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    Hi all,

    I'm finishing up my degree this year (Computer Science) and am looking at masters degrees (in computing related things) but looking around most (I believe) have a dissertation or project as a requirement, is this always the case? The reason being is that I much much prefer everything else to a dissertation (my current one in my third year isn't going great) due to a few reasons.

    My question is are there any (in your experience or research) courses that don't have a dissertation/project as a part of them?

    I'm asking generally rather than specifically for my case!

    -B
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    (Original post by BlackZebra)
    [...] I'm finishing up my degree this year (Computer Science) and am looking at masters degrees (in computing related things) but looking around most (I believe) have a dissertation or project as a requirement, is this always the case? The reason being is that I much much prefer everything else to a dissertation (my current one in my third year isn't going great) due to a few reasons.

    My question is are there any (in your experience or research) courses that don't have a dissertation/project as a part of them? [...]
    All master's degrees have a research component. There are postgraduate diplomas which do not have a research component (i.e. just the taught part of the master's degree), but ultimately the entire purpose of higher education is the development of independent critical thought, no matter what the discipline (i.e. getting a doctor to the required level so they can practice safely on their own or giving a historian the skills so they can research themselves). This is why steadily more and more weight is given to them. Your dissertation at undergraduate might only be worth 20 credits, but at master's level it is worth 60 of 180 credits, and obviously at doctoral level it is the sole means of assessment.

    By not wanting to do 'independent research' you are basically acknowledging that you do not want to think for yourself, or that you have nothing to contribute past a certain level (in abstract terms). Of course, it is far more likely that you have had a crap supervisor and it has put you off the idea. One bad supervisor does not mean all research is bad.

    If you do not want to do a dissertation I would probably suggest not bothering with a postgraduate diploma either as I would be surprised if it made you any more employable.
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    (Original post by evantej)
    All master's degrees have a research component. There are postgraduate diplomas which do not have a research component (i.e. just the taught part of the master's degree), but ultimately the entire purpose of higher education is the development of independent critical thought, no matter what the discipline (i.e. getting a doctor to the required level so they can practice safely on their own or giving a historian the skills so they can research themselves). This is why steadily more and more weight is given to them. Your dissertation at undergraduate might only be worth 20 credits, but at master's level it is worth 60 of 180 credits, and obviously at doctoral level it is the sole means of assessment.

    By not wanting to do 'independent research' you are basically acknowledging that you do not want to think for yourself, or that you have nothing to contribute past a certain level (in abstract terms). Of course, it is far more likely that you have had a crap supervisor and it has put you off the idea. One bad supervisor does not mean all research is bad.

    If you do not want to do a dissertation I would probably suggest not bothering with a postgraduate diploma either as I would be surprised if it made you any more employable.
    Thanks for the insights and advice
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    I have actually seen one or two masters where you can choose to do extra coursework modules instead of a dissertation. I'm afraid I can't remember what unis or subjects they were though.
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    My LLM didn't include a dissertation/project - just exams - but I guess that an LLM isn't particularly relevant to you. More generally I agree with evantej - a project/dissertation is a big part of a masters and if you really don't want to do one I would have a hard think about whether a masters is for you. My project was easily the best part of the MSc I finished recently.
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    Well, to play devil's advocate, if the masters is being done with a view to attaining a higher qualification with advanced coursework for professional reasons rather than with a view to a PhD, I'm not so sure it's necessarily a bad thing to want to do one without a dissertation, assuming that the OP can actually find one. I too found the research element the most fun part of my masters, but different people enjoy different things!

    Edited to add, that it does seem for a professional type masters in computing that a project would be a good idea though.
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    Rather than go for a full taught Masters, you can find unis which offer just the taught elements and then award a PGDip (Postgraduate Diploma). It's effectively two-thirds of a Masters and leaves out the dissertation/independent research element.

    I have a friend whose undergrad degree was too low for acceptance into a full Masters. She's starting with a PGDip and will be converted to the full Masters (i.e. continue to the dissertation after two terms of teaching) if her coursework marks are good enough. It could be that you can go this route and see whether you then have enough confidence in your potential supervisor to do the dissertation anyway.
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    WHY do you want to do postgrad?

    Dont fall into the trap of thinking it will improve your job prospects - you will still be a fresh graduate without experience, and many employers will actually disregard you for graduate entry schemes because you have done postgrad.

    You cant put off entering the 'real world' by hiding at University for another year. At some point you are going to have to bite the bullet and apply for jobs. Any job.
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    First just want to thank you all for your replies!

    (Original post by returnmigrant)
    WHY do you want to do postgrad?

    Dont fall into the trap of thinking it will improve your job prospects - you will still be a fresh graduate without experience, and many employers will actually disregard you for graduate entry schemes because you have done postgrad.

    You cant put off entering the 'real world' by hiding at University for another year. At some point you are going to have to bite the bullet and apply for jobs. Any job.
    Don't worry, it's not because I think it will improve my job prospects, I just feel that there is more I want to learn (via being taught). I enjoy learning.

    (Original post by Klix88)
    Rather than go for a full taught Masters, you can find unis which offer just the taught elements and then award a PGDip (Postgraduate Diploma). It's effectively two-thirds of a Masters and leaves out the dissertation/independent research element.

    I have a friend whose undergrad degree was too low for acceptance into a full Masters. She's starting with a PGDip and will be converted to the full Masters (i.e. continue to the dissertation after two terms of teaching) if her coursework marks are good enough. It could be that you can go this route and see whether you then have enough confidence in your potential supervisor to do the dissertation anyway.
    Thank you for this information!! I noticed that PGDips were around (like on the prospects website) but never really knew what they were, after some more research they seem to be exactly the sort of thing I would like!

    (Original post by sj27)
    I have actually seen one or two masters where you can choose to do extra coursework modules instead of a dissertation. I'm afraid I can't remember what unis or subjects they were though.
    That's ok, I think I'll look at PGDips more now. Also I have found one or two courses that rather than leave you to do whatever for a dissertation the project is broken down into assigned segments. It is structured which is something I prefer.

    (Original post by BO'H)
    My LLM didn't include a dissertation/project - just exams - but I guess that an LLM isn't particularly relevant to you. More generally I agree with evantej - a project/dissertation is a big part of a masters and if you really don't want to do one I would have a hard think about whether a masters is for you. My project was easily the best part of the MSc I finished recently.
    I guess I feel differently (based on my current project).

    (Original post by sj27)
    Well, to play devil's advocate, if the masters is being done with a view to attaining a higher qualification with advanced coursework for professional reasons rather than with a view to a PhD, I'm not so sure it's necessarily a bad thing to want to do one without a dissertation, assuming that the OP can actually find one. I too found the research element the most fun part of my masters, but different people enjoy different things!

    Edited to add, that it does seem for a professional type masters in computing that a project would be a good idea though.
    My view I stated a bit above this is I want to learn more vs want more qualifications to 'look' better.
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    How are you going to fund this?
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    (Original post by BlackZebra)
    First just want to thank you all for your replies!



    Don't worry, it's not because I think it will improve my job prospects, I just feel that there is more I want to learn (via being taught). I enjoy learning.



    Thank you for this information!! I noticed that PGDips were around (like on the prospects website) but never really knew what they were, after some more research they seem to be exactly the sort of thing I would like!



    That's ok, I think I'll look at PGDips more now. Also I have found one or two courses that rather than leave you to do whatever for a dissertation the project is broken down into assigned segments. It is structured which is something I prefer.



    I guess I feel differently (based on my current project).



    My view I stated a bit above this is I want to learn more vs want more qualifications to 'look' better.
    Although it is a taught course don't expect the info to just be handed to you. At postgrad you are expected to do your own learning. You are introduced to topics and you go and learn them yourselves. You'll likely find you have little scheduled contact time and a lot of hours to put in.

    In all honesty if computer science is something you want to carry on as a career, you'd do far better to start work and do the learning on the side. From what friends in the industry have told me, it seems once you have your undergraduate degree you build on it with experience rather than qualifications.

    A PGDip would only be useful if you wanted to go further up the academic route and progress to an MSc, but as you don't like the research component I wouldn't recommend it. It'd be a waste of your time and might actually hinder your job prospects as already mentioned.
    Also the money for the course will most probably come out of your own pocket, it's all well and good enjoying it but if it doesn't really help you then it's an expensive pass time.
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    (Original post by returnmigrant)
    How are you going to fund this?
    Why do you ask this question in every bloody thread about postgrad study?

    It's so weird.
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    Because many posters here simply dont think about this. They seem to assume that there is a post-grad version of Student Loans and are astonished to discover that there isnt - and that what funding is available is limited and highly competitive. They start off with grand ideas about doing post-grad and then suddenly realise that actually they cant afford to do it.
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    Don't worry.

    (Original post by Zorg)
    Although it is a taught course don't expect the info to just be handed to you. At postgrad you are expected to do your own learning. You are introduced to topics and you go and learn them yourselves. You'll likely find you have little scheduled contact time and a lot of hours to put in.

    In all honesty if computer science is something you want to carry on as a career, you'd do far better to start work and do the learning on the side. From what friends in the industry have told me, it seems once you have your undergraduate degree you build on it with experience rather than qualifications.

    A PGDip would only be useful if you wanted to go further up the academic route and progress to an MSc, but as you don't like the research component I wouldn't recommend it. It'd be a waste of your time and might actually hinder your job prospects as already mentioned.
    Also the money for the course will most probably come out of your own pocket, it's all well and good enjoying it but if it doesn't really help you then it's an expensive pass time.
    I don't expect that at all, I never expected that with University to start with. In fact my current course has had so little contact time (vs other universities) it's quite shocking!

    I am capable of learning on my own, I don't expect or want to be spoon fed like I was at A-Levels. I just prefer having a structure of learning vs a wide open project.

    There are many aspects of both computer science and computing in general (for example management, networks, programming, development etc etc) and I want to further study in one of these areas or a combination of areas I haven't thus far.

    Anyway, it appears the original question has been answered (PGDip) and I thank everyone for their comments.

    (Original post by returnmigrant)
    How are you going to fund this?
    (Original post by returnmigrant)
    Because many posters here simply dont think about this. They seem to assume that there is a post-grad version of Student Loans and are astonished to discover that there isnt - and that what funding is available is limited and highly competitive. They start off with grand ideas about doing post-grad and then suddenly realise that actually they cant afford to do it.
    To all of you I am very fortunate with regards to this.
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    Before you head off, can I make a couple of recommendations?

    One, many universities do offer MSc and PGDip options in practice, but do not advertise the PGDip option. So, don't assume that it isn't an option - do check if you're interested in principle in a course, and also see if the fees are the same or different (there are cases of each).

    Also, it might be worth checking what sort of MSc projects places do. I've taught at UCL, City and Swansea, and there are quite marked differences. For example, at City we have the option of doing a placement starting in the July (after the taught part of the course) with an external company or organisation. If you take that option, the 'project' is usually a specific piece of work at the employer, and those are very often highly structured projects with very specific outcomes and deadlines (e.g. I've had a student this year who did a major project for Network Rail which had monthly goals set in place from the moment it started).

    It may be that the 'right' place has the option of that sort of structured work, at least as an option (we don't do it for all projects, by any means). If so, you might be able to start with the intention of (say) doing a PGDip and then going onto the project IF the right one comes up?

    All the best in any case!

    George
 
 
 
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