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HOW TO WRITE A DISSERTATION

Module Description

Aims

How to write a dissertation is described in this module has a crucial role within the programme of study in that it provides the opportunity for students to research an area of particular interest within an appropriate business, public sector or third sector context. The module `how to write a dissertation’ is designed to make a major contribution to the professional and intellectual development of students. Students are prepared for the project through the Business Research module (BML201) in level 2 where they are introduced to different approaches to research. Students will also be familiar with different types of research associated with disciplines studied previously in their chosen pathway.
The project provides a vehicle for students to demonstrate the extent to which they have managed the final transition from a tutor-led approach to student centred learning. The issue is chosen, investigated and published by the student, with the support of a supervisor. It enables students to demonstrate their capacity for sustained independent thought, learning and critical reflection in a major piece of work.
The subject chosen will normally be concerned with the investigation of one or more management issues within the context of a public or private sector organisation. For students undertaking the 10 week work placement the project will usually be set in the context of the host organisation. For students remaining in the university it is expected that students will approach and identify a suitable organisation as a focus for their project. The university has a range of external contacts that may require specific projects but it is within the nature of the module, even in these cases, that students must approach the organisation and agree suitable terms of reference. Another context for the management project is to pursue research in a range of organisations or identify specific groups of people to study in relation to a management issue. Whilst the topic might well be one that is of interest, the end product must have findings that are generalisable and capable of broad application. A library-based dissertation may also be acceptable, but it must consider the management implications of the study, and cannot be purely literature based.

Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this module students will be able to: Identify, compare and evaluate appropriate research methods
Identify and justify choice of topic and the methodology
Apply chosen methodology in an intellectually rigorous manner
Evaluate the research approach taken
Analyse and evaluate results of research undertaken
Determine and critically evaluate current literature and other sources in a field of study Conduct research in an acceptable manner, taking due note of ethical considerations Present their findings orally and in writing (using Harvard conventions)
Analyse findings and draw conclusions substantiated by the analysis

Indicative Curriculum Content
Each student will undertake their own management project / personal study. This will require choosing, application and justification of recognised research methods, but the academic area of study will be unique to the individual student.
In preparation for carrying out their management project/personal study students will be supported in modifying their proposal produced in the level 2 Business Research module or devising a new proposal. Within the first semester of the module’s delivery it is expected that students will want to revisit elements of the indicative content of Business Research. Coverage will be negotiated with students according to demand.

Learning Strategy
The module will be delivered over two semesters. In the first semester 15 credits of study will consist of supporting activities facilitated by academic staff. The issues that are appropriate for exploration by students within the module will be wide ranging. As part of the process of demonstrating the breadth of opportunity available to students, a selection of academic staff will share their own research to demonstrate different types of project, methodologies, and formats for presentation. Mid-way during the first term students will be required to submit a written title and research objectives. The end of the first semester will culminate in students submitting a draft Introduction chapter for their proposal.
In the period leading up to this submission students will work in action learning sets (usually 4-6 students) and will meet with a tutor facilitator for approximately half hour fortnightly. Although these meetings will present opportunities for briefings (see indicative content) and tutor led discussions, the emphasis will be on action and sharing progress or problems. In the early sessions actions will focus on identifying access to organisations and resources. Later sessions will provide opportunities for students to present early drafts of the introductory elements of their project.
The remaining 30 credits of the module will be undertaken in Semester 2 and will be managed independently by each student with the guidance of their allocated project supervisor, who will support the student through the remainder of the project. The supervisor will act as an advisor and facilitator to student-centred learning, which allows participants to demonstrate their capacity for independent thought.

Mode of Assessment

Formative
Students will present their early work to an action learning set and receive feedback from the tutor and their peers. Mid-way during the first term students will be required to submit
a written title and research objectives, on which they will receive feedback from the module tutor. At the end of the first semester students will be required to submit a draft introduction chapter of their project, on which feedback will be provided by their individual project supervisor at the start of the second term. At this timer students will have the opportunity to interact with their supervisor and require further feedback on their progress.

Assessment Criteria
Students will be assessed on their ability to:
Select a relevant topic and to formulate a valid research aim and/or hypothesis.
Consult and critically evaluate a diversity of relevant authoritative sources.
Evaluate and select an appropriate research methodology.
Carry out an investigation, using available resources and relevant approaches.
Critically evaluate and analyse their findings and draw realistic conclusions.
Identify the implications of the data generated for application to the workplace and/or
individual development.
Produce a high quality document which is well structured, exhibits cogent and critical
arguments, conforms to a high standard of literacy (and numeracy if relevant), and apply Harvard referencing conventions.

Important note about Ethical Considerations
All projects conducted by students come under the scrutiny of the UoC Research Ethics Committee. This committee has procedures for monitoring anticipated ethical issues and also offers advice and guidelines for dealing with matters likely to cause harm or distress to Gate Keepers, respondents or participants in students’ research. In order to meet their obligations under the University’s research guidelines, students should complete a UoC Ethics Review Form before any data collection takes place. The Ethics Review Form should then be signed and returned by the student to their Project Supervisor for her/him to check, sign and keep a copy. The student should keep the original and attach it, minus the signed front page, to their final document prior to submission. If for any reason you cannot submit or scan a hardcopy of the form to your supervisor, it is also acceptable to provide an Electronic Signature by typing your name in the appropriate space. Completion of the Ethics Review Form offers both the student and the institution some protection should any ethical issues arise. It is also a useful reminder for the student to review their own ethical approach and forward planning. A copy of your Ethical Review Form, minus the signed top sheet, should be attached as an appendix in the final submission document.

Indicative Reading
Bryman, A and Bell, E. (2011) Business Research Methods. 3rd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Collis, J. and Hussey, R. (2009) Business Research. 3rd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Fisher, C., Buglear, J. and Fisher, C. (2007) Researching and writing a dissertation: a guidebook for business students. London: FT Prentice Hall. (Available as an E-Book)
Hague, P., Hague, N. and Morgan, C. (2013) Market Research in Practice: How to get greater insight from your market. 2nd edition. London: Koogan-Page. (Available as an E- Book – tbc)
Horn, R. (2009) Researching and Writing Dissertations, a complete guide for business and management students. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Saunders, M., Lewis, P and Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students. 5th Edition. London: Pitman. (Available as an E-Book)

Chapter 1: Introduction on how to write a dissertation (1,500 words).
This is one of the most important chapters as it is the first to be read and should provide a clear overview of the project. You must explain clearly the research problem or issue and make explicit the aims and objectives of the study. Say why you and others may be interested in the study and what could be the potential applications of a study like yours, for example, how your work is going to address problems with previous research on the topic, or how it will improve understanding of an area or issue. Give a brief indication of the research methods and data analysis used in completing the project and guide the reader to the subsequent chapters in the document. This chapter is normally revised and added to as you work through the project.
If your project is based in a single company or organisation it can be helpful to briefly refer to the context of its operations. This provides an opportunity to show how your project is related to the wider business or industry context and to discuss the current company initiatives and approaches that may influence your project. If relevant to your research, it might also be helpful to summarise the current state of the organisation, for example in relation to its competitive position, customer focus or core competences.
An introduction chapter would normally contain the following five sections:
1. Research problem / research justification.
This section should explain why the topic is worth researching. Personal interest, access or convenience are NOT sufficient justification on their own. It should also describe what contribution or potential outcome the research will provide to the chosen area (e.g. contribution to theory, practice or policy). This section should also BRIEFLY highlight the current events or academic / theory issues that provide background and support the importance and relevance of the research topic.
2. Organisation or location background.
This section should describe the company, organisation or location where the research took place, but rather than a historical or narrative description of the organisation, this section should outline how and why the research problem is relevant to them. It should also place the research’s expected outcomes within the context of the organisation: how they may benefit or change as a result of the research being undertaken.

3. Research aim and scope.
This section should explicitly describe the topic of research and it should also describe any issues that will / will not be considered within the research, e.g. those issues or problems for which a narrow understanding of the problem, or a specific, author-defined concept, are required. An example of this would be student-produced definitions of ‘recession’ or ‘partnership’ that explain how these concepts are defined and understood for the specific purpose of the research.
4. Research objectives.
This section should list the specific issues that the research proposal will explore. This list could be presented as research objectives, research questions, or as research hypotheses, but not all 3 of them. Depending of the research topic and scope, there could be as little as two objectives or as much as five, but it is advised that you don’t write more than four objectives.
5. Structure of the Management Project document.
This is a simple and very brief list, outlining what are sections that make up the project document. It should provide the reader with a clear idea of how many chapters are included in the document, in what order have they been assembled, and what is the purpose of each chapter.

Chapter 2: Literature Review (2,500 words)

This should be a critical evaluation of existing knowledge on your chosen topic. This means you need to identify what has already been done, how it was done and any gaps in knowledge or approaches to gathering data. If your research focuses on a particular type of business, you will need to evaluate how this type of business or industry in general, rather than just your chosen business, are affected by both the external environment and the type of internal issues that are relevant to your project objectives, demonstrating that you have considered what other business organisations and researchers may have done in similar circumstances. Examples of the issues you might need to discuss include previous research findings, potentially contrasting opinions about them, what are the current business practices and how they have changed or could be affected by both the type of problem you are researching and the type of solution that your research seeks to provide.
A Literature Review chapter would normally be divided into sections, with each section having a clear, self-explanatory sub-title, that informs the reader what is the topic
discussed on it. The title and topic of each section should closely reflect the Management Project’s research objectives, and each should explain how and why the literature reviewed is relevant to the topic under research, by answering the question: so what? It should also demonstrate connections between the ideas discussed before and after each source. In terms of writing, it should use formal academic language, be direct and clear and convey meaning with the least amount of words possible, while avoiding the use of the first person.

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