ONE of the most crucial components of undergraduate studies is the final year project.
A final year project entails students researching on a topic of their choice, engaging with the scholarly debates in the relevant disciplines, and, with a supervisor’s guidance — producing a paper that reflects a deep understanding of the topic.
All undergraduates are required to complete their projects individually as part of the requirement to graduate.
Seen as the culmination of the degree, the final year project gives students a chance to demonstrate all they have learnt throughout their studies — both skills and knowledge.
According to a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Pahang’s (UMP) Faculty of Industrial Management Dr Diyana Kamarudin, the final year project is where students develop a deeper understanding of the topic that is of interest to them. “Students get a chance to interact with companies concerning their topic for data collection — whether it be observations, interviews, surveys or many other methods. It is also where they gain confidence and be more sure about themselves. I have seen shy students bloom in the final presentation and I could not be prouder,” she said.
Associate Professor Dr Izni Syahrizal Ibrahim, the director of the Forensic Engineering Centre at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Institute of Smart Infrastructure & Innovative Construction said the final year students are exposed to various aspects of research, from design and organising to implementation, and finally, drawing their conclusions.
“Part of the training includes critical thinking, integrating the knowledge they have gained throughout their years at university,” he said, adding that there are also ethics and attitude elements involved.
While students are supervised by lecturers during the final year project, programme director at Multimedia Universiy (MMU’s faculty of engineering Asscociate Professor Dr Mardeni Roslee said it is the students who have to define the problem boundaries, investigate possible solutions, and to present the results in writing, verbally and in action.
“The final year project plays a crucial role in the teaching-learning process. It is also a way of identifying the ability of the student to do an industrial project or apply research linked to the knowledge discipline. So this exercise can be considered as motivation for the students because it allows them to choose methods, tools, and make decisions during its development,” he said.
The final year project begins with project registration, surveying the potential supervisor and topics. To complete the project, students generally undergo a process that spans two semesters.
Diyana said in the first semester, (Final Year Project 1) FYP 1, students would write up a proposal which covers Chapter 1: The introduction, Chapter 2: The literature review and Chapter 3: The methodology.
“In Chapter 1, one major component is the problem statement. This is where students look for a problem within their topic of interest. Here, they would look for past literature to understand more about that topic.
“Once a problem has been identified, they would then see whether there is a “consequence” to the problem. The consequence is when students look at the impact of their research. What would happen from the problem that they find? Is it important enough to be carried out? Who will be affected? This is also where the research questions are,” she explained.
FYP 1 also comprises the methodology where students identify the methods that they use in their research, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed method research.
Here, Diyana said students also identify the proposed analysis — as to how they will analyse data. To do this, the research question that students have identified should be aligned with the proposed analysis.
“At the end of the semester, a student would present his proposal to a panel of examiners. Then, the examiners would have a Q&A session with the student.”
Students would then meet up with their supervisor to discuss the panel’s feedback before they start on the thesis. she said.
In FYP 2, students are required to carry out data collection and write-up with Chapter 4: Analysis and Chapter 5: Discussion.
“In Analysis, students write up about the findings, and in Discussion, they compare their findings to the literature,” said Diyana.
Izni said for the UTM engineering faculty, “Presentation is carried out in front of at least three panels and evaluated based on their understanding of their research topic, critical review, findings and presentation skill.
“Each year, based on the recommendations by the supervisor(s) and panels, some of the students’ technical papers are published in the school’s proceedings, which is available online for the Engineering community.
So what constitutes a successful final year project? It is one that is innovative, interesting and impactful, said Diyana.
“An important factor is for students to have an interest in the topic, and not just do the research because they are ‘told’ to. If the method developed by the student is something new, this could be a tremendous advantage when it comes to job opportunities. Students with interesting research are also encouraged by their supervisors to enter competitions, which could give them an edge,” she said.
Izni said a final year project is deemed successful when students are able to work independently with minimal supervision and are able to provide critical discussion.
“This can be translated to mean that they can work with minimal supervision when they join the workforce,” said Izni.
For Farah Husna Abd Aziz, a final year student in Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry at International Islamic University Malaysia, planning was key from the onset when she chose cosmetics formulation as her topic.
Through her earlier observations and readings, research and development (R&D) for local cosmetic brands were all done abroad. She wanted to change the landscape by offering a homegrown nanoemulsion serum solution that would ensure better products in term of materials, safety and quality.
“Basically, I had to formulate a nanoemulsion serum using Centella Asiatica and Cucumis Sativus extract until I found the most optimised and stable formulation; and then evaluate the physical properties of the serum to comply with the expected results referred from various journals,” she explained.
It was a challenging process but what helped her through was sticking to the timeline she set for herself, which was to finish the project within four months.
“My advice to others is to start reading journals related to your project title as soon as possible and to sketch your project timeline first. Do not delay your thesis writing until the end of lab work. Finally, always consult your supervisor and update your progress and results, regardless of whether it is correct,” said Farah Husna.
Nurfatin Atikah Kamaruzaman, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) from UTM, sought to address the acute demand in the construction industry for conventional materials in concrete by coming up with eco-friendly substitutes.
“The continuous use of conventional materials in concrete is likely to deplete the resources in the future unless there is a suitable substitute. On the other hand, our country is now facing an increasing problem on the disposal of recyclable material such as rubber, glass, and plastics. I tried to combine these two problems and propose a few potential solutions to my supervisor,” she said.
Nurfatin produced 48 specimens of a solution comprising crumb rubber weighing almost 12kg each. She then conducted various tests before she came to a conclusion.
“I think the most important thing before you start final year project is to find yourself a dedicated project supervisor who can guide you from the beginning. After that, do your research, meet with the experts and seek their advice,” she shared.
His experience during his industrial attachments in the shipping industry was what prompted UMP Bachelor of Project Management (with Honours) graduate Muhammad Haziq Furqan Mazlan to come up with his project titled Examine Hygiene Motivation Factor: Performance of Dock Worker and Duration of Cargo Handling in Kuantan Port.
“According to the Hertzberg theory, motivation can be categorised into two factors which are hygiene and motivation that increases employee performance. The hygiene factor in the port industry can be translated as reward, the quality of supervision, provision of equipment, effective and efficiency of cargo transportation, ship design and the shape of cargoes,” Haziq explained.
For his research, purposive sampling was utilised, and 110 questionnaires were sent out to the dock and cargo workers in Kuantan Port with a return rate of 44 per cent. Haziq had to be innovative in the way he collected data as literacy and attention rate was an issue among his samples.
His advice: “I recommend students to meet the experts in the industry to get an overview of the real scenario before starting a project. This will ensure your study is realistic and the result is applicable in a real scenario,” he said.
Meanwhile, Uniten Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) final year student Choong Pooi Ying decided to focus on improving a production line for an SME involved in manufacturing, using various operation management tools instead of the usual prototype or experimental based technical project.
“My topic involves the application of the DMAIC (Define- Measure- Analyze- Improve- Control) method to segregate the problems into tiny bits and solve them bit by bit, coming up with a viable solution to increase productivity and lastly, to ensure that the production line does not revert to its original state,” she shared.
Choong said it is important to get to know people from the industry, to get an idea of the current trends and needs.
“Apart from that, work really hard for your final year project and strive to publish your research/ work in journal or conference papers if possible as these signifies your contributions towards the field you are working on,” she said.
University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Economics graduate Nurhanania Azlin Shah prepared her own own empirical equation for her final year project, ‘Does philanthropy help reduce income inequality in the UK?’.
“I have been actively volunteering for numerous charities throughout my undergraduate studies and I was keen to see if this sector had any linkages or relation to my field of study, Economics. I’m interested in this issue especially the steps and policies different countries implement to reduce income inequality and whether or not, it yielded positive results,” she explained.
She advised final year students to choose a topic that is relatable and also “something you are really interested in”.
“In most cases, the FYP accounts for the most credits and heaviest weightage in your final year and you will be surprised by how much time you will end up spending on completing your FYP. It will be more of a challenge when you are not interested in the topic. Choosing an interesting topic also serves as motivation as you would be keen to obtain more information on that topic.”