Making academic projects effective

Making academic projects effective

One of the most common questions asked by students is, "Can you suggest a good topic for my project?" The query itself shows how little understanding a student has regarding this activity. Students can consider projects as investigations into challenges. Doing so can enable students to apply their knowledge, skills and relevant strategies to find a solution. It involves in-depth research, deriving conclusions based on it, and making interpretations. A project well done will enable students to gain expertise in their field of study.  

As opposed to the usual classroom teaching, here the student tries to understand concepts and apply it to real-life problems and situations. Project-based learning has been an important part of curriculum in certain fields of study for long. In fact, many teachers are using projects as a way to enhance the students' learning.

Choose wisely

Projects are generally a part of the syllabus with clear guidelines to be followed. This makes it easier for students to conduct the experiment and analysis. Most projects involve collecting data, either from primary sources (primary data) or from secondary sources (secondary data).

Projects at the college level have a great potential to change the student from a learner to an industry-ready graduate. A well-conducted project with relevance to industry can boost one's curriculum vitae in a huge way. Thus, it is very important to choose an appropriate topic.

But there is always room to incorporate your passion into the topic. For example, an Economics student interested in mathematical techniques can choose a topic which requires mathematical tools to form conclusions from collected information. With the advent of technology, most students can also learn relevant software to analyse data. Projects can be individual- or group-based. Here are some tips for an effective and successful project:

Topic: Introspect on what inspires and interests you. Is it a social problem? An industry-oriented one? Choose the one that suits you.

Connect to curriculum: How can you integrate your topic with your subject and curriculum? If your curriculum requires you to gather data, can you do so for your chosen topic?

Ideate: Visualise your completed project. What all do you need to complete the project? Be realistic. Though it is important to gather primary data, do not plan for it if you have less time. Check whether data in the required format is available online and if it is valid.

Hard work: It is not enough to just study the topic on hand. Do extensive studies on related aspects to broaden your perspective and get more clarity.

Plan well: To ensure that your project is completed on time, allocate sufficient time and resources to complete it.

Work on your own: Do not be tempted by agencies or people who offer to help. Monetary considerations apart, you will be losing a wonderful opportunity to learn. However, do not hesitate to discuss the work with peers and faculty who can add value to your work.

Keep a record: Keep a track of the work done. This will help you to track the progress and incorporate changes, if any.

Project report: Do not wait till the last minute to prepare the report. A report put-together hastily can spoil your months of hard work. So, get to know the format in advance so that you could start filling in whenever you have done sufficient work.

Ethics: Be sure to quote your sources, give credit to authors whose works you have mentioned and do not indulge in any copy-paste work. Don't plagiarise.

n Enjoy your work: Most importantly, do not forget to enjoy the learning process. So, do not hesitate to sacrifice some of your personal time for your project. Develop a keen ownership of the work and a determination to derive the most out of it.

(The author is associate professor, Christ, Bengaluru)

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