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MSc Dissertation Guidelines
2.Aims of the MSc Dissertation3
3.Types of Research and Dissertation4
4.Selecting your Topic7
6.Use of Literature8
7.Format of the Dissertation8
10.Useful References for your Planning Stage11
MSc Dissertation Guidelines
After completing the coursework assignments of the taught part of the MSc programme you will be required to complete a written dissertation of 18,000 words, as the last module of the MSc programme. As you need to produce a dissertation worthy of a pass before you will be awarded an MSc it is obviously a major and important part of the programme, worth three of your nine modules for a Masters Degree.
This document is not designed to be prescriptive, but it seeks to be supportive of the MSc participant. It explains the nature of the dissertation, outlines the expectations of the Business School for its successful completion, and gives you some guidance about planning and completing your research and dissertation.
Although the date for submission is not until Tuesday April 6th 2015 you must start the planning process NOW.
2. Aims of the MSc Dissertation
There are two sets of aims that should be achieved in the research process and completion of the written dissertation; one set related directly to you and the other to the University.
For you it is another opportunity to specialise in an area which is of particular interest to you. Your second aim will be to work with and apply some of the theory and knowledge that you have acquired in the taught part of the MSc.
For the University there are two broad aims. First, we need to be able to assess your ability to:
- specify research aims and objectives.
- plan a research project and write a dissertation
- gather information using an appropriate methodology
- collect, analyse and synthesise the data
- draw conclusions
- relate conclusions to theoretical issues
- present findings and make recommendations
- effectively communicate what you have done
- appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of your research process and dissertation by engaging in critical reflection.
- identify personal and managerial learning outcomes.
Second, we need the dissertation to be successfully completed in order to satisfy the University regulations for an award of an MSc degree.
3. Types of Research and Dissertation
The research in which you will engage should be one of four broad types:
- applied management research
- applied strategic research
- problem-centred action research
- pure management research focusing primarily on theoretical considerations.
A common feature of all four broad types is that they should be related to and developed from your MSc studies and should focus on a managerial/business issue or problem.
Applied Management Research.
This first type of research should address an issue or managerial or business problem which is likely to be operational in nature. For example it may be concerned with the monitoring, evaluation and review of an existing procedure. Alternatively it could be about gathering information from stakeholders prior to the formulation of policy or the implementation of plans. It is therefore likely to have practical application to managerial work and be concerned with the everyday realities of managing in an organisation experiencing change.
The danger of this approach is a tendency to fall back upon your technical or professional background in your attempt to identify, then research and analyse an issue or problem. This is to be avoided at all costs as you must maintain a focus on the managerial aspects of roles in an organisation and the issue or problem itself.
This research may also give you the opportunity to look at what other organisations have done, thus enabling you to compare and contrast experiences and practice and may require a survey method. It may lend itself to a case study approach of a limited number of organisations that have or are seeking to address similar issues or problems.
Applied Strategic Research.
An alternative type of research may be to base your research upon a strategic issue concerning an organisation. If you are a strategic manager in an organisation this would appear to be the most sensible and practical type of research to pursue. It will hopefully help you in your managerial role and provide ready access for your MSc research.
This type of research, broadly speaking, embraces three stages. First, a literature search to establish a theoretical framework, developed from the appropriate area of study on the taught part of the MSc.
Second, the practical research or investigation using appropriate methods of data collection.
Third, a comparison of the research results with the theoretical frameworks identified in the first stage.
Problem-centred Action Research
This approach is potentially very rich for reflective learning. It could address either an operational or strategic issue, inside or outside an organisation. It gives you the opportunity to act as either an internal or external consultant to an organisation. Either way, it will require you to be central, by your involvement or actions, to the problem or issue you are seeking to resolve.
It is likely to involve you in identifying an appropriate problem, seeking solutions and implementing decisions and actions to resolve the problem, within the life span of your MSc research.
You are therefore likely to be a 'participant observer' during the entire process of problem identification, research, alternative solution generation and implementation, with all the attendant problems this brings for the researcher in terms of personal subjectivity versus objectivity, and the classic organisational research problems of getting in, getting on, and getting out. Nevertheless, it has the potential to be a most rewarding experience and lends itself to a case study dissertation.
Pure Management Research focusing primarily on theoretical considerations
This approach can provide you with the opportunity to address one of the many issues that are currently pre-eminent in business/management thinking and application. For example, the research could consider issues related to ethics or equal opportunities and the sub-sets of gender, race, disability or ageism, employment legislation, empowerment, organisation development and change, fostering innovation, or many other topics. It is for you to propose a field of research which interests you and is do-able in the time scale of the MSc.
A vehicle for your research is likely to be published material. You will need to ensure you have reasonable access to library and other learning and research resources. When engaging in your literature research you will need to pay particular attention to other research that has been conducted in your chosen field of study. Your assessors will be looking for the integration of reported practice with theory which is both current and relevant to your chosen field of study.
You will be expected to systematically search the literature (books and journals) for your 'raw' information. This would include theoretical models and concepts, generally found in books and the results of research done by others, generally found in journals and official statistical publications. Your task would be to analyse and synthesise this information and to draw conclusions and, if appropriate, make recommendations.