Surviving MAPP

We asked everyone who has been on the course…

If there’s one thing you wish you’d known on Day One…

Here’s what we got.

There are questions we wish we’d asked ourselves, like:

  • Are you goal oriented, or ‘suck it and see’… why might this matter?

If you are goal oriented, and very clear about what you want out the other side of the course, then it’s great to focus on the parts of the coursethat are going to support that goal, and leverage all the deliverables and the time and effort towards that goal. It’s also worth thinking about keeping some bandwidth to diverge from the path in light of new information…

If you are an organic developer, with a ‘suck it and see’ approach, then giving some time to values congruence might help find where to focus your efforts.

  • Do you have academic writing experience or not?
  • Are you likely to do a qualitative or quantitative study? (i.e. how comfortable are you/will you need to be about stats, or language analysis? We’d like to recommend Warren’s book on study techniques and stats.)
  • Are you a steady structured worker, or a last minute dash deliverer? (Again, we’d like to recommend Warren’s book on study techniques and stats)

  • Communication is going to really matter. Are you best at networking in person, or an email/facebook person? It’s really useful to get an understanding what other people are focused on, what they’re reading, what their projects are. What their strengths are.

  • Do you have a growth or fixed learning mindset? 
Even understanding the difference between being a full-timer and a part-timer is going to matter.


There’s a growing number who have successfully completed MAPP now, so the new incoming cohorts are welcome to tap in to the support that the previous cohorts can all offer, e.g. they might like to know that Jacquelline set up the Linkedln MAPP London group where we can share ideas and ask questions (in fact it would be great to have a bit more activity on there!). There’s a facebook group too.

Here are some great tips:

  • Get a mentor. One student said “mine was amazing, super-helpful and we did it all by email! I’d be happy to mentor someone now I’m in the UK more” … (this was Fiona Karsberg. And we think she’s going to get a Distinction).
  • Get Darren T-H to mentor your Student Reps … Another way of putting 
this is “having responsive student reps seems to be helpful :) ”.

Here’s an example: The blogs were a bit over the top. And the outcome is that you won’t have to do them. The feedback about them paid off. So the message is “voice the stuff that matters, and it changes … “. This is one of the things that’s important about a good Student Rep… And what the Student Rep says is important are: consistent engagement, empathy for hard working lecturers positions, suggested solutions, ensuring feedback is clearly representative of majority student perspectives, maintaining positive outlook – all help the feedback have desired affect.

  • It might be a good idea to find out when the teaching staff are around. Most of them are part time, so it’s useful to know what days they work at UEL and when they will be in a position to respond. Their phones don’t take voicemail, and they can’t always pick up their email, so reaching them can be a challenge .
  • Let family and friends know that for the next 1-2 years your head will be stuck in some book or paper almost constantly, and if they want to help you they can either leave you to it or preferably they can even playa part by debating the topics with you so you can get a real handle on the usefulness/application of it all.
  • Set up a seminar group or groups that meet regularly in a convenient location. Some people really enjoyed these and found them helpful. It’s helpful if they are quite structured with an agenda. And tack on an informal pub bit after…


  • Read the marking criteria for your assignment before you start the assignment and frequently check what you’ve done against it to ensure that you’re on track. (With so much fascinating material out there, it can be tempting to go off at a tangent!)
  • Choose your essay areas early and get books out from the library/make photocopies of essential chapters early, as they do go quick from the library, and nothings worse that waiting for a book to come back with the deadline looming … and then having to buy it!


I would have liked a year plan, an A4 sheet with all deadlines, lecture subjects etc all mapped out

  • Make the most of having access to EBSCO/Athens (a library for academic publications) – you really miss it when you no longer have it!
  • Find a way – there isn’t a formalised one that we know of – to ask previous cohorts if they have books you need that they’d like to sell
  • We were advised not to use it but some people found Google Scholar so easy to use.
  • www.thebookdepository.comis the cheapest webs site for books
  • Referencing comes up a lot. “The thing that had the biggest impact for 
me was bloody referencing and references. So I wish someone had said to me, no matter how interesting x is, no matter what you think the priorities are, do your referencing and references as you go along, or life will suck. I didn’t, it did, until the research, when I cracked it, and life was good @”. We had BIG agreement on this. Some people cracked ENW really early and were so glad they did. Recommending “do it as you go” – keeping a list of those manual references that you couldn’t track electronically by simply “cutting & pasting” from other papers etc into word. (this is really good advice) One student never used Endnote – thought you had to use it when at UEL (you don’t for EndNoteWeb). Loved Refworks but it costs a fair bit, maybe about £70-£80 (it’s paid in Dollars) but used it inside Word (there’s a download called Write N Cite that goes with it) and never had a problem. ‘It saved me days.’ EndNotes works in Word too. Only THEY call it ‘Cite n Write’. Spooky, huh? In the end the advice is that it’s probably worth investigating a few different packages – you can usually get trial runs. Some would definitely recommend using something. And some frankly recommend getting the newest APA manual “as its a lifesaver when I have a worry about references and setting things out!”
  • Using End Note: One student found using End note difficult doing dissertation in 09 as it kept changing how she wanted it, and in the end removed it from computer (not sure what edition that was though). Had to send in note with electronic dissertation copy saying do not open in endnote! Doing it as you go along keeps it in check so you don’t have to worry.



  • Do some prep reading. Reading a relevant journal before the lecture really helps make connections. Reading an overview early in the course helps get a sense of strengths and weaknesses – e.g. Designing Positive Psychology, Sheldon, Kashdan & Steger 2011. Take a self guided learning overview to bring you up to speed and increase confidence, especially if you’ve not been in education for a while – e.g. Invitation to Positive Psychology, Research and Tools for the Professional, Biswas-Diener, a 6 week course (download from
  • If you’ve never read academic papers before (or you haven’t done so for several years) – particularly when they quote lots of stats – get a guide or some advice on how best to read them
  • One of the biggest hurdles was becoming familiar with papers, especially if you have no first degree experience. Understanding the value of reading the key pieces first etc and being careful about reading every word from start to finish “just in case”. This is where time can evaporate … Warren Davis’ study techniques book comes in handy
  • Read lots of journal papers- the popular books are good to skim for an overview, but they contain lots of nice stories and anecdotes that just slow you down. If you read journal papers, you’ll get a better idea of how to criticise and you’ll naturally pick up the academic writing style by osmosis
  • Recommend getting ‘Critical Reading and Writing’for Postgraduates by Wallace 

    and Wray “It was a godsend and I still use it in my research work … My copy usually gets looked at most days – its a great investment” to help hone critical skills

When doing literature review/essays, suggest making critical notes (doesn’t take long) as you read – as a summary (and staple to each separate empirical paper) really helps for when you come to write it, instead of having to read it over in great detail and repeat the process. Vera has a template for critical review “cheat sheet” if you would like one? (
  • One student created an excel spreadsheet that was filled in dutifully as she read stuff… Each sheet was tabbed with the topic (say, Optimism), then columned book, author, quote, comments etc. She would cut and paste this when she used this info into the main body of her work and into the referencing section. As she used it, she coloured it, so she knew it had been used. This was so that it wasn’t accidentally used twice …. “it saved my life and SO much time!” (this coming from someone who admits “chaos is my norm” … )
  • Learn research methods and stats. As a minimum, learn what a t test, ANOVA, regression, and multiple regression are because everything else is just a variation on these. Learn what the statistics: t, F, p, r, R squared and d mean in the results sections. If you can do that, the results section of journal papers will no longer be scary
  • If you’re doing quant studies, start reading stats books early! Look up stats you read in papers right from the start.
If you don’t understand, you may have a really important question – speak up! Pos psych doesn’t have all the answers, so questions are brilliant
  • Play with all the stuff you’re learning. Be curious (except when doing final write ups says Joan). Take risks. Test stuff out on self, friends, family, dogs. Take the time to percolate, see the links and make some new ones. And put all of this above marks, unless you really, really need that distinction :)
  • Form an opinion – I didn’t realise how useful this was until the advanced module!




  • Set aside time – try and make sure you have set time each week to do some MAPP stuff even when you’re not near a deadline (it really helps!). Some of us found doing something – even a little – every day really useful. It’s not for everyone, though…
  • Don’t panic in the first term at the study-load, it all comes right in the end. Also, don’t let the often chaotic, disorganised approach of the uni get in the way of enjoying the course!
For weekend college days, unless you’re diabetic, don’t bring a packed lunch – so, when things go wrong you can go out and forage locally with fellow students. Do bring lots of change for the very random dispensing machines. Chocolate, fruit and healthy nibbles
  • Book a day off in a week following lectures Saturday and Sunday – worth using a teensy bit holiday for and avoids brain-fry
  • Take the sentiment of Tony Schwartz and colleagues to heart – short sprints not marathons are more energising and sustainable! Which sits well with what another student said: “it’s a long road, but chunk it up and you will get there.”
  • Plan ahead when you will be studying, working and playing especially to fit in/give time to family and friends. Use PP to balance your life and this will help you get through course but not at expense of other important things…

…which brings us to: Expect life events to happen along the way. Because they will.

oh and keep exercising!



  • Enjoy it – especially the discussions and debates in lectures – your friends in the pub probably won’t chat about the same type of stuff
  • Engage with it, enjoy it, take an attitude of enquiry and discovery. Learn to love papers …. ! (ok not totally hate them)
  • Feel a little bit privileged

As a long toothed L&D Manager I can tell all graduates from the MAPP programme that those who plan to enter the world of business have an ace up their sleeves that their competition doesn’t have a clue about. (Even if we don’t actually know what L&D is … )

There are lots of good ideas here, and you’ll maybe recognise the ones that instinctively sit well with you. Or that are new to you and you think will plug a skill gap.

It’s maybe interesting that not a lot of this is about the content of the course. The Positive Psychology bit. This may well be because engaging with the content is the easier part, and what surprised us was all the stuff off to one side that either got in the way of – or helped – delivering.

We hope that hearing about what helped some of us will help you.

We certainly wish we had given a lot of this more thought at beginning of our course.

Bon voyage!

And a final message from a Vet (not the Vietnam kind, the animal kind…):

I was in the second (or maybe the 3rd, was it) cohort so lots has probably changed from the good old days when positive psychology meant a gratitude letter and a random act of kindness … Simpler times, simpler times anyway, not having a psychology background, I created a wee model or mnemonic called HORSE POWER which pretty much summed up what I (should have) learnt in semester 1. When I had the theories relating to this stuff in my head, the application and the critique stuff of semesters 2 onwards became easier to ‘access’ ….a wee scan down HORSE POWER to see what theory was relevant to whatever we were talking about. Might help, might not!?



If you want to ask questions of previous cohorts, or follow up on any suggestions, feel free to email us:

Vera –

Chris –

Darren –

Karen –

References and Recommendations

Stanovich, K.E. (2007). How to think straight about psychology (8th ed., Pearson international ed.). Boston, Mass. ; London: Pearson Allyn and Bacon .

Warren’s book:

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