Nicoleta CORBU – The best dissertation coordinator I’ve known

Do you want to understand why you should pick a seminar teacher rather than a famous university teacher to coordinate a scientific paper of yours? Care to know more about Nicoleta CORBU, a teacher which I recommend from the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations from the State University of Political and Administrative Studies Bucharest? Would you like to know the reasons for which I consider her to be a very good dissertation coordinator? Would you like to know the contact data of Nicoleta CORBU? Read on.

What can you read in this blog post?
1. What’s the basis for comparison?
2. What’s the academic background of Nicoleta CORBU?
3. How things happened for my February 2008 dissertation? (story line)
4. What was so great about Nicoleta CORBU coordinating my dissertation paper?
5. How would I improve on being a good dissertation coordinator?
6. How to contact Nicoleta CORBU?

1. What’s the basis for comparison?
I’ve graduated the Faculty of International Business and Economics – REI (Academy of Economic Studies Bucharest – ASE) in August 2005. For the final testing, I had to make a graduation thesis and take part to an exam.

Two years later, I graduate my Masters’ Degree – MD – in Communication and Public Relations at the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations – FCRP (State University of Political and Administrative Studies Bucharest – SNSPA) and I only had to do a dissertation paper.

For both of these I had to choose a coordinator. The coordinator at the MD was Nicoleta CORBU. So the basis for comparison are only two coordinating teachers. I can add to this my personal image on how what a coordinating teacher behavior should be.

Why did I pick only persons who were less known figures in the Universities? I was mostly interested in persons who would have more time for coordinating my paper. Thus, I didn’t choose very well known figures in the Universities (at least from my perspective). I have only picked teachers that had seminar classes. Also, these teachers coordinated a smaller number of persons in the same time, so I think they had more time for coordinating each paper. I also think that they were easier to contact and get a fast reply, and it was easier to meet face to face. Of course, these can all be in my mind only, since I only chose teachers with seminar classes and don’t know the other side of the story.

I’ve learned a lot of things from the first coordinator: I had to read some documents to have an overall look on the paper (readings on liberal economics), I had to read a lot of things on making the paper (and make reviews of what I read, and comment on this, even if I wouldn’t actually use my notes on the paper). There was little emphasis on writing the paper and even less on the presentation.

I’ve also learned a lot of things from the second coordinator. The reading part was on my own – “this is suggested reading, read what you want, you may find other sources, and you don’t have to make notes”. As you might expect, I have only read one whole book, and only excerpts from other books. Adding the excerpts would bring just two whole books, so in total I’ve only read about three books. For the first thesis I’ve bought and read more than 10 books, and read some 5 more from the library. There was a lot more reading involved. I have to say that for the second thesis I’ve also read some materials on the Internet (skimming involved there too), and the one book I’ve read from cover to cover was the whole Romanian literature on the Web 2.0 subject at that time (so the subject was not fully documented in the literature I consulted). I’ve done the writing part for the second paper much better. I received quality feed-back from the teacher, my paper was actually read, I was advised on the strategy of writing and I got hints on what’s hot and on what’s not that hot (“hot” was not the actual word used). I also got a feed-back on how to write a paper with minor details, which although a bit annoying for my taste, helped me understand how scientific papers are written. Also, I got some basic advice on how to do the presentation part (I have to admit that at the MD paper I actually asked for advice, and on the Bachelors’ Degree I don’t remember to have done this).

How did I pick my subject for the two papers? In the International Business and Economics faculty it was simple: I looked at all the subjects and I gave up subjects which involved numbers and geopolitics. From a list of almost 200 suggested subjects, I remained with 6 subjects, all involving Negotiation. The list of teachers that could coordinate my paper on this subject was small, and I picked one of them. In the Communication and Public Relations masters’ it was even more simple: I looked at all the possible fields of studies in the MD and removed those involving numbers and Geopolitics. That removed Statistics and Geopolitics subject itself and that was it. I was faced with a huge list of fields I liked, so now picking a teacher was more of a problem.

If you’re interested on the final results, you can view online and download as .doc or .pdf files both thesis at my Thesis Olivian BREDA page (they’re in Romanian, and I can’t easily translate papers of more than 80 pages in English).

2. What’s the academic background of Nicoleta CORBU?
Nicoleta CORBU I think it’s relevant for you to know more things on Nicoleta CORBU before anything. A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a good place to start. This is the CV page of Nicoleta CORBU in the comunicare.ro web site (the website of FCRP – SNSPA).

Studies:
1. Bachelors’ Degree from the Faculty of Letters – University of Bucharest, graduated in 2000;
2. MD in French Linguistics from the Faculty of Foreign Languages – University of Bucharest, graduated in 2003;
3. Studies in Communications and Public Relations from the FCRP – SNSPA, graduated in 2003;
4. PhD in Sociology at the Faculty for Sociology and Social Assistance – University of Bucharest, started in 2005.

On the CV page there are also listed some internships in the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company and Polirom Printing House. Nicoleta CORBU also organized and coordinated events at FCRP – SNSPA, including scientific communications of students and round table. She has been an editor for the FCRP’s Publishing House.

Nicoleta CORBU has also been an author of Romanian and French publications, such as: Le français au quotidien (2004), History of communication (Romanian, 2007).

Finally, there is a list of prizes and awards at Romanian National Olympics (Olympics are Romanian Regional and then National contests for pupils in Primary and Secondary School on different subjects; a National contest gathers best pupils for a specified subject in each county) for Mathematics, Informatics, Romanian literature, Romanian culture and civilization.

3. How things happened for my February 2008 dissertation? (story line)
I told you that picking a teacher at SNSPA was a bit more difficult. I’ll explain why. In December 2006 I started contacting teachers at SNSPA to coordinate my dissertation paper for the July 2007 presentation of the paper. Prior to this, I’ve skimmed through their CVs on the FCRP web site – comunicare.ro. Had I seen them in person, the task of choosing a coordinating person would have been much easier, but it was not the case in here. I was enrolled in distance learning, and I have only seen a few teachers. From those few teachers I saw, I chose two, and contacted them. It didn’t go as wanted, so I contacted a few more. Still bad results (the bad results had different causes: teachers’ unavailability, my Economics background, poor communication, etc.). I then contacted a larger group, and I got two positive replies to my requests, and I picked Nicoleta CORBU.

Why did I only contact persons via email and not via telephone or going to the Faculty? The answer is simple: it’s likely that I would have received a much better response via phone or direct contact. Unfortunately, this would have involved that each time I had a question I would have to go to the faculty, each time I finished a chapter I would have to deliver it in physical format, and I didn’t want to do such things. Contacting teachers only via email helped me filter the teachers that would never answer my emails fast. If I only got two positive replies on this – well, that’s fine.

Since I contacted a lot of teachers via email and got some negative answers at the beginning, I learned from this and made a better speech – I presented myself, I came up with a subject for the thesis (even if it was made in 30 seconds worth of time), and made a bit of a sales pitch. The two teachers that responded positively to my emails had some notes on my titles. It was either a wrong year right in the title of the thesis (Nicoleta CORBU), or it was a poorly picked subject (some other teacher). After a while, I changed the subject of the thesis with Nicoleta CORBU, so even I admitted it was a not-so-great title and subject. So making a lot of sales pitches might have been a good idea for finding which teachers reply to emails fast, but not so good on making a good, personalized, sales pitch.

There’s one more aspect I want to mention: before starting my paper I thought there were lots of materials on Public Relations (PR) on the Internet – more or less legal ones (which is false, I could only find ridiculously small numbers of illegal books on PR after hard searching). I thought the teachers would have such materials, and, after I talked a bit with the first teacher I contacted, I asked him: “Could you provide me with some electronic materials?” (I didn’t mention illegal, but it was rather implied). He didn’t reply to any of my further emails. This made me angry, and all of the emails I’ve sent from that point to teachers had the question about providing electronic materials. Yet another filter on you-would-annoy-me-a-lot-if-you-never-reply-to-this. The filter would allow me not to waste some back-and-forth emails before finding out that the teacher has too high standards to offer me electronic materials (I didn’t specifically asked for illegal ones, even if the idea was implied). Nicoleta CORBU didn’t had a problem with my request and provided me with legal materials on PR.

From the very first email she sent to me, she asked for a strategy. It would take more than a year for me to create a paper that had a strategy, and in the final paper only the last chapter (and perhaps the previous one) have a very good strategy. So I had to learn a lot on this, and the fact that she put emphasis on strategy right from the first emails tells me it was a good learning experience from my part.

The second email insisted on having a theoretical background for my thesis – in order for me to prove anything, it would be better to have a theory from which to start. It seemed that my sources – Internet articles – were less-than-perfect sources for an academic paper, so I was advised to read some hard cover books (and given five examples). I only took some specific notes from those four (I couldn’t find one at the library). I’ve also went skimming through other books and written down just some paragraphs (they added to about 5-10 hand written pages of notes).

I was then advised to actually get a result and start writing on the paper. I could add that the emails in the whole coordinating period actually put emphasis on me doing things, they offered solutions, and contained good feed-back.

May 2007 comes. Finally, I have done my theoretical part and send it at the end of May. I have received negative feed-back on it. My initial theoretical part was filled with bullets and numbers (and should have generally contained paragraph texts, graphs and tables). A lot of small paragraphs had a title on their own, and I had a lot of paragraphs with no connection one to another. I also had some problems with formatting and citing papers.

In order for me to get things done quickly, I ignored the errors on my theoretical part, and focused on writing another chapter. My biggest problem? I had almost no strategy in writing the paper. I was just writing, analyzing, seeing small things, but I lacked on the big picture (this would remain a problem until the last four days of writing the paper). I still had some formatting issues.

Now I could have ignored the theoretical part, but the not-so-small chapter I’ve written on this phase was also bad. Time was short and life was full of surprises. My professional activity went to a change (I changed the job). Therefore, I decided I’d postpone the paper from July 2007 until February 2008 (I had much more time available, and trying to force myself to finish the paper for July 2007 didn’t look like a very good idea). This was all in the end of June 2007, very close to the paper’s deadline. I think I could have done a poor paper in time, but doing the paper and failing the presentation exam was not really an option to me. Postpone was a not-so-bad alternative.

I’ve received some basic tips and tricks at this time from Nicoleta CORBU and I’ll tell you about these. But first, an intro. In the beginning the title for my paper was “Particularities of the press campaign in the Romanian media space. The campaign of Traian BASESCU for presidency in 2004”. I was going to compare Traian BASESCU’s campaign with that of Adrian NASTASE for the end of 2004 and show that Internet and other modern media like Short Message Service (SMS) helped Traian BASESCU a lot. Unfortunately, I could barely find materials in the campaign of 2004. But my luck changed. In May 2007 there was a national referendum in Romania concerning suspending from Presidency of Traian BASESCU (you can see the Wikipedia page in English on the national referendum subject). The referendum used even more modern media, and materials were easy to find. So the new subject for the paper was “The importance of the Internet in Traian BASESCU’s campaign for the referendum of May 19th 2007”. Both of the initial title were faulty, they contained general terms like “Particularities” and “Importance of”, and such things made the thesis very broad, instead of being specific.

Now for the tips and tricks received from Nicoleta CORBU. The teacher advised me to pick a less broad theme. I came up with “Web 2.0 from the non-youths’ perspective. The campaign of Traian BASESCU for the referendum of May 2007”. Main thesis: does a campaign focused only for youths drive away the non-youths? Do they feel rejected from you? Another tip: I should follow that theme throughout the paper and stick to it. My basic hypothesis for the paper should not be a truism (everyone knew that new media helped Traian BASESCU’s campaign both in 2004 and in 2007; I needed something a bit different). Finally, I shouldn’t have a lot of suppositions and use them all, it’s better to have a very small number of theoretical aspects, and elaborate on them in the paper.

December 2007 comes and I decide I’ve waited long enough. I now had the brand new subject, I came up with some ideas. I meet with the teacher at SNSPA (I’ve only talked with her in person two times in more than a year) and I receive some suggestions. She gives me some electronic materials to read, and suggests me some literature.

I then redo the theoretical part, and use about 50% of the texts I’ve written in May. I’ve added to this a lot more information. I would then work on the theoretical part whenever necessary (I read some electronic texts while doing the case study, and added to the theory). The feed-back was overall positive (the first positive feed-back).

Here comes February 2008 and I’ve done yet another chapter (so I now had two chapters out of three). About 20-30% of this chapter was taken from the paper I’ve done in June 2007. There was a lot of text unused, and a relatively not-so-big percentage actually used. I received a neutral feed-back, with emphasis on citing papers. Also, I was advised to move quickly (I had a maximum four, perhaps five, days and yet another chapter to be done, and read by the teacher).

In ASE I learned the (bad, I might add) habit of doing things in the last moment. I’ve done my thesis for REI in four weeks, while working full-time (but the reading and taking notes have taken me much more time). I’ve done 70% of the dissertation for SNSPA in the last three weeks, and 40-50% of the whole paper in the last four days. The habit of doing things in the last moment is bad. It’s also very engaging (thinking that I have to wait for a lot of time to be able to present my paper, it’s very motivating to write).

Four days passed quickly, and when writing the third chapter I thought a fourth chapter was necessary, and I’ve written two chapters in four days. They had a good overall strategy and I was finally feeling I had something to write. The teacher congratulated me for the paper, she said it was very well documented and written. After the presentation she said she would have given me a 10.

Now it’s time to tell you a joke:
“To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”
Adapted to my story, the joke goes like this:
“To the teacher, the paper was very good.
To the commission, the presentation I made was less-than-good.
To me, getting a 9.50 grade out of 10, when 7 grade out of 10 was good enough, meant that I worked a lot harder and unnecessarily more than I planned.”
It was good for the CV, though.

I printed the confirmation email from the teacher, printed the paper in three copies, I put some covers on it, went to the Faculty and gave the paper. When printing the email I printed with full email headers (see the article on Interpreting Full Email Headers on ualberta.ca web site). The secretary gave me a surprised look when I showed her the email with full headers (full headers are a better way of proving the email is not forged, but they look very complicated).

The teacher suggested I don’t do a communicating presentation (with questions, messages going back and forth). I should much rather do a classic presentation, with me, the speaker, just sending a message.

The presentation went well and didn’t went well. I had some negative feed-back on my presentation skills. You can see me speaking on the YouTube to have an idea on how do I speak – in YouTube – Olivian BREDA’s videos. I got a lower mark on the presentation skills, a good mark on the writing skills, and an average of 9.5 out of 10. Pretty good, after all.

4. What was so great about Nicoleta CORBU coordinating my dissertation paper?
1. She replied to my emails. Fast. This might look like silly reasoning – “Why wouldn’t she answer your emails?”, but from my experience with contacting teachers at FCRP, the reply speed is not so great (if they ever reply). This is a huge advantage for students in distance learning – you get a reply via email and this means you don’t have to see the person by yourself;
2. I received good quality electronic materials on the subject – and they were not illegal (I think this is a good aspect, I wouldn’t know);
3. Great emphasis was put on motivation: “you should start writing now, you should keep the dead-lines”;
4. The teacher understood the value of time: she said I should work on the paper way ahead of the last period of time, not procrastinate;
5. The feed-back offered solutions and practical steps – “you can improve on this by doing that”;
6. She actually read my thesis. Very important thing. Very rare thing;
7. I was given tips and tricks throughout the writing of the paper and for the presentation part.

5. How would I improve on being a good dissertation coordinator?
1. Going off the beaten track. Regarding citing papers, I was advised to see a book of Septimiu CHELCEA (which I had in electronic format; err, forget that, this should be an illegal act; sorry, I bought the book and scanned it; right; this is it). The book presented some ways of referencing, variations of the widely used Author-date referencing citation system. It is also known as Harvard referencing or parenthetical referencing. You can see the Wikipedia page on referencing. For my MD paper I used the less popular documentary-note, also known as Oxford, system. You can see the Deakin.edu.au page on the subject – Referencing using the documentary-note (Oxford) system for more information.
I wanted to use this system for my dissertation, and I was told I’m simply referencing badly. That was the whole argument – I was not citing right. Now I know it’s a less-than-popular citing method, but it’s the one I liked better and it’s still a citing system that can be used;
2. Courage for innovating (this is different than point 1.). When writing a paper on the Internet subject, you should reference to some web pages. These pages generally have either large Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), or they are intricate. I give two examples from my paper. This is a huge URL:
http://www.iqads.ro/stire_6933/felix_tataru__gmp___campania_pentru_referendum_l_a_costat_pe_basescu_550_000_de_euro.html
and this is a not-so-huge, but a intricate and hard to type URL, using numbers and special characters:
http://www.cotidianul.ro/index.php?id=10504&art=28123&cHash=c6847003be
The second URL now actually redirects to a more friendly URL concerning Search engine optimization (SEO), yet it’s longer and thus harder to type. URLs are mainly used in electronic format, and linking is possible. When being forced to type an URL from a printed material, things get trickier.
What was my idea for improving this? For my license paper I came up with this solution: instead of just using a long URL, I can also put an URL created by a web site for small URLs. Tinyurl.com is such an example. This is how the two URLs above look when done with tinyurl.com:
http://tinyurl.com/4ays9s and http://tinyurl.com/3umbwe. You don’t even have to type http://, it works without it. Quite easier to type, isn’t it?
So I told Nicoleta CORBU about my idea. She said she does not recommend doing this. The argument was: “this is not common practice”. OK, it isn’t common practice, but I still want to use it. It’s still a valid idea. I don’t really care what’s the common practice, I care about the good practice;
3. Create a hand-out for the presentation part. There is a written book by Septimiu CHELCEA on how should a student write a dissertation paper (regarding formatting, citing, using sources, etc.). Unfortunately, I could not find any materials on how to do the presentation part, there are no tips and tricks on this. Perhaps Nicoleta CORBU should write such a material and provide it to the students she coordinates. It’s important to know that a high percentage of the grade you take for the final examination is provided for the very presentation one student does. A text (small, bigger, huge, it does not matter) can be provided to each student coordinated;

6. How to contact Nicoleta CORBU?
In case you want Nicoleta CORBU to coordinate your dissertation paper, you can get in touch with her. You can get contact data from the CV page of Nicoleta CORBU on the comunicare.ro website.

You can also phone at FCRP secretarial office and find the schedule to meet face-to-face or get a phone number. See the Contact page on comunicare.ro web page.

Would you care to comment on this blog post? I’m looking forward to hearing your opinion on these. Thanks for reading.

I am a Freelancer. My expertise is in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) / UX (user experience) / WordPress. Co-founder of lumeaseoppc.ro (series of events on SEO & PPC) and cetd.ro (Book on branding for MDs). On a personal level, I like self-development - events, sports, healthy living, volunteering, reading. I live in London, and lots of things live in me.

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