Any student enrolled in Mumbai University’s three year holiday course with a degree certificate (also known to some as BMM), will be quite aware of the fact that a considerable portion of their marks depends on their projects. And projects are probably the factor that set undergraduate courses apart from the ‘memorize and vomit’ format to which students were hitherto accustomed. In other words, any student wishing to begin or continue a streak of good scores after taking up BMM needs to do more than just learning prescribed answers to stereotyped questions by heart (as is quite commonly the norm in CBSE schools). Therefore a list detailing some of the common errors made by earlier batches while executing their BMM projects has been compiled for the benefit of such students (and also of the indifferent majority comprising other varieties).
*Please do note that the list has been provided so that the errors can be avoided rather than repeated.
1. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!
Start work from Day 1
Many have wondered about the best time to begin work on their projects in BMM. In such a situation it is wise to assume that the professor probably had a reason for assigning the projects so far in advance of the submission date (rather than imagining that these dates were decided through an elaborate process involving a calendar and darts) viz. that the project requires a considerable amount of research and therefore, considering that there’ll be other activities to keep students busy, it would be best to start it as soon as possible.
*Note: If not too busy flirting/daydreaming, it would be advisable to write down the project brief as the professor explains it.
2. YOU’RE NOT SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN!
In other words – don’t jump out of the window believing you can fly or believe that you’re capable enough to do the project without the help of your teammates.
Anyone who believes that the phrase ‘one-man team’ makes sense needs to re-appear for their Math and English papers before continuing the course. No matter how skilled an individual may be, a project by his/her so-called ‘inferiors’ who worked together as a group would, 9 times out of 10, be superior to a project done individually by him/her simply because of the value of brainstorming and pooling together the group’s collective experiences and strengths. Make sure the entire group is involved in EVERY aspect of a group project and meets regularly to evaluate progress.
*Remember: Too many chefs spoil the broth, but the chef alone can’t manage the entire kitchen.
3. DO NOT WAGE WAR!
Words many wish George W. Bush (among others) had paid heed to a few years ago.
However, in a more relevant context, do not believe your peers to be your enemies. It’s possible that there will be those who try to rise up by pulling others down, but there’s no reason to categorize all your peers that way. Be open, friendly and don’t hesitate to exchange information about your projects fearing they’ll steal your ideas. You may learn a lot from each others’ mistakes and your professors aren’t dumb that they won’t recognize a copy when they see one.
*Remember: One who needs to copy is one who is ill prepared. And a well prepared original is much better than a shoddily prepared copy (which is probably why nobody’s ready to pay $1 million for my version of the Mona Lisa).
4. DO NOT JUMP IN WITH GUNS BLAZING!
Max Payne could do that, but he had bullet time.
Before starting on a project, it is recommended that one view similar projects by the previous batches to see how things are done and more importantly, to get an idea of how the end product of their hard work (well… not always) turns out. It’s also important to chalk out a step by step strategy for the execution of the project. This makes it easy to keep working and to monitor one’s progress. Play devil’s advocate with your group members. Question each choice so that you’re ready with answers when others do.
5. DO NOT MAKE IT AN EGO BATTLE!
Just because your idea wasn’t selected for the project doesn’t mean you haven’t contributed anything to it.
One very often brings their ego into the equation while working on a project. If such is the case, then it is advisable to slap oneself on the face and remember that the project is more important. It is quite demoralizing when one’s ideas are not accepted/do not meet with approval. However, that’s no reason to squabble with one’s teammates.
*Remember: Professors don’t give you marks based on how many of your ideas made it to the hard copy. It’s not a call centre.
6. DO NOT MAKE A GROCERY LIST; DO NOT WRITE A 200 PAGE NOVEL!
Your marks do not depend on the weight of your hard copy. They depend on what’s within.
Your project hard copy needs to explain not only what you’ve accomplished in the course of the project, but also the thought process behind it. So make sure it contains all the information required, but don’t drown it a sea of words making it hard for the examiner to FIND the info.
7. DO NOT COPY+PASTE/CTRL+C, CTRL+V!
Wikipedia (and Google too) is great. We all know that. But chances are that if YOU could find it on Wikipedia, so can your professors.
While there’s no problem using Wikipedia as a source of information, do not make it the ONLY source of information, and DEFINITELY do not copy the content directly onto your soft copy. Learn to paraphrase the information. Understand it and write it down in your own words. Your project isn’t a means for your professor to unravel the mysteries of the world. It’s a way for YOU to learn more about the topic. Whenever you copy directly from a source, (not more than a 50-word paragraph… and that too occasionally) make sure you give them the credit for the information.
8. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF PRESENTATION!
A picture’s worth a thousand words, but don’t turn your hard copy into a graphic novel.
A well formatted, well presented copy will (and rightly so) always by awarded more marks than a less appealing project of the same merit. Spend some time making some snazzy visuals in Photoshop and learning to format your document in word.
9. DO NOT FUDGE FACTS!
Neither the American government (Mission Apollo) nor the head honchos at Satyam could get away with it. So the likelihood that you will isn’t very promising.
The term ‘fudging facts’ includes but is not limited to surveys where the college dog, your imaginary friend and the President of Czechoslovakia graciously agreed to fill in your questionnaire. You get half the day off (unlike engineering students) to give you ample time to work on your projects. So make sure you’ve actually done the work you claim to have done in your project.
Note: If you’re good at cooking stuff up, organize a charity bake sale and put it to some good use.
10. DO NOT STRATIFY YOUR TEAM!
Division of labor is smart; lack of communication between divisions is stupid.
While it’s necessary for the work in the project to be divided amongst the members based on their aptitude, every team member must still be well informed of what that others are up to. Just because someone does one job well doesn’t mean he/she’s completely useless elsewhere. Be open to inputs from other members but try not to step on their toes while providing feedback.
Remember: The professor can ask any of you about any segment of the project. He knows nothing of how the work was divided. (Also for an example on the consequences of a lack of communication between departments, examine any government in the world)
Afterthought: -Probabilities of power cuts, printer failures, hard disk crashes, dogs/cows chewing up homework etc. tend to increase on the day before project submission. Make sure you have everything ready two days in advance. Professors tend to get cynical at times.
– Raghav Rao