Appendix 2: Dissertation
Finding a Supervisor
We will support you in finding a supervisor for your MSc dissertation. As an MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology student, your dissertation must be undertaken on a clinically related psychology topic. Please review the interests and expertise of https://www.southampton.ac.uk/psychology/about/staff.page to get a feel for the topics we are able to supervise. In semester 1, you will receive information about potential supervisors and their interests and ongoing projects.
Working with your Supervisor
You will need to develop and maintain a good working relationship with your supervisor. This will be facilitated by communicating openly and being clear about your hopes and needs with respect to your dissertation. It is a good idea to discuss working practices with your supervisor early on in the process. For example, you might wish to discuss the frequency of meetings, their style of supervision, how best to arrange meetings, your detailed project plan for the dissertation, and any planned absences from university (e.g. it might be helpful for you to be aware if your supervisor will be attending conferences and/or taking annual leave over the summer period, so that you can plan meetings around such times). You might also wish to discuss your responsibilities and what your supervisor can offer. It is vital to maintain good communication with your supervisor throughout the dissertation period, so please do keep in touch in between meetings.
Your supervisor is permitted to provide you with formative feedback on one written draft of your dissertation. You should discuss with your supervisor how to get the most out of this process and agree on when to give them your work for feedback. For some, it is helpful for the supervisor to provide feedback on one section at a time, over the course of the dissertation work. This can allow you to improve your work gradually as you go along. Others might prefer to obtain feedback on a complete draft of the whole dissertation all at once, usually towards the end of the summer.
Requirements for Type of Project
The dissertation for MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology must be an original empirical project. You are welcome to use qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods. Most students will collect their own data. However, certain alternatives are permissible: you may conduct a secondary data analysis of existing large quantitative or qualitative datasets; you may conduct computational modelling of empirical data. You may not solely conduct a systematic review or meta-analysis for your dissertation.
Guidance for using Quantitative Methods
Sample size calculations ARE VERY IMPORTANT as they give an indication of whether the design you plan to use is appropriate for the sample you are planning to use and for the expected effect sizes you anticipate. Basically, the size of the sample you will need depends on the power of the study, and the size of the effect you are trying to test for: a big effect will require a small sample, a small effect will require a large sample. Base your estimate of the size of the effect you are looking for, derived from the existing literature of similar studies, or using similar measures. If there is no similar study, but there is data on the mean and standard deviation of the measure you will use, you can set a desired effect size to detect for yourself, e.g. half a standard deviation.
The power of the study is related to the sensitivity and reliability of your measures, which is why it is best to use previously validated measures whenever possible: if you have to develop a new measure, then try to include an existing reliable measure to compare it with.
If you use many measures you will have to calculate multiple statistical tests, and so to avoid getting results that are significant by chance you will have to correct your alpha level using the Bonferroni procedure (e.g. 10 comparisons at p=.05/10 = p=.005). This will mean you will have to have a larger effect size to be able to reliably detect it (obviously the effect has to be greater to be detected at p=.005 than at p=.05) OR you will need a larger sample size. It is for this reason you should keep the number of variables you measure reasonably small; if you measure lots of variables you will need a very large sample to reliably detect an effect. A focused study with a clear hypothesis, tested using a valid measure, is much better than a study with many variables and unvalidated measures: even if your effect is not found, you will be given credit for having done the study well.
As taught in RESM6012, you must obtain all relevant approvals before commencing your dissertation research. At a minimum this is likely to involve applying to the faculty ethics committee, via Ethics and Research Governance Online II (ergo II: https://ergo2.soton.ac.uk/). Full guidance and instructions are available on ergo II.
You should read and comply with the BPS Code of Human Research Ethics as well as any other relevant ethical guidelines from the BPS (for up-to-date policies and guidelines see https://www.bps.org.uk/psychologists/standards-and-guidelines. You should also be aware of the HCPC guidance on conduct and ethics for students.
You should discuss with your supervisor whether you will need any other approvals (e.g. NHS approvals) or documentation (e.g. Research Passport), and proceed with these as a matter of urgency if they are required.
You can apply in writing to the programme director, at the time you submit your research proposal or before the end of July, for financial assistance to cover costs related to your dissertation (e.g. travel costs, purchasing of questionnaires, small pieces of specialist equipment, financial incentives for participants). Please use this pgt-dissertation-costs-form to provide a breakdown of the total support requested and a clear justification for the need for this support along with written confirmation from your supervisor that they support your request. Email your completed form to the Programme Director. Please note that the demand for this type of assistance far exceeds the available resources and inevitably some requests may be denied. Typically we are able to support clearly justified requests of up to £50. You will be notified of the decision within two weeks.
The milestones below are specific for MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology students. Where these differ from other milestones given elsewhere, please follow the guidelines given here. Please note that the dates (in bold) are specified deadlines, whilst the others are to be viewed as a guide to ensure timely completion. If you find you are not meeting the suggested milestones you need to discuss this issue with your supervisor and draw up a revised plan for completion.
- October: Discuss posisble projects with potential supevisors.
- Early November: Research director follows up matching of students to supervisors.
- December: Apply for DBS check and/or NHS Research Passport (if needed – discuss with supervisor). Work on plan for dissertation research (RESM6012 assignment).
- January – March: Begin ethics application. Determine level of assistance needed from psychology department technical team, and make any necessary arrangements.
- End of March: Submit ethics application via ergo 2 (NB this includes the ethics form, participant information sheets, consent forms, copies of any questionnaires or interview topic guides, advertisements or letters to participants, debriefing forms).
- April: Begin data collection (to make use of undergraduate population before they finish for summer).
- May 2022: Submit brief (1 page maximum) dissertation progress report to Research director via email – instructions will be provided by the Research director.
- Mid-July: Complete data collection.
- End-July: Complete data analysis.
- August: Final write up of introduction, methods, results and discussion. Obtain supervisor feedback.
- September 2022: Submit dissertation via e-assignments.
Extensions and Special Considerations
If you require an extension or special considerations for the dissertation, please apply in the same way as you would for any other extension. See the relevant page in the handbook here.
Writing up for Publication
We encourage you to discuss with your supervisor the possibility of writing up your MSc dissertation for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Any such efforts at publication should be agreed between you and your supervisor. It will take some time to rework your project into a publishable format, but it can be worth the effort.