I feel completely incapable of doing my master's dissertation

    • Thread Starter

    I have always had good grades through my last 4 years of my degree, and here I am in my final year, attempting to work on a project, and feeling completely and utterly lost.

    Before anyone asks, I do actually find the topic I'm doing quite interesting (compared to the other options that were available, anyway) but I just feel like I'm in way over my head with this degree.

    My supervisor isn't the most helpful person, but he just keeps telling me to 'read papers' and take my project in the direction I want to.

    When I try to do research, I'll get to page 2 of a published paper and all of a sudden the maths/technical stuff just gets WAY too intense and I have no idea what is going on, then I'll see that there are like 100 references and I end up flicking between different papers in a panic and getting nowhere. Even when I find something that seems like it could be useful to me, I have no idea how to even make use of it. It doesn't help that I need to use a lot of matlab and I am extremely bad at it.

    I think my supervisor assumes I know a lot more than I actually do (which at this stage in the degree, I should, so he is quite right to think that). I feel like if I really told him where I'm at with this project he wouldn't even be able to understand how I know so little.

    Did anyone else feel like this during their MEng? I am currently a month in and have about 2 and a half months left, but I can't see myself EVER managing to make any progress. I honestly feel like giving up but then that would just make the last 4 years such a huge waste of time.

    First off, try and relax. Many people feel like you do - I know I certainly did for my MEng final project.

    It sounds like you're needing some structure to your work, so concentrate on sketching out a plan to finish the work in the time available. Be honest and realistic. Put dates to milestones. It's no wonder you're struggling if you don't know what you need to do. Discuss the plan with your supervisor.

    Tackle your weak points - Matlab - head on. Spend a few days getting up to speed with it. Practice. There's no getting around this one.

    Be disciplined and ruthless with papers. Don't get sucked in to following the rabbit warren of references. Don't worry too much about the level of technicality - they aren't written by undergrads so it's not surprising you can't follow a lot of it. Read the abstract, if it's interesting and relevant read the conclusion, if it's still interesting read the introduction. If it's not, consider adding the paper to your bibliography and move on to the next one.

    A couple of months should be plenty of time to do what you need to do, and you will be able to manage it. Just be disciplined and stick to the plan. Good luck!
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Updated: October 18, 2016
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