Accounting and Finance: Dissertation and Research Proposal Guidelines

1.    Introduction

All Masters students are required to write and submit a dissertation for examination as part of their degree requirements. This handbook outlines the regulations and procedures to be followed, and the training, support and supervision you should expect to receive in the preparation and submission of your dissertation.

Your dissertation is worth 60 out of the 180 credits of your degree and, hence, clearly involves a major commitment to studying through the summer term. This involves a series of meetings with your supervisor over the summer months. Please note that, depending on how pandemic situation would evolve, this year your supervisory meetings could be online, either zoom or skype or any other suitable online technology.

The University expects you to be in Glasgow to complete the dissertation. Those covered by Tier 4 visa arrangements should be aware that unauthorised departures will have a bearing upon attendance monitoring, and may trigger a review of their entitlement to remain in the country. If you do take holidays, which you will have to agree with your supervisor, you must fill in a permission form as outlined in the Tier 4 Visa section towards the end of this document and you should NOT make travel arrangements until you have also discussed this with your supervisor.

One of the most important aspects of the supervisory process is assessing your research proposal in terms of the practicality of its methodological elements and your capacity to carry out the proposed research. It is important that your choice of the dissertation topic/issue and methodology takes into account the subjects that you have mastered during your studies at UofG and furthering that knowledge/expertise through research.  Your topic/issue and methodology should be interesting to you, but most importantly, your research project should be practically possible in terms of the nature of specialised knowledge that they demand, possibilities of collecting required data, your capacity to carry out the required analysis, and also the possibility of getting the ethical approval from the university.

It is important to emphasise that any research which involves collecting data directly from human respondents is subject to University’s ethical approval.  Whether and how you should obtain ethical approval must be discussed with your supervisor at a very early stage and your research should be ethically approved before any data collection takes place.

Types of dissertations are discussed in section 9 of this document. It is important to note that your dissertation need not be necessarily empirical (that is using primary or secondary data), in order to achieve a higher grade. Literature-based conceptual and theoretical dissertations are equally valued and accepted. You will be assessed against the aims and learning objectives of the Dissertation and Research Methods course in terms of the academic rigour, coherence and consistency of your submission.

These guidelines include information and general advice about good academic practice and referencing, and ethical approval processes for those considering empirical work. However, it is important to note that all students are expected to adhere to all the relevant University policies and procedures (including those on plagiarism, research ethics, and other related matters) and will be assessed under the Code of Assessment (CoA) and the appropriate degree regulations. All of these documents and policies are available on the University Website, mostly within the University Regulations.

The writing of a dissertation can be a highly rewarding experience that should stand you in good stead for future careers in most fields. We certainly hope that the process is beneficial to you and considered to be one of the highlights of your time at the University of Glasgow.

The Accounting & Finance PGT Team 


2.    The Dissertation Team

There are several members of staff, academic and administrative, available to help you with your dissertation.

Your main contact will be your supervisor. You will have regular meetings with your supervisor throughout the main dissertation period. These meetings, and the role of the supervisor, are explained later in this handbook. You will be allocated a supervisor based on your choice of topic/research issue and each supervisor’s preferred topic areas — this will be further detailed on the DRM Moodle. As will be further explained later in this document, you will be informed about your supervisor only after the exam period.

The contacts below are the team who are involved with the administration of the Dissertation and Research Methodology course. They are also involved in the allocation of supervisors.  They can assist you if you have any issues pertaining to the course and your dissertation project. So, feel free to contact them if needed.

Dissertation Convenors Professor Chandana Alawattage
  Dr Shammyla Naeem
PGT Admin Team
Lecturers Professor Chandana Alawattage
  Dr Shammyla Naeem
  Ms Gillian MacIver
Dissertation Supervisors A team of highly qualified and experienced supervisors, with expertise in a wide range of topics within the disciplines of accounting and finance.


3.    Important dates/periods

Please take note of these dates (most likely tentative dates and will be confirmed later).

Proposal Submission Deadline: First week of April 2021 (specific date and time to be confirmed)

Selection of Dissertation Topic:  March/April 2021

Notification of Supervisor: May 2021

Supervision Meetings: After Exams and throughout summer (End of May to August 2021)

Please note that you may have a two-weeks break after the exams before starting your dissertation supervision.

Dissertation Submission Deadline:      second week of August 2021

Exam Board and Grade Publications: November 2021

Please note that these dates are tentavive and can change depending on the pandemic situation.

4.    Deadline Extensions

Submission extensions will only be provided where there is appropriately documented and evidenced “Good Cause”. If you have a medical/personal problem and wish to apply for an extension you must complete a ‘Good Cause Form’ in the normal way via My Campus. If at all possible you should communicate this to your dissertation supervisor as well as the course administrators. However, your supervisor is not allowed to grant an extension. Extensions can only be granted and confirmed by the Dissertation Convenor in consultation with the Programme Convenor and/or the Good Cause Committee.

Note that if you are granted an extension it is unlikely that you will be able to graduate in December, and the next graduation opportunity is June in the following year.

5.    Indicative timeline for research proposal and dissertation

The typical timeline of dissertation studies from the end of semester 2 onwards is given below.  However, the exact dates/timing may change (see Important dates/periods). The timeline will be different for those students who are unable to progress to the dissertation at the normal time (due to not being able to pass the other courses in the degree on time).

March: Start to draft your Research Proposal. Start/continue your literature review by gathering and reading relevant papers to your topic. Clarify your research issue/problem in the light of your reading and methodological possibilities. Carefully consider the data requirements, possible sources of data, and data availability if you are thinking of an empirical dissertation. Also consider the availability of analysis software/technologies (if necessary), and the skills you have and need to develop, and whether you need ethical approval from the university.

Early April: Submit your dissertation “Research Proposal” to the Adam Smith Business School in paper &/or via e-submission on Moodle.

March/April: Topic choice opens on Moodle. Students’ self-select supervisors via  choosing the topics they offer, and the Dissertation Convenor confirms your supervisor based on your choice and research proposal. If you are unable to choose a supervisor for your planed dissertation topic you should contact the course administrators as early as possible.

Please note that, in order to help you to focus on your exams, you will not be  able to contact your supervisor until after the exam period, when your supervisor will get in touch to introduce themselves and arrange supervision meetings.

After your April/May exams: First meeting with your supervisor. The Supervisor will make contact with you and arrange meetings throughout the summer.

Mid-May to end of August: Full-time work on your dissertation, including meetings with your supervisor. The schedule of meetings will be set by your supervisor.

NB: After completion of the April-May examination diet and throughout the summer, students are required to work full-time on their dissertation at the University of Glasgow.[1]

Late August: Submit the final version of the dissertation, together with any other required documentation and files, including the relevant barcoded cover sheet. You will also be required to submit an electronic version on Moodle, which will be analysed by URKUND/Turnitin.

Exact details of submission dates, locations, additional requirements and processes will be posted on the DRM Moodle page.


6.    The dissertation

The aims and intended learning outcomes of the Dissertation & Research Methods course are set out below. These set out the basis for the assessment criteria of your dissertation.

6.1  Aims

The Research Methods course and the Dissertation are intended to lay foundations for and contribute to the development of the students’ capacities necessary to design and carry out independent research in accounting and/or finance. The Research Method course, in particular, is designed to help students develop effective research skills (evident, for example, in the review of the literature, data sourcing & collection, investigation, quantitative and qualitative analysis, weighing evidence and reaching sound conclusions). By undertaking a substantial research exercise with some original content on an approved topic for their Dissertation project, students are expected to develop their understanding of the use of the relevant theoretical and empirical literature for the identification of a feasible research question, the selection of a suitable research design for the collection and analysis of data, and the critical evaluation of the relative strengths and weaknesses of these research methods in the light of which their findings need to be understood and presented.


6.2  Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

Upon successfully completing the Research Methods course and conducting their Dissertation on a theme well aligned with the focus of their degree programme, students will be able to:

  1. Organize a substantial and well-focused piece of independent research using research methods and analytical or literature review techniques that are appropriate to their programme of study;
  2. Assess the literature relating to a specific area or issue relevant to their programme of study, design an efficient and effective synthesis and critical review of that literature, and identify gaps in the existing knowledge in this area;
  3. Identify significant research problems, issues and questions, formulate them into specific research aims, objectives, and/or testable hypotheses, and relate their intended contribution to the existing relevant literature;
  4. Construct a systematic plan (design) of research with details relating to the main parameters of the data collection and data analysis (or literature review) processes of this design, and use rigorously within its context appropriate quantitative and/or qualitative methods, and/or systematic literature review techniques, to particular research topics and questions to defensible conclusions and arguments based on either empirical data or prior secondary research;
  5. Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the selected research design as it has been applied in the specific research project;
  6. Assess competently the findings produced by this research project, summarize the main contributions, evaluate their implications for theory and practice, and make inferences for future research;
  7. Draw together research work and its findings to a substantial piece of written work which is clearly motivated and structured, and presented it so as to conform to the requirements of a defined target audience

7.    Regulations: an introduction

The degree regulations (which are included in the University Regulations and may be accessed at include specific rules related to eligibility to proceed to the dissertation, the grade requirements to graduate and the possibility of resubmission of dissertations in case of failure to qualify for the degree. You should acquaint yourself with these regulations in the University Regulations.

In the current 2019-20 regulations these aspects are mainly dealt with in sections 7 and 8 of the Generic Regulations for Taught Masters Degrees in the College of Social Sciences, which are available at: The Dissertation is worth 60 credits, one-third of the total credits for your degree. As such, the dissertation is a major element of your degree.

NB: The brief explanatory notes in this section describe the typical situation and in no way replace or amend the formal regulations.

The general effect of the regulations is typically that:

  • You are not allowed to proceed to the dissertation unless you do well enough in the taught element of the degree by achieving a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 12.0 (without rounding) and meeting other minimum grade expectations.
  • If you fail to reach the required GPA and other conditions you will have to stop working on your dissertation as soon as the results are announced. This is applicable even if you start work on your dissertation and even if you have had meetings with your supervisor before the results of the taught element are announced (in mid/late June).
  • In this case your supervision will be withdrawn, and you must not contact the supervisor previously allocated.
  • Only in exceptional cases of exam results being affected by “good cause” will this rule be amended.
  • If you fail to meet the required GPA and other conditions for progress you should concentrate on any examination resits that you may be allowed. If you are allowed to progress after resits you will be allocated a (new) supervisor, after those results are announced. In this case, it is likely that:
  • Your new Dissertation deadline will be in December (and you are not normally allowed to submit early),
  • You will be allowed to resubmit your original or an amended research proposal,
  • You will be offered the same number/schedule of supervision meetings as students who progressed in May/June, and
  • If you meet the required grade you will graduate at the next graduation (which is likely to be June next year, possibly April in absentia).
  • You should be in Glasgow during this extended dissertation period in order to meet the minimum number of face-to-face supervision meetings with the new supervisor and to have access to the resources you need to complete your research for your dissertation.

8.    Dissertation requirements for the award of your degree

In order to be awarded a Masters Degree, you must obtain a minimum grade of D3 in your Dissertation, in addition to the taught course grade requirements[2].The minimum dissertation grade for the award of a Distinction is B1, and it is C1 a for a Merit, in both cases, in addition to the taught course grade requirements. It is important to note that there is a cross-compensation between the course grade requirements and the dissertation grade requirements. Therefore the overall programme GPA (including the course and dissertation grades) is taken into account in degree award decisions.

Any student who fails to meet the required dissertation grade on their first submission will:

  • be given the opportunity to resubmit once (and only once) at a specified date, normally around 3 months after the initial result, and
  • be allowed one supervision meeting.

Resubmitted dissertations will be considered at the next routine Exam Board for the programme and if the appropriate grade is achieved, students will be able to graduate at the next available graduation after that date.


8.1  Grading process and Notification of Results

As dissertations undergo a thorough grading process, involving second marking review and moderation your dissertation supervisor and other course staff will not know your final grade until after the Final Exam Board (normally in early November) at which grades will be confirmed. Programme staff and supervisors are not allowed to disclose or discuss provisional, tentative or indicative grades. Therefore, please do not ask for or attempt to discuss this information before the formal examination board.

You will be notified of your dissertation grade and your Degree results shortly after the Final Exam Board.

8.2  Basis of Assessment

The Dissertation and Methodology course is assessed entirely on the final dissertation presented: 100% of the grade is based on the final dissertation. The required research proposal is only formative.

9.    Nature of a dissertation

A dissertation is a substantial piece of individually researched and written work on a topic with a well-focused research question within the subject area of your degree.

A variety of different types of dissertation are permitted. Figure 1 below provides a summary of the main types of dissertations typically completed by students and in no means exhaustive. Most dissertations submitted fall into these categories.

As mentioned above, all dissertations address a well-focused research question or a related set of questions and, hence, should articulate a clear argument (or a set of arguments) pertaining to the research questions. The classification in the figure is based on whether the development and the justification of the arguments is based primarily on (a) primary or secondary data (i.e. empirical studies) or (b)  existing literature (i.e. literaturebased or conceptual studies).  Nevertheless, it should be noted, even the empirical studies require a literature review and should draw on existing literature in making sense of the empirical analyses, though the extent of the literature review required, in terms of its volume, breadth, and depth of analysis, is considerably lower than what is required in a standalone literature review.

  1. Literature Review & Evaluation: A literature review & evaluation is based wholly or largely upon existing published material. The generic aim of a literature review is to assess and critique the status of the existing research on, and hence the understandings of, the selected issue. Such a dissertation involves in-depth and critical analysis/review of the literature (perhaps including a formal or informal meta-analysis &/or the use of descriptive statistics) on a specific problem or topic. It would provide a synthesis and critical analysis of not only the different or competing empirical and theoretical conclusions but also the alternative theoretical, methodological and analytical approaches used in the existing literature to arrive at such conclusions. Literature-based dissertations often provide a detailed and rigorous evaluation of the theories, methods and conclusions of studies reviewed in the context of the norms and expectations of the particular field of study.

If empirical papers are reviewed, you may consider comparing their research questions, theoretical basis, methods (of data collection and measurement and the analysis undertaken), models, discussion and conclusions of a selected and justified subset of key papers.

Dissertations of this type will aim to inform readers of the issues involved and the current status of research into, and understanding of, the subject. As with other dissertation types, the limitations of the research should be assessed, and suggestions for further studies should be made. Literature review dissertations need to go beyond the description and classification of the literature of the field and should provide the reader with some insight into the themes, approaches and issues of research in the field, and may even add to the body of knowledge on the subject.

There are many books on conducting literature reviews, such as Hart, C. (2018) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Research Imagination, Sage Publications. If considering a dissertation of this


type, you are strongly recommended to study one or more of these as well as looking at existing literature reviews published in high-quality journals.

  1. Empirical Studies: Empirical studies involve the use of primary or secondary data, either quantitative or qualitative. They are driven towards testing or exploring the empirical evidence to form an empirically justifiable answer to the research question/s. The empirical data collected and utilised will depend on the nature of the topic, and the methodological approach proposed, but can be quantitative or qualitative, or a mixture of these. Depending on the methodological approach used, methods and sources of data for empirical studies can differ: for example market and company data from established databases; macroeconomic data from central banks; data personally compiled from company annual reports and other documents and websites; structured, semi-structured or unstructured interviews; surveys and so on. Such empirical studies can either be case-studies or sample studies.

Even though empirical studies mainly rely on empirical data (primary, secondary, qualitative, or quantitative), there cannot be totally literature and/or theory-free. The study should be designed, and the results interpreted, in the context of the existing literature and relevant theories, and therefore a critical literature review will be expected, though of a lesser scale than the review required for a standalone literature review type dissertation.

Dissertations of this type are normally expected to involve the collection and analysis of new data &/or to analyse and interpret the results in a new, hopefully better, way. However, the limited scale of the requirements for a PGT dissertation means that it is rarely realistic to expect to make more than a modest contribution to the literature. Nonetheless, an empirical dissertation should offer some insights and establish that you would be capable of designing and conducting a study with a more significant contribution in a longer timeframe. This can be difficult but maybe facilitated if, for example, a well-defined proposal already exists or where there is a case for duplicating a previously published study with different data.

Students will be expected to demonstrate that they have access to the data and any required software, and that the empirical work is feasible within the allowed timescale. Students need, for example, to ensure that it is feasible to arrange ethics clearance (if required), collect, collate and analyse the data in the time available (including learning to use any analysis software etc.).

If collecting primary data from individuals, ethical approval from the university will be required. For further details of this, see

  1. Proposal (and/or Pilot Study) for further research: A dissertation of this type, while not going so far as to carry out the research itself, would need to present a case for a major research study, an associated literature review, and a detailed explanation of the methodology which the student would adopt if he or she were to proceed with the research. In effect, this is an extended and more fully justified version of the type of research proposal required to be submitted as a first stage of studying for and preparing a dissertation.


A central feature of this type of dissertation would be a well-structured and logical argument, or chain of reasoning, from the identification and origins of the problem, through consideration of theory, formulation of a methodology (and hypothesis if relevant) and choice of methods, to an assessment of the validity and interpretations of possible research contributions and conclusions. This would require a sufficiently detailed, and sufficiently critical, literature review in order to demonstrate the place the proposed study would be likely to take within the literature.


It is likely that such a dissertation would also include a reflective discussion of the way in which the research problem was identified and its significance justified. Such dissertations are often strengthened by a pilot empirical enquiry – perhaps using proxy data.


If collecting primary data from individuals ethical approval from the University will be required, even for the pilot study.

For further details of this, see


  1. Theoretical statements and critiques: A theoretical statement/critique is a piece of work which gives new insight into existing knowledge. It may be a new way of looking at a subject or it may be a new framework that gives order and context to a complex and previously unstructured subject. A significant theoretical statement requires exceptional insight, powers of reasoning and analysis and while many may strive to attain this, and may claim to have done so, recognition of such work as a genuine contribution comes only very rarely. Examples might include Anthony’s “Planning and control systems: a framework for analysis” and Jensen and Meckling’s “Theory of the firm: managerial behaviour, agency costs and ownership structure”. Works by several authors on a “conceptual framework” for accounting or financial reporting are attempts to make theoretical statements. Despite the amount of research that has been conducted in this area the success of the “conceptual frameworks” developed is widely discussed and often disputed.


As a basis for a dissertation, this type of work is a high-risk choice. The relationship between a successful dissertation and such characteristics as knowledge, ability and application is much less direct than is the case for the other types of dissertation described here.


In order for a supervisor to approve this type of dissertation, the student should be able to demonstrate that he or she has already developed the essence of a theoretical statement which then needs only to be developed, refined and argued effectively in writing.


  1. Business Analysis/Project: A dissertation of this type would take the form of carrying out research and writing reports on specifically identified organisations and/or events or problems. The project work would need to demonstrate that the student was able to apply substantive knowledge and skills of accountancy and/or finance to a real-world problem or situation in a practical (and pragmatic) way in order to draw and justify decisions/conclusions and communicate them to the organisation or individuals involved. This is likely to require the application of a range of specific knowledge and skills involving, inter alia, statistics, data retrieval and organisation, analysis, information technology, information systems, and data presentation.


Despite the “practical” orientation of such projects, students completing this type of dissertation would be expected to include a reflective and evaluative discussion of the relationship between a significant body of academic work and literature and the practical project work and outcomes. This reflection would be based on a critical literature review, though the review is likely to be limited in its scope. Here academic standards of analysis will apply. In order to pursue a project of this type a student would have to demonstrate that they had identified and defined a suitable practical issue to address, within an organisation to which they can demonstrate they have authorised access, and that they have the skills and knowledge required to provide a reasonable chance of making a practical contribution. The onus to arrange suitable access and to demonstrate competence is on the student.


Projects of this nature will require the explicit and documented permission of the “client” organisation and, as they are very likely to involve the collection of primary data from individuals, ethical approval from the University will normally be required. For further details of this, see

10.       Assessment criteria

The dissertation will be graded using the University’s Code of Assessment (CoA)[3]. Reference to the different degrees of ‘attainment of learning outcomes’ should be considered in light of the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) for the course (outlined above). In other words, the ILOs represent the characteristics your dissertation should display, and thus the characteristics considered when graders are judging your work in relation to the CoA descriptors.

Given the variety of types of dissertation, the different emphases which may be adopted by students and the wide range of topics, there can be no standard set of criteria which can be applied in assessing dissertations. The weight attached to some criteria will differ according to the nature and subject of the dissertation. Some features that are generally present in successful dissertations of all types, however, are as follows:

  • The area of study has been clearly defined, a specific problem has been identified and addressed and a clear research question has been specified.
  • The student demonstrates a critical understanding of the relevant literature and the place of the dissertation within it.
  • The student demonstrates a critical awareness and understanding of the theoretical underpinnings and context of the topic and/or the study conducted.
  • Where relevant, the alternative methods that could be used to conduct the investigation have been identified and an appropriate choice has been made and well justified.
  • Where relevant, appropriate techniques of analysis (e.g. statistical, quantitative or qualitative) have been utilised well and justifiable inferences made.
  • The student has demonstrated powers of reasoning, analysis and synthesis.
  • The dissertation includes a clear and informed discussion of how any results achieved or conclusions made are related to the existing literature and any contribution the work makes.
  • The dissertation demonstrates that the student has constructed a clear and well-reasoned argument throughout the work and that this is articulated in the written presentation.

Indications of the more specific criteria that will be looked for in the different types of dissertations are discussed in the section above that outlines the typical types of dissertations.

NB: Good Academic Practice is especially important in relation to the assessment of the dissertation. Please be especially vigilant. See the Good Academic Practice & Plagiarism section of this document.


11.       Topic choice & writing your research proposal

The dissertation is a major piece of self-directed work that you will be working on for at least three months. It is much easier to motivate yourself to complete this task well if it is in a topic that interests you, or is relevant to what you want to do in the future. We tend to be more interested in the things we are good at, but that is not always the case, therefore, it is also important to consider your own skills and abilities, particularly in relation to the choice of methods that you are thinking of utilising in your research. Choosing empirical methods that, for example, use complex statistical techniques may not be a good choice if you can’t understand and apply the methods and (more importantly) sensibly interpret the results.


The major constraint on your choice is that your dissertation topic should be appropriate to the subject of your degree, as indicated by the degree title of the programme that you are studying towards. In general, the scope of the courses available within a degree provides a good guide to the range of topics that are appropriate to each programme/degree, and it may be sensible to choose topics associated with the course you have actually studied. It is not, however, essential that your dissertation topic is specifically covered in your taught courses. In general the topic you choose is more likely to be related to the topics within those courses or be a development of those ideas and topics, as the dissertation has to demonstrate independent study, which will entail covering something new to you. This gives you a very wide range of possible topics and approaches.

You have to choose a topic within the broad range of topics open to you and define a research question within that topic that is well-focused and feasible to address within the confines of the time available, and that demonstrates your achievement of the ILOs of your degree programme. You will have to prepare and submit a Research Proposal as part of the dissertation and supervision process, further details of the structure and processes are set out below.

Defining and choosing your dissertation topic and research question is an iterative process that is initially based in and around your reading in the topic(s) and field(s) in which you are interested and which develops through your drafting and finalisation of your Research Proposal. It is highly likely that the focus of your chosen topic, and perhaps the topic itself, will change as you read the literature and investigate different aspects of the topic area, theories and possible methods or approaches. The process of developing a well-specified research question, within the context of a research proposal, is one of the best ways of focusing your topic choice.

Your initial reading and research in this process should primarily be based on published research literature, especially the published research in good academic journals, but may also include textbooks and other publications within the discipline and in areas such as research methodology and dissertation writing. You may also get some inspiration from good past dissertations. However, be extra careful when consulting these:

  • as you are never sure of the quality (especially of those you find online)
  • to avoid choosing a topic and research question that is so close to that of existing dissertations that you are unlikely to produce something that is in any way new, and
  • to avoid committing and being accused of plagiarism.

Sources of readings in your topics of interest include suggested course reading (including further reading indicated in texts and course materials), but in addition, you should search for appropriate readings in the many available bibliographic databases and search engines. Of these Google Scholar (not straight Google) is one of the most convenient to use, at least for initial searches. In addition, there are various library, journal and publisher based generic and subject-specific sources. The University Library search facilities are also useful as they often lead more directly to materials and sources of journal articles/papers that are free for you to access.

If you are intending to conduct empirical research of any kind you will need to identify the data that you need and consider how you will get access to it. Advice on methods of data collection and different types of both qualitative and quantitative research methods were covered in the RM course. You should consult that course material before asking questions. In particular:

  • For advice on access to corporate, financial and other business-related data, for research purposes, that is held in existing databases and sources you should consult the material on the RM Moodle, in the Use of Databases section. These data sources include both quantitative and qualitative/textual data. If you need further advice on this you can consult the member of staff who delivered that section of the course (Gillian MacIver this session) or the subject specialist staff in the library (both the main University Library and the Wards Library).
  • You are not normally expected to use data from official, collected or commercial databases that is not available through the University of Glasgow. However, if you are intending to do so you will be expected to provide evidence that you have authorised access to it, and if the data &/or the interface/documentation is not in English you may be required to provide translations.
  • If you are intending to collect (or use) personal data, that is data on individuals, you will be expected to comply with the relevant ethics approval processes. See the Ethics section below and the material available on the RM Moodle.

In the process of drafting your Research Proposal, you must consider how your dissertation would not simply replicate published papers or other work, such as past dissertations (here or elsewhere). Your dissertation is a substantive piece of independent work, and as such, it needs to include some, albeit probably limited, novel or new ideas, analysis, results or ways of discussing or presenting issues within the topic you choose to challenge. There are many ways that you may differentiate your work from the extant research or literature.

Within a literature review based dissertation you might, for example, look at a topic:

  • over a more recent period,
  • covering a different literature base (where the scope is, for example, limited to specific journals),
  • based around different themes within the topic,
  • looking at particular detailed aspects of the topic and the way it has been researched (perhaps the statistical techniques or models used, the type of qualitative analysis, or which theories have been adopted)
  • utilising a different theoretical approach, or
  • utilising different technical methods.

Within an empirical type dissertation, you ideally want to do more than just replicate an existing study using exactly the same approach but on slightly different data. Pure replication of this sort might not give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have a critical understanding of the research issues involved, can formulate a research question and design an appropriate research approach, or evaluate alternatives and results. Within this type of research you might, for example:

  • do your research on a different case to allow you to make observations on differences and possible generalisations,
  • use a different, more recent, data set(s), perhaps that looks at a period or situation where you might expect changes or difference,
  • concentrate on data or cases in a different country (or countries/comparison) and contextualise the analysis and interpretation, or
  • investigate if, how and why findings or policy implications in one type of economy, culture or society do or do not apply in one not previously researched.

The examples above are not exhaustive. There any many other ways of providing an alternate focus on a research topic that will differentiate your work from existing papers and dissertations.

When deciding on your topic, you should assess the feasibility of the project you are proposing. Bear in mind that you are not expected to produce a dissertation that would meet the publication expectations/standards of a reasonable academic journal. It is likely that the scope of your review or the extent of your data will be more limited and that you will not use all of the sophisticated techniques or advanced analytical methods used in published papers, particularly those in the best journals.


11.1  Indicative content of your research proposal

There is no standard structure for a research proposal, but you will need to clearly state:

  • Title: make it meaningful (but brief)
  • The research question you intend to address: this should be written as a question (properly ending with a ‘?’) and be the main question you intend to address in your dissertation. You may have subsidiary research questions that are also detailed in the text, but these should be limited in number.

In addition, you would normally be expected to include some consideration, albeit briefly, of some or all of the following, depending on the type of dissertation you are proposing:

  • Background motivation: how your proposal is different from existing work (possible contribution).
  • Literature: The main bibliographical sources: How your project fits into/contributes to the literature.
  • Theory to be used/employed and why.
  • Research methodology and approach/methods: In summary/outline. Where relevant, this ought to be more than just the statistical techniques etc. planned, and if you are proposing statistical testing you should include details of the empirical model(s) to be used (e.g. in equation form) and details of any specialised software required (and your access to and ability to use it).
  • Data to be used: What is it? From where & how you will obtain this data? How much do you plan to collect? Consideration of any Ethics implications.
  • An outline of your intended structure of the dissertation (proposed chapters).

Your proposal should be a clear and succinct (brief) document that communicates your proposal to your supervisor. You are advised to use a structured format (with headings/subheadings) that suits the type of dissertation you are undertaking and the research that you propose to conduct.

Appendix 1 includes details of the formal format requirements and the submission requirements.


11.2  Your research proposal and supervisor choice/allocation

The primary purpose of your research proposal is for you to refine your dissertation plan and ideas and to communicate these to your supervisor. In addition, the Dissertation Team will, if necessary, use your proposal to confirm your allocation of supervisor. Even though your research proposal is not summatively graded you should take its preparation very seriously, as it is a vital component of your dissertation journey, and a poor proposal is likely to lead to less satisfactory outcomes.

You will be allocated a supervisor based on your choice of each supervisor’s preferred topic areas, which will be detailed on the DRM Moodle. This choice and the identity of your supervisor will be confirmed after the exam period. If you are unable to choose a supervisor for your planned dissertation topic you should contact the course administrators as early as possible; due to your choice of area, or the specificity of your supervisor, allocation might be restricted if we do not have a suitable supervisor available.

11.3  Submission of the Research Proposal

The formal submission requirements are set out in Appendix1 and will be confirmed by details posted on the DRM Moodle.

11.4  What happens after submitting your Research Proposal?

After submitting your dissertation and after your examinations you will be contacted by your supervisor to start the supervision process, which is detailed below. The main focus of your first supervision meeting will be to provide advice about the appropriateness and feasibility of your research proposal.


11.5  Can you change your research proposal?

This is primarily a matter for discussion with your allocated supervisor. It is highly likely that following your initial discussions you will want, or need, to refine aspects of your proposed dissertation research. However, it is important that you bear in mind that once you have been allocated a supervisor (based on your choice and the topic of your research proposal) it is not normally possible to change your supervisor. Therefore you will be constrained to the topics that are within the areas of expertise of your allocated supervisor. Therefore, it is important that you chose a general topic area that you are happy to pursue when you write your initial research proposal and confirm your topic preference.

12.       Dissertation supervision

Remember that the dissertation is a major piece of self-directed work that you will be working on for at least three months. Therefore the University expects you to be here in Glasgow throughout the summer, and that you are available for meetings when your supervisor sets them: meetings will be on specified dates and if you miss them you will not normally be given an alternative date or time.

If you are in the UK under a Visa you MUST meet the appropriate Visa requirements, and to adhere to Tier 4 Visa regulations, there will be attendance monitoring during the summer period. If you do plan a trip during this time you MUST do so to fit around any supervision arrangements and Tier 4 Visas students MUST contact the Business School Tier 4 Team to request an authorised absence.


12.1  The supervision process and roles

The principal function of your supervisor is to advise and provide you with support during the research process. However, the relationship between supervisor and student must be led by the student: you should take the initiative. It is YOUR research; your supervisor is not responsible for the quality of work submitted.

12.2  Supervisor-Student relationships

The relationship between supervisor and student is a crucial dimension of the dissertation process. This section sets out some guidelines which may help you to develop a productive working relationship within the relatively short timeframe that is available. Within this working relationship you and your supervisor have distinct roles and responsibilities, but the responsibility for the dissertation is ultimately yours.


12.3  Your Supervisor:

Your supervisor’s role is:

  • to provide guidance throughout the different stages of the dissertation process;
  • to provide feedback on the coherence, clarity and structure of your work and where appropriate, to raise salient questions;
  • to advise on sources of guidance on key terms and conceptual frameworks;
  • to act as a sounding-board for discussing well-developed ideas that you may have;
  • to advise on the source material and the process generally (e.g. timescales you need to consider, possible issues associated with accessibility, clarity etc.); and,
  • to discuss any ethical implications or requirements of your work, advise you on any ethic application that is necessary and to authorise it as suitable for submission to the approval process.

Your supervisor’s role is not:

  • to give you all the answers;
  • to be the first port of call for any and every decision you have to make;
  • to offer advice on the topic or issue if there is little evidence that you have researched the topic or issue;
  • to be the only source of wisdom/advice/ideas concerning your topic, literature and methodology;
  • responsible for structuring your findings and/or checking your grammar/spelling (supervisors will not provide language support or edit your dissertation);
  • to read and give you detailed feedback on the whole dissertation;
  • to ‘get you a good grade’; and,
  • to advise you what grade your dissertation might achieve. Your supervisor is not allowed to discuss or give any indication of the grade your work may achieve. This can only be confirmed by the Examination Board after your dissertation has gone through the grading process.

12.4  Your role as a student is to:

  • take full and final responsibility for your dissertation;
  • ensure your proposal is well specified, not too broad or unfocussed;
  • take an active role in the supervision process;
  • take the lead in discussions with your supervisor, rather than passively waiting for the supervisor’s suggestions (for example, supervisors will not tell the student how to turn a vague proposal into an acceptable dissertation)
  • demonstrate that you have attempted to address you’re issues or concerns with your topic/research before you ask the supervisor for advice (you are expected to take the first steps);
  • work to resolve problems in your research and writing;
  • write the dissertation in an adequate standard of English (if you don’t, your dissertation grade may be adversely affected: ensure your dissertation is proof-read and of an acceptable standard);
  • ensure that your work is in compliance with University guidelines and rules on good academic practice and plagiarism (including in relation to the appropriate use of proofreading and essay services);
  • follow the School and Subject guidelines for formatting, word-count, structure, etc. of your dissertation (it is not your supervisor’s responsibility to confirm or check these4)
  • be available for supervision meetings as set by your supervisor (this is your responsibility);
  • avoid missing supervision meetings for any reason (including your own holiday arrangements);
  • keep appropriate records of your meetings with your supervisor;
  • submit your dissertation on time and in the appropriate format; and
  • adhere to any visa regulations (especially those with Tier 4 Visas).


12.5  Responsibility for writing and reviewing your dissertation:

The dissertation is your own work and is expected to demonstrate the results of your own independent study. Your supervisor is not expected to read and provided detailed feedback on the whole dissertation, and is definitely not expected to proofread your work. Your supervisor will, however, give you the opportunity to submit one chapter (up to c.1500-2000 words) to them on which they will provide specific comments provided you meet their submission deadline and criteria. Although supervisors are not expected provide detailed comments on your completed or draft dissertation as a whole they may provide general comment based on a quick review of your dissertation in your last meeting.


12.6  Supervision Meetings

12.6.1  Meeting schedule, attendance and records.

You are entitled to five individual meetings with your supervisor on a schedule decided by your supervisor, of which at least three should be face to face meetings. Up to two of your meetings may be conducted online (e.g. via Skype)[4].

Supervisors may offer an additional[5] group meeting for all their supervisees at the start of the dissertation process, for example, to outline their expectations and working patterns, but are not obliged to do so.


4 ASBS requirements are set out within the Adam Smith Business School Central Student Information Point Moodle and any further Subject requirements and guidelines are provided in this handbook (including the Appendices) and the DRM / RM Moodle pages.


You are expected to attend all of the supervisor meetings that you are offered. If you have “good cause” for missing any of them, you will be expected to provide the appropriate evidence and to inform your supervisor in advance of your absence. In addition to providing you with advice on your dissertation your supervisor is required to satisfy themselves that the dissertation and other work submitted is your own work, and that you are conversant with and understand the research that you have completed, and to report to the Dissertation Convenor if they have any concerns in this respect. If you do not attend your meetings they will have cause to question the work you submit.

One of the documents that you are required to submit with your dissertation is a record of your meetings, a standard form is available for download on the DRM Moodle page for this purpose[6]. You should complete this document at or very soon after each of your meetings so that your supervisor can confirm details, including what was discussed and what is expected. You should take an up-to-date version of this form to each meeting.

12.7  Conduct of meetings and preparation

Your meetings will be linked to the stages of the development of your dissertation, and your supervisor is likely to have expectations of the stage you ought to be at by each meeting. Therefore, it is important that your work is well-planned, and you have prepared for each meeting in advance.

Within the schedule of supervision meetings provided it is up to you to negotiate and set an agenda that meets your requirements, they are advising you not telling you what to do. You, therefore, need to be prepared for them: to be prepared to seek advice on issues that concern you and to discuss issues and answer your supervisor’s questions.

You will need to take notes of the meetings/discussions during the meeting and to review and reflect on them afterwards, but do not expect to be given direct answers or to be told what to do/read. The supervision record form (see note above) is in part designed to facilitate this process.

Preparation for meetings is important. In addition to thinking about advice needed, if you are submitting materials make sure you meet any deadline suggested. This is particularly important for the first meeting, for which you should reread your proposal and prepare any questions you may have, and if appropriate prepare a revised proposal (which you would need to send to them well in advance).

In order to avoid difficulties in the supervision process, please read the following material on supervisorstudent relationships carefully, and remember you are not the supervisor’s only supervisee (they cannot read 10 or 15 chapters in one day).

13.       Writing your dissertation

The process of writing your dissertation will be guided by your supervisor. This is one of the main things that you should discuss during your supervision meetings.

13.1  Structure

Whilst there is no standard structure required for a dissertation there are certain expectations of the types of things you should include. The expectations vary by the type of dissertation that you choose to undertake. It is important that the structure of your dissertation is designed to facilitate the communication of your argument than that you match the structure of other dissertations.

A well-structured dissertation normally contains the following elements:

  1. an abstract which provides a summary of the dissertation in terms of its objectives/aims or the research questions addressed, the methodology followed, the key arguments and findings and key implications and contributions.
  2. An introduction chapter which would normally first sets the research background or context with a view to justify and locate the research questions/issues and objectives, followed by a clear


specification and explanations of the research aims/issues and objectives. Introduction chapter would also normally provide a broad overview of the methodology, findings and contributions. Usually, the introduction chapter would end with providing the roadmap to the forthcoming chapters.

  1. A methodology and/or a research design chapter (if necessary), especially in the case of an empirical dissertation. Here you would normally explain and justify the research methodology in terms of methods of data collection and methods of data analysis, including sample and/or case selections. Some may even include some design elements (such as the development of hypotheses and conceptualisation of variables etc) in the methodology chapter. For empirical dissertations, research methodology and design is a very crucial element as the quality and acceptability of the dissertation’s conclusions and argument would heavily depend on the quality and acceptability of the methodology used and how it is explained and justified in the chapter. In literature review or theoretical reviews, this can be quite brief and would outline the basis upon which the literature is selected and reviewed. Even in a literature review, a good analytical schema would enhance the clarity and the quality of the review.
  2. A literature review chapter. This should carry out a critical review of the relevant literature in order to explain the major, often competing, arguments that the existing literature has developed in relation to the research questions/issues. Often such competing arguments need to be explained in terms of their theoretical, methodological and empirical bases. Even in the case of empirical research, a good literature review would enhance the quality of the dissertation and would help you to explain and justify the way in which you arrive at your methodological and theoretical choices. In the case of a literature-based or theoretical review dissertation, the literature review is the major element of the dissertation and often expand into two or three interrelated review chapters.
  3. Data and analysis chapter. This is the key element of an empirical dissertation and should present your data and analysis in a meaningful and logical manner. It needs to be thematised well with meaningful and well-flowing headings and sub-headings. It is a good practice to relate your analysis and findings to the existing literature and/or relevant theoretical frameworks. If your dissertation is totally a literature review or theoretical statement then your analysis is the review where you would treat the literature as what you are analysing.
  4. Discussion and conclusion chapter. Finally, your dissertation would conclude with a discussion and conclusion which would summarise and conclude the dissertation describing how it specifically addressed your research issues/questions.

Finally, there should be alphabetically ordered reference list providing the full details of all the materials cited in the dissertation (but not things that you have not used).

A more detailed description of the possible/likely content of chapters is presented in Appendix 2, but remember, the topic, research question and the approach you take should drive the structure of your dissertation more than a desire to fit a model structure.

13.2  Length and format

The normal limit for a PGT dissertation is 12,000 words (this is the upper limit). This limit includes words in the in-text citations of references, the abstract and all footnotes, endnotes, appendices[7], tables, figures and other exhibits, but does not include the list of references. This limit can be extended a little (say 5-10%) with explicit and written supervisor approval if there is a good reason. Such extensions are rare but may be appropriate in some case, for example where extensive use of qualitative data is required within the text to evidence the argument of the dissertation.

Please note that grading is based on quality, not length, and that concise, efficient, and succinct writing is an important skill.


As for other submissions in the Subject and School you should use Harvard style referencing, which has been explained in induction and development classes and is documented in, inter alia, the programme model.

Your desertion should be professionally presented in the standard format adopted for dissertations in the Subject and the School. The guidelines are detailed and prescriptive and more information on these is provided in Appendix 3 (formal formatting requirements).


14.       Other matters

14.1  Good academic practice & plagiarism

Please note that plagiarism is regarded as a very serious offence in all work, but this issue is particularly important in relation to the preparation and presentation of dissertations. Plagiarism is an offence against University discipline. If you are not already fully conversant with the University’s policies on plagiarism and what you need to do to avoid the risk of any form of poor or bad academic practice, you must make sure that you are before commencing work on your dissertation. In addition to the information provided within the official University policies and regulations (within the University Regulations), you have been given guidance on Good Academic Practice at many points during your studies, including induction/ training sessions, in course instructions and feedback and via Moodle.

If you are in anyway unsure about this issue seek advice NOW.

There are many sources of advice on good academic practice, plagiarism and how to avoid it, you can, for example, contact any one of the following for assistance:

  • Course Leaders
  • Dissertation Convenor
  • Dissertation Supervisor
  • Adviser of Studies
  • Learning Enhancement and Academic Development Service (LEADS)
  • The University Library (Website)

University advice on plagiarism for students is provided at:


14.2  Oral examination

The School reserves the right to call any student for an oral examination either on a random basis or to investigate the authorial integrity of dissertations. Any oral examinations held are likely to be in the week of or preceding the final Examination Board (normally in November).

14.3  Ethical approval applications

If you plan to do any research involving human subjects, in any way, you must obtain formal ethics approval before you start the process of collecting (or arranging to collect) data.

This applies to any research that involves humans, for example (but not necessarily limited to), interviews, surveys or observations of people, including observations conducted in a workplace, or collection of data from the internet and social media.

Ethics approval is discussed in detail in the RM course and in the relevant on-line materials, which you should study. Ethics approval is largely about potential risks of harm to people and ‘informed consent’. The relevant people are principally your data subjects (the people who participate in your research) but may also include others who might be affected. All participants (or affected) must understand the risks and explicitly consent to the research and you have to have documented evidence that they have consented. In addition to your own safety (as the researcher) is also important for ethics approval. It is unethical to allow you to put yourself at risk.

In the context of PGT dissertations, the risks must be zero or minimal if your project is to gain ethics approval. If you are in any doubt you should seek advice from your supervisor at the earliest opportunity. If you do not clear this at (or soon after) your first meeting you are unlikely to have enough time to collect the data.

Details about the ethics approval application process and templates relevant to your dissertation are available on the College website at: students/


The ethics application process takes care and time. Before you are allowed to submit an ethics application you have to get your supervisor’s agreement that your proposal is low risk and that the documentation is acceptable. Once formally submitted School ethics applications can take up to 4 weeks to be reviewed by Adam Smith Business School’s Ethics Committee, and they may not approve your application on the first submission. This is why it essential that you address ethics issues at a very early stage, in order to avoid delay of data collection.

If your dissertation involves working with personal data, you are advised to work on creating and collating the necessary ethics approval documentation as soon as possible after your examinations, so that you can address issues arising in your first meeting with your supervisor.

Remember, you must not conduct any collection of personal data before approval has been given. Ethical approval cannot be granted retrospectively, and students who apply for ethical approval after starting the data collection will not be able to use the non-approved data in their dissertation. Further, if you attempt to do so will be subject to disciplinary processes that may lead to very heavy penalties.


14.4    Tier 4 Visa issues

If you are a Tier 4 student, you have been issued a visa for the full length of your programme this is 12 months from September until the end of August the following year and the UKBA expect you to be resident in Glasgow during this time. We expect you to remain in Glasgow and hope that enjoy the many facilities the University and City of Glasgow has to offer. In order to retain sponsorship of your Visa by the University of Glasgow you must remain in the UK until your dissertation has been submitted. Further, to adhere to Tier 4 regulations, there will be attendance monitoring during the summer period. If you wish to be absent for any period during the summer, you MUST fill in an approved absence form.

Whether you are a Tier 4 student or not, the main writing period for the dissertation is during the summer, and PGT students are expected to work on their dissertation during this period. If you do plan a trip during this time you MUST do so to fit around any supervision arrangements. Supervision meetings will not be arranged around your trips, and if you are in the UK under a Visa you MUST meet the appropriate Visa requirements. For Tier 4 Visas students you MUST contact the Business School Tier 4 Team to request an authorised absence.

As explained in section 7 of this document, if you fail to meet the required GPA and other conditions for progress, you will most possibly be asked to do your dissertation project after the resit exam results are released with a new supervisor. Even in that case,  In that case, it is likely that:

  • Your new Dissertation deadline will be in December (and you are not normally allowed to submit early),
  • You will be allowed to resubmit your original or an amended research proposal,
  • You will be offered the same number/schedule of supervision meetings as students who progressed in May/June, and
  • If you meet the required grade you will graduate at the next graduation (which is likely to be June next year, possibly April in absentia).
  • You should be in Glasgow during this extended dissertation period in order to meet the minimum number of face-to-face supervision meetings with the new supervisor and to have access to the resources you need to complete your research for your dissertation

Guidance and forms will be posted on the Adam Smith Business School Central Student Information Point &/or the Dissertation & Research Methods Moodle by the beginning of the dissertation period and any further questions can be addressed to

14.5  Graduation

Please see the web page for up to date information regarding graduation. It is the student’s responsibility to enrol for graduation. Students should enrol to graduation – whether they have received confirmation of their award of not. All details can be found on the University website, at

Please read all these instructions and details carefully.


14.6  Further information and help

If you have any questions about the information above your Supervisor should be your first point of advice (once you are informed who your supervisor is). Before the allocation of supervisors please feel free to contact the PGT Admin Team, who alongside the Dissertation Convenor (and Programme Convenors) can be contacted at any stage throughout the Research Proposal and Dissertation process.


If you have questions of a general nature that are likely to be of interest to other students please post your questions or comments on the RM/DRM Moodle rather than e-mail them.














Appendix1: Formal Format of you Research Proposal


The Research Proposal must be submitted by the date specified in the important dates/periods section (and on Moodle) within the appropriate Moodle submission area. Additional requirements may be specified in Moodle regarding additional submission requirements.

Issues of content and structure are outlined and discussed in the ‘Topic choice & writing your research proposal’ section of these guidelines. This appendix sets out the formal format requirements.

A1.1 Length:

  • Succinct clear communication is more important than using the maximum number of words allowed.
  • Best: 2 or 3 Pages (plus list of references) in addition to the title (front) page described below.
  • 11 or 12 point font, 1.5 Line spacing, moderate Margins (c.25mm+ all-round)
  • Absolute maximum             length                1,500     Words: including                everything           except   your                list          of references/bibliography (but including ‘in-text’ citations)
  • IF using non-standard, non-Uof-G provided data, any proof of access to data you have / need or details of the source(s) – if available at this point.


A1.2 Structure:

The proposal should consist of the following three sections

Title (front) page

The title (front) page of you proposal must contain the following, in this order and clearly presented, ideally in a table:

  • Your personal details
  • Full name
  • Student Registration Number
  • University e-mail Address (you MUST NOT use any other e-mail address in communication with your supervisor)
  • The title of your Degree Programme

For example:

  • MAcc: International Accounting & Financial Management
  • MFin: International Finance
  • MSc: Corporate Governance & Accountability
  • The title of your research proposal, which is your proposed dissertation title.
  • Your proposed research question (RQ), which should be written as a question and should not be too long. You may add a few significant subsidiary research questions, but you do not need to do so.
  • The Topic Area of your proposal, the general area of your proposed research.
  • The word count

A sample title sheet will be posted on Moodle.



A1.3Your Research proposal

Your actual research proposal, as outlined and discussed in the ‘Topic choice & writing your research proposal’ section of these guidelines. Ideally this should be sectioned as appropriate to your proposal.

A1.4 References & Indicative Bibliography

This section should contain two sections:

  • References: the references for the proposal section
  • Indicative Bibliography: a list of other references that indicate the main bibliographical sources for you dissertation (this need not be a very long list).

A1.5 Submission

The submission deadline is specified in the ‘Important dates/periods’ section at the beginning of this document. It is expected that proposals will only have to be submitted electronically via the DRM Moodle page. Details will be posted (and updated) on the DRM Moodle.



Appendix 2: Further guidance on dissertation structure

As discussed in the section ‘Writing your dissertation’ it is important for your dissertation structure to reflect the type of dissertation you are completing and the arguments you are making within it.

Below is a sample structure of a dissertation, which is intended to be merely illustrative and indicative. There is no penalty for deviating from this structure, and your subject area and supervisor may also provide guidelines and advice which might better suit your chosen approach.

1 Title Page The specifics depend on your subject area, and will be discussed later, but it should include at least:

•        student number

•        supervisor’s name,

•        question/title of your dissertation  •         year.

2 Abstract A brief (250-300 words) description of your dissertation:

•        what you are investigating

•        why this is important

•        how you will investigate (your chosen theoretical concepts, and

•        practical methods)

•        • expected results and/or actual findings.

3 Table of Contents Chapter headings and sub-headings.


4 Table of Figures All tables, graphs, and other images, with Figure number, and name.


5 Acknowledgements No more than one page, thanking those who have helped you in your research.


6 Introduction This section could set out:

•        the research question

•        the reason for the research

•        the main objective of the research,

•        the context in which the research is conducted (e.g. briefly

•        introducing the topic, key concepts, the company or customer group)

•        the structure of the dissertation (e.g. explaining how your  chapters lead from one to another)

7 Literature Review This chapter should be a survey of existing literature on your chosen topic. This should include both theoretical and empirical literature, showing the existing arguments for and against your chosen topic, as well as analysis and summary of relevant data (from case studies, time-series, etc).


This should not just be a list of articles, but must be a critical review and should inform the shape of your main arguments. Summarise the main points of view, and highlight the shortcomings of these existing arguments and the gaps that your research intends to address.


For a literature view based dissertation this is likely to be split into several chapters or major sub-chapters dealing with different aspects of the review. The division may be by theme, by chronology, by methods or theories used or by other divisions that suit the development of the review

8 Methodology and/or  Methods (this may be before the literature



Whether you are conducting primary or secondary research, a research methodology chapter explaining and justifying your chosen method(s) is required. The methods should be clearly related to your research question and should address issues/questions raised in the literature review.


    This chapter should not just be a description of what you have done. Rather, it should justify and support your choice of methods based on studies of research methods and/or studies of similar research topics which have used similar methods.


The discussion should include reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of the selected approach, as well as issues relating to sample selection (e.g. sample criteria; recruitment of respondents), data gathering and your approach to data analysis.


Important: When deciding on your methodology you must take account of  the ethical principles.


9 Empirical/Theoretical Chapters (if and as appropriate) Possibly more than one chapter, e.g. Data collection

Analysis Results



The chapter(s) in this section need to reflect the requirements of the type of dissertation you are pursuing and should communicate your main findings.


For a literature review based dissertation this section might just include a discussion chapter, possibly one that draws together the different aspects of the literature covered in the literature review chapter(s) and possibly related to theory and theoretical concepts.


For empirically-based dissertations the chapters in this section will reflect a significant proportion of the research and may, for example, recount the qualitative analysis (included quoted data) or maybe structured via the discussion of a series of statistical tests, model (re)definitions and tables of results.


The work in this section should relate to appropriate theoretical concepts, to case studies, datasets, or other forms of data which you are utilising in your research.


10 Conclusion This chapter should reflect on your findings, noting any surprising or unexpected results. The conclusion should be based on the research and analysis performed in the dissertation, and not a generic conclusion with aspects unrelated to the rest of the dissertation.


Conclusions should be justified by the work done. You can include some broader statements, but you must be clear of the extent of your research, the limitations of the study, and what would need further investigation.

11 References References should be fully and neatly prepared using the Harvard system


12 Appendices All appendices should be clearly numbered and referred to correctly throughout your dissertation.









Appendix 3: Dissertation format formatting guidelines

The attached guidelines have been developed to help Accounting & Finance PGT students negotiate the complicated task of formatting their dissertation. The guidelines shown below incorporate the good practice that has been gathered over the years of providing advice to students and reviewing Subject Group, School and College guidelines, usingthe British Standard for PhD Theses as a referencepoint.


A3.1 Layout of the Dissertation

The typical layout of a dissertation is as follows:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • List of tables
  • List of figures
  • List of accompanying material
  • Preface (optional)
  • Acknowledgements (optional)
  • Definitions/abbreviations
  • Text – in chapters
  • Appendices (optional)
  • Glossary (optional)
  • List of references / Bibliography index

Please note that all of these pages may not be required for all types of dissertations.

Further format guidelines for PGT dissertations in Accounting & Finance are provided in the tables below.


A3.2 Thesis – Format Guidelines

A3.2.1 Page Layout and Order


Top 1.8cm

Bottom 1.8cm

Left 1.5cm

Right 1.5cm

Gutter 2.5cm (making total biding edge of 4.0cm)

A3.2.2 Pages (printing)

Single-sided on A4 paper, 70 – 100gm


(NB: all of these pages may not be required, delete as appropriate)

Title page



Table of contents

List of tables

List of figures

List of accompanying material

Preface (optional)

Acknowledgements (optional)


Text – in chapters

Appendices (optional)

Glossary (optional)

List of references / Bibliography index

Front Matter

Title Page

Title of Dissertation

Full name of Author Any qualifications

Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the

Degree of XXX

School of XXX, College of XXX University of Glasgow  Month and year of deposition to the Library



Following title page

Synopsis of thesis, stating the nature and scope of work undertaken, the main arguments and conclusions of the dissertation, all condensed into a single A4 page.

Table of Contents

As a minimum, this should include a list of chapter numbers, chapter titles and page numbers relating to the start of each chapter (to include all pages, but no reference to the contents page itself).

This may, at the student’s option, be expanded to provide information concerning sections of chapters, etc. However, the detail provided must not obscure the clarity of the Table of Contents.

Any appendices (see below) should also be referenced in the Table of Contents.




List of Tables / Figures

An optional extra is a list of figures or tables can be provided, but this should normally only be provided if the tables and/or figures are considered numerous and worthy of being specifically referenced.


If the student wishes to acknowledge any assistance / support / ideas / co-operation etc., this should be briefly indicated on a single A4 page at this point.

 Main Text

The main body of the dissertation, divided into chapters and sub-headings as appropriate.

Appendices (optional)

Any appendix material is to be included in determining the overall length of the dissertation. The appendices can either be grouped together at the end of the main text or included at the end of each relevant chapter within the main text. The use of appendices and the positioning of appendices are both optional, but if appendices are used the positioning should be consistent, i.e., all appendices at the end of the main text or all following the relevant chapters.

List of References

This should include all works specifically referenced within the text and should contain the following details:

  1. Author(s)
  2. Title of publication or Article
  3. Publisher/Source
  4. Date of publication.

The order should be alphabetical by author (or first-named author with the second and subsequent authors providing the next sort fields) and by date of publication within author. Further details on the format of references are provided below.

A3.2.3 Text Format


Not less than 2.0mm for capitals and 1.5mm for height of lowercase x – 12 point as the base font size.

Even space between characters and words.


Flush left or may be justified (note: formatting issues can be encountered with justified paragraphs)

With an additional line space between paragraphs (e.g., in 1½ line spacing, 3 lines (1½+1½ or 18pt+18pt) between paragraphs)

Quoted matter

Indented 5mm to 10mm

Text same size as main text, but lines may be in single line spacing



Times New Roman or Trebuchet MS for the body of the thesis Arial or Trebuchet MS for Headings

Line Spacing

1.5 line spacing


Used to indicate the hierarchical structure of the text

Normally not more than 4 levels – including chapter headings as first level Each level distinguished from the other by position, typography, or both

Preceding and following space should be not less than the space between paragraphs  Not centred – except possibly for chapter headings


Heading Numbering

If required, in the format –

  1. Heading1
    • Heading2

1.1.1 Heading3

A3.4 Headers/Footers

A3.4.1 Headers

Desirable, but not essential – help to identify source of a single page, particular chapters should include chapter number and/or chapter heading and page number (see Numbering below)  10 point size

Not on preliminary pages or chapter openings omitted from pages with full-page illustrations


A3.5 Numbering

A3.5.1 Page numbering and chapters

Arabic numerals should be used throughout (Note: current publication practices indicate this to be standard)

Visibly clear of the text, preferably in the top outer corner of each page, although may be placed in the Footer

A3.5.2 Object numbering

Tables, figures and equations should each follow a separate sequence

Arabic numerals should be used, below the object Chapter numbermay be included  e.g., Fig1-2 (Figure 2 in Chapter 1)

The title page should be counted, not numbered



A3.6 Other Formatting

A3.6.1 Footnotes/Endnotes

Footnotes – throughout the text

Endnotes – placed at end of chapter or end of the text, clearly separated from main text and each other

Smaller in character size and more closely spaced (same size as header/footer text is recommended

(10pt), although if over 100 words, 12pt should be used)

Hanging indent format


A.3.6.2 References

All sources consulted for your dissertation MUST be properly referenced, and, in general, unless you have been explicitly told/permitted to use a different system, you should use the Harvard referencing system. Harvard is not a tightly standardised format, however, the basics are standardised, and these you need to follow. If in doubt, you should ensure that (a) the reader has enough information to understand and find the source and any quotations; (b) you are consistent in the way sources are referenced in your dissertation.

There is advice on referencing systems in many places, a good place to start for advice is the Library, see for example: management/#/helpwithreferencing.

The first of these includes links to a very comprehensive guide (at Leeds University) which is widely used as a reference source for Harvard referencing; alternatively, details regarding the Harvard system can found in various online sites, see for example:

A.3.6.3 Tables

Each should appear complete on one page, close to first reference to it.

If many tables, they may be collected at the end of the thesis as an Appendix.

Normally presented in portrait orientation

A3.6.4 Word Count (limit)

The normal limit for a PGT dissertation is 12,000 words (this is the upper limit). This limit includes:

  • abstract
  • main body (all the chapters)
  • all tables (with words and numbers in them)
  • all the figures (with words and numbers in them)
  • in-text citations of references
  • all footnotes
  • all endnotes
  • all appendices

The word count does not include:

  • title page
  • table of contents
  • list of tables
  • list of figures
  • the acknowledgement page
  • the list of references


The above 12,000 word limit can be extended a little (say 5-10%) only in extraordinary circumstances with the explicit and written approval of the supervisor. Such extensions are rare but may be appropriate in some case, for example where extensive use of qualitative data is required within the text to evidence the argument of the dissertation.


[1] If the nature of the dissertation makes it imperative that you perform research abroad or outside Glasgow (such as collection of primary data), students are required to obtain the approval of both your dissertation supervisor and the programme director WELL IN ADVANCE, as well as getting any appropriate Visa approval.

NB: such approval is only provided in exceptional circumstances.


[2] Which are outlined in the section regulations and detailed in the University Regulations.

[3] Information on the University’s Code of Assessment is included in the University Regulations and explanatory information on the Code is proved at .


[4] If you miss a scheduled meeting, you are not entitled to a replacement meeting, but if your supervisor offers to arrange a replacement meeting this, too, may be on-line.

[5] This should be in addition to, not instead of, the five individual meetings.

[6] Though individual supervisors might expect you to use an alternative, more detailed, record document.

[7] But excludes any appendix that JUST details the names / role and purpose of any submitted data & analysis files