A dissertation will include the following sections:
The Dissertation commences with a short abstract (not more than 500 words) of your work, although you should write the abstract when the entire work is finished.
The abstract should provide summary information on the following aspects of your Dissertation:
The Introduction to the Dissertation should set out the background and purpose of the research project as well as making the reader aware of exactly what to expect throughout the Dissertation.
Structure of the Introduction Chapter
Area of Study/Context in which the research took place:
Provide justification as to why this study was carried out:
Aims, Objectives and Research Questions
Definition of Terms
The main reasons for the inclusion, in a Masters Dissertation, of a literature review section are:
The literature review is presented in the form of a précis, a classification, a comparison and a critical analysis of that material which is germane to a full understanding of your research study. Such published material may be drawn from all, or a combination of, textbooks, journal articles, conference papers, reports, case studies, the Internet, magazine features or newspaper articles, but it should be remembered, that the most important source of academic literature is from peer-reviewed academic journal articles and you should ensure that you are familiar with the most recent publications in quality journals relevant to your subject area. These should form the core of your literature review.
Structure of the Literature Review Chapter
The Introduction of the Literature Review should include:
The Main Body of the Literature Review should include:
The Conclusion of the Literature Review should include:
Hints on conducting a Literature Review
Questions to be asked when carrying out a Literature Review
The chapter entitled ‘Research Methodology’ is that part of the Dissertation where you have the opportunity to justify to the reader the process by which the research objectives and questions, which were derived by an analysis of the relevant literature, were answered. It is not sufficient to say, for example, “Suitable respondents were sampled using a quota sampling technique and then surveyed using a postal questionnaire” and then leave it at that. It might well be the case that, given the problem(s) to be investigated, such a choice of research methods is entirely appropriate. However, if you have not taken the opportunity to justify your research choices to a reader they could be correct in assuming that you have, by chance, merely guessed at what would work and, more by luck than judgement, arrived at the ‘correct’ solution to the problem.
The chapter on research methodology must, painstakingly, argue for and justify each decision that is taken when arriving at the way in which the research is to be organised. Every time that you, the researcher, has to make a decision as to what choice to make from a number of choices, you must state what each of these are, why you made the choice you did, and why you rejected the others. Bear in mind that as you progress through the chapter the need to discuss methodology in its broadest sense is reduced. Opting, for example, for an interpretivist philosophy and a qualitative data collection strategy (in sections 1 and 2) means that a discussion of survey or experimental methods is unnecessary.
It is also important to note that justification of your methodology will require appropriate reference to both methodological texts (books, methodology journals) and to other studies in your area.
Remember that many of the principles and procedures of empirical research will have been introduced and discussed in both key skills and International Marketing Research, you may wish to refer back to your notes.
Structure of Methodology Chapter
It may be that your Dissertation does not require the collection of any primary data and your decision as to which you select should be discussed. Please note that secondary research relates to published reports and data which are collected for other purposes than your study but for which you can analyse. Please note that your literature review is not secondary data.
If you opt to collect primary data then you will need to select and discuss your chosen method. Note that certain research philosophies make a detailed debate between quantitative and qualitative methods unnecessary. However, no ‘rule’ says that a choice must be made between two or more choices, and this is so at any point when you are faced with having to make a decision; this applies not just for the section currently under discussion. For example, there are many research projects, which employ both primary and secondary research, and/or qualitative and quantitative research methods. You make your choice, or choices, in the light of your unique research situation and context and the questions which need to be answered. But whatever choice, or choices, you make – you must justify what you have done.
For a Choice of Qualitative Research Method(s)
Why did you choose the method(s) you did?
What are the benefits of this form of research above others in this instance?
The manner in which the results are to be analysed?
For a Choice of Quantitative Research Method(s)
Why did you choose the method(s) you did?
Why did you reject the others?
You will need to justify the precise fieldwork method and approach to data collection.
In this sections you will outline what techniques will you use to collect data, how did you create questions etc. NOTE: All questionnaires and topic guides which are to be used in research must be approved by project supervisors.
Considerations: question content; question phrasing; types of response format; question sequence; questionnaire layout; pre-test, revision and final version of the questionnaire.
Considerations: question content; question sequence, use of follow up questions/ probes
All research projects will arbitrate between these two sampling methods and you should justify why you chose one over the other. Note that you will also have to justify the form of either probability or no probability (also known as random and non-random sampling) you utilise.
You described the context of the research in the introduction to the Dissertation. In the literature review you analysed the work of previously published authors and derived a set of questions that needed to be answered to fulfil the objectives of this study. In the research methodology section you showed the reader what techniques were available, what their advantages and disadvantages were, and what guided you to make the choice you did. In the findings section, you present to the reader the outcome of the research exercise.
Structure of Findings and Discussion Chapter
The nature of your research problem, context, and type of data collected will determine whether you have a combined findings and discussion chapter (common with qualitative research) or separate chapters (associated with quantitative research).
The introduction of this chapter reminds the reader how the findings relate to the research objectives. The introduction should also explain how the results are to be presented.
The main part of the chapter is the presentation of the results. Even projects of relatively moderate dimensions will generate a mass of data which has to be considered. This data must be organised in a logical and coherently ordered whole so that the author’s thought processes and interpretation are clear to the reader.
Whatever analysis of the data has been undertaken, it must be accomplished with care and attention to detail, as should the way in which the results are presented. Nothing is guaranteed to frustrate a reader more than to have to plough their way through an arid mass of tables, figures, statistics or enormous quotes. Better by far to describe in an accessible manner (which does not mean that you should talk down to the reader) what the research has uncovered and to include only the most pertinent figures as evidence of your findings. Remember, your review of the literature and your evaluation of the various themes, issues and frameworks helped you to develop a more specific set of research questions. In essence, your analysis of the data that you have collected from your fieldwork should provide answers to these questions. You should, as a matter of priority, focus attention on data that is directly relevant to the research questions. You should avoid the mistake of including analysis that might be interesting in a general way, but is not linked to the original direction of the Dissertation. Peripheral data can be included as an appendix, however you are reminded that there is a limit of twenty-five pages for appendices.
Graphs, diagrams, pie-charts etc. are all useful ways of presenting research results; they are an imaginative way of ‘breaking up’ solid blocks of text – they let a little ‘light’ into the body of the text as long as they are relevant and illustrate your points.
Not all Dissertations contain quantitative data. In many situations, students will have made extensive use of qualitative research techniques such as focus groups and/or in-depth unstructured interviews. While quantitative data lends itself to graphs, tables and so on, qualitative data, and the way it is presented, pose particular challenges for students. As ever, your objective should be based on the belief that the data must be presented in such a manner as to make it easy for the reader to follow the logic of the analysis.
The analysis of qualitative data should be based on the research questions and issues that you explored during your fieldwork. For instance, you may have addressed six or seven critical questions in a series of focus groups. Each of these questions should be examined separately, rather than describing each focus group in turn. This provides a degree of logical flow and development to the analysis. In addition, it is advisable to focus on the points of agreement and disagreement that emerged during the interviews. This must be supported with relevant quotations from the transcripts of the interviews. You should avoid lengthy quotations, unless they are of critical importance. However, short excerpts enrich the reader’s understanding of the issues and provide you with the opportunity to shed a clearer insight on the topic.
Many students make the mistake of providing a very superficial, descriptive analysis of qualitative data. This does not allow you to demonstrate that the research you undertook was of a substantive nature. Tables can also be included that reflect the respondent’s overall attitudes, perceptions and views about the themes. You can include the topic guide that you used for the interviews in an appendix.
In this section, which is of central importance to the Dissertation, you will assess the findings of your research in the context of the literature review which you must fully reengage with in order to critique your findings. In other words you are exploring in what way, if at all, your research differs from what is known already. Do your findings extend those of others or do they reveal something completely new. This section may be organised by research objective, question or the main themes identified in your data.
In the final section of the report, you must draw from the results and above discussion, for each of the research objectives, the implications that the findings have business/marketing theory (or alternatively industry sector) that you have been investigating.
Like the discussion section, links between your conclusions and some of the principle areas of literature may be drawn. Commonly, these comparisons will be summarised in a section labelled ‘theoretical implications’. Other implications which are relevant to particular industry sectors or organisations would be labelled as ‘managerial implications’.
If any, or all, of the above did occur, then it is important that you bring them to the attention of the reader. Without any discussion of these points, an essential element of the context in which the research took place will be missing. It is important that you demonstrate an appreciation of both the practical limitations of your work and the conceptual limitations in terms of the method adopted and the implications of that method for the data collected.
It is within your brief, as the researcher, to suggest areas of interest/concern where additional investigation(s) should be directed. In the final section of this, the last chapter, you should tell the reader what you personally have learned about the subject area, what you have learned about research methodology, and finally, what, if you were to repeat the project, you would do differently.
As was stated at the start, a Dissertation is a ‘formal’ document and, as such, its contents must be expressed in a certain style. That style is the third person, singular passive e.g.
“Marketing sits within the wider knowledge base of the social sciences and, while it cannot, because of its nature, employ the techniques, formulae and laws of the pure sciences, it should aspire to a ‘scientific’ level of objectivity.”
This is an objective statement, and that is the way in which your Dissertation should be expressed. Although you cannot ‘take yourself out’ of the project, you can take yourself out of the written document.
You should write your Dissertation with the idea in mind that the intended reader has little or no specialist knowledge of the subject matter – even though it will be read by members of staff who are experienced and knowledgeable in these areas. In this way, you will not be tempted to write having made too many implicit assumptions, i.e. by making the erroneous assumptions that the reader has your degree of knowledge about the matters in question or can follow, exactly, your thought processes without spelling them out. It should be a document which is ‘self-contained’ and does not need any additional explanation, or interpretation, or reference to other documents in order that it may be fully understood.
Within these conventions, it obviously makes sense to also aim for a generally clear-cut and well-produced layout. In practice, the most common shortcoming by far is careless proof-reading: simple cosmetic errors create an immediate bad impression which, with proof reading, is easy to avoid.
It is important that you get your citations and references correct.
Citation: any formal mention that you make in your Dissertation to something written by someone else. Every citation must be supported by a reference which supplies the details which will enable the reader to follow up that citation.
The Department employs the Harvard System of referencing. If you refer to the work of an author in your text then it should be cited as, for example, “Smith (1997) states that the shoe size of an individual is a function of three criteria.”
“Shoe size has been demonstrated to be a function of three criteria (Smith,1997).”
Perhaps more than one author has made a broadly similar point and you want to include them all. In such a case the citation should appear as follows:
“Marketing research is always important in new product development (Freeman 1997; Hardy 1989; Willis 1999).”
If you quote directly from an author’s work you should include the page number from which the quotation is taken, e.g. (Smith 1997, p 4.)
References: placed at the end of the Dissertation (in alphabetical order of first authors surname), are written thus:
For a journal: Smith, S. (1997) “The Effects of Shoe Size on Consumer Behaviour”, Journal of International Shoe Manufacturers, Vol. 34, No. 45, pp 23-45.
For a textbook: Smith, S. (1997) Strategy, Marketing and Consumers, Paisley, Academic Free Press, 7th edition.
References NOT Bibliography: You may have come across publications containing a ‘Bibliography’ instead of a list of ‘References’. This first is not just an alternative description of the second. The distinction is that the bibliography is a list of source documents which are not cited specifically in the accompanying text, but do relate to it. For the Dissertation you must only use a list of references – this should include the work of ALL authors you have cited in your Dissertation.
The great practical asset of the Harvard System is its user-friendliness, exhibited in many ways. There is no need to number the references, since the citations aren’t numbered. Suppose you need to update your paper or Dissertation at a later stage by including somewhere in mid-text a citation you have just found. In the Harvard System, you just insert it. The Harvard method results in a list of references in alphabetical order. This makes life far easier if you need to check that you have included someone or to find a particular reference at a later date; you don’t have to remember at which point in the text you made the citation. Furthermore, it helps examiners to check easily and quickly that you have referred to the one or two really well-known authorities on the particular subject. If we assume that you have, then this is to your advantage.
Each of your chapters will require both an introduction and a conclusion. The former provides the reader with a contents ‘map’ of what is to come, and the latter provides a concise summary of what they have just read. Each introduction should look back to the conclusion of the previous chapter, and forwards to the contents of the chapter which you are introducing.
The conclusion should look back into the chapter just completed, and forward to the introduction of the following chapter. These conclusions and introductions act like small links which bind the ‘chain’ of the chapters together in a more seamless whole than would have occurred if the chapters had not been introduced or concluded; they ‘smooth out’ the transition from chapter to chapter and from topic to topic.
Your Dissertation word count must be between twelve to fifteen thousand words long, (not including abstract, reference list, appendices, tables and figures). A penalty will be incurred for students who fail to adhere to this word limit. For the avoidance of doubt – the word-limit tolerance is within the 12,000 to 15,000 (3,000) range.
(Specimen) Contents Page
All of the above pages should be numbered using Roman numerals e.g. i, ii, iii, iv, v etc.
(You may include more than one literature review chapter, in which case subsequent chapters will be numbered differently)
(As discussed before these may be included as separate chapters in which case they would be numbered differently.)
All of the pages above are numbered using the Arabic numbering system e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
A standard title page, complete with the logo must be included at the start of the Dissertation. This page will be available on the Masters Programme Area under Dissertation/Research Methods Files
Declaration of Originality Page
A Declaration of Originality page must be included at the front of the Dissertation. This must be signed, dated and bound into the paper copy of the Dissertation. This page will be available on MyPlace on the Masters Programme Area under Dissertation/Research Methods Files.
The page reads as follows:
This Dissertation is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree, Master of Science in (International) Marketing/Tourism Marketing Management in the, and accords with the University Regulations for the programme as detailed in the University Calendar.
I declare that this document embodies the results of my own work and that it has been composed by me. Following normal academic conventions, I have made due acknowledgement of the work of others.
I declare that this piece of work, in whole or in part, has not been submitted to two institutions simultaneously or submitted previously to another institution or institutions.
Name (please print) ……………………………………………………………………………
Please observe the following rules for presentation.
It is critical that your degree from the is of the highest academic integrity; otherwise qualifications will become disreputable and meaningless.
The University’s degree regulations state that your degree will be awarded in recognition of your personal achievement so any written work which you submit towards your degree must be your own. Plagiarism is therefore unacceptable. Plagiarism is defined in the University regulations as:
The unacknowledged use of another’s work as if it were the student’s own work, or excessive use of another’s work as your own.
Examples which apply to both conventional sources and information downloaded from the Internet are:
Academic dishonesty also includes in the case of assignments, unacknowledged collaboration between individuals or groups, which results in work that is, if not identical, overly similar to that of other students claiming the work to be their own.
Academic dishonesty also includes falsification, misrepresentation or fabrication of primary or other research carried out as part of a coursework assignment or the Dissertation.
Academic dishonesty also includes commissioning which is paying a third party to write, re-write or copy edit any part of your Dissertation. The whole project should be written in your own words.
The consequences of committing plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty are very serious. Incidents of suspected academic dishonesty will be brought to the attention of the Programme Director and Director of Teaching, and, if deemed appropriate, the Head of Department. The Director of Teaching will arrange a meeting of the above staff or their nominees, the relevant class co-ordinator and the student. Marks are likely to be reduced, in some cases to zero or the student may be required to leave the course. More serious cases will be formally referred to the University’s Discipline Committee which, in the worst cases, has powers to deny degrees or withdraw degrees already awarded. Details of University Procedures and Guidelines can be found on the web site of the University Secretariat or from the Course Director.
The following original passage can be found in MacIntosh, R. and MacLean, D. (1999), Conditioned Emergence: A Dissipative Structures Approach to Transformation, Strategic Management Journal, Vol 20, No. 4, 1999 … this passage appears on p299-300.
It is clear that in many respects the content and process views of strategy are complementary if taken as a set or incomplete if treated as individual elements. If one likens the issue to a journey, the content approach has a clear destination but the means of transport is indeterminate whereas with the process approach the transport is known and in motion, but the journey is something of a “mystery tour.” One could argue that if a complete theory of strategy is in fact needed, why not just use the two approaches as appropriate as is indeed the practice in many institutions. It is our belief however that an overall framework which transforms and reconciles the mutually contradictory assumptions of each approach would constitute a significant step forward, in both practical and scholarly terms.
|In many respects the content and process views of strategy are complementary if taken as a set or incomplete if treated as individual elements.
|Obvious plagiarism: word-for-word repetition without acknowledgement.|
|In many respects the content and process views of strategy are complementary if taken as a set or incomplete if treated as individual elements1
(MacIntosh and MacLean, 1999).
|Still plagiarism. The footnote alone does not help. The language in the main body of the text is still that of the original authors. Only quotation marks around the whole passage plus the page numbers where the quote appears would be correct.|
|The process and content views of strategy may be viewed as complementary. The content view focuses on a clear destination but doesn’t explain the means of transport. The process view focuses on the means of transport but the destination remains a mystery tour.
|Still plagiarism. The original work has been paraphrased, with a few words changed or omitted, but by no stretch of the imagination is the student writer using his own language.|
|‘It could be argued that a complete theory of strategy is needed using the two approaches as appropriate.’ (MacIntosh and MacLean, 1999)||Not quite plagiarism, but incorrect and inaccurate,
The quotation marks indicate exact repetition of what was originally written. The student writer, however, has changed some of the original and is not entitled to use the quotation marks. Also, there is no indication of which page number the quotes were taken from.
|When considering the literature on strategy research, some argue that the process and content views of strategy may be complementary so long as they are considered in tandem (e.g. MacIntosh and MacLean 1999). Indeed is has been argued that ‘an overall framework which transforms and reconciles the mutually contradictory assumptions of each approach would constitute a significant step forward, in both practical and scholarly terms.’ (op cit. p300)||Correct. In the first sentence, the student writer uses his own words to summarize a view found in the literature whilst acknowledging the source of the insight. In the second sentence, a quotation is used to make a specific point and the citation specifies which article the quote is drawn from and the page on which it appears. The quotation is also an accurate and verbatim copy from the original source.|
There are practical steps which you can take to avoid plagiarism.
All students will be required to provide a Turnitin ‘Originality Report’ to accompany the formal submission of their Masters Dissertation. The Originality Report provides the opportunity for students to check that they have used proper citation methods in their Dissertation, as well as safeguarding students’ academic integrity.
Turnitin is recognised worldwide as the standard in online plagiarism prevention and helps academics and students take full advantage of the internet’s educational potential. Students will be provided with access to the Turnitin system and will be given a demonstration of how to use the system, early in the second semester, and nearer the time they formally submit their Dissertation. The demonstrations will be given by Mr Martin Smith, the department’s Teaching and Learning Technology Officer, and any queries regarding the use of Turnitin – after reading the information in the links below – should be emailed to him at
Further information about Turnitin can be found here: http://www.turnitin.com
In the event of any suspicion on the part of your supervisor that all is not what it seems, you may be required to present evidence of data collection. This may include, for example, signed consent forms, email communication, recordings, or raw survey data. It must be stressed that such instances are rare, but you must be aware that your supervisor will have a history of supervising MSc Dissertations and is likely to spot any such falsifications. If you are found to be guilty of this, your Dissertation will be heavily penalised and possible disciplinary action may be taken.
You should not bind this information into your Dissertation, submit it with your Dissertation.
 As a rule a ‘4th level’ heading i.e. 188.8.131.52 is not necessary and likely to confuse the reader. 4th level headings (if needed) should not be numbered and do not need to be included in the table of contents.