Perhaps the greatest pleasure and most important benefit I have personally reaped from the Extended Project Qualification is the expansion of knowledge specific to a subject of great interest to me. When I began my research, I was unaware of the vast majority of current advancements in genetic engineering; studying this has generated a new passion. It also afforded me the opportunity to consolidate my knowledge of moral philosophy in a (slightly) more structured environment.
The project has provided an invaluable insight into university-style (i.e. independent) learning. A major component of the Extended Project was the ability to research a singular topic in-depth and apply that new knowledge. It has greatly aided my ability to prepare and deliver a piece to an audience. This is a direct result of the intricate understanding of the topic studied that is required when researching and writing the essay. It enabled me to answer any questions posed and to deliver a presentation above and beyond crude recollection and regurgitation – this allowed for a much smoother and more involving piece, during which I relished the opportunity to respond to questions (as they provide alternative perspectives on your own work).
Were I to undertake this project again I would be more meticulous with my time-keeping and organisation (as the my supervisor recommended throughout). The bulk of the work was done across a small number of extended sessions. This is inadvisable; although I am satisfied with the final product, it could potentially have been jeopardised by an erratic working schedule. Initially, my planning technique was haphazard. I started out by reading anything and everything I felt might be relevant. It soon became clear this was neither efficient nor sensible. This development is reflected in the more active role planning took during my essay.
I would also be more aware of the limitations caused by a word limit. Several times I was forced to reconsider what to include and what to not include: any time spent researching what couldn’t be included might have been better spent learning what could be included more thoroughly. Knowing what to dismiss and what remains important is a skill learned from the process which will be generalisable to future research.
I have also become more comfortable with preparing and delivering a presentation. Though I have never been an especially nervous presenter, in the past I have often had difficulty keeping to the topic and within time constraints (a recurring theme). The preparation the EPQ necessitated helped remove these barriers – my only change to the presentation would be to intertwine the aspects further and begin familiarising myself with the final product earlier. However, I believe rehearsing excessively can make a presentation sound like learned prose rather than a dialogue between you and the audience, so would not recommend doing so.
Were I to give key advice to another person undertaking the project, I would recommend that they spend significant time deciding on the details of their topic at the beginning, to avoid the hassle caused later by not doing so. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and how you intend to get there (a checklist of sorts) would allow the project to progress smoothly. This is where any problems I encountered could have been prevented (before they began). I discovered (albeit slightly late) the usefulness of references in sources and (particularly) books – these can help to find other highly relevant sources once one has been discovered; I would recommend any other person do the same, keeping a constant watch of these if their supply is depleted. Most notably, I would recommend only undertaking an Extended Project if you are passionate about the subject you research. This is absolutely necessary to ensure any candidate puts in the necessary hours, and constructs a piece reflective of their ability.