation is evaluated, based on what set of criteria. It’s common to hear from peers and supervisors that the best we could hope for our dissertations is getting a pass with minor corrections. After getting mine, I went further to search for some guidelines, maybe a bit too late for me but at least I know how well I did.

Here is the examiner’s recommendation guidelines for mixed-mode Master program in my university:

DISTINCTION for Dissertation

Attained sufficient academic merit for recommendation of the degree with Distinction if the dissertation:

1. Does not require correction;

2. Does not require additional experiments, collections of new data or extensive revision; and

3. Is completed and submitted for examination not more than 4 semesters from the date of initial registration.

*Okay, I didn’t know these. Taking only 4 semesters to complete is only possible for full-time students, I guess. I took 6 semesters to complete but I have never aimed for distinction.

Pass WITHOUT corrections

Attained sufficient academic merit for recommendation of the degree without corrections if the dissertation:

1. Does not require correction; and

2. Does not require additional experiments, collections of new data or extensive revision

*Seriously, I have never met a peer who achieve this. I wonder if this is achievable. If so, should have gotten distinction instead of pass. Just by a merely 4 semesters criteria.

Pass with MINOR corrections

Attained sufficient academic merit for the recommendation of the degree of Master subject to MINOR corrections if the dissertation:

1. Requires minor text editing, formatting of tables and/or figures, corrections of grammar, spelling, or typos;

2. Requires a little addition of relevant information;

3. Requires explanations pertaining to several short sections in the text;

4. Ends with a conclusion that does not differ much when revised;

5. Requires addition of relevant information which requires less than 3 months to revise.

*Consider myself lucky to be in this category but sadly my dissertation requires most of the items above. On the positive note, the examiner’s feedback is always a great opportunity for improving my dissertation. 

RE-EXAMINATION

Required to undertake further work/major corrections and submit the dissertation for RE-EXAMINATION within a period of 3 to 6 months if the dissertation:

1. Has major weakness(es) that will affect the conclusion of the dissertation

2. Has major weakness(es) that can be addressed and improved upon, with additional work

3. Requires additional experiments, statistical analysis, revision of a large body of text and expansion of the literature review.

*Good news is so far I have not heard any peers in this category and I don’t think this should happen if the supervisor always keep the candidate in check of the work. 

FAIL

Failed to attain academic merit and has failed in the dissertation examination if the dissertation:

1. Has substantial weaknesses making the dissertation to be below acceptable standards which cannot be addressed even with additional work or corrections;

2. Has weaknesses that cannot be corrected;

3. Is based on inadequate research; or

4. Has plagiarized work or text.

*I guess no examiner or supervisor could easily decide on a fail unless there is not other way to salvage the candidate’s dissertation. I have heard of peers who were too headstrong in their own research direction by ignoring the supervisor’s recommendation, hence paving their own failed roads. 

I’m not sure how similar is this guideline to other universities but I hope this will give you some idea…

Turnitin

One of the most important requirements before the submission was the Turnitin report. I’ve heard about it numerous times but had never accessed it before until the day before submission for examination. I’m not sure how accurate Turnitin is but I know my university has put it as great importance to prevent plagiarism for our research work.

I know plagiarism has always been an issue to most academics, therefore I’ve taken extra care when I was doing my literature review. Now I found my literature review process to be quite effective in preventing plagiarism. The most important step is while making notes during the literature review. I made sure that while I was copying important notes from the articles that I read, I made final cite-able statements from my own words at the end on my literature review matrix. These statements represent the references I made from the articles I read. I didn’t know how well the results would be but I knew I did all I could to avoid plagiarism from the start.

To be honest, I was rather anxious when I uploaded each chapter to Turnitin and waited a few seconds for the results. I didn’t know what’s the acceptable percentage for my university at first but I did learn from a peer who had submitted a few months ago that her supervisor accepted anything below 10%. Everything was fine until I uploaded my Chapter 6 – Evaluation.

On average, my similarity percentage ranges from 0% – 7% on all chapters except on Chapter 6 where the result turned out to be 21% due to the evaluation terms that I referred to have been used by many other sources too. I don’t really understand why it compared to some Internet sources (i.e. blogs). Anyway, I was rather panicky and I sought out my supervisor to reconfirm about the acceptable rate. She told me that she accepted anything below 30%. Ermm…I wondered if there’s any standard about the acceptable rate.

Regardless, I printed the report and submitted it together with my manuscripts for examination. I pray everything will be fine, though my supervisor thought everything should be fine. Does anyone have experience with Turnitin before? I’m happy if you can share your experience with me 🙂

Submission for examination

The day had finally come. I spent more than 4 hours on Wednesday to do some final touch up on all my chapters. Then, I printed and sorted them into nice stacks where my hubby helped me in binding them into copies for submission.

Here were the final 4 copies for submission. Each with around 140 pages long. More than enough for a Master’s dissertation.

The administrative process for the submission was quite confusing. Unfortunately, there’s no clear or definite instruction for the submission. So I had to rely on my peer who had already submitted a few months ago but still there’s some different in the process when I submitted.

Here I hope to share the process so if you are a student of UM and you need to submit your dissertation soon, you can at least have some idea:

1. Print and fill up the “Submission of Research Report/Dissertation/Thesis for Examination/Re-examinantion” form. Get the supervisor to sign and stamp. You can find it all the forms here.

2. On page 5 of that form, there’s a checklist to make sure the final manuscript is in the correct format as required. Generally, you need to prepare

  • 4 copies of the printed manuscript
  • 1 CD with softcopy of the manuscript in PDF
  • 4 copies of Original Literary Work Declaration Form (signed by the supervisor and yourself)
  • Submit chapters to TurnItIn to check similarity/plagiarism – print the result to submit together

3. On the day of submission, you have to make sure your candidature is still active. In another word, you have paid your fee for the current semester and finally pay the dissertation fee. With printed receipt as proof of payment, take the Submission form together first to the Treasury department for endorsement.

4. Back to the faculty office, submit all the forms, 4 copies and 1 CD to the person in charge. In return, you will be given an acknowledgement as proof of submission.

At last, I’ve completed the process on Thursday. It was quite a headache as I didn’t know the proper process then. I did inform my supervisor after I submitted and told her my worries about the examination process. She told me I did well and the process should go smoothly. I’m glad she thought I did good. Now I keep my fingers crossed that my dissertation will pass. I’ll know the examiners’ feedback and result in about 3 months.

In the mean time, let’s celebrate my new freedom. Haha!

Confirmation of title

I recently picked up an official letter from my faculty. Apparently the letter is about the confirmation of my dissertation’s title after being approved by the committee during a meeting recently. It’s part of my 3-month notice submission process. My official dissertation’s title is “Design and Development of Personal Learning Environment to Encourage Learner Autonomy”.

With that confirmed, I can submit my manuscript for examination any time now. My supervisor just gave me some feedback and I have some changes on Chapter 5. Though she said I have no major changes on chapter 1 – 4, I have yet to hear anything about chapter 6 and 7. I really hope to finalize the manuscript and submit by next week or latest before the end of April. Hopefully I can still make it to graduation this year. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Quick tips on writing journal

Here are some quick tips that I’ve learned from last month WoS Journal Writing Workshop:

1) Timing is everything!

According to the professor, if we want to publish your article this year, we should have submitted the article at least a year or so before. She was being very frank to say that all our articles in that workshop are not going to be published this year. If we get published next year, just count our blessings. So her ultimate advice is to strategize and plan way ahead.

2) Title it properly

She highly recommended the title of the article to be short, precise and clear. The rule of thumb is to play around with 13 words (max).

3) Introduce the problem well

Obviously, we need have a clear focus on the problem we are trying to solve in our article. The problem statement and the rationale for the research should be stated clearly and explained well before everything else. A weak problem normally shows weak research. So pay more attention in the problem statement before moving on to the rest of the sections.

4) Reference must be recent

The references used in the article shouldn’t be anything too old unless they are really necessary. Use up-to-date references to show that we have read well enough for the current topic or issue in discussion. Cite more references that are recent and up to 2 years back, if possible.

5) Methodology is key

She emphasized a lot on the methodology used and how well we explained the methodology. It’s important to let the editor and readers know the type of data collected, how data are collected, and how they are being analyzed.

What does the editor look for?

  • Subject is within scope
  • Subject is current
  • High citability potential
  • It’s a collaborative work (joint authored from different countries)
  • Use of good method
  • Have good reference list, current, and good spread of journals

Overall, we are advised to keep on trying on writing and sending the articles to target journals. Planning is essential. Rejection is expected but let’s not feel demotivated. What’s most important in sending off articles to journals is getting valuable comments or feedback so we can improve on. Proofreading is very important too. It’s beneficial to get someone to read the article before submission. Lastly, always follow up with modification after review until the article is accepted and published.