The purpose of the research paper is to provide you with the opportunity to undertake a piece of original, independent financial research. This project will be something tangible which you can show potential employers. The end-product will be similar to a mini-dissertation or research paper. The research paper is an individual piece of work.




The project accounts for 75% of your overall module mark.


For a breakdown of the marks for the project, please refer to Appendix 1. This provides an outline of the feedback sheet you will receive and the marking criteria. The suggested page lengths for each section below will also give you an indication of how the marks for each section are weighted.




The research paper is to be no more than 15 pages long, including title page, tables, figures, and appendices. References are excluded from the 15 page limit. Your text (apart from tables and footnotes) should be double-spaced (2.0) with justified text (i.e. evenly distributed between margins), using size 12 Times New Roman font. Standard margins should be used. Research papers which don’t meet these requirements will not be accepted.


Each research paper should have the following:

  1. Your title, name and student number on the first page.
  2. An abstract of less than 100 words. This should summarise your paper, and be on the first page.
  3. An introduction (1-2 pages) which details what the research paper is about is about (your research questions), why it is important, your main findings, and a short (one paragraph) overview of what you do in each section.
  4. A literature review and theoretical section (approx. 3 pages). This should be critical of the literature. It should also tie in with what you are doing in your empirical work. It shouldn’t be a comprehensive literature review of all the major papers! It should contain your main hypotheses, which are scientific statements that can be proved or disproved using quantitative evidence (i.e. regression analysis).
  5. Data and Methodology section (approx. 2 pages) – How are you going to test your hypotheses? Where is your data from? What is your methodology? Any data problems?
  6. Results and Analysis section (approx. 6 pages) – Tables and figures of results. State your findings. Explain your findings. How do your results fit in with the literature?
  7. Conclusion (approx. 1-2 pages) – summary of findings, weaknesses of your paper, possible future research.
  8. References – please note that all and only cited papers should be listed in your references (bibliography). Please follow the Harvard style of referencing for both intext references and your reference list. Guidelines on how to reference can be found here:

Failure to reference properly will result in marks being deducted.

  1. You should follow the formatting style of the Journal of Finance or Journal of Financial Economics. Make sure your tables and figures follow this style, particularly when presenting econometric results.


Please refer to Appendix 2 for further information on the layout and content of your project





You will need to collect your own data for the project, in order to test your hypotheses quantitatively (i.e. regression analysis). All the guides to the main financial databases are available on Canvas. There are also some datasets available on Canvas. You may wish to look at other sources, please ensure they are credible and you can verify the integrity of your data.





You have the freedom to choose your area of research, provided it falls within the syllabus of the course. It is important that you ensure that data is available before you select your topic, as you need to test your hypotheses quantitatively.


Outlined below are some potential research topics:


  1. Ownership
    • Do different ownership structures affect firm performance?
  2. Corporate governance
    • How board structure influences firm performance
    • CEO pay performance sensitivity
    • Board diversity
  3. Determinants of capital structure
    • Can consider looking across industries within a country or across different countries for determinants of capital structure
  4. Factors influencing dividend policy
    • What determines dividend policy across industries or countries
  5. Law and finance
    • Do better legal protections result in better financial outcomes? – Does legal origin matter?
  6. CSR
    • Does CSR matter for firm performance?
    • Does governance matter for CSR?






The deadline for project submission is before 17:00 (UK time) on Monday 3rd May. Your project should be uploaded to Canvas as a Word Document or pdf file.


Please ensure that you correctly reference in your research projects. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is not acceptable to copy sections of text from another author and present this as your own work. Instances of plagiarism will be subject to the University’s regulations relating to academic offences.


Appendix 1: Project feedback & marking scheme


Corporate Finance research papers – feedback proforma  Lecturer: Dr David Jordan (



Overall mark: 








Very good




Research paper          
Title and Abstract (10%)          
Introduction (10%)          
Literature review (10%)          
Data and methodology (10%)          
Results and analysis (25%)          
Conclusion (10%)          
Logical progression of arguments and coherency of paper (15%)          
Referencing and presentation (10%)          
OVERALL (100%)          


Additional Comments:



Research paper Weight Poor (0-40) Adequate (40-50) Good (50-60) Very Good (60-70) Excellent (70+)
Title and Abstract 10% – Fails to


subject matter of research

– Gives reader some idea of topic and findings – Gives reader good idea of topic and findings – Communicates clearly the subject under consideration, the research questions and key results – Communicates very clearly the subject under consideration, the research questions and key results




10% –    Fails to provide a coherent overview of the research

–    No clear indication of research agenda or


–    Key findings detailed but lacks coherence

–    Approach to research outlined but several



–    Key findings summarised

–    Outline of proposed research but some areas may lack coherence/relevance

–    Factual overview of approach and key findings

–    Lacking in motivation/discussion importance


–    Comprehensive & coherent

–    Summarising motivation & key findings

–    Clear motivation and context for research, discussion of


–    Overview of the project/empirical approach

–    Detail of each section











10% –    Literature review lacks coherence and relevance

–    Issues with accuracy

–    Lack of theoretical overview

–    Evidence of reviewing the literature

–    Poor discussion of theoretical context

–    Key hypotheses not specified correctly


–    Factual review of the literature

–    Theoretical discussion may contain minor inaccuracies

–    Limited discussion of hypothesis development

–    Comprehensive discussion of literature/

–    Hypotheses outlined

–    Critical discussion of relevant literature in the field

–    Comprehensive discussion of theoretical motivation for research

–    Hypotheses motivated by literature/theory

Data and






10% –    Insufficient data description

–    Serious errors in model construction

–    Limited description of data

–    Model mis-specified


–    Factual description of data

–    Model mis-specifed

–    Full discussion of data, may be some minor inaccuracies

–    Model correctly specified, may be issues with notation

–    Full discussion of data

–    Description of empirical approach

–    Model correctly specified

Results and







25% – Results not interpreted



–    Description of results with limited interpretation

–    Some inaccuracies in interpretation

–    Limited discussion of existing

–    Correct interpretation of results

–    Some evidence of comparing results with theory/existing research

–    Correct interpretation of results

–    Discussion of research questions/hypotheses in light of evidence

–    Results placed in context

–    Correct and full interpretation of results in relation to specified research questions with evidence of original thought

–    Results placed in context of the literature in the field.







    theory/empirical evidence







10% Fails to summarise key findings and draw valid conclusions from the data Overview of conclusions but some inaccuracies –    Summary of key findings

–    Some limitations in drawing conclusions from the results

–    Summary of key findings

–    Awareness of weaknesses in methodological approach

–    Concise and coherent summary of key findings

–    Evidence of drawing original conclusions from the analysis

–    Discussion of any weaknesses

–    Avenues for future research

Logical progression

and coherency

of  paper


15% –    Report lacks coherence

–    Large amounts of irrelevant material

–    Clear lack of understanding

– Report lacks coherence in several areas – Coherent report, with some inaccuracies or evidence of a lack of understanding – Coherent and clear train of logical thought from lit review, through to hypotheses development, model specification, analysis of results and conclusions –    Coherent and clear train of logical thought from lit review, through to hypotheses development, model

specification, analysis of results and conclusions

–    Evidence of independent and original thought

Referencing and




10% –    Report fails to meet formatting requirements

–    inconsistent approach to referencing

–    Several formatting issues

–    approach to referencing not consistent

–    Some minor formatting issues

–    Quality of referencing

–    Meets formatting requirements

–    Good range of references

–    Within 15 page limit, double spaced etc

–    Evidence of additional reading

–    Harvard style of referencing






Appendix 2: Project requirements


Your research paper should be written in the style of an academic journal article. Please refer to articles from the Journal of Finance or Journal of Financial Economics for examples of well written papers and the correct layout and style.


Title page


This should detail your project title, your name and student number. Do not include a contents page, this is a waste of your page limit. The abstract should also be included on the title page; it should be less than 100 words. This should be a concise summary of the motivation for your work, why it is important, what your key findings and conclusions are.


Introduction (1-2 pages)


The purpose of the introduction is to provide the reader with an overview of your work. You should include the context for your research and why it is important. The introduction should include your research questions and your key findings. It should also include a short (one paragraph) overview of what you do in each section.

You may find it helpful to write your introduction after you have written up the rest of your paper.


Literature review and theoretical section (appx. 3 pages)


You should include a review of the relevant literature in your area of research. You should critically review the literature and document the key papers which support or refute your thesis statement. The section should also include the theoretical basis for your research. You should clearly outline your key research questions, hypotheses, and how these will help you to empirically analyse your thesis statement.  There should be a clear link between your thesis statement, research questions, and hypotheses.


All papers should be cited in-text as (SurnameOfAuthor, YearOfPublication), e.g. (Bloggs, 2009). Readers should then be able to look at your bibliography to find the surname of the author, and the year published, to find the article or book which you are referring to.


Data and Methodology section (approx. 2 pages)

You should outline your data source and also summarise the data. When you are collecting the data set ensure that it is credible, check for any missing entries. You should also eyeball your data to look for any obvious outliers which you may wish to exclude from your dataset.  Describe the data in this section, i.e. number of observations, distribution of the data, what years your data relate to etc. Tables should include units, currencies etc. where appropriate.



Clearly outline how you are going to test your hypotheses and what is your methodology. You should specify your regression model including correct notation.

You should define the key variables you are using and any notation if appropriate.

Results and Analysis section (approx. 6 pages)

Your results should be presented in tabular format following the Journal of Finance or Journal of Financial Economics. Outputs taken directly from R or Stata are not acceptable. Ensure that all key variables are included in your tables. You should clearly state and explain your findings. Reference should be made to the statistical significance of your key variables.

You should illustrate how your results either support or refute your initial hypothesis. The section should include a discussion of how your results fit in with the existing literature. You should also link your results back to the theory behind your research.

Conclusion (approx. 1-2 pages)

The conclusion summarises your entire paper, you should include a summary of your key findings, whether they support or refute your key hypotheses and how your results contribute to the existing literature in the field. You may wish to note whether your approach contributes in terms of results from a new data set or an empirical approach which differs from the existing literature.

The conclusion should include a reflective element which outlines any weaknesses with your paper, e.g., limited data set, and thoughts on future areas for research.


This will provide a list of all the references used throughout your paper. These must be correctly formatted, using the Harvard format, and in alphabetical order.


Projects which do not meet the specifications for the required formatting or exceed the stated page limit will be marked down.  Correct spelling and grammar will also be considered as part of the overall mark scheme (with relevant exclusions where applicable).