Undergraduate Research

by YPU Admin on September 26, 2013. Tags: Research and undergraduate

Our new ‘Undergraduate Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at the University of Manchester.


Hi, my name is Samantha Levitt and I have just graduated from The University of Manchester with an undergraduate degree in English Language, Literacy and Communication. During my time at the University of Manchester, I undertook 2 separate pieces of research; one in the second year of my course and one in my third and final year. My second year piece was based on child language acquisition but in my third year I decided I wanted to research something completely different.

My research

At the time of choosing my third year research question for my 12,000 word dissertation, I was working part-time at The University of Manchester in their Recruitment and Widening Participation department. The role of the department is to implement activities which encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds which are under-represented in Higher Education to raise their aspirations and consider Higher Education. I was specifically working with a programme called the Manchester Access Programme (MAP) which supports college students in the Greater Manchester area applying for university – I was a participant of the programme myself. My interest in this area of work led me to consider the possibility of using this subject area and the programme as the basis of my research.

Once I had the name of my Research Supervisor, I met with her to discuss whether my research was possible and if so, how I would do it. She agreed with me that she felt this was a good line of enquiry, although believed that I needed to refine my research in order to ensure that I was going to be able to fit all of my research into 12,000 words. With the help of my tutor, I decided I would use MAP as a case study for investigating how effective Widening Participation programmes are in supporting the students involved.


Once I had my idea, I needed to decide how I would collect my data. I had the choice of either collecting quantitative (numbers and figures) or qualitative (opinions) data. After much consideration, I decided upon qualitative data as I wanted to gain evidence on how the students felt about the programme. Also, my insight into the programme taught me that there was a large amount of quantitative gained by the team but there was only a small amount of qualitative data so it would be more useful to the programme to gain some qualitative data for them to reflect upon.

Once I had decided which type of data I wanted to use, I had to think about which research method I would use. After much reading and discussions with my Supervisor, I decided that interviews and focus groups would allow me to expand on ideas the participants have and would allow me to have a select few participants who provided a large amount of information.

Possibly the biggest challenge of my dissertation was actually being able to fit all the information I had gathered into 12,000 words as I had collected a large amount of data, read extensively about the subject area and had a lot of opinions regarding  how I collected my data and came to various conclusions. However, the large amount of information meant that my research was successful in establishing a variety of conclusions. The conclusions of my research indicated that MAP was highly successful in supporting their students in a variety of ways such as the scholarships the students receive, the advice they get from the programme and the experiences they have such as, being able to write an academic assignment with the help of an Academic Tutor from the University. However, my research also highlighted some improvements that the programme could make.

Current job

Shortly after handing in my dissertation, I applied to for the position of an Undergraduate Recruitment and Widening Participation Intern (MAP Programme) and was successful. Therefore, my dissertation not only gave me great skills such as research, independent work and academic writing but it also allowed me a great insight into a profession and helped me to decided that this was definitely the career for me. Also, the knowledge I gained from completing this research gave me a great head start when I started my job.

Going further...

More information about the Language, Literacy & Communication course at the University of Manchester, click here.

Further details about the Manchester Access Programme can be found here.

The Guardian recently ran a feature about how to plan and write a dissertation.

Look at the British Council of Undergraduate Research which recognises the research taken by undergraduate students. It also gives you the opportunity to browse journals and articles written by undergraduate students.

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