School of Management
Guidelines for satisfactory completion of the
dissertation proposal and final dissertation
Masters Programmes Distance Learning
PART A: PLANNING THE DISSERTATION
Most frequently asked questions 3
About the proposal submission 3
About the dissertation submission 5
The nature of research 6
Selecting a topic 7
Assessing the feasibility of a dissertation 7
Formulating the research question 8
Specific research objectives 9
Illustrative dissertation topics 9
Dissertation preparation 9
Dissertation proposal 10
Background and overview 10
Statement of issue and research objectives 10
Structure of dissertation 11
Time schedule 11
Ethics Approval 11
Dissertation support 12
PART B: CONDUCTING THE RESEARCH
Research difficulties 14
Dissertation aims 14
Organising information 14
Preparing draft chapters 14
The research process 15
The literature survey 15
Choice of research methods 17
Conducting interviews 21
Designing questionnaires 22
Question structure 23
Questionnaire design 23
Purpose of questionnaire 23
Questionnaire testing 23
Client relationships 24
PART C: FORMAT, STRUCTURE AND SUBMISSION
OF THE DISSERTATION
Contents list 29
Executive Summary 30
Literature Review 31
Data Analysis 32
PART D: ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
Clarity of the dissertation’s purpose and objectives 38
Use and critical understanding of theory 38
Relevance and justification of methodology 38
Use of critical understanding of analysis 38
Ability/demonstration of understanding study’s implications and limitations39
Academic content 39
Conclusions and recommendations 39
The lessons learned 39
Quality of presentation 40
Grading Criteria 42
(Sample Layout of Title Page of Dissertation) 43
(Typical Layout of a Table of Contents) 44
AGC FORM (PROPOSAL) 45
PART A: PLANNING THE DISSERTATION
Congratulations on progressing through the core and elective modules of your
programme. So far in your studies you will have accumulated the skills,
knowledge and experience to demonstrate an ability to identify and critically
analyse complex theoretical debates within your subject area. You should be
able to search for and retrieve texts and materials through the University of
Leicester digital library. In addition you should be able to write and reference
your work to the standards expected of a postgraduate University student. As
you progress further on your programme of study you will find your future
success is entwined with your ability to employ and demonstrate these core
skills of scholarship.
The final stage of the Masters programme is concerned exclusively with the
dissertation. A dissertation is an independent piece of academic writing that
researches in detail a particular business / management subject.
The dissertation consists of two stages; each stage culminates in the
production of an assessed document.
The stages and the documents are outlined below:
Stage 1: The Research Proposal (including Ethics Approval). The proposal
outlines the research design for your planned study and explains the
relationship to the existing literature. In addition you will be required to
reflect on the ethical issues pertinent to your proposed piece of research.
Stage 2: The Dissertation. A written document of 15000 words which provides
an account of the original research into the agreed management issue. The
dissertation will be developed through appropriate research questions, it will
employ relevant academic literature for a study undertaken with
Progress from stage one to stage two is dependent upon University approval of
the research proposal. Approval is granted to students who receive a passing
grade on the proposal and ethics approval to conduct the research.
The dissertation thus provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate the
knowledge, skills and competences that you acquired during the taught
elements of the course. It can provide the opportunity to identify and analyse
management/business problems and identify the limitations and merit of
Dissertation Guidelines 1
possible solutions. Whilst you will build from the earlier modules, it is useful
to remember that the dissertation differs considerably from the core and
elective modules in the programme. You are not provided with an assignment
question. The academic material to respond to that question is not contained
within a module study book and you will find that your dissertation and
research approach will probably differ to that of other students in your cohort.
The dissertation requires you to produce an individual and original piece of
research. You are in effect producing your own assignment question, deciding
how best to respond to that question, constructing a method to undertake the
required research, operationalising the method and explaining what your
journey involved and what conclusions you have drawn. This is your
opportunity to be an independent scholar.
We know from experience that many students initially find this experience
unsettling. Several students refer to the arrival at the dissertation stage in a
similar way to a car journey. To date they have been given a map and
provisions, provided with directions and regular check points to monitor
progress. At the dissertation stage you are asked to leave the comfort of the
car, the road disappears and the map becomes unclear. It is therefore quite
normal for students to reach the dissertation and ask ‘what now’?
The dissertation is unlike anything that you have experienced before on the
programme and it is essential that you make full use of the support that is
offered to you. In addition to these Dissertation Guidelines you will find a
Blackboard site dedicated to the Dissertation. Within that site is a host of
resources to support you with the dissertation and which build upon these
guidelines. Below is an outline of that support:A Research Methods study book. A textbook to accompany the study book. Audio/visual guides on the Dissertation and research. Access to a team of specialist Tutors who are available to support
you with your proposal and dissertation.Information on the regular dissertation.
Students are strongly encouraged to read the materials provided and then to
discuss their research with the Tutors.
The dissertation for many students involves considerable time and an
emotional investment. Please be prepared to ‘live with the research project’ for
a sustained period. This has implications for those subject to the stress of the
study. Whilst it is an independent piece of research, those that struggle with
the consequences of your study will often include your family, friends and
work colleagues. Many students reflect on the ‘personal sacrifices’ that are
required to produce a piece of research that they feel proud of. Tellingly, few
students that produce a good piece of work regret the temporary sacrifices that
The dissertation provides an opportunity for you to:develop an ability to conceive a research investigation within an
organisation or relating to a problem faced by an organisation.Integrate and inter-relate concepts, techniques and skills acquired
in the course of the programme.Acquire and analyse research of relevant theoretical perspectives
which have a direct bearing on the project topic.Develop and apply analytical and communication skills. Demonstrate professional and academic competences suitable for the
Most frequently asked questions
About the proposal submission
What format should the proposal take? A formatted proposal form (a proforma) is provided
for students. The form is available to download from
Blackboard and a copy can be found in the
appendices of these guidelines. The proforma
contains guidance on what information the University
expect to see within the proposal. The proforma
includes the proposal and the Ethics Approval Form.
Both the proposal and the Ethics Approval Form need
to be completed.
What subjects are allowed? Broadly any area related to one or more of the
subjects covered in the course. Students are
encouraged to discuss their topics with the Tutor at
the beginning of the process.The Tutor will be able to
advise on whether your topic is appropriate for the
programme (and specialism) that you are studying.
The academic decision on whether to grant approval
for the topic and research design is undertaken when
the proposal is submitted.
Does my research need to be an original piece of
Yes. It must be your own work and must not have
been submitted previously to anybody. You will be
required to complete a declaration form to confirm
this. See your course handbook for further details on
Must my research include new empirical research? No, not necessarily. You may wish to adopt a different
approach e.g. a piece of theoretical work or a
reassessment of previous research.
Whose role is it to identify a project? That responsibility falls on the student.
I really do not know where to start – please help! A good starting point is to log on to Blackboard and
begin reading the Study Book provided. On
Blackboard you will find further information on how
to use the literature to formulate focused research
questions and devise an appropriate methodology.
Once you have familiarised yourself with this
information and read the key literature around the
topic you are interested in, you can begin discussing
your ideas with one of the tutors. Information on how
to access Blackboard can be found in your
Why won’t the Tutor simply tell me what to do? You are studying for a Masters programme and the
ability to undertake independent research is a basic
expectation at this level. The Tutor’s role is to respond
to your proposed research questions and
methodology. They will provide advice but the project
ultimately is your responsibility.
At what point will I receive approval for my
Once you have submitted your proposal and Ethics
Form your project will be evaluated. Providing the
Ethics Form is approved and the proposal receives a
passing grade you may begin research for your
project. Under NO circumstances should a student
undertake research without a passing grade on the
proposal and an approved Ethics Form.
How do I submit my proposal? One copy of the proforma is required. We encourage
students to submit their proposal online via
Blackboard. Information on the deadlines for the
submission and instruction on how to submit online
is provided on Blackboard. The markers prioritise
proposal marking to return feedback to students as
quickly as possible (usually within 6-8 weeks).
In the event that you are unable to submit an
electronic copy a hard copy may be accepted by the
University but please do allow at least 12 weeks for
the return of feedback. The 12 weeks are calculated
from the time the proposal is received by the School
How long does ethics approval take? We would expect most students to seek automatic
ethics approval. In the event that ethics approval is
not granted automatically students should allow time
for the proposal and Ethics Approval Form to be
reviewed by the markers and the Ethics Officer within
the School. In the event that the Ethics Officer feels
unable to approve the research it will be referred to a
Faculty committee for consideration. This process can
be time consuming and you should incorporate the
inevitable delay within your plan.
What does ethics approval cover? The ethics approval is granted for the research being
proposed. Research is an iterative process and change
does, and most probably will, occur between the
granting of ethics approval and the final submission.
Where the change is significant you are required to
re-apply for ethics approval by completing the Ethics
Approval Form. In the event that ethics approval is not
automatic you will need to submit the Ethics Approval
Form for review by the respective committees.
Examples of what we mean by significant change
include:A change of topic. If you approval is for a
study focused on leadership and your study
changes to a study focused of internal
marketing you should re-apply.A change in method. If your proposal states
that you will be undertaking a questionnaire
but you decide to employ observation please
re-apply for ethics approval.A change in the sampling. This might be a
major change in the sample definition for
example.The introduction of a unexpected ‘sensitive
issue’.The introduction of an approach which would
require you to tick ‘yes’ on the Ethics Approval
Form when formerly you ticked ‘no’.
If you are in any doubt raise the issue with the Tutors
and explain the nature of the change.
About the dissertation submission
How long should my dissertation be?15,000 words.
Does it matter if I write too much or too little? Yes. As a guide you should aim to be within 10% of
the 15,000 word guideline otherwise it could affect
your grade. The word count includes everything
except the references and the appendices. The
decision to insert material within the appendices
should be made judiciously. Writing concisely and to
a stipulated word limit is a key skill that is
incorporated into the assessment criteria.
How many copies of the dissertation must I submit? One bound hard copy of the dissertation AND one
soft copy of the dissertation is required. The soft
copy MUST be submitted online via Blackboard.
Failure to submit a soft copy or failure to submit an
IDENTICAL copy to the hard copy submission will
result in the mark being withheld.
Do I need to attach a copy of the original proposal
and Ethics Approval Form within the Dissertation?
Yes. These should be inserted within the appendices.
Failure to include the proposal and Ethics Approval
Form within the appendices may mean the
dissertation is returned to you unmarked.
Are there any requirements on the format of my
Yes. Details of the format are provided in this
Can I submit my dissertation by e-mail or fax? No, under no circumstances is this acceptable. Final
pieces of work must be submitted in hard copy and
via Blackboard. Failure to follow the submission
system will cause delay in the processing of your
work and the work of others.
How will it be graded? Exactly the same as your assignments.
Will I get my dissertation back? No, if you want your own copy make sure you keep a
spare copy of your work.
What happens if I fail the dissertation? Dependent upon the circumstances you may be
given an opportunity to resubmit an improved
version of the dissertation.
Do I need to reference the work of others in my
Yes! You always need to reference work accurately
and consistently. Failure to reference the work of
others may result in an accusation of plagiarism. The
issue of plagiarism can be viewed in your Course
The nature of research
Research has been described as ‘finding out something you don’t know
already’. However, such a very wide definition could include such activities as
simply finding out the time of the next train to London – clearly not research
that would be relevant to a Masters programme. The data has to be analysed
to be meaningful.
Alternatively the collection of data to help determine, for example, what are
the age, sex and occupations distribution of MBA students in Britain is useful
information gathering but perhaps little more than that. Such facts gathering
activities are often essential prior to establishing control mechanisms, policy
formulation or decision making but for our purposes they are not research!
Masters level research goes beyond fact gathering, it requires analysis. It looks
for explanations, relationships, comparisons, predictions, generalisations and
theories. Such concepts are often typified by ‘why’ questions. Why are there so
few women MBA students? Why is the GNP in Britain increasing more slowly
than in other countries? These questions require effective information
6 Dissertation Guidelines
gathering but also require the development of understanding – usually by
comparisons, by relating to other factors and by creating and testing
hypotheses. These are the characteristics of good research.
Further guidance on good research are provided in the study book.
Selecting a topic
In selecting an appropriate topic you should consider identifying an area of
work that is:specifically interesting to you relevant to the development of your management skills has value to your organisation (if appropriate).
It is anticipated that in the majority of cases the subject chosen for
investigation will refer to a specific problem or opportunity that has some
strategic significance. At this early stage it may be appropriate only to identify
a general management issue for investigation rather than provide a specific
project title. Whilst a dissertation title is extremely important in helping any
reader quickly understand the subject of the investigation a more precisely
worded title may well develop as your research progresses.
It is useful to appreciate at an early stage that the research process is
iterative. You will visit and revisit your title, research questions and method
many times throughout the period of research. In some cases in the process of
re-visiting you may need to change your study. Change of varying degrees can
occur for a range of different reasons and being aware of where the change
from the original proposal occurs, why it occurred and the nature of the change
is part of the reflections process. Changes in the research questions however
should be considered very carefully. It is normal for the research questions to
be refined as the project develops but radical change would indicate a
significant problem with the original conceptualization of the research project.
In assessing the dissertation the markers will be looking for any divergence
from the proposal.
Assessing the feasibility of a dissertation
To help establish the feasibility of any research topic you should consider:
(a) The availability of academic literature
Your study will need to be grounded in body of academic
literature.It is essential that you establish whether there is an
available literature for your proposed study.
(b) The availability of information
You will need to determine whether the appropriate information
exists, and whether you will have access to it. In addition, it will
be necessary to consider whether it can be collected given your
time and budget constraints.
(c) Available time
It is essential that you plan and manage your time effectively
throughout the project process. If problems look to be too large
and unmanageable in the available time consider breaking them
down into smaller parts or limit the scope of your research in some
(d) Personal skills and interests
The chosen topic should be within your capabilities and should
reflect your specific interest and possibly development
opportunities. Please remember to choose a topic that you are
happy to sustain an interest in over the whole period of the project
– and possibly beyond.
(e) Need for the project
This applies specifically to those who are being sponsored by an
There should be a recognised need for the project both by you and
by your organisation. Whilst the results of the research may not
always be immediately implemented, it is important that you and
your organisation feel the study is well worth while.
8 Dissertation Guidelines
(f) The risk involved
We must be sure that you will be able to finish the project in order
to gain the final award of Master of Business Administration, MSc
Finance or MSc Marketing. Consequently, you may need to assess
the risk that the work may not be finished in the expected time
scale or for some other reason prove impossible to complete.
Formulating the research question
Once you have established your general area of interest, and have conducted
some preliminary exploration of the subject field a specific research question
needs to be formulated.
Specific research objectives
Your research objectives should arise from the overall research question.
These specific objectives should address the specific areas of the research
question that you will explore. These objectives stem from understanding the
literature in the area, and if relevant, the access you have made to a host
organisation. During the earlier stages of the dissertation process these
objectives may change.
Illustrative dissertation topics
Strategic Blueprint for Distributor Management. A Leadership Perspective.
A Study on New Product Development Practices and Performances.
Knowledge Management and Partnering: Ways to Enhance Railway
Construction Project Management Efficiency.
Perhaps the single most important aspect to assist you in preparing for the
dissertation is the need to plan in advance. There are three particular areas
needing consideration:selecting a suitable topic (see above) selecting an appropriate analytical framework (see below) the management of resources – particularly time.
The effective use of a project plan will help you to:clarify your aims and objectives define the necessary activities and the order in which they should
take placeindicate critical points in the research in which progress can be
reviewed and plans be assessedproduce a time plan effectively use key resources define your priorities increase the likelihood of success.
This is the first formal stage of the process.It involves the preparation of a
detailed proposal which will account for 15% of the total project mark. Your
project proposal should be submitted to the School of Management as soon as
possible. You should submit your proposal and wait for feedback before you
undertake any fieldwork. Use the time you are waiting for feedback to develop
your literature review.
Your proposal needs to explain in detail the issue(s) to be addressed, the
reasons for choosing this issue and the broad methodological framework which
will be adopted. In addition, it needs to specify in detail the data/information
which will be used, where or how this will be obtained, and the analytical
techniques which will be appropriate given the issue and the information
A detailed timetable is also required as is evidence of a thorough literature
search and evaluation of the key articles relevant to your chosen topic.
To help you successfully complete the project proposal a proforma is provided
on Blackboard. A copy of the proforma is also provided in the appendices.
The broad areas of the proposal are outlined below:
Background and overview
An introduction to the general area to be studied. Demonstration of relevant
theories and concepts based upon literature review. Evidence to show why the
project as research is of importance.
Statement of issue and research objectives
The detailed question which will be addressed. Sponsoring organisation,
target audience or mentor as appropriate. An indication of why this detailed
question is of importance. A summary of what researching and reflecting upon
this question is designed to achieve.
Details of the approach to be adopted. Related management concepts. Details
of any information necessary to undertake the project and how this will be
collected. For example: sources of secondary data, sources of primary data,
outline of questionnaire, sampling method, sampling frame to be used,
structure of interviews, interviewees, instrument selection for qualitative
data, etc. In addition, outline any assumptions being made, constraints which
you may face and problems which could arise.
Indicate clearly the technique or techniques to be used to analyse your
information and how they will be used in the context of your particular project.
If using quantitative analysis explain in detail how the particular techniques
will be used in conjunction with your eventual data set.
Structure of dissertation
Give preliminary ideas on the major chapters and sections to be included in
the final dissertation together with an outline of the material which is likely to
be contained in each.
Indicate start dates and completion dates for all major activities, using a
Gantt Chart annexed to the proposal. Consider how you will manage the work
of the project – what barriers there may be and how you will overcome them,
what resources (time, people, equipment, etc) you will bring to bear.
The dissertation is the most substantive piece of work that you will undertake
during your studies at the School of Management. It will allow you to apply
and evaluate the theories and concepts covered during your course and
provide an opportunity to demonstrate project management skills.
All students- whether undergraduate or postgraduate- who undertake
non-clinical projects concerning human subjects, using human material or
data must obtain ethical approval for the conduct of their projects from 1st
October 2007. The School of Management would expect the majority of their
postgraduate students to require ethics approval for the dissertation.
Students require ethics approval before they undertake field work. The School
of Management has combined the ethics approval process with the project
proposal. A copy of the Ethics Approval Form can be found in the Appendices
and a soft copy of the form can be downloaded from Blackboard.
All students need to complete the Ethics Approval Form and answer the
‘Initial ethical review question’. Students undertaking field work which
involves for instance interviewing of whatever form will need to complete Part
A of the form.
If the answer is no to all the questions in Part A, ethical approval is automatic
and providing you receive a passing grade for your proposal you may continue
with your study.
If your answer is yes to ANY of the questions on Part A, you need to fill in part
B of the form. You are encouraged to discuss why you have answered yes with
a Tutor on Blackboard prior to submission of the proposal. Upon submission,
your proforma will be marked and then reviewed by the Chair of the
Departmental Research Ethics Committee, and/or a meeting of the full
committee. You will be informed of the decision, together with any comments,
as soon as possible. If your proposal raises more complex issues, we will
require a fuller report and a meeting of the full committee. If this committee
finds it difficult to make a decision, we may pass this on to the University
Research Ethics Committee. However, in the vast majority of cases, we hope to
resolve any issues though consultation at School level.
Ethics approval is granted for the project being proposed by the student. In the
event that the actual study significantly diverges from the approved proposal
the student will need to complete a new Ethics Approval Form. In the event
that the student answers ‘yes’ to any question on Part A, the student will need
to formally submit a new Ethics Approval Form to the University. Prior to
doing this please discuss the matter with a Tutor on Blackboard. The Tutor
will also provide guidance on the procedure.
There is a comprehensive support system in place for the proposal and
dissertation encompassing a range of different forms of support. A team of
Dissertation Tutors at ULSM are able to advise on the scope of projects and
their feasibility within the requirements of the programme. Students are
encouraged to use at least one of these forms of support:Tutors may be contacted via the Dissertation Support Forums on
Blackboard. The forums are designed for regular contact between
the student and the Tutor and provide an ideal opportunity to
discuss your research questions and research design.Regular one-to-one workshops are held i the UK to support the
dissertation. The workshops can be attended in person or Tutors will
contact the student via telephone. Appointments are required and
these can be requested via Blackboard.In addition to the support forums and UK workshops, members of
faculty visit a large number of resource centres around the world
and provide lectures and workshops on dissertation.Students are reminded that further extensive support is available at
the annual Summer School in Leicester.
Please note Tutors are not permitted to read drafts of the proposal or
PART B: CONDUCTING THE RESEARCH
Undertaking a research project can be a very rewarding experience.
Inevitably, however, there are also certain pitfalls. Below is an indication of
some of these, and how best to avoid them.
It surprises everyone who starts a research project just how long it can take to
achieve such simple things as making appointments, designing and testing
questionnaires, etc. Sometimes it is necessary to re-visit early respondents for
further clarification or extend the survey sample beyond the original
expectations – all of these activities can and do take a considerable amount of
time to consider, evaluate, organise and complete.
The specified aims of a project will establish the boundaries that define the
scope of the research. Consequently all data collection processes and the
analysis of the data should be specific to the aims of the research.
As the title and purpose of a new project becomes established, researchers
inevitably become highly sensitive to their information requirements.
Background information is collected at an ever increasing rate and can
accumulate into an overpowering burden. Some form of information handling
system is essential. Time will be always be a problem, consequently it makes
good sense to handle information only once – read it, record it and store it for
subsequent use if necessary.
Preparing draft chapters
During the ‘dead times’ of any project (for example whilst waiting for feedback
for the proposal) it is always worthwhile to write up any material that has
already been collected in draft format. Introductory chapters and a literature
review can often be completed well before external data has been collected or
Dissertations will be marked by an academic tutor and will be subject to a
system of second marking. The project should aim to communicate effectively
the aims and achievements of the research process to an “informed reader”.
Conclusions and recommendations must be drawn from the data as collected,
analysed and presented in the project. They should be relevant to the aims of
the project and will be limited by the scope of the research. Course members
will be expected to critically examine data and not just present information as
an attempt to justify any preconceived conclusions. They should develop the
ability to distinguish valid from spurious research.
The research process
The literature survey
Reviewing the literature will inform the nature of the research question and
objectives. You are encouraged to use the various electronic search facilities,
journal articles, and classic texts to identify and understand well-established
and more recent thinking in the area.
A critical evaluation of the literature in your chosen field of study must be
undertaken to produce a clear and logical argument that informs and reflects
on your research questions and objectives. During this process you are
required to identify the appropriate theories, models and conceptual ideas.
The literature review will form one or more chapters of your dissertation
depending on the nature of your research. Remember to keep a record of your
bibliographic material, and reference all cited authors and texts taken from
During this stage of the research process you may want to consider the
What sort of literature is likely to be relevant to any defined project and its
objectives?in what discipline (management, psychology, sociology, etc.)? in books, periodicals, company reports? unpublished?
How do I undertake the literature research and acquire the relevant items?how shall I survey the literature? how many different surveys shall I carry out? how long will this take? how shall I know when to stop?
What am I looking for in the literature?what are the main general arguments and themes in the subject
area?how much is relevant? who are the main authorities in the field? what are the major findings? are any of particular relevance to this project? are there any significant omissions as far as this project is
concerned?is it necessary to look elsewhere? what are the concepts and definitions commonly used? which of these should be adopted and why? what theories, models, conceptual frameworks are used? which of these are relevant to this project? what research methods are commonly used? are any of relevance to this project? is it necessary to read further in the literature on research methods?
How do I record and classify what I have read?what form of note taking will be appropriate? what form of classification should be used? where should the emphasis be placed upon the material collected?
Your literature search should be both systematic and thorough. It is important
to appreciate that before you undertake a literature search you need to define
the subject you are researching. This is an obvious point, however it is too
frequently overlooked. If you are researchingthe role of advertising in
reducing nicotine consumption amongst teenage femalesyou will need to
examine the literature in the pertinent areas of advertising, communications,
social marketing, consumer behaviour and healthcare marketing. Please
remember to record the information you find during the search, this should
include the FULL reference i.e. author(s), year, article title, journal title,
dates, volume/issue, publisher, publication location. You should also make a
note of the page numbers of any quotations you record.
Information searching is time consuming and laborious, it is advisable to start
consulting books and journals as soon as possible.
Choice of research methods
You are encouraged to use a methodology that is appropriate to the research
question and objectives. You must justify your choice of research methodology
i.e. the advantages and disadvantages of doing primary qualitative and
quantitative research, and secondary research, and explain why the research
methods i.e. interviews, questionnaires, observation are for data collection.
Think about the specific issues of why, what, how and when. Are they relevant
to your research objectives?
You will need to decide how you are going to analyse the data collected
(quantitative/ qualitative). There are appropriate techniques available and
these should be discussed.
There should be one chapter in the final dissertation that discusses your
research methodology. You are required to discuss your intended research
design, and consider the limitations and implications of your chosen approach
(time, costs, knowledge, access). Transparency throughout the research
process is essential. You should seek to ensure that you are able to provide
evidence of your research and data collection. It is good practice to keep and
store diaries, correspondence with your client, completed questionnaires,
video/audio tapes of all interviews, photographs etc. Markers have in the past
asked students to provide evidence of the research.
What specific organisational (or other on-the-ground) material do the
objectives of the project require to be collected?
(Note: please make sure you follow the guidelines on Client
Relationships if you are doing an organisation-based dissertation.)
Collecting data is an extremely time consuming process. Be realistic about the
effects of time and resource limitations on your data collection objectives.
You might want to ask yourself the following questions:what kind? activities, types of people, attitudes, feelings, intentions, memories,
etc.who ‘owns’ this material? is it confidential, very private, a guarded secret? how can they be persuaded to share this information? reciprocity? when will these people or the material be available?
What data collection methods will be used?how will the material be collected from these people? observe them, hassle them, infer from their statements or
behaviour?what data collection techniques exist for this purpose? questionnaires, interviews, tests, diaries, etc? how difficult are these techniques likely to be in relation to this
project?what time do they require to prepare for and use? what sort of analysis do they require? statistical? is enough known about them to make an effective choice?
What more can be learnt?what techniques will be chosen in the light of the answers to the
What preparations will have to be made in order to start the data collection
process?identification of population and sample? requests for assistance? a plan or timetable of activities? will an existing questionnaire be used or will a new one be written
and designed?will training in the particular research techniques be required? will a pilot study be conducted? will computer assistance be required? SPSS? will pre-paid envelopes be supplied? will a private room be required? how will confidentiality be maintained?
What are the influences/constraints upon undertaking fieldwork?in terms of the overall project schedule? in terms of personal timetable availability? in terms of respondents timetable availabilities?
What time is needed/available to undertake the pilot study?
How long will each interview require – for completion and for analysis? How
will the interviews or questionnaires be scheduled within the time available
for the project?
When will the fieldwork be undertaken – during the day or during the
What are the expected costs of photocopying, postage, travelling, audio-tapes
Who will bear these costs?
Will special arrangements be required regarding the conduct of the
interviews, photocopying, postage etc?
Will a preliminary letter of invitation/explanation/assurance of confidentiality
to respondents be required?
What will be provided to respondents in exchange for their time and
co-operation? Some feed-back? A copy of the final project? Some other
incentive! Or will participation be sufficient reward to them?
Will the questions being asked generate anxiety or fear in your respondents? If
so how will this be handled?
During this phase of the dissertation it is likely that you will become
overwhelmed by the amount of data that you have collected. You will need to
go back to your research objectives and decide what themes will be focused on
and identify what data does not assist you in reaching your conclusions.
How detailed will the analysis be? Will all categories be covered from the
Will tape-recorded interviews be transcribed? In whole or in part?
How will spoilt or incomplete questionnaires be dealt with?
How will respondents be identified or will they remain anonymous?
Will quantitative or qualitative analysis be appropriate? Or both?
If quantitative will correlation be looked for? What tests of significance will be
If qualitative will the weight or frequency of the replies require assessment?
How will this be done? Will the method of data collection permit this?
If quantitative how will something of particular significance be identified?
Does the data collection method facilitate this?
If qualitative how will associations between categories be identified? Does the
system of data collection help this?
How will individual quotations be identified, stored and retrieved?
Will a spreadsheet be used or a computer package?
What methods are to be used for identifying and keeping trace of aspects
which need further investigation to complete the analysis?
How can the results of the analysis above be understood? Are there any
concepts, conceptual models in the literature which explain or illuminate
them? Are there any organisational facts or situations which throw light on
Are some of the results unexpected and not explicable as above? Can they be
explained in some other way? Do they form a pattern which suggests a new
Do the results meet the aims of the study? In what way and to what extent? Is
further material required?
What will be done if these results do not meet the aims or lack interest,
significance or novelty? If they are far from clear cut?
Many researchers decide to use face-to-face interviews as an appropriate
means of acquiring information. One advantage of interviewing is its
adaptability. A skilful interviewer can follow up leads, probe responses,
investigate motives and feelings which a questionnaire can never do.
However, there are difficulties. It is a time-consuming and highly subjective
technique so there is always a danger of bias.
Dissertation Guidelines 21
Wording the questions carefully, noting and analysing the responses are
Both interviews and questionnaires can heighten expectations of change
within an organisation. If an interview has been conducted or a questionnaire
has been circulated, staff will often expect management to respond to
criticisms. This can also affect the subject’s response. Care should be taken to
explain quite clearly the purpose of any interview or questionnaire.
Before conducting interviews consideration should be given to all of the
following:has an appropriate sampling technique been used? do questions allow for a full response? are all responses noted (how – with a tape recorder!)? the possibility of interviewer bias with the interviewer leading the
respondent either consciously or subconsciously.is interviewing the right method? would questionnaires be better? would longer, better considered written responses be more
appropriate?can the responses be effectively analysed?
Questionnaires are probably the most common method of information
collection. They are cheap to administer, can be sent to a large number of
subjects and provided they are well designed are relatively easy to analyse.
Questionnaires are, however, difficult to design. Finding the right words, the
best layout and the method of distribution most likely to yield a good response
is skilled work. The following factors need to be considered:
Structure the questionnaire to aid subsequent analysis. Decide the role of
open ended questions in advance. How will non-responses to some questions
How will questions be structured (dichotomous or multi-choice) or open
questions or both? How will scaling techniques be used? Will ranking
techniques be used? Will flash-card questions/choices be of use? Will
incomprehensible jargon be avoided?
How can the presentation of the questionnaire be improved? Can the
questions be easily read? (do not over photo-reduce).
Is the layout consistent?
Are the questions in the appropriate order? Is the questionnaire too long? Are
all instructions unambiguous?
Is the respondent thanked and given clear instructions what to do with the
Purpose of questionnaire
Do your respondents know:
(a) why the research is being undertaken?
(b) what they gain as a result of completing your questionnaire?
Are the instructions, questions, analytical procedures and likely responses to
be tested? Is it possible to test on sufficient, appropriate people?
Will there be time to modify the research in the light of test results?
By post or personal delivery?
Will post paid envelopes be included?
Are there deadlines for responses?
Is there an incentive to complete the questionnaire?
Will all responses be identified, anonymous or optional?
Will non-respondents be followed up?
Some projects will be organisation based, hence the relationship that is
established between the researcher and the client organisation will be
extremely important. In several respects this relationship resembles that of
consultant and client. The following information is aimed at maximising the
opportunities that such a research project offer.
The ‘consultant–client’ relationship must be understood by both parties to
achieve satisfactory results. This is likely to require the researcher being
investigated and vice versa. A comparison of the client’s definition of the
project and the researcher’s definition provides the basis of a sound working
relationship, throughout the project. Such a comparison requires discussion.
It will be important to establish the boundaries of the research into the
organisation. This will probably involve investigation into the organisation’s
resources including access to data and people. Confidentiality needs to be
agreed – what is acceptable to the organisation and the question of access to
In addition to the key person in the client organisation there may be further
participants involved:liaison officers employees doing work related to your project managers and other employees who will be interviewed, asked to
supply documents, consulted on various aspects of the projectmanagers and other employees who are not involved in the project
but would like to know about itmanagers and other employees who may be affected if the
recommendations are implemented.
Relationships with all these people must be considered in advance and
Access to information is a basic issue. If a client withholds access to
information, for whatever reason, and it is deemed that this information
concerns the problems to be solved, the researcher must attempt to negotiate.
It must also be remembered that clients often forget to pass on some
information or consider it unimportant or unreliable although the researcher
may find it useful!
The research dissertation is the culmination of the Masters Programme, as
such, it presents a considerable challenge. In our experience there are a
number of common difficulties encountered by students. This section seeks to
outline various issues which need careful consideration.
The preparation of the dissertation takes place within strict time constraints.
This calls for careful and methodical planning by students. A research
dissertation has a number of stages which are both resource and labour
intensive. This requires careful dissertation management to allow for ample
time to conduct a comprehensive literature review, collect sufficient data for
analysis, and finally to write up the report. It is very easy to overrun on time
and not to allow sufficient time to write up the dissertation.
Dissertation structure – the importance of reviewing work
Partly as a consequence of poor time management, but also as a result of the
challenge of producing an extended piece of scholarly work, many students
encounter problems with the fluency and structure of their dissertations. It is
vital, as a part of good research practice, to allow time to self-review a
dissertation prior to submission. For students writing in a second language,
this stage is particularly important and extra attention should be paid to it. It
is always a good idea to ask a friend to read through your work to see if the
structure is logical and the content clear and concise.
The limitations of time that are placed on a dissertation necessitate a student
to consider very carefully what is a realistic dissertation objective. This
requires careful consultation with the dissertation supervisor. In particular,
the student needs to consider in some detail how they will obtain the data
required for the analysis. This raises an issue of access to a data set such as an
organisation and, if a dissertation is investigating senior management
decision making, support from senior management will need to be secured.
Similarly, a questionnaire study necessitates thought as to the design, the
timing, the cost and the mechanism for managing responses. In short, many
dissertations encounter serious difficulties through unrealistic objectives
being coupled with an inability to operationalise the idea into a practical
Many students, through no fault of their own, experience problems over access
to a data set midway through a research dissertation i.e. an organisation may
get taken over, may go out of business, or access may simply not materialise.
Any thorough research plan will consider this risk and will have provision for
a contingency plan.
PART C: FORMAT, STRUCTURE AND
SUBMISSION OF THE DISSERTATION
The following standard is required for the submitted dissertation.
The dissertation is to be typed in a permanent and legible form. You must
submit the original top copy and not a photocopy. Where copies are produced
by any process they must be of a permanent nature.
One hard copy AND one identical soft copy of the dissertation should be
submitted to the University. The soft copy must be submitted via Blackboard.
Do note that there is a maximum file size for the soft copy. Currently the
maximum file size is a generous 9mb. For the vast majority of students this file
size is more than sufficient for their work. In the event that your work exceeds
9mb you are encouraged to consider whether you are incorporating
unnecessary material. From experience we know that students can
incorporate graphical images of adverts, reports and even the University of
Leicester logo, all of which require considerable memory. If the graphics are
not integral to your dissertation ask yourself whether you require them.
The hard copy of the dissertation will not be returned to the student. If the
dissertation contains confidential information this should be indicated by the
student on the title pages. The University will treat all such information in the
strictest of confidence and will undertake not to pass on confidential
information to a third party. The dissertation is stored securely and is not
published in the library or presented for public viewing without the express
permission of the student.
The front and rear covers shall offer some rigidity and support to the
submitted dissertation. There is no stipulation on the colour or material of the
A title page is required. The dissertation title is important as it needs to
indicate quite clearly what the dissertation is about. It is useful when
considering a title to also bear in mind how the work may be indexed and coded
for information storage and retrieval purposes (what key words should the
title incorporate). See Appendix B.
The title page must include the following information:
Dissertation Guidelines 27the full title of the dissertation the full name of the author the qualification for which the dissertation is submitted the month and year of submission.
A4 paper (210 mm . 297 mm) of good quality and sufficient opacity should be
Only one side of the paper should be used. A left hand margin of 25/40 mm
should be used all other margins being 20 mm. Line spacing of 1+ should be
used for typescript, except for indented quotations where single spacing may
be used. A font size of 12 is required and you are encouraged to use a clear font
design such as Arial, Times New Roman or Courier New.
Pages must be numbered consecutively throughout the text. Page numbers
shall be located centrally at the bottom of each page.
Any abbreviations used should be those in normal use. Where necessary a key
to abbreviations should be provided.
Where other loose materials are to be incorporated into the dissertation (e.g.
compact disks) these must be placed in an adequately secured pocket which is
permanently bound into the dissertation.
These requirements must be adhered to. Beyond this, however, the exact
format of the dissertation is likely to vary according to the particular purpose
and subject matter.
Some dissertations will present information that either the sponsoring
organisation or the researcher considers confidential. If this is the case the
title pages of all submitted work must be clearly marked CONFIDENTIAL. In
these circumstances the work will only be made available to the tutor, a second
marker and the external examiners.
Where it is felt that the contents of the dissertation would be of interest to a
wider audience it is hoped that course members will consider publishing their
dissertations either in total or in an edited form.
A typical dissertation is likely to include the following:title page (see Appendix B) contents list (see Appendix C) acknowledgements executive summary introduction literature review methodology findings/data analysis conclusions recommendations reflections references appendices
A table of the various chapters and sections of the dissertation must be
included together with clear page references to each of these. Well documented
contents will quickly show any reader the scope and direction of the work. See
Appendix C for details.
The final dissertation will need an executive summary, which emphasises the
main findings of the study. In particular this executive summary should
contain:an introduction telling the reader what the dissertation is about, its
objective, terms of reference and a description of the approach useda summary of the information collected and analysis undertaken details of the conclusions, recommendations and any action plans
This executive summary should only be written after the dissertation is
completed. It is often very difficult to write an effective summary as it should
contain a complete overview of the whole dissertation. It needs to provide an
informative outline of contents, conclusions and recommendations of the
dissertation. There should also be some indications of the methods used. It
must be presented in a coherent form – not as a list of headings or topics.
The introduction is essential in order to tell the reader what the dissertation is
intended to provide – it ismore than just the first section of the dissertation. It
should include a statement of the purpose or objectives of the inquiry, the
terms of reference, the sources of information on which the dissertation is
based and how it was collected. The introduction sets the scene and puts the
whole inquiry into its proper context. It should explain why the research was
carried out and outline the significance of related work on the topic. The
introduction may provide necessary background, but only if it is relevant and
brief. It may also inform the reader how the subject will be developed.
It is likely that the main body of the dissertation will contain several
chapters/sections and sub-sections. All such divisions should be identified
using a decimal notation system whereby major sections are given single
numbers 1, 2, 3 and so on in sequence. The first level of sub-section will follow
a decimal point, for example 1.1 and the first sub-section under this
sub-section will repeat the process, that is 1.1.1 and so on. Be careful to avoid
too many sub-sections as this will simply lead to confusion and reading
The research question must be seen to relate and informed by the literature.
You are encouraged to use the various electronic search facilities, journal
articles and texts to identify and understand both well-established and more
recent thinking in the area pertinent to your topic. It is important that your
literature review is both comprehensive and up-to-date. There is a wide range
of potential sources which you can use to put together your literature review.
The most recognised in academic terms are monographs (books reporting
original research) or journal articles, but you can also use:textbooks reports (e.g., from Mintel or your national government) conference papers newspapers radio programmes television programmes.
A critical evaluation of the literature in your chosen field of study is required
to produce clear and logical arguments that inform and reflect on your
research questions and objectives. During this process you will need to
identify the appropriate theories, models and conceptual ideas.
A literature review does not simply relate relevant concepts, but provides
some form of critical judgement of these concepts/perspectives in deciding how
they will inform the research to be conducted. This research might then not
only say something empirically, but also about the literature that
As a broad guide, the ‘typical’ literature review will be between 3,000–5,000
words in length.
The methodology should provide a justified and informed account of how you
approached the research. It should provide detail of epistemological and
ontological issues relevant to your study. The methodology should also explain
the role of primary and secondary data in addressing the research questions
and detail how data was collected and analysed. This will include discussion of
instruments used and sampling strategies employed. Students are expected to
Dissertation Guidelines 31
reflect upon the ethical issues within the research design and conduct of the
As a broad guide, the ‘typical’ methodology will be between 2,000–3,000 words
This cbapter analyses and evaluates your findings and is often combined with
the actual description of the results. You should position your own results
against the background of previous research covered in the literature review,
and against your original research questions. The final paragraph of this
section should point to the conclusions section.
As a broad guide, the ‘typical’ data analysis will be between 3,000–5,000 words
The conclusions must be drawn from the body of evidence presented in the
main sections of the dissertation. Each separate conclusion should be
acknowledged – possibly by numerical sub-sections.
The conclusion should be seen to flow clearly from the proceeding analysis and
should also indicate any problems that had been identified and which will be
the subject of recommended solutions.
This section will suggest ways of solving the problems, how the recommended
courses of action will help to achieve the aims of the dissertation, the benefits
and cost of implementing the recommendations, the programme of work that
is required, the timescale involved and the resource implications.
Recommendations should flow logically from the conclusions of the research
indeed they are sometimes combined under a joint heading.
This section will contain an analysis and evaluation of the research process –
particularly an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the
dissertation, any problems or constraints encountered during the dissertation
and how these difficulties were resolved. In addition, an evaluation of the
effectiveness of the chosen methodology can be expected together with an
assessment of how individual management competencies have been
The following questions may be useful in providing a framework for this
section:were the dissertation objectives well defined and fulfilled? how did the outcomes compare with initial expectations? was the research well planned and executed? what went well and what would have been done differently? how sensitive was the researcher to the abilities and contributions of
others?what was learnt in terms of management experience and the
development of specific management competencies?what would be your recommendations for improving the dissertation
in the light of your experiences?
References serve two purposes. They enable the reader to check information
from external sources and to follow up those sources if further information is
References also acknowledge the debt of the reader to other writers whose
work has been used. References include all sources which have actually been
referred to in the body of the dissertation. References do not include peripheral
In order to clearly and accurately identify a particular source it is necessary to
have certain minimal information. This information primarily consists of the
name of the author, the year of publication, the title of the publication, the
place of publication and the name of the publisher. Further specific
information is dependent upon the nature of the publication being referred to.
There are a number of ways in which bibliographical data can be presented. It
is important, however, that consistency in referencing is maintained by
keeping to a single system. One such system is described below, and although
it appears to be complicated it is remarkably simple to use once the habit of
applying it has been acquired. The following examples illustrate the use of
capital and lower case letters, punctuation marks and layout, all of which have
a specific function.
The simplest reference form is that for books which have been published as
ARNHEIM, R (1956) Art Education : its Philosophy and Psychology.
Indianapolis: Bobbs Merill.
GRAHAM, R. (1966) The Pickworth Fragment. Wymondham:
When books have been published in subsequent editions it is important to
specify the edition number as there are often considerable differences between
editions. The edition number is shown in parenthesis after the title.
HALL, L. (1979) Business Administration (3rd edition). Estover,
Plymouth: Macdonald and Evans.
LOWENFIELD, V. and BRITTAIN, L. (1970) Creative and Mental
Growth (5th edition). New York: Collier Macmillan.
Publications which consist of collections of writing by a number of authors are
identified under the names of the editors. Listings, indexes or collections of
abstracts are similarly identified by the names of editors. The editors are
designated by the abbreviations (Ed.) or (Eds.) after the name.
EISNER, E. W. and ECKER. D. W. (Eds.) (1966) Readings in Art
Education, London: Ginn Blaisdell.
WEINSHALL, T. D. (Ed.) (1977) Culture and Management.
References to specific chapters or articles in edited collections are identified
under the names of the particular authors and then reference is made to the
whole publication as above. It is, however, only the names of the particular
authors which are capitalised. If the date when the specific chapter was
originally published differs from that of the collected edition it is necessary to
include both dates.
It is standard practice to give the page numbers of the article and, as the whole
publication is the primary source of reference, it is the title of the whole
publication which is underlined.
FAYERWEATHER, J. (1960) ‘Personal Relations’ in Weinshall, T. D.
(Ed.) (1977) Culture and Management. Harmondsworth: Penguin,
KAUFMAN, I. (1971) ‘The Art of Curriculum Making in the Arts’ in
Eisner, E. W. (Ed.) Confronting Curriculum Reform. Boston: Little
Brown and Co.
Articles in periodicals are always the most difficult to locate so it is essential to
have complete bibliographical data. The actual periodical in which an article
appears is the major reference source and so it is the name of the periodical
which is underlined. Most learned journals tend to have long titles and so for
bibliographical purposes there are reduced to standardised abbreviations.
Periodicals differ in the ways in which the different issues are designated but
the most popular form is the attribution of a volume number which quite often
relates to a particular year of publication and then an issue or part number
within a volume. The numbers of the pages on which the article appears also
need to be given.
FELDMAN, E.C. (1973) ‘The teacher as Model Critic’, Journal of
Education. Vol 7, No 1, pp50–8.
HANNIGAN, J. A. (1980) ‘Fragmentation in Science: The Case of
Futureology’, Sociology, Vol 28, No 2, pp317–332.
Material which has not been published in the senses described above, such as
theses or dissertations submitted for academic qualifications or papers read at
conferences, require to be identified by the name of the material as well as the
source or location.
GRAHAM, R. (1974) The Casguets. Unpublished Paper. Second Annual
Morison Lecture. Manchester Polytechnic.
HANCOCKS, M. (1973) Creativity in Education – A Selective Review of
the Literature. Unpublished M.Sc. Thesis, Univ. of Bradford.
Internet references should provide the URL of the Web page e.g.
When compiling sources of reference the entries are listed in alphabetical
order of the names of the authors. If reference is made to more than one work
by the same author the entries are listed in chronological order of the dates of
publication. When reference is made to more than one work by an author
which were published in the same year, the works are differentiated by
appending the letters a, b, c and so on to the year of publication, as in (1974a);
(1974b); (1974c). References to the specific texts within the dissertation, must
necessarily maintain such designations.
A copy of the proposal and ethics approval form must be inserted in the
Appendices are essential where there is a lot of detailed information which if
presented in the main body would interrupt or spoil the flow of the
dissertation. Examples could be detailed tables of statistics, results of
experiments, series of graphs, interview transcripts etc. but remember that
important items should be included in the text rather than requiring frequent
reference to the appendices which can irritate readers. Appendices should be
placed at the end of the dissertation and if there is more than one they should
be clearly separated and labelled, for example, Appendix A, Appendix B etc.
The appendices should be referred to at appropriate points in the text.
Please note that all data collected through questionnaires (i.e. paper or
elecronic format) or interviews (e.g written interview notes, audio/video
recordings) must be retained by the student until graduation. The markers
may request access to interview transcripts and questionnaires and you
should be in a position to provide access to these materials at reasonable
Candidates MUST complete and sign the Dissertation Grade and Comments
form and attach the completed form to the front of the dissertation.
The top white copy of the form will be returned to candidates giving the grade
they have been awarded for the dissertation and the tutor’s comments on their
Dissertations cannot be returned to course members. University quality
assurance systems mean that it is necessary for us to keep the original copy of
all course work to provide our external examiners with a complete record of
Candidates MUST keep their own copy of the dissertation in case of loss in the
mail. It is the responsibility of course members to ensure that the University is
in receipt of their submitted course work.
PART D: ASSESSMENT CRITERIA
Each project will be subject to a system of second marking, before being passed
to the external examiner. This process ensures that a consistent and
appropriate standard of marking is being applied. Assessment consideration
will include the following:
Clarity of the dissertation’s purpose and
This should make it clear to the reader what the organisation involved does,
or, if the study is not organisation based, what the context of the inquiry is.
There should be a definite statement of the purpose of the study. The topic or
problem must be clearly explained and include an outline of what it is
intended to achieve for the client organisation or target audience. Theories or
conceptual frameworks guiding the work should be outlined and their
Use and critical understanding of theory
Relevant previous work should be reviewed and appraised. The dissertation
should demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate and make use of relevant
Relevance and justification of methodology
The methodology used should be adequately explained and must be
appropriate to the problem and the data. Reasons for using particular
techniques should be explained. Data must be carefully collected and bias
avoided. There should be evidence of a critical evaluation of sources and data.
Data must be relevant.
Use of critical understanding of analysis
The dissertation should demonstrate rigour in analysis of information, taking
an appropriate critical attitude. There should be a high standard of
interpretative skills in analysing and understanding the results of the
Ability/demonstration of understanding study’s
implications and limitations
The dissertation should demonstrate a clear reflexive mode of thought and
clarity of action. The dissertation should discuss what the student learned
about the application both of concepts and techniques in carrying out the
dissertation. This should include an appraisal of research and management
competencies enhanced, reflections on successes or failures, more general
lessons of interest and any areas identified as needing further investigation.
This section should demonstrate a high standard of understanding of the
reality of the research process, a developed awareness and understanding of
the business setting and contain a genuinely thoughtful and well considered
Appropriate application of theories and concepts should be demonstrated.
Candidates should show that they are able to relate theory to practice either to
a specific organisational setting or to illuminate the managerial implications
of a more general enquiry.
Conclusions and recommendations
These should be based on the evidence and be clearly derived from the
preceding analysis. Practical effectiveness and sensitivity should be shown in
conclusions and recommendations with realistic awareness of constraints
where appropriate. Costs and benefits of recommendations should be
quantified wherever practicable. Action plans should be well thought out and
The lessons learned
The project should discuss what the student learned about the application
both of concepts and techniques in carrying out the project. This should
include an appraisal of research and management competencies enhanced,
reflections on successes or failures, more general lessons of interest, and any
areas identified as needing further investigation. This section should
demonstrate a high standard of realism and sophistication, a developed
awareness and understanding of the business setting and contain a genuinely
thoughtful and well considered critique.
Quality of presentation
The dissertation should be written in good English and be well presented with
appropriate use and quality of graphics and illustrations. It should be well
structured with clear and explanatory section headings. The sections of each
part of the project should be clear and logical and hang together particularly
well. Projects should be correct in terms of mechanics i.e. typing, spelling,
grammar, tables, references etc.
The dissertation should observe the word count and adhere to the structures
outlined in this booklet.
Assessment criteria are outlined in your course handbook.
The dissertation phase of the Programme is the final stage of the degree.
Graduation ceremonies are normally held twice each year in Leicester, i.e.
summer (July) and winter (February), although there may be alterations from
time to time, depending on special circumstances at the University. Final
submission dates for course work are published well in advance and you
should check on Blackboard and with your local Resource Centre if you are in
As a general rule, students wishing to graduate in July need to submit all of
the work by 1st March. For students wishing to graduate in february all of the
work needs to be submitted by 1st September.
Important: These days refer to when all work needs to be delivered to the
University of Leicester.
Please remember that you will be invited to attend only one graduation
ceremony. If you are unable to attend this ceremony you will not be permitted
to attend at a later ceremony, irrespective of personal circumstances. This is
University policy and applies to all students.
Grade Performance criteria
Displays a very wide-ranging knowledge of principles, concepts and theories together with
sound analysis of issues. Demonstrates an outstanding ability to argue alternative views in
order to reach independent conclusions. Shows a thorough understanding of the material
which is critically evaluated and presented in a relevant, lucid and coherent way with
evidence fully and reliably integrated.
Displays a good answer based on knowledge of principles, concepts and theories, together
with an analysis of the issues involved. Can offer a balanced argument in reaching a
conclusion. Shows understanding of material which is evaluated and presented in a relevant
way and is supported by evidence.
Displays a sound knowledge of principles, concepts and some analysis of issues.
Demonstrates the ability to distinguish between differing viewpoints. Shows sound
understanding of material with some ability to evaluate and present it in a way which is
appropriate and clear, if at times lacking coherence.
Displays some knowledge of principles, concepts and theories with an attempt at providing
an analysis. Demonstrates some generalised understanding and some ability to evaluate the
material which is presented, but with only partial relevance or coherence.
Displays elementary knowledge of well-learned facts, but with little awareness of differing
viewpoints and limited analysis. Demonstrates some generalised understanding and some
ability to evaluate the material which is presented, but with only partial relevance or
Contains a few relevant facts but without the development of a clear argument; some
examples without any real analysis.
Either fails through complete misunderstanding, continuous great and repeated errors,
uncompensated by a clear answer or, more usually, there is very little substance but simply
scraps of ‘general knowledge’.
(Sample Layout of Title Page of Dissertation)
The Design, Implementation and
Evaluation of a Customer Care
by John M Smith
carried out in conjunction with
ABC Services Ltd., Leicester
Dissertation submitted to University of Leicester in partial fulfilment of the
requirements for the degree of Master of Business Administration.
Dissertation Guidelines 43
(Typical Layout of a Table of Contents)
1. Introduction 2
2. Title of next chapter 6
2.1 Title of first major subheading 8
2.2 Title of second major subheading 10
2.3 Title of third major subheading 13
2.3.1 Title of first subsidiary heading
2.3.2 Title of next subsidiary heading
2.4 Title of fourth major subheading 1
3. Title of next chapter 21
4. Title of next chapter 35
5. Title of next chapter 50
6. Conclusions 75
7. Recommendations 80
8. References 85
Appendix A Title of First Appendix 91
Appendix B Title of Second Appendix 94
AGC FORM (PROPOSAL)
SECTION 1: STUDENT TO COMPLETE
NAME: ENROLMENT/START DATE:
Type your name here
your id no. Month Year
PROGRAMME: LOCAL RESOURCE CENTRE
PROPOSALtype agent's name here type Country here
STUDENT DECLARATION: In submitting work to the University you are agreeing to the following statement:
“I declare that this assignment is my own work, that all sources of reference are acknowledged in full and that it has not been
submitted for any other course“.
SECTION 2: TUTOR’S COMMENTS
Ability to construct a
project with clear,
coherent and well
Discussion of the
relation between your
proposed research and
Ability to evaluate the
limitations of your
Ability to construct a
timetable for research
Second Marker Comments:
Ethical Review Process:
Ethics Approval Decision Route:
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None Required (student not doing research on live
Committee [School] [Faculty] [University]
Does this Project have Ethics
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School of Management
Dissertation Proposal Pro-Forma
This document consists of two sections:
(1) The Proposal Template
(2) The Ethics Approval Form (part A and part B)
Students are required to complete both sections and together these sections form the
If your research involves studying live human beings you will need to complete the
Ethics Approval Form. Failure to complete the Ethics Approval Form, when required to
do so, will result in your work being returned unmarked. No field research with live
human beings can be undertaken without receiving Ethics Approval and achieving a pass
grade on the proposal.
Before you submit this Proposal please make sure that you have completed all of the
1. Read the latest Dissertation Guidelines on Blackboard.
2. Read and considered the Support materials and additional notes on Blackboard.
3. Discussed your ideas with a Dissertation Tutor via Blackboard or the workshops.
4. Discussed with a Blackboard Tutor issues concerning part B of the Ethics
Approval Form (if required).
Advice on completing this Proforma:
• Download the word file document to your computer.
• Open the file and save the file with a new name.
• Remove the “instructions” and the “notes” to each section in the Pro-
• Insert your text within the boxes provided.
• Read and complete Section 2.
• Save and print your document. Retain a copy for your records.
• Submit your proposal.
Section 1: The Proposal Template
Your Name, Programme of Study, Student Number, Centre & Intake.
Please identify any University of Leicester Tutors with whom you have discussed your
proposal and the forum you used (e.g. workshops/Blackboard)
Title (max. 15 words)
Note on Content:
A title should summarise the main idea of the proposal simply and, if possible, with style. You may want to use a title and a subtitle,
separated by a colon (e.g. ‘Brown Eggs: What they are Made of and How to Eat Them’)
Abstract (max. 200 words)
Note on Content:
A brief and comprehensive summary of your proposal.
Introduction (approx. 200 words)
Note on Content:
• A statement of your research question, possibly including a central question and three or four aspects or sub-questions (approx. 30–
100 words depending on number of research questions).
• Explain why this question is interesting (approx. 100 words).
Relation to previous research (approx. 400 words)
Note on Content:
• Discussion of the relation between your proposed research and previous research. When
expanded in the dissertation this will be referred to as a Literature Review (approx. 400 words).
Proposed methods (approx. 400 words)
Note on Content:
• A precise statement of the methods you propose to use.
• Justify the choices you make. Explain why this method is being used in preference to others.
• Discuss the specifics of the method(s) you will use. Be clear about data sources and what will count as data in your research project.
• (In your methods section you may need to make some reference to other exemplary studies and will certainly need to refer to the
literature on research methods.)
Reflections (approx. 500 words)
Note on Content:
Include reflections on:
• Potential practical and empirical obstacles (e.g. access).
• Conceptual and theoretical problems and difficulties.
• Ethics (both in the narrow and the broader senses).
• Your position as a researcher in a political field, and reflection on how this will impact on your study.
Conclusion (max. 200 words)
Note on Content:
• Very brief wrap-up, including discussion of immediate next steps you need to take. Do not restate everything you have already said.
Timetable (approx. 100 words, or a one page diagram)
Note on Content:
• Provide dates and major steps or milestones.
• This should be presented in bullet points or as a pictorial diagram.
• Make sure that you include other commitments such as holidays, and allowing time for tutors to approve your research proposal.
Note on Content:
• A full list of works referred to in the text referenced correctly.
• Quality is more important than quantity, demonstrating engagement with relevant literature.
• The Internet should not be the only source of references.
Note on Content:
• Containing materials distracting from, but relevant to, the body of the proposal, for example,
draft questionnaires, interview questions, other tables, lists, etc.
• Do not overdo it. Only include things that really are relevant. You won’t get extra marks for this.
Section 2: University of Leicester School of Management - Initial Ethical Review
This form is designed to ensure that the School operates an ethical review process that
falls within the University guidelines (see university website,
http://www2.le.ac.uk/institution/committees/research-ethics/). Any student who is
undertaking research on live human subjects1 needs to fill in this form.
• If your answer is no to all the questions in Part A overleaf, ethical approval is
automatic and providing you receive a passing grade for your proposal you may
continue with your study.
• If your answer is yes to ANY of the questions on Part A, you need to fill in part B
of this form. You are encouraged to discuss why you have answered yes with a
Tutor on Blackboard prior to submission of the proposal. Upon submission, your
proforma will be marked and then reviewed by the Chair of the Departmental
Research Ethics Committee, and/or a meeting of the full committee. You will be
informed of the decision, together with any comments, as soon as possible. If your
proposal raises more complex issues, we will require a fuller report and a meeting
of the full committee. If this committee finds it difficult to make a decision, we
may pass this on to the University Research Ethics Committee. However, in the
vast majority of cases, we hope to resolve any issues though consultation at
Initial Ethical Review Question:
Please read the following two statements and tick the box for the statement that most
accurately represents your research intentions.
Student Statement. Student Action.
I have read the above information. I confirm
that my research does not involve the study
of live human beings.
You do not need to complete Part A of
this form. Ethics approval is not
I have read the above information. I confirm
that my research does involve the study of
live human beings.
Please proceed to complete Part A of
You are only required to fill in part A of this form if your research involves studying live
human beings. In cases of automatic ethics approval or where no ethics approval is
necessary please allow 8-10 weeks from receipt by the University for the return of your
grade. In instances where part B of the Ethics Form is completed you should allow 8-14
weeks. Proposals that are received without the completed Ethical Review Form will be
returned to the student unmarked.
1“live human subjects” refers to people, human participants.
Does the study involve participants who are particularly vulnerable
or unable to give informed consent? (e.g. people under the age of
18, people with learning disabilities, students you teach or assess)
Will it be necessary for participants to take part in the study
without their knowledge and consent at the time?
Does the study involve audio or visual recording of people in
Will the study involve the discussion of sensitive topics? (e.g.
sexual activity, drug use, illegal activities, death, whistleblowing)
Are drugs, placebos or other substances to be given to the study
participants or will the study involve invasive, intrusive or
potentially harmful procedures of any kind?
Will blood or tissue samples be obtained from participants?
Is physical pain or psychological stress from the proposed project
likely to cause harm or negative consequences beyond the risks in
Will the study involve prolonged or repetitive testing?
Will financial inducements (other than expenses) be offered to
Will the study involve recruitment of patients or staff through the
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, please fill in Part B as well.
Leicester University School of Management
Secondary Ethical Review Form: Part B
In no more than a page –
1. Explain why you ticked yes to one or more of the questions on Form A, and how
you plan to address the ethical issues raised.
You will need to do this in consultation with a Dissertation Tutor on Blackboard. Please
identify which Tutor you discussed these issues with.
Blackboard Tutor’s Name:
Assessor’s Comments (to be completed by the markers of the proposal)
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