As an undergraduate seeking NCE, OND, HND and BSc or a postgraduate seeking MSc, MBA and PhD in Nigeria, you’ll be required to undertake and complete a research project, seminar, dissertation or thesis throughout your academic career and even, in many cases, as a member of the workforce. Don’t worry if you feel stuck or intimidated by the idea of a final year research project, with care and dedication, you can get the project done well before the deadline!
What is Research?
A research is a quest into the unknown. It is the act of finding a rational explanation or clarification on facts, events and phenomenon which surrounds human existence.
What is a Research Project?
A research project may be seen as an expansion of past work in a field. Research projects can be used to develop further knowledge on a topic, or in the example of a school final year research project, they can be used to further a student’s research prowess to prepare them for future jobs or reports. To test the validity of instruments, procedures, or experiments, research may replicate elements of prior projects or the project as a whole. It consists of Proposal, Abstract, Table of Contents, List of Figures, List of Tables, List of Appendices, List of Abbreviations, Introduction, Literature Review, Data Analysis and Presentation, Methodology and System Analysis, System Implementation, Summary, Recommendation, Conclusion, References/Bibliography, Questionnaires, Software Screenshots and Source Codes.
In Nigerian institutions including Universities, Polytechnics and Monotechnics (Colleges of Education), a research project is usually carried out in the last semester of the final year academic session. It has the largest credit unit (as much as 6) in most schools. Because of this, every Nigerian student wants to make a distinction (A) on it so as to boost their overall academic performance of the degree programme. Wouldn’t you want to also make a distinction? Sure, you want to. Let’s take a look at how you can easily write a final year research project that makes a distinction.
How to Write a Final Year Research Project
- Choose the right final year research project topic.
- Develop research questions.
- Report on the research.
Choosing the right final year research project topic
While some students come to their research project with a clear research question to address, many others arrive at this point with several ideas, but with no specific research question. In view of the pressure to get started fairly quickly, this can cause anxiety and even panic. It is, however, a common situation to be in. There are several ways forward:
- Talk to others: what topics are other students considering? Does this spark an interest? Don’t wait until you have a fully formed research question before discussing your ideas with others, as their comments and questions may help you to refine your focus.
- Look at other writing: set aside some time to spend in the library, skimming through the titles of research papers in your field over the past five years, and reading the abstracts of those you find most interesting.
- Look through the dissertations of previous students in your department: the topics may give you inspiration, and they may have useful suggestions for further research.
- Think about your own interests: which topic have you found most interesting, and is there an element that could be developed into a research project?
- Is there a related topic of interest to you that has not been covered in the syllabus, but would fit with the theory or methodology you have been working with?
- Be extra critical: is there something in your course so far that you have been sceptical about, or which you think needs further study?
- Read about an interesting topic and keep asking the question ‘Why?’ This may identify a research question you could address.
- Visit trusted websites that offer research project topics and materials for final year students in Nigeria and take a look at the project topics available on the platforms. You can also look out for free project topics and materials PDF so as to minimize your costs.
Remember that a research study can:
- replicate an existing study in a different setting;
- explore an under-researched area;
- extend a previous study;
- review the knowledge thus far in a specific field;
- develop or test out a methodology or method;
- address a research question in isolation, or within a wider programme of work; or
- apply a theoretical idea to a real-world problem.
This list is not exhaustive, and you need to check whether your department has a preference for particular kinds of a research study.
Submit and discuss your proposed project topic with the member of academic staff who is assigned to supervise your project. Provided they feel that they know enough about the subject to supervise it, and provided that it can be interpreted as falling within the broad fields of your degree subject, academic staff are generally open to suggestions.
You should think realistically about the practical implications of your choice, in terms of:
- the time requirement;
- necessary travelling;
- access to equipment or room space;
- access to the population of interest; and
- possible costs.
For example, a computer science project on design and implementation of a cyber café security system in Kano, Nigeria may require you to visit cyber cafés (computer/business centres) in Kano to interview the ICT company owners from the region. Even though you can get free computer science project topics and materials PDF, is this something that you are prepared and able to do? If the practical considerations associated with your research ideas are unrealistic, you need to consider whether you are willing to modify or reconsider your project.
Developing final year research project questions
Once your topic has been accepted by your department, you need to begin the process of refining the topic and turning it into something that is focused enough to guide your final year research project. Try describing it as a research problem that sets out:
- the issue that you are going to be investigating;
- your argument or thesis (what you want to prove, disprove, or explore); and
- the limits of your research (i.e. what you are not going to be investigating).
It is important that you establish a research problem at, or close to the start of your project. It is one of the key tools you have, to ensure that your project keeps going in the right direction. Every task you undertake should begin with you checking your research problem and asking “will this help me address this problem?”
You should be willing to revise your research problem as you find out more about your topic. You may, for example, discover that the data you were hoping to analyse is not available, or you may encounter a new piece of information or a new concept while undertaking a literature search, that makes you rethink the basis of your research problem. You should always talk to your supervisor before you make any substantial revision to your plans, and explain why you think you need to make the change.
Reporting the research
As you conduct research, you are likely to realise that the topic that you have focused on is more complex than you realised when you first defined your research question. The research is still valid even though you are now aware of the greater size and complexity of the problem. A crucial skill of the researcher is to define clearly the boundaries of their research and to stick to them. You may need to refer to wider concerns; to a related field of literature; or to alternative methodology; but you must not be diverted into spending too much time investigating relevant, related, but distinctly separate fields.
Starting to write up your research can be intimidating, but it is essential that you ensure that you have enough time not only to write up your research but also to review it critically, then spend time editing and improving it. The following tips should help you to make the transition from research to writing:
- In your research plan, you need to specify a time when you are going to stop researching and start writing. You should aim to stick to this plan unless you have a very clear reason why you need to continue your research longer.
- Take a break from your project. When you return, look dispassionately at what you have already achieved and ask yourself the question: ‘Do I need to do more research?’
- Speak to your supervisor about your progress. Ask them whether you still need to collect more data.
Remember that you cannot achieve everything in your dissertation. A section where you discuss ‘Further Work’ at the end of your dissertation will show that you are thinking about the implications your work has for the academic community.
- Think carefully about your final year research project topic and ensure that it is sufficiently focused.
- Write a detailed final year research project proposal to help you anticipate the issues/problems that you are going to deal with.
- Devote time to planning and stick to your plan.
- Work closely with your supervisor and respect the time and advice that they give you.
- Be organised and take detailed notes when you are undertaking your literature survey and data collection.
- Make a clear decision about stopping data collection.
- Move positively into writing-up your research.
- Allocate enough time for reviewing and editing your writing.
- Remember that you cannot achieve everything in your dissertation, but you can critically appraise what you have done, and outline ideas for further, relevant research.
- Source: How to Write a Final Year Research Project or Thesis in Nigeria