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UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


Transforming my M.Sc. Dissertation into a Journal Article

By Saqar ' M Al Zaabi, on 2 October 2020

Written by Shamrita Zaman, UCL IRDR M.Sc. student 2018-19

A famous Latin phrase says ‘audentes Fortuna iuvat’. Its English translation is ‘Fortune favours the bold’. People who bravely go after what they want are more successful than those who try to live in the comfort zone. Believing this proverb, I have consistently taken steps towards fulfilling my dreams. A dream of mine was to complete post-graduation from a top-ranked university in the world and make myself presented to the research community. In 2019, I successfully graduated from the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR) wining the Commonwealth Scholarship, funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. One of my biggest achievements was my M.Sc. independent project that was later published in the prestigious peer-reviewed International Journal for Disaster Risk Reduction (IJDRR) (IF: 2.896).  Progress, however, was not so easy, and it would have been impossible to fulfil the cherished dream without a dedicated focus on the goal. In this blog, I will discuss how I converted my M.Sc. dissertation into a peer-reviewed article.

Author’s first day at UCL to attend the induction event

My journey with UCL-IRDR began on 26 September 2018 by attending the induction event. Classes, presentations, essay submissions, and attending monthly seminars – all in all, the UCL Journey was going great. From November, Professor Peter Sammonds, IRDR Director, started inviting us to attend the drop-in sessions to choose independent masters project. He was the module tutor for IRDR0012: Risk, Disaster and Resilience M.Sc. Independent Project. He provided a list of more than 50 project topics with potential supervisors. As I was convinced to make myself introduced to the research arena of UCL, I regularly attended his drop-ins and discussed explicitly my ideas with him. I found some thought-provoking topics on disaster and conflict based on the 2017 Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugee crisis was a contemporary topic and yet the most talked about and criticized disaster in the world. Sample descriptions of those topics gave a feeling like interested candidates will acquire a real-world experience on how conflict can make a community more vulnerable to disasters by trapping them in a specific risky area. I then searched the IRDR website and found two ongoing British Academy funded projects on the 2017 Rohingya crisis where Prof Peter was the principal investigator and Dr Bayes Ahmed, Lecturer at the IRDR, was the project manager. It seemed like my chosen M.Sc. topic might partially fulfil the project’s purpose. It is worth mentioning that by joining Professor Ilan Kelman’s module titled IRDR0006: Conflict, Humanitarianism and Disaster Risk Reduction gave me the basics on disaster risk reduction approach for conflict and humanitarian perspectives. Hence, I communicated with Prof Peter and expressed my ultimate impulse to work under his supervision on how Rohingyas are adapting with the shifting paradigm of risks due to natural hazards in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh.

After a series of discussions, we decided to go for a structured questionnaire surveying. After two months of non-stop working, the questionnaire was finalized in the last week of March 2019. After pilot testing in the camps, the final survey was conducted in May 2019. Dr Taifur Rahman from HMBD Foundation, a local NGO, assisted and monitored the fieldwork. I prepared the full database and used SPSS software to run statistical analysis (the research methods were taught at IRDR). In the meanwhile, I presented the work in the third annual conference of UK Alliance for Disaster Research (UKADR) at Northumbria University, Newcastle in July 2019. Finally, with some interesting results, I produced the project report and got a distinction in my independent MSc project.

(a) Author presented her poster at the IRDR poster presentation session. (b) Author presented abstract in UKADR conference at Northumbria University.

To satisfy the conditions of the Commonwealth Scholarship, I had to return to my home country after the successful completion of my M.Sc. degree. However, it was easy for me to stop there but I did not. I wholeheartedly believed that the message of this work should reach the scientific community, and publication of this work in a peer-reviewed journal is the best way to do so. I expressed my thoughts to Prof Peter and Dr Bayes, and they were delighted, knowing my interest. Consequently, I was advised to select a best-suited journal for this work and was told to rearrange write-ups as per the journal format. Though my UCL studentship got expired, Prof Peter and Dr Bayes did not stop guiding me, rather their motivational guiding principles are still encouraging me for conducting better works. The article was submitted in IJDRR in December 2019. We were requested for revisions from reviewers in February 2020. At this stage, the work volume increased even more. One of the major revisions was to address refugees’ perceptions applying qualitative research methods. To address this comment, two focus group discussions were conducted in the refugee camp in February 2020, with the presence of Dr Bayes. Rigorous attempts were made to respond to each point raised by the reviewers. Finally, the paper got accepted and published on 22 May 2020.

From M.Sc. project proposal writing to journal publication, the journey was long but enjoyable and memorable. In my case, it took almost one and half year to publish the work which requires an extreme level of patience, planning, self-commitment and continuous guidance. Finally, my realization is that success is only possible if you have the precise mindset to stick behind your goal despite having so many failures and frustrations.

Thanks to UCL IRDR for making this dream comes true!

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