Master’s Degree Dissertation Module
Table of Contents
Welcome to the University of York Management School Master’s Degree Dissertation Module (MAN00111M).
This Postgraduate Taught (Master’s) Dissertation module is a student led, University facilitated and Supervisor supported research-based Independent Study Project, involving sustained private study over the summer term and the summer vacation, culminating in the submission of a dissertation report of 10,000 words.
The York Management School Dissertation Module (MAN00111M) is integral to the Master’s Degree Courses of:
Accounting and Finance
- MSc Accounting and Financial Management
- MSc Management with Business Finance
Management & IBSM Suite
- MSc Management
- MSc International Business
- MSc International Strategic Management
- MSc International Business and Strategic Management
- MSc Global Marketing
The dissertation module is preceded by the Spring Term (First) Research Methods module and supported in its early stages by the parallel Summer Term (Second) Research Methods Module. During this period students will identify a research topic and begin preparation of their Dissertation Outline towards the end of the Spring Term.
The module formally commences with an Induction Session and submission of the Dissertation Outline early in the second week of the Summer (Third) Term. The module then runs throughout the Summer Terms of the Master’s Degree; a period of some four-and-ahalf months, completing therefore, in early September.
The dissertation module is designed and structured to replicate the professional research process. It comprises incremental development of the dissertation project and completion of the final report, progressing through both Outline and Research Proposal plus Research Ethics approval stages, with the aim developing researcher and other professional, personal and transferable and employability skills.
The dissertation module comprises 50 credits, representing nearly one third of the total Master’s Degree.
All Master’s Degree candidates pursuing the dissertation route must successfully complete the dissertation module for successful achievement of their Degree.
The Module comprises two formative submissions and two summative assessments, which collectively support the incremental development of your dissertation project and dissertation report and your development of researcher, personal and transferable employability skills.
The module comprises two formative written assignment submissions, as follows:
Your first submission within the dissertation module is your Dissertation Outline. This is a compulsory formative submission, comprising a 250-word outline of your proposed research topic and preliminary research ideas.
The Dissertation Outline provides a platform for you to focus your thoughts on the selection of your research topic, briefly explain the topic and/or research question that you plan to investigate, ideally including the reason for selection of your topic, and present some preliminary thoughts on your research design.
You will submit your Dissertation Outline during Week 2 of the summer Term (Term 3).
In the first instance, your Dissertation Outline will be used to assign an appropriate Dissertation Supervisor.
Your Dissertation Outline will subsequently also form the basis for discussion at your first formal supervisory meeting with your dissertation supervisor. At this meeting, you will receive feedback on your Dissertation Outline and advice and suggestions in terms of the viability and design of your research project and the preparation of your 2,000word Research Proposal plus Research Ethics approval application.
See ‘Formative Submission: Dissertation Outline’ on page 16 for further information.
Draft Dissertation Chapter/s
At your second formal supervisory meeting with your dissertation supervisor, you will agree on the completion and submission of a substantial draft chapter of your dissertation. Depending upon your area of greatest developmental need and support, it is likely, although not mandatory, that you will agree on the completion and submission of either your Literature Review or your Methodology chapter. Subject to your preferences and needs, you may alternatively agree some alternative draft submission arrangements with your supervisor, such as the less well-developed combination of two chapters, such as Introduction and Literature Review, Introduction and Methodology, or Literature Review and Methodology, for example.
You will agree a date by which your draft chapter/s are to be submitted for consideration by your dissertation supervisor, but in any event this should be no later than the end of Week 5 of the Summer Vacation Term (Term 4).
You will subsequently receive written feedback on your draft work and this will provide the basis for further discussion and suggestions concerning the successful completion of your dissertation project at your subsequent third and final formal supervisory meeting.
The dissertation module comprises two summative assignments, which combine to form the sum total of your module mark, as follows:
Assessment ~1: Research Proposal, incorporating Research Ethics Application.
Your first summative assessment consists of 2,000-word Research Proposal, accompanied by a Research Ethics Approval application form.
Your Research Proposal will provide detailed information on why, how and when you intend to carry out your dissertation research, whilst your Ethics Approval application form will provide details as to the research ethics risks and risk mitigation and control measures proposed in connection with your research project.
It is expected that your Research Proposal will be developed from your Dissertation Outline, wherein themes, ideas, structure, statements of intent and detail will be developed and progressed through additional research and engagement with relevant literature relating to both your topic area and research methodologies and methods.
You will submit your Research Proposal and Ethics Approval application form in Week 7 of the Summer Term (Term 3).
Your Research Proposal comprises 25% of your overall module mark.
Assessment ~2: Dissertation.
The dissertation project completes with the submission of an 10,000-word (excluding bibliography and appendices) dissertation report, some three months after your Research Proposal and Ethics form.
The dissertation represents a piece of research that will be the summation of your studies in your degree. Replicating the professional research paper development process, it is anticipated that your dissertation will be structured in accordance with and contain significant completed draft sections drawn and developed from your proposal. Some change in research focus and details during the research process is of course possible, but significant changes should be discussed with and agreed by your supervisor.
Note that the dissertation research process at Master’s degree level within this module at The York Management School comprises an original research element. Except in exceptional circumstances, which must be agreed by your dissertation supervisor on commencement of the project and be properly explained and justified in terms research methodology within the main body of your dissertation report, this will comprise the collection and analysis of data – this can be either primary or secondary data or both – and the production of findings (or readings) and conclusions, as well as engagement with appropriate bodies of literature relevant to the research topic.
You will submit your Dissertation in Week 12 of the Summer Vacation Term (Term 3).
Your Dissertation report comprises 75% of your overall module mark.
The Learning outcomes of the Module are as follows. Successful completion of the module will demonstrate that you are able to:
- Undertake a research project
- Apply knowledge of research philosophy and methods
- Critically analyse significant bodies of relevant literature in the chosen topic area
- Undertake active research involving collection of primary and/or secondary data
- Engage with ethical issues in undertaking research
- Prepare and write a well-presented and substantial piece of academic research
- Critically reflect on the research skills and their relationship to future development and employability
|Spring Term (Term 2)|
|Wednesday 20th January 2021
|Dissertation Module – Introduction and Overview
(to support dissertation/project gateway decision)
|Monday 8th March 2021 (Week 9)||Commence preparation of Dissertation Outline|
|Summer Term (Term 3)|
|Monday 26th April 2021
|Module Induction Session|
|Wednesday 28th April 2021
|Deadline for submission of Dissertation Outline|
|By: Thursday 6th May 2021
|Assignment of Dissertation Supervisor|
|By: Friday 21st May 2021
(Weeks 4 – 5)
|First formal meeting with Dissertation Supervisor – Feedback on Dissertation Outline and look forward to completion of
Research Proposal and Research Ethics application
|Thursday 3rd June 2021
|Deadline for submission of Research Proposal and Research
Ethics approval application form
|Wednesday 23rd June 2021
|Marking & feedback received for Research Proposal and
Research Ethics approval application form
|Summer Vacation Term (Term 4)|
|By: Friday 2nd July 2021
|Second formal meeting with Dissertation Supervisor – Feedback on Research Proposal and Research Ethics application and look forward to completion of dissertation. To include agreement on submission of draft chapters for written feedback and discussion at next supervisory meeting|
|By: Thursday 29th July 2021
|Deadline for submission of any draft work/chapters for consideration by Supervisor|
|By: Friday 13th August 2021
|Third formal meeting with Dissertation Supervisor – Feedback on any draft work or chapters and detailed look forward to completion of project and submission of dissertation report|
|Wednesday 15th September 2021
|Deadline for submission of Dissertation|
All submissions are due by 11:00 hours on the date indicated.
Your first point of contact for all matters concerning your dissertation module, the research project itself and your research proposal and dissertation assessments is your Dissertation Supervisor.
Your Dissertation Supervisor will be assigned on the basis of your Dissertation Outline during Week 3 of the Summer Term (Term 3).
Ideally your Supervisor will be assigned on the basis of shared interest and skills in some element of your research topic, discipline and/or research methodology and methods. However, this is not essential as all assigned Supervisors within this Module are proficient in supervising the Master’s Degree dissertation process.
Each supervisory relationship is highly individual and dependent upon a significant number of factors and variables. Such variables within the dissertation supervisory relationship might include, supervisor’s style, research discipline and topic selected, student’s project and specific skills development needs, project research methodology, approach and plan, and your supervisor’s other commitments, both professional and personal. Direct comparisons with other students’ supervisory experiences are therefore, not usually appropriate.
Module Designer and Coordinator
Dr Des Williamson (email@example.com)
Contact the Module Coordinator if you have an enquiry about academic policy or issues concerning the running of the Module.
Professional Support Services (PSS)
Postgraduate Support Office (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Postgraduate Assessment Team (email@example.com)
Contact the Postgraduate Support Office if you have an enquiry concerning administrative processes. Contact the Postgraduate Assessment Team if you have an enquiry relating to policy, processes and procedures for any of the dissertation module assessments.
TYMS Ethics Committee
Dr Carolyn Hunter, Chair, TYMS Ethics Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Contact the Chair of the TYMS Ethics Committee for enquiries relating to policy, processes and procedures for your research ethics approval application form.
Please note that the dissertation module runs across the Summer Term and the Summer Vacation where academic and Professional Support Staff (PSS) staff will not always be available due to research and other commitments and annual leave.
We will endeavour to reply to your email promptly and will normally reply to any email query within five (5) working days. Working days are Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, excluding weekends and UK public holidays. If you do not get a reply after that time, please re-send your email. Please note that if you send an email after 5pm or on a weekend or public holiday it will not be received until the next working day. If you email an individual and you receive an ‘out of office’ notice that indicates that they will be unavailable for a period of time, then you should only expect a reply after they return to work. If the email is urgent you should send it to the Postgraduate Administrator (email@example.com) who will be able to refer it to a relevant person or deal with the query.
When sending an email please consider who is the best person to consider your query. Many of the answers to common questions you may have about your Dissertation Module are contained either in this Handbook or on the VLE. Before sending an email please check both the Handbook and the VLE first!
You are reminded however, that your Dissertation Supervisor is your primary and first point of contact for all matters and enquiries relating to your dissertation research project.
Following submission of your Dissertation Outline, a member of academic staff will be assigned as your Dissertation Supervisor. Your Dissertation Supervisor will work with you, help you to comply with the requirements of the University for Master’s Degree dissertations, and guide and advise you toward the successful completion of your dissertation project. Ideally your Supervisor will have particular interests and expertise in the area of your dissertation, but this is not essential for professional Masters Dissertation project supervision.
Regular meetings and contact
You should expect a minimum of three formal meetings with your Dissertation supervisor during the course of the Dissertation Module.
As noted in the summary key dates above, it is recommended that these meetings take place as follows:
First formal meeting
- During Week 4 or Week 5 of the Summer Term (Term 3); that is, not later than Friday 21st May 2021
- To include feedback on Dissertation Outline and planning for preparation of Research Proposal (including project plan) and research ethics approval application form
Second formal meeting
- Either during the final week of the Summer Term (Term 3, Week 10) or the first week of the Summer Vacation Term (Term 4, Week 1); that is, not later than Friday 2nd July 2021
- To include feedback on Research Proposal and Research Ethics approval application, along with planning of dissertation project and preparation of the dissertation report. This may involve agreement on submission of draft chapter/s for comment and feedback at next meeting (See Section on Formative Assignments)
Third formal meeting
- During Week 6 or 7 of the Summer Vacation Term (Term 4); that is, not later than
Friday 13th August 2021
- To include feedback on any draft dissertation work or chapter/s, as agreed previously, and/or discharge of project plan to achieve successful completion of dissertation project and submission of final report
Please note that if you miss a meeting or submission of a piece of draft work for consideration, such as a draft chapter, please do not expect this to be arranged after 13th August 2021. Remember that your Supervisor will be supervising several other students, as well as undertaking research and preparing for teaching, so they may not be able to drop everything to help you if you miss agreed draft work deadlines or leave your dissertation preparation to the last minute.
Other than in exceptional circumstances, as agreed with your supervisor in advance, all formal supervision meetings should be in person and face-to-face.
Electronic video call meetings, such as Google Hangouts Meetings or Zoom, are very occasionally permitted but not recommended. They should be used only in exceptional circumstances and when permission to be away from York has been agreed with your Supervisor in advance.
Remember that many academics are away from the University at various times during the summer months of July, August and September due to research and conference commitments, other teaching responsibilities and summer holidays. When you contact your supervisor to arrange a supervisory meeting, please give him/her at least two or three weeks of notice. Indeed, it Is recommended that you agree the dates of your three formal supervisory meetings well in advance and this might be at the beginning of the Supervisory process. Alternatively, you may wish to agree the date and time of your next meeting, along with timelines and deadlines for the submission of draft work for supervisory feedback, at the end of each supervisory meeting.
Any draft chapter/s submitted for comment and feedback should only be submitted subject to prior agreement with your Supervisor, in terms of content, length and deadline dates.
Research guidance and support
Your Supervisor’s role is to advise, guide and support the development of your dissertation project plans, preparations for your assessments, the development of your researcher skills, and the achievement of the Module learning objectives.
This will mostly likely involve offering constructive criticism and feedback and suggestions on written submissions and discussions on project plans, offering advice on sources of literature and guidance documents, and ideas and good practice in terms of methodology and research methods. You are reminded however, that this dissertation module is student-led and therefore, you should not expect your supervisor to make your decision for you. Working through uncertainty and challenges and impediments to your research project are integral to the Module learning experience and the development of professional researcher skills.
Help dealing with the University system
University rules and regulations can be complex and it is not always easy to know who to approach or where to go for assistance. Your Supervisor should provide your first point of contact in dealing with these matters.
Proof-reading and checking use of English
Please note that it is NOT the Supervisor’s job to proofread or to correct your use of English. Other postgraduate students and some commercial services are often willing to proofread your work for a small fee. Look out for notices on College and School noticeboards.
- Self-discipline. You are expected to be independent and responsible for your own studies by this stage of the programme. Your Supervisor will expect you to be disciplined, hard-working, and, as your work progresses, increasingly capable of taking control of the direction and completion of your dissertation.
- Preparation for supervisions. You should be available and adequately prepared for the regular supervisions. It is a good idea to keep a diary in which you maintain an up-todate record of your work. Your Supervisor might also ask for more specific preparation such as reading certain books or papers or drafting a section or chapter/s of your dissertation.
- Willingness to take advice. Supervisors should be listened to and you should take their advice. There is usually a good reason for the suggestions they make. If you feel requests and suggestions are unreasonable or impossible for you then you must discuss this with them.
- Seeking help when you need it. If you are struggling with any aspect of your work or with anything your Supervisor has suggested you do, it is your responsibility to seek help and make sure that your Supervisor understands your difficulty. Obviously your Supervisor must be willing to listen, but they cannot help you unless you let them know your problems when they occur.
Maintaining the Supervision Relationship
An open and trusting relationship between you and your Supervisor is very important. Any problems that develop in this relationship could prevent you successfully completing your dissertation and should be resolved as soon as possible; any problems arising with the supervisory relationship should be discussed with your Supervisor in the first instance. In all normal circumstances, your Supervisor will be keen to resolve any misunderstandings and help you in the best way they can.
It is a good idea for you and your Supervisor to exchange information about when you are both in York, and also when you might be away from the University to collect data for your dissertation.
However, ultimately, if there are problems that cannot be resolved between you and your Supervisor, you should contact the PG Management Support Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Dissertation Module Coordinator.
The Postgraduate Taught (Master’s) Degree is a full-time one-year programme. Students are therefore, expected to work on their dissertation throughout the summer months. Under normal circumstances, if you wish to leave York for more than 7 days between May and September, you must obtain your Supervisor’s permission and inform the School. Please go to your e:Vision account and submit an Authorised Absence request to your Supervisor. Note that any such request must be submitted well in advance of any proposed Leave.
In addition, on return to the UK Tier 4 students must report to the Student Office (LMB/203) on the first working day with their Student ID card for confirmation of return.
Your Dissertation Outline represent your first formative submission in this Module.
Within your Dissertation Outline you are required to identify and outline an academic topic that you wish to pursue in your dissertation. In writing your Dissertation Outline you should critically reflect on the Research Methods module you will have attended, which is designed to prepare you for this purpose.
In 250 words you should identify a research topic, outline why it is important and provide some idea of the way in which you propose to research this topic and/or answer your research question, with reference to relevant academic literature.
Your Dissertation Outline should include:
- A meaningful topic title and/or meaningful research purpose, aim or framing question
- A brief explanation of the academic and contextual importance of the topic, supported by appropriate academic references
- An indication of your research methodology or methods, including your data collection and analysis ideas, and potentially your theoretical context and/or research framework
A strong, well prepared and presented Dissertation Outline will provide a good basis for going on to complete the Research Proposal. It will therefore, clearly identify and address a research field and a research aim, purpose, question or problem with a high degree of importance to the degree being studied, supported by a strong connection to relevant literature. In addition, the Outline will provide good evidence of a considered approach to research design, offering logical insights into the research theoretical framework, research design, methodology and research methods to be adopted within the project.
Submission of your Dissertation Outline will be in electronic format and via the Yorkshare VLE, where further details will be available.
At the VLE submission point, you will be asked to submit the following information:
The degree to which you are registered (e.g. MSc Management, etc.)
Your intention to use either: quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods
Your intention to collect either: primary data, secondary data, or both
Your working dissertation title
Your main research topic area or field
250-word dissertation outline summary
Key academic references (no more than four)
Not only will you receive feedback on your Dissertation Outline from your Dissertation Supervisor, but this submission will contribute to the assignment of an appropriate Supervisor for your dissertation project.
Dissertation research projects based on a Systematic Review of the Literature are not normally permitted for this UYMS Dissertation Module.
The Learning Outcomes (see page 7) for this Module specify direct engagement, experience of and development of researcher knowledge and skills in data collection, data analysis and research ethics. However, in focussing on a review of previously published research and academic literature, Systematic Review rarely involves either the collection of original data or detailed and incisive engagement with issues and risks of research ethics.
In addition, Systematic Review comprises particularised research methodologies, which not only usually require specific prior training, but represent specialised epistemological and methodological approaches, which must be suitably detailed within the Research Design and the Methodology sections of any research work. This detail should at the very least, involve rigorous explanation and reflection into inclusion/exclusion criteria and critical consideration of the limitations and implications of the research.
A systematic review project engaged within this Module would need to incorporate detailed explanation and justification of, not only the reasons for this methodological selection, but how the learning outcomes of the Module and the marking criteria for the Dissertation (see Appendix 2) will be satisfied.
A Systematic Review methodology is therefore, much more complex than might first appear and not normally permitted within this Module. Contemplation of Systematic Review as a research methodology should only be entered into with caution and after consultation and agreement with your Dissertation Supervisor.
The research methods literature typically refers to data collection as either primary or secondary, where:
- Primary data, concerns data that has been personally collected by the research investigator for a particular purpose, or as Saunders et al. (2019: 813) summarise: ‘data collected specifically for the research being undertaken’. Primary research typically comprises the involvement of human subjects, as participants, respondents or interviewees for example, or observed in the case of ethnographic research. Typically, primary data might be collected via questionnaires, surveys, interviews and/or ethnography.
- Secondary data, has been previously collected by another party for primary use elsewhere, but is appropriate (or appropriated) for interrogation and analysis within a research project. Again, as Saunders et al. (2019: 816) summarise, this is ‘data that were originally collected for some other purpose. They can be further analysed to provide additional or different knowledge, interpretations or conclusions.’ Secondary data collection typically involves archival materials, documents, records and texts, the sources for which are diverse, vast and numerous. Archival repositories may be maintained in physical buildings, such as libraries, vaults, museums, nation state or industrial records, private collections and so on, or in internet, web-based or other electronic databases and records. Saunders et al. (2019: 195) note that:
‘It is difficult to describe adequately the range of archival and documentary materials potentially available. Lee (2012: 391) suggests that ‘a document is a durable repository for textual, visual and audio representations’. This illustrates the wide range of materials encompassed by this definition. Categories of textual documents include:
- communications between individuals or within groups such as email, letters, social media and blog postings;
- individual records such as diaries, electronic calendars and notes;
- organisational documents such as administrative records, agendas and minutes of meetings, agreements, contracts, memos, personnel records, plans, policy statements, press releases, reports and strategy statements;
- government documents such as publications, reports and national statistics data sets;
- media documents including printed and online articles and other data.’
Whilst Coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions are in place, collection of both primary data and/or secondary data remain a viable option. However, exactly which data collection methods remain possible and the way in which these are collected will change.
For example, in the case of primary data collection, ethnography is unlikely to be consistent with current restrictions and whilst interviews cannot take place in person in the same room, they can be achieved online, by means of video-calls or conferencing, or by telephone. In addition, there are sources of recorded interviews and similar available across various databases and archive sites, such as ESRC etc.
Other primary data collection methods, such as online and telephone questionnaires and surveys, etc., remain available.
In addition, access to organizations, for interviewees, other online research participants or physical archival documents and records, may present particular problems in the current environment, given economic downturn, loss of employment in some sectors and uncertainties and suspicions within certain organisations and industries etcetera. Researchers should remain sensitive to these issues. Indeed, such issues may be relevant to your research ethics considerations.
The collection and use of secondary data similarly remain available, but physical access to buildings, company records, historical documents and records, libraries and archives, is of course, not permitted. As a result, the majority of secondary data research will be accessed via online sources. However, there are a wealth of online private sector, public sector – including Central Government, local government and other public institutions, third sector databases, documents, archives and records available for public access, data collection and interrogation.
In addition to those archives and records freely available, to help you in your research journey UYMS has acquired a number of subscriptions to various databases, archives and records (see below), which can be accessed using your York login, via the following link: https://sites.google.com/york.ac.uk/tymsdatabases/home.
Please also consult the University library for advice and information on available databases and facilities. Similarly, consult the library and/or your Supervisor should any particular database prove difficult to access.
There will of course, be particular research ethics issues associated with any online data collection approaches and these must be addressed within your research project, and this includes that data protection regulations are adhered to (see ‘TYMS Ethics’ VLE site for further information).
So, in summary, the majority of primary and secondary research methods will remain available in the current situation, albeit the processes of data collection and the research ethics implications will change and present different challenges in some cases.
Effects of COVID-19 on Database Access Off-Campus
Due to the current situation regarding COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions and measures, many of us are now having to work from home. Unfortunately, a number of the above databases are not directly accessible off-campus. With this in mind, the following has been created to provide you with instructions on how you may access these different databases whilst at home or off-campus, as well as highlighting alternative, freely available data sources that you may find useful:
- Mintel – Mintel remains fully accessible off-campus and can be accessed as normal using your York login details via the following link:
- IBISWorld – IBISWorld is usually only accessible on campus but due to the COVID-19, we have been granted temporary off-campus access via the following link: https://my–ibisworld–libproxy.york.ac.uk/ – Once logged in, the site will work as normal.
- Compustat and Datastream – These databases are still accessible off-campus but only through the universities ‘virtual desktop’, which provides access to the university system whilst off-campus (works on Windows and Mac). For more information about how to use the virtual desktop please visit: https://www.york.ac.uk/it–services/services/vds/virtual–desktop/ and follow the instructions provided. Once you have successfully logged into this service, you can access Compustat and Datastream by clicking the Windows ‘Start’ button and searching for CRSPSift and Datastream 5.1,
If you are having any difficulties with accessing any of these databases, please contact IT Support: email@example.com.
Alternative, Freely Available Secondary Data Resources
In addition to UYMS subscribed databases, there exist a variety of online, freely available databases which may also be of use. Below is a list of some of these, including a link to the website and brief details of the type of data that can be found within them:
- International Monetary Fund: A range of time series data on IMF lending, exchange rates and many other economic and financial indicators.
- Yahoo Finance: A collection of financial market data including daily open and closing prices for equity, forex and cryptocurrency markets, amongst others.
- London Stock Exchange: A variety of market data including FTSE daily closing prices (2005-2020) and monthly trading volumes.
- Office for National Statistics: Data sets covering numerous factors within the UK’s economy, society and population. This data source contains a variety of statistics across multiple subject areas.
- World Bank Group: A vast array of data sets from a variety of areas, e.g. agriculture, climate change and economy etc. These data sets can also be filtered for individual countries across the world.
- Eurostat: Similar to the data available from World Bank Group (above) but specific to European countries.
- Organisation for Economic Co–operation and Development (OECD): Similar to the previous two databases, this contains an array of different datasets across a variety of topics from across the world, including economic and financial data.
This list is by no means exhaustive and is here only as a guide to some possible resources. If you know of any other online databases that you think may benefit other students, please send an email to the UYMS Dissertation Module Leader with this information so we can enrich the current list and provide greater access to usable secondary data.
This Dissertation Module is assessed by means of two Summative submissions: Your Research Proposal (incorporating Research Ethics Form) and your Dissertation.
The marking criteria for each of the two summative Module assessments are contained within the Appendices to this Handbook.
Research Proposal and Research Ethics
Your Research Proposal will be marked by your Dissertation Supervisor. Your Supervisor will also provide constructive written feedback, which you will have the opportunity to discuss in more detail at your second formal supervisory meeting.
Assessment of your Research Ethics Approval application form will be completed by the UYMS Ethics Committee. You will similarly have the opportunity to discuss your Research Ethics approval application decision and feedback at your second supervisory meeting.
Your dissertation report will be independently blind double-marked by two members of UYMS academic staff, one of which will be your Dissertation Supervisor and the other anonymously assigned.
Your final Dissertation Module mark will comprise the combined marks of the two Module summative assessment submissions (that is, your Research Proposal and your final Dissertation report), according to the weighting criteria detailed above. That is, your Research Proposal and Dissertation will contribute 25% and 75% of your overall Module mark respectively.
If your overall Dissertation Module mark is between 40% and 49% (inclusive) plus your mark for the dissertation component is 40% or above, your dissertation will normally be subject to referral. Further details are available on the VLE.
You will consequently be given specific feedback in the form of a short written report by your Supervisor and asked to re-submit your Dissertation within a stated period of time (usually 4 weeks).
Students whose Dissertations have been referred are not entitled to further academic supervision, but will continue to receive pastoral support, if needed. This support is available up to the date of re-submission.
When you re-submit, you will be required to submit an electronic version of your Dissertation. You must also submit a document, detailing the changes you have made, to the front of your dissertation.
Your re-submitted dissertation will again be independently double-marked with the resubmitted Dissertation counting for 100% of the mark. That is, there will be no need to resubmit the Research Proposal even if your mark for this was less than 50%.
If your combined module mark is below 40%, you will be deemed to have failed the dissertation module and will not be offered the opportunity to resubmit.
The purpose of the Dissertation Research Proposal is to present a robust project plan for the discharge and completion of your dissertation project and final report. This should contextualize the dissertation project and justify the research purpose, aim or question, drawing on relevant literature relating to the topic are or discipline; outline the theoretical, philosophical or methodological framework underpinning the research; identify the research (data collection) site/s and research methods to be employed; appropriately address pertinent research ethics issues; and offer some insight into the contribution or benefits associated with this research project.
Your Research Proposal should also include a project plan or timeline for the major stages of your research project.
This submission will also be accompanied by a completed Master’s Dissertation research ethics approval application form, which will be available on the VLE. Note that a research ethics approval form must be completed for and accompany each and every Research Proposal, regardless of the research design, methodology and data collection methods to be employed.
In preparing this work you should build draw and build upon your Dissertation Outline, your Research Methods module/s, the research methods literature and the feedback and advice received from your Supervisor.
Both your Research Proposal and your research ethics approval application will be submitted electronically via the Yorkshare VLE.
Your proposal should be 2,000 words (±10%). It is recommended, although not essential, that your Research Proposal is structured according to the following headings:
This should be no more than three lines long and should indicate the topic and, where possible, approach of your dissertation.
• Introduction: Research topic and purpose
Your proposal should start with a brief introduction expanding on the topic you are investigating, stating why you think it is of interest, and why you think that your approach will contribute something worthwhile to an understanding of the topic. This should culminate in a statement of your main research purpose, aim and/or objectives. Again, this should build on your earlier Dissertation Outline work and subsequent feedback and supervisory discussions.
• Literature Review: Research context and theoretical basis
This section should comprise a brief summary of the literature you intend to use, with some explanation of how it relates to your research purpose, aim and objectives. It should be fully referenced according to the UYMS Harvard referencing standard. Whilst it is understood that you will not have a comprehensive knowledge of the literature at this stage, you ought to be able to demonstrate that you have a sound starting point for your literature review and are aware of the main theoretical aspects surrounding the topic.
You should use this section therefore, to contextualize your research through critical analysis of the literature in your research topic area, thus drawing out your research purpose and your justification for your research. Consequently, you may also within this section indicate the theory and theoretical frameworks, and perhaps the philosophical approach, you intend to use in your research.
• Research Methodology
Essentially, this section should comprise a clear outline as to how and where you are going to collect your data and how you are going to analyse and interpret it.
In more detail, this section might include or expand upon the theoretical, philosophical and/or methodological framework for your research and draw out a research design and plan, which is appropriate to your research purpose and theoretical/philosophical approach.
It will also set out and justify your research design, including providing a description of the data collection and analysis methods to be employed, explaining why these are relevant or appropriate to your research, what such methods will deliver, and offering some indication of the limitations associated with the methods selected.
You are advised to justify your overall approach in terms of why it is appropriate for the aim and objectives that you wish to investigate and what assumptions you are making about knowledge and reality. In writing up your methodology you should reflect on and refer to material covered in the research methods components of your degree.
When considering which methodology to use you should think carefully about what sort of approach your skills and the resources available to you might support. It is important that you demonstrate your understanding of the differences between research methodology and research methods.
You are reminded that your dissertation research will be based on the collection of your own original data, which may be either from primary or secondary sources, or both (but not neither). Your data collection method/s proposed within this section will be dependent upon what is appropriate to the topic selected, your research aim, research design and methodological framework. Your research proposal should therefore, clearly indicate whether your data will be from primary and/or secondary sources. Additionally, your submission will indicate your proposed method/s of treatment, analysis and interpretation of your data.
Significantly, this section should demonstrate that you have thought about the practical feasibility and challenges associated with your research. How will you gain access to the research organization? How will you identify and gain access to interviewees or respondents, archival documents, or other information and resources you need in the time available? What the research ethics issues arising from these proposals and how will they be addressed within the project?
Note therefore, that these research ethics risks and issues should be addressed to some extent within your Research Proposal, in addition to your completing and submitting a detailed Research Ethics Approval Form to the UYMS Ethics Committee.
Again, in developing your research design, please note that other than in very exceptional circumstances, neither passive descriptive reporting of previous academic research or a critical review of previously published academic research drawn from peerreviewed journal articles, constitute data collection and analysis within the context of this dissertation module. Indeed, the latter suggests a very specialized research methodology requiring a specific philosophical approach and associated techniques, carefully explicated within the research design and methodology sections of the proposal. For the purposes of this dissertation module at Master’s Degree level, reference to published research is likely to be more appropriate to the Literature Review section of the dissertation report.
• Project Plan
Your Research Proposal should include a timetable of the key stages of your research. The plan may be presented in written narrative form, or in the form of a simple table, a Gantt chart or similar.
Your proposal must be fully referenced in accordance with the UYMS Harvard referencing system and contain a bibliography. The bibliography is not counted in the overall wordcount.
Research Ethics Approval Form
All Master’s dissertation students at the York Management School are therefore, required to gain ethical approval for their dissertation research proposal.
Your Research Proposal must be accompanied by a Student Research Ethics Approval Form, regardless of the type of research or data collection method/s employed. Not only will marking of your Research Proposal involve consideration of your Ethics Approval Form, but you will not be permitted to commence data collection (of any kind, whether primary, secondary, or both) until appropriate approval has been achieved from the UYMS Research Ethics Committee.
Research Ethics Guidelines
You will need to observe the following guidelines when conducting your research and we will need to confirm that you have considered these both in your Research Proposal and your Ethics Approval Form.
• Informed consent
If your research involves the collection of primary data involving human participants, the main ethical issues involve informed consent, confidentiality and anonymisation of data. All participants in the research (that is, anyone that you interview, survey or otherwise gather information from) will be required to give their informed consent to take part in the study. You will need to provide respondents firstly, with a Participant Information Sheet, which will include basic information about the research, why they have been asked to participate, what they will get from the research, and what will be done with the results. Secondly, you will also be required to gain written consent for your respondents’ participation in the research by means of a signed Participant Consent Form. Blank versions of these two forms should be included as appendices to your dissertation proposal. See the guidance offered on the VLE, refer to your Research Methods module notes, and consult published research methods literature.
The Participant Information Sheet should specify that all individuals taking part in any stage of the data collection process (focus groups, semi- structured interviews, face to face surveys) should be informed that they can withdraw at any stage. Those taking part in interviews should additionally be informed that they can have the material they provided destroyed. For focus group participants, although they can withdraw at any time, they should be informed that they will not be able to request that their recording be erased/destroyed because this would require destroying the material provided by other individuals. However, any material they provide in the form of text/quotations will not be utilized in the results.
In order to ensure anonymity and confidentiality of research participants, any identifying characteristics of respondents will need to be removed from survey responses and interview transcripts within the final dissertation report.
• Pilot Study
Primary data collection will usually commence with a pilot survey or interview on a small sample of respondents to test for relevance and any ethical issues that you may not have considered before rolling them out to the full sample. Draft survey questionnaires or semi-structured interview guides should be submitted, along with your draft Participant Information Sheet and Participant Consent Form (if applicable), as an appendix to your research proposal, and therefore, well in advance of any research instrument being piloted.
• Backup and Security
All data collected through your research needs to be safely stored. Any hard copies of data, such as documents or raw interview material, should be locked in a safe place accessible only by you. You should store electronic material in the first instance, on an encrypted, password-protected computer, and back it up on a regular basis on an encrypted hard drive accessible only by yourself.
Data should be deleted on completion of the project or when the data is no longer needed, which in the case of your dissertation will be when you are ready to graduate.
Gaining Research Ethics Approval
Your Research Ethics application form will be considered by the York Management School Ethics Committee and a response offered simultaneously with the marking of your Research Proposal.
The response received from the Ethics Committee will normally be either:
- Approved – You may commence collection of research data;
- Approved subject to minor revisions – The Ethics Committee will offer direction as to the area/s of revision required and you will be required to submit your revisions to your Dissertation supervisor for approval. You may not commence data collection until Ethics Approval is confirmed in writing by your Dissertation Supervisor; or
- Not Approved – You will be required to submit a revised Research Ethics application to the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee will offer direction as to the area/s of major revisions required and set a deadline for re-submission. It is your responsibility to make any changes required by the Committee to comply with the ethical guidelines of the University. You may not commence data collection until Ethics Approval is received from the Ethics Committee.
Both your dissertation research proposal and accompanying research ethics approval application will be submitted in electronic format via the Yorkshare VLE, as separate documents, but subject to the same deadline. Further details are available on the VLE.
The Research Ethics form is part of the Research Proposal submission and subject to late submission penalties. That is, late submission of the Research Ethics form will incur late penalties on the Research Proposal assessment mark.
Research Ethics at Dissertation Submission Stage
Along with your final dissertation submission, you will need to confirm research ethics approval and, where employed within your research, supply copies of completed participant consent forms from your research participants. These consent forms will be submitted separately to your dissertation, to a specified submission point within the VLE.
Please be advised that at that point at which you submit your final dissertation report in September, unless Research Ethics approval has been achieved and can be evidenced, submitted work will not be marked. Retrospective approval cannot be given at this stage.
For the dissertation report itself, you are advised to attach blank copies of any participant information or participant consent forms employed within your research project as Appendices to your dissertation report. Note neither your dissertation nor these Appendices should include any identifying details of your research participants.
Your Research Proposal submission will be assessed according to the marking criteria provided at Appendix 1 to this Handbook.
There are a number of options that can be chosen when it comes to structuring your work and your Supervisor is the best person to advise on the structure of your dissertation.
Whilst the following is not intended to provide a prescriptive structure for all dissertations – and indeed, some degree of creativity, agreed with your dissertation Supervisor, is encouraged – the following sections provide a summary of the marking criteria headings and suggested dissertation report headings, for clarity and convenience.
A Master’s Degree dissertation requires extensive evidence of self-direction, planning and originality in the work presented.
The Dissertation report will be marked according to the following criteria:
- Introductory overview of the work, incorporating motivation for the research
- Critical review, analysis and integration of the relevant literature(s) and contextualization of the research
- Identification and framing of research purpose, objectives, questions or hypothesis
- Appropriate choice and justification of research design and methodology, incorporating research ethics
- Collection, presentation, integration, treatment and interpretation of data
- Critical discussion of findings/readings, and conclusions, incorporating contribution to knowledge
- Presentation, referencing, and writing style
- Overall critical and logical alignment of key elements of the dissertation
Please see the full marking criteria at Appendix 2.
The following offers suggested key sections or chapters for your Dissertation report:
Introductions do not have to be long, but they should provide a framework for what follows and will shape the reader’s expectations. The Introduction sets out what the subject matter and purpose of the dissertation and explains why this subject matter is important, relevant and/or topical. There should be a clear statement of the purpose or aim of your dissertation and how you will set about fulfilling that purpose or aim. The introduction should clearly signpost what is to follow.
This should be an account of the extent of knowledge surrounding your topic area, especially in relation to key themes, concepts, theories and definitions of terms, and including what other people have done in this field before.
The literature review should therefore, be a survey of academic research that places your dissertation into context. This context should explain and critically discuss the debates and differing arguments surrounding the topic you have chosen.
Good accounts of what has gone before organise the material into themes and critically draw out the main points on which previous writers agree or disagree. A literature review or review of others’ research findings is, therefore, more than a series of mini book reviews or a chronological or passive account of who did what and when. Your literature review not only provides a critical account of the extent of knowledge surrounding your research topic area, but should lay the foundation for your own research by identifying the significant issues, challenges, omissions or anomalies arising from earlier work.
The literature review should therefore, be used to frame and justify the research puzzles, mysteries, knowledge gaps or omissions, questions or challenges that motivate your dissertation.
This section should set out your chosen methodological framework and the method/s of research that you use in the dissertation, including providing logical, convincing and wellreasoned arguments or rationale for your choices, substantiated with reference to research methods literature.
The most important thing about your research design and methodology is that it should be appropriate to your own research purpose, aim and/or question(s) and consistent with your research approach and design. Choose those method/s that most closely fits your own line of enquiry and is/are feasible, given the time and other resources available to you.
You are reminded that your dissertation research will be based on the collection of your own data, which may be either from primary or secondary sources, or both – but not neither. An important feature of the dissertation research project is that it must comprise your own research. That is, the dissertation report is not confined to a Literature Review, but – other than in very exceptional circumstances agreed with your dissertation Supervisor – must comprise data collection followed by analysis of that data to produce findings or readings unique to your research project. These findings or readings will be subsequently considered and critically discussed in relation to the literature reviewed in your earlier chapter/s.
A good research methodology chapter will additionally provide a suitably referenced explanation and rationale for your methodological, theoretical and/or philosophical research framework or perspective.
In addition, your methodology section might provide an account of both the strengths and the weaknesses of the methodology and method/s you have chosen, including indicating how you conducted your research and giving enough detail to enable the reader to evaluate your method/s.
Your Spring and Summer Term Research Methods modules are designed to assist and prepare you for developing your dissertation research methodology. In addition, you are advised to engage with a wide range of academic research methods literature, specifically foundational research methods textbooks and peer-reviewed journal articles, such as those highlighted in the module reading list, in order to both identify the research methodology and methods most appropriate to your research project and provide the necessary level of details as to how you will collect and analysis your data. Your Dissertation Supervisor will, of course, offer advice and guidance as you develop your methodology.
Data Collection and Analysis
If your methodology section or chapter presents an account of how you set about conducting your own, original research and why these approaches were selected, then this section or sections will provide a comprehensive account of your own data collection, analysis of that data and research findings or readings.
The way you conduct and present your research should be in accordance with and consistent with that set out in your methodology chapter.
There is no single ‘correct’ way to present your analysis of data, findings or readings. Some dissertations will be divided into separate data collection, analysis of data and findings/readings and discussion sections, while others may merge these together. Equally, it may also be more appropriate to divide your writing into thematic chapters. Again, consult the research methods literature and look at examples in peer-reviewed journal articles in order to identify an appropriate and preferred way of addressing this issue. Your Supervisor will, of course, be able to advise you further.
Ultimately, your Findings/Readings and/or Discussion section/s should comprise a critical consideration of your research data findings/readings in relation to the literature and theory examined in your earlier chapter/s. That is, your findings/readings should be linked to the debates and arguments that you discuss in your literature review.
However you decide to structure your analysis of findings, it is often helpful – although not essential – to organize your analysis around themes that address your research purpose or answer your research questions. What does your dissertation show? What are the main conclusions? Simply describing your findings is not sufficient. You should offer a discussion of what you can logically conclude or reasonably infer from your findings. You might also be able to suggest that there are pointers to further enquiry even if your conclusions, on the present data, might be very tentative. Place your findings in the broader context that you identified in the literature review.
This discussion might also comprise some reflective comment as to your earlier declared methodological framework and the challenges experienced and resolved in the collection and analysis of data. This might include, for example, challenges in relation to access to data or research ethics considerations.
Do not be afraid to admit that your findings do not fit into neat patterns or provide simple unambiguous answers. Do not be afraid to admit, either, that a particular line of enquiry has not produced the expected information or usefulness. However, do not try to get material that has not quite produced the expected results to appear as if it has done so. It is better to discuss why it has not worked. Occasionally, what appeared to be a promising approach just does not work and this will become apparent quite early on. Do not be afraid to abandon something that cannot work and do something else instead. Writing about the problems encountered is likely to gain you credit; ignoring problems will lose you marks. Take care to critically reflect on and discuss your own results. It is this capacity to be reflective that distinguishes analysis from description.
A well-written concluding chapter brings the dissertation back full circle – to why this was an important, relevant or topical subject for enquiry in the first place. The conclusions should make some statement, firmly grounded in the work you have presented, about what you have discovered and what it adds to the body of knowledge surrounding your topic. Wellreasoned and thoughtful conclusions are absolutely crucial to a good dissertation. A summary of your previous chapters can be useful, but this is not sufficient on its own. Since the conclusions draw on the work in the rest of the dissertation, it is not the place to be introducing new material, such as that important reference which validates your ideas. Do not forget to explicitly address your research purpose or answer your research questions. Finally, you should discuss the limitations of your dissertation; where it went right, and what new questions were raised by your analysis, i.e. how would you like to see your ideas developed further?
Presenting the Finished Piece of Work
The above paragraphs describe the core elements of any dissertation research project. The structure of your dissertation report and the balance between one element and another will depend on your subject matter, your research design and your methodology. Just because six elements have been identified, does not mean that you have to have six chapters. You should divide your material into chapters in a way that reflects both the quantity and the way in which you want to develop your argument.
You may also want to include:
For example, to people who have helped or supported you. Acknowledgments are not included in the word count.
Appendices can contain substantial and relevant material that cannot be presented in the main body of the text without breaking up the flow of the argument. The Appendices my also be used for the presentation of research documents, statistical tables, chronologies, descriptions of processes, example Participant Information Sheet and Participant Consent Form, any interview questionnaire, (redacted) interview transcript, (redacted) ethnographic notes, etc. As these are often quite lengthy, an appendix is the logical place for such items. Glossary
A glossary may be provided to explain technical terms, acronyms, abbreviations, etc. employed in the text. Remember that acronyms and abbreviations that you might use every day (such as MBO, CSR, BPR) are specialist terms and should be explained.
Style and Presentation
It is worth taking time and trouble to ensure that your work is presented well and neatly on the page. No amount of glossy presentation can compensate for inadequate content. On the other hand, poor or shoddy presentation can act to the detriment of otherwise good work.
Points to bear in mind are:
- Avoid slang, hyperbole, superlatives, colloquialisms and jargon. Write in an authoritative style designed for an educated reader. You need to sound like a dispassionate observer
- Pay attention to the quality of English used. Concise, well-expressed English is easier to read and understand than a more verbose or wordy approach. You should have your dissertation read by someone else before you submit, ideally a proofreader. Well-written dissertations are likely to score more marks than badly written dissertations
- Make sure that you have spelling and grammar checking turned on in Microsoft Word (or equivalent word processing software). Run a full grammar check – ideally you are looking for a Flesch Reading Ease score of 30-50
- Have regard to the appearance of your text on the page. It is daunting to face, and difficult to read, a whole page of solid, undifferentiated text. Make judicious use of paragraphs, side headings, lists, bullet points or whatever is appropriate to your subject matter. This will give the reader some idea of the overall shape of the page’s content and where the natural breaks in your narrative occur. Do not cram too much text onto one page. When in doubt, use less text per page rather than more
- You are not writing a management report – there is no need to number every paragraph. Excessive sub-headings and over-use of bulleted lists tends to detract from the flow of your writing. When you are using tables, charts, etc. consider carefully the relationship between tables and the associated text. Ideally, the table and the passage of text where the table’s contents are discussed should appear together on the same page. This will not always be possible, especially if the table itself occupies a whole page. In this case, place the two as closely together as possible and make sure that your cross-referencing is precise. The reader should be able to move from the text to the appropriate table straightaway without having to hunt around for it
- References and Bibliography. You should present your references and bibliography in the specified York Management School Harvard style. More information on this can be found on the University’s academic integrity web pages: http://www.york.ac.uk/integrity/harvard.html.
- You should endeavour to make use of citation management software, such as Endnote, Mendeley, or Zotero.
All submitted projects are retained by the University of York as part of your academic record of progression through the Master’s programme. It is usual to make a copy available electronically in the York Digital Library (YODL), which is accessible by any member of the University. If you do not wish your dissertation to be in the public domain, please make your wishes and reasons known to The York Management School.
Do not exceed the word/time limits for the components of the dissertation module.
Dissertation Outline: 250 Words
Dissertation Proposal: 2,000 Words (plus or minus 10%)
Dissertation: 10,000 Words (plus or minus 10%)
For the dissertation, the word limit does not include title pages, acknowledgements, contents page, abstract, glossary, appendices and bibliography, but does include tables, intext citations and footnotes. Quality is much more important than quantity, and you should not aim to come close to the upper limit merely to make your dissertation appear superficially substantial. Writing a longer dissertation will not, in itself, secure extra marks.
Specific formatting guidelines
- The text of dissertations should be word-processed. Use black ink unless colour is essential
- Inside and top margins should be a minimum of 2 cm; other margins a minimum of 3 cm. The ‘normal’ margin settings on Microsoft Word are acceptable. Large blocks of closely spaced text can be hard to read, so leave a good gap between paragraphs and around headings. Line spacing should be 1.5 or 2.0
- The use of a 12-point serif font (such as Times New Roman, Cambria, etc.) is preferred for the main font, for ease of reading
- The dissertation must start with a title sheet, containing title, exam number, date, and supervisor. This should be followed by wording to the effect that the dissertation is submitted in partial fulfillment for the degree you are registered for. This is not included in the word count
- The second sheet should normally contain an abstract of not more than 200 words. This is not included in the overall word count
- Subsequent sheets should show the contents of the dissertation: the title and page number for each chapter and section (or each section and subsection), and the title of each appendix. Where appropriate, appendices may start with their own contents lists. Each main subdivision (e.g. chapter or appendix) of the dissertation should start on a new page
- Each page of the dissertation following the title page should include a header containing the title (or an abbreviated version) of the dissertation. Also, the final electronic corrected dissertation should contain the page number in the centre
- Conventions for headings and indentation at various levels should be applied consistently
- All use of source material, whether by direct quotation or not, must be acknowledged in a consistent fashion. Students are required to use the TYMS
Harvard referencing system
- Tables, figures, equations and references should be consistently labeled or numbered
An electronic submission of the dissertation must be submitted to The York Management School via Yorkshare VLE no later than 11am on the submission date.
You may of course submit your dissertation before the deadline.
You must NOT put your name anywhere in the dissertation, as the dissertation report will be marked anonymously by a second marker. You must use your exam number only for identification. If your name appears on the cover or the inside of the dissertation it will be returned to you and may delay marking. Your supervisor will recognise your work, but the second marker will not know your identity.
York Digital Library Records
If, after marking, your dissertation reaches the standard of a pass, you will be required to submit your dissertation electronically to the York Digital Library (YODL). You may be asked to make minor corrections to your dissertation before submission. If you have incorporated other peoples’ work into your dissertation, for example used a modeling tool or series of tables, you will need to get their permission to publish this material in digital form. Information and uploading your dissertation, including the Depositor’s Agreement, can be found with further details of ‘third party’ copyright on:
Information about uploading your dissertation will be provided with your dissertation result and feedback and on the YODL website.
Saving and Backing-Up Your Work
You are strongly advised to save dated versions and back-up your work (either on disk, memory stick, or cloud-based service) after each work session.
Firstly, dated work means that you can always revert to a previous version if you accidentally corrupt the current working version. It also illustrates the process by which you developed your dissertation.
Secondly, it can be extremely difficult to re-write a dissertation if a computer hard disk has ceased to function. Please note that extension to submission deadline due to computer failure is not normally given.
Students are also reminded that they must keep any notes, copies of articles used and research documentation they have made in preparation of their dissertation, and to submit these, if requested, to The York Management School. In addition, completed Participant Consent Forms should be kept by the researcher should they be requested by the examiners.
Things to avoid!
The following is a list of common errors that are important in the examiners’ view and which will always lead to the loss of marks.
Remember that your dissertation will eventually become a public document. After marking, it will be placed in the YODL database and will be available for others to read. You will not get a chance to change it after submission, so fix these things before you submit it.
Poor spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence construction, lack of proofreading
If the examiner cannot understand what you are trying to say, you cannot get any credit for it. Give yourself time to check your work and get someone else to help you proofread it. If punctuation is not your strong point, do not attempt long, elaborate sentences with lots of subordinate clauses where accurate punctuation is at a premium. Instead, keep your sentence structure simple. For more guidance on these matters you may find ‘Effective Writing’ by C Turk & J Kirkman, 1982, a useful reference. It is not the job of your Supervisor to correct poor use of English.
The dissertation is not about the subject it says it is supposed to be about
Do not copy out your research proposal in the introduction and then proceed to write about something entirely different. Do not use a title that does not accurately describe the actual contents of your dissertation. Make sure your conclusions link back to the research question and introductory chapter.
Absent and/or inconsistent referencing
You must provide accurate references for all the sources you employ and you should understand how to reference properly by this stage of your Master’s Degree. If you do not provide a reference, the examiners are entitled to assume that you intend the work to be regarded as your own. Note that unacknowledged or unreferenced work drawn from others can put you in breach of the University regulations on academic misconduct. For further information, see: Academic Misconduct:
Tables or graphs with inadequate labeling
If you use tables, charts, graphs etc., you must ensure that each table has a number, a title which accurately describes its contents, that the axes are labeled appropriately and indicate the units of measurement, that the source(s) of the data are identified and so are the year(s) to which the data relate. Tables and figures should be listed separately (by number and title) after the table of contents. Overlong dissertations
Your dissertation must not exceed 10,000 words (plus a 10% margin) in length. This limit excludes title pages, acknowledgements, contents, abstract, glossary, appendices and bibliography.
When submitting assessed work you must be sure that you have not either knowingly or unknowingly broken the University regulations on assessment. It is sometimes not easy to distinguish mutual assistance and collaboration from plagiarism and collusion. Full acknowledgement of the contributions of others to your work, usually by proper use of references and the bibliography, will enable you to avoid accidental breaches of the rules. See the following website for information on the Harvard system of referencing: http://www.york.ac.uk/integrity/harvard.html
The following extract from the University regulations details the various forms of academic misconduct in assessment. If you are unclear about the meaning of any of these rules please seek an explanation from The York Management School.
The University regards any form of academic misconduct as an extremely serious matter. Candidates must not, in relation to assessed work at any stage of their course:
- cheat e. fail to comply with the rules governing examinations, e.g. by making arrangements to have unauthorised access to information;
- collude e. assist another candidate to gain an advantage by unfair means, or receive such assistance;
- fabricate e. mislead the examiners by presenting work for assessment in a way which intentionally or recklessly suggests that factual information has been collected which has not in fact been collected, or falsifies factual information;
- personate e. act, appear, or produce work on behalf of another candidate in order to deceive the examiners, or solicit another individual to act, appear or produce work on their own behalf;
- plagiarise e. incorporate within their work without appropriate acknowledgement material derived from the work (published or unpublished) of another
The examiners will take account of any breach of the requirements in (a)-(c) above in determining a mark for the work affected. This may result in a mark of zero with consequent effects on the evaluation of the candidates’ overall performance. This may in turn lead to failure in the examination as a whole. If the examiners believe that the case is of particular gravity, they may also recommend that further disciplinary penalties be applied to the candidate. The penalties available are:
- suspension or exclusion from the University;
- a lowering of the class of degree to be awarded;
- failure of the degree;
- in relation to (d) above, withdrawal of any entitlement to redeem the failure
All students are asked to sign the following statement when submitting their written work: “I confirm that I have read the relevant section of the student handbook which describes academic misconduct and that this assignment/project/dissertation does not infringe these rules.” The full regulations on academic misconduct can be found: https://www.york.ac.uk/staff/supporting–students/academic/taught/misconduct/
Penalties for Academic Misconduct
Penalties for academic misconduct can include:
- Suspension or exclusion from the University
- The application of penalty points to the final degree mark
- A lowering of the level of the degree to be awarded
- Withholding the award of the degree or diploma
- Withholding any entitlement to repeat the examination concerned or to resubmit revised material
The academic appeals procedure is detailed on the Current Students web pages: https://www.york.ac.uk/students/help/appeals. In brief, students may not appeal against the academic judgment of their examiners. This means that decisions made as to the quality of an assessment may not be appealed against. However, students may appeal against the decision of the Board of Studies and the Senate on whether or not, and on what conditions, those who have failed an assessment should be permitted to re-sit or re-submit it. Students may appeal direct to the Academic Registrar in writing, but it would be more usual for students to inform the Chair of Board of Studies initially for a resolution of any problems before this step is taken. The University’s Board for Graduate Studies is responsible for managing the appeals process. If you wish to appeal on the ground of mitigating circumstances the Chair of Board of Studies must be informed in writing as soon as is practically possible.
Appendix 1: Marking Criteria for Assessment 1 – Research Proposal
Appendix 2: Marking Criteria for Assessment 2 – Dissertation
|0 – 39%||This is a very poor attempt at a dissertation proposal. The proposal fails to provide sufficient clarity as to the research purpose, aim or question/s or research approach, or it suggests a research purpose which is irrelevant to the degree being studied. The work fails to provide convincing evidence of a structured and considered approach to a number of the major elements of the dissertation research project, such as engagement with relevant academic literature in the area, outline of a reasonable research design, consideration of theoretical framework or methodological context, and/or proposals for research methods, including appropriate data collection and analysis methods and research ethics considerations. The presentation of the work is poor, with spelling, grammar and clarity of expression unsatisfactory throughout. Consequently, the proposal does not establish a satisfactory basis for a Master’s Degree level dissertation project in any way and is inadequate as a sound basis for going on to complete the dissertation.|
|40 – 49%||This is an unsatisfactory or incomplete attempt at a dissertation proposal. Whilst there is some attempt at a research purpose, aim or question/s, the proposals lack clarity and are vague and unconvincing, with the scope both generalized and broad and perhaps lacking in originality and critical consideration. The work fails to provide comprehensive and convincing evidence of a structured, considered and comprehensive approach to the project or research design. This may involve the omission of or significantly incomplete work in relation to at least one of the major elements of the dissertation research project, such as engagement with relevant academic literature in the area, theoretical framework and/or methodological context, and research methods, including appropriate data collection and analysis methods and research ethics considerations. Typically, the work will only superficially engage with relevant academic literature in both the research topic and research methods areas, the research approach will not be clear or satisfactorily justified with reference to the literature, and the suggested methodology and research methods either not entirely appropriate to the topic or sufficiently explained and justified within the proposal. The presentation is likely to be poor with significant and/or frequent lapses in spelling and grammar. Overall, the proposal does not establish a satisfactory basis for the dissertation project.|
|50 – 59%||This is a satisfactory, passable attempt at the dissertation proposal. A reasonable research purpose is identified that relates to the degree being studied and provides a reasonable basis for going on to complete the dissertation project. The work provides satisfactory, if somewhat basic and imperfect, evidence of a structured, comprehensive approach to the research design, and significantly, the research design, research approach and suggested research methods are appropriate to the topic. The work will include some consideration or proposals for all of the major components of the dissertation research project, such as engagement with relevant academic literature in the both the topic and research methods areas, consideration of theoretical framework and/or methodological context, and detailed clarification of and rationale for the research methods to be employed, including appropriate data collection and analysis methods and research ethics considerations. The presentation is adequate, and though mostly well written there may be some occasional lapses in spelling or grammar.
Overall, the proposal establishes a basic but satisfactory basis for the dissertation.
|60 – 69%
|This is a good dissertation proposal. The work provides good evidence of a structured, considered, comprehensive and capable approach to all of the major components of the dissertation research project. A well-considered, meaningful and suitably well-referenced research purpose is offered, supported by good engagement with relevant literature and both demonstrating a strong connection to the degree being studied and providing a good basis for completion of the dissertation project. The work provides evidence of good engagement with relevant academic literature in relation to the research topic, theoretical framework and/or methodological research context, and the research methods to be employed. Appropriate data collection and analysis methods and research ethics considerations are clearly identified and the rationale for their selection competently explained and critically considered in relation to the literature, especially in terms of the extent to which they are appropriate to the research purpose, theoretical or philosophical framework and the research design. The presentation of the work, grammar, spelling, use of the English language and clarity of expression are generally good throughout. Overall, the proposal establishes a good and solid basis for the dissertation project.|
|70 – 79%||This is a very good dissertation proposal. The work provides commanding evidence of a wellstructured, highly considered, comprehensive and entirely competent approach to all components of the dissertation research project. A well-considered, meaningful and suitably well-referenced research purpose is presented within the work, extensively supported by proficient engagement with relevant literature and both demonstrating a strong connection with and some originality in relation to the degree being studied and the research topic area. The research design is very good, comprising logical and compelling insights into the philosophical and/or theoretical framework and methodological context, and the research methods to be employed. Engagement with the academic literature is very good and contextualises the dissertation in relation to the research topic, the methodological research context, and the research methods to be employed. Appropriate data collection and analysis methods and research ethics considerations are clearly identified, and the rationale for their selection authoritatively explained and critically considered in relation to the literature. The presentation of the work, including grammar, spelling, use of the English language and clarity of expression, are very good throughout. Overall, the proposal establishes a very good basis for an interesting dissertation project.|
|80 – 89%||This is an excellent dissertation proposal. The work provides commanding evidence of a wellstructured, highly considered, comprehensive and entirely competent approach to all components of the dissertation research project. A well-considered, meaningful and suitably well-referenced research purpose is presented within the work, extensively supported by excellent engagement with relevant literature and both demonstrating a strong connection with and some originality in relation to the degree being studied and the research topic area and a thorough understanding of the context for the research. The research design is excellent, comprising logical and compelling understanding of and insights into the philosophical and/or theoretical framework and methodological context, and the research methods to be employed. Engagement with the academic literature is excellent and contextualises the dissertation in relation to the research topic, the methodological research context, and the research methods. Appropriate data collection and analysis methods and research ethics considerations are not only clearly identified, but the rationale for their selection authoritatively explained and critically considered in relation to the literature, offering some degree of originality in their interpretation and application. The presentation of the work, including grammar, spelling, use of the English language and clarity of expression,|
|are excellent throughout. Overall, the proposal establishes an excellent basis for an original and interesting dissertation project.|
|90 – 100%
|This is an outstanding dissertation proposal. The work provides commanding evidence of a particularly well-structured, highly considered, comprehensive and outstanding and original approach to all components of the dissertation research project. A well-considered, meaningful and suitably well-referenced research purpose is presented within the work, extensively supported by excellent engagement with relevant literature and both demonstrating a strong connection with and some originality in relation to the degree being studied and the research topic area and a thorough understanding of the context for the research. The research design is outstanding, comprising logical and compelling understanding of and insights into the philosophical and/or theoretical framework and methodological context, and the research methods to be employed. Engagement with the academic literature is outstanding and contextualises the dissertation in relation to the research topic, the methodological research context, and the research methods. Accordingly, appropriate data collection and analysis methods and research ethics considerations are not only clearly identified, but the rationale for their selection authoritatively explained and critically considered in relation to the literature and offering originality in their interpretation and application at the forefront of the discipline. The presentation of the work, including grammar, spelling, use of the English language and clarity of expression, are outstanding throughout Overall, the proposal establishes an outstanding basis for an original and interesting dissertation project, with high relevance to the literature in the area and commensurate with publishable academic writing.|
Assessment 2: Dissertation Marking Criteria
|CRITERIA||< 40%||40 – 49%||50 – 59%||60 – 69%||70 – 79%||80 – 89%||90 – 100%|
|SUBSTANTIAL AND CORE ASPECTS OF THE DISSERTATION|
|Critical review, analysis and
integration of the
relevant literature(s) and theory
|Not present, or literature irrelevant to the research
|Partially addressed, although insufficient
literature considered and
this was not analysed or
|Sufficient literature considered, some attempt
at analysis, but lacking in
critical focus and only
|Substantial literature considered and critically analysed, good
integration of literature to support partial critical evaluation of topic.
|Extensive literature considered and critically analysed, literature
integrated to clearly
support full critical
evaluation of topic. Some
critical content relating to evaluation of prior
empirical work or theory.
|Extensive literature considered and critically analysed, literature
integrated to clearly support full critical
evaluation of topic.
Adequate critical evaluation of theory or empirical work.
|Extensive literature considered and critically analysed, literature
integrated to clearly support full critical
evaluation of topic.
Critical evaluation of theory or empirical work.
|Appropriate choice and justification of methodology, and
research design, incorporating research ethics
|Not present, or attempted but
research design and/or incorporation of ethics
(methodology, research design or ethics) missing and/or the following limitations:
Failure to select appropriate methodology and/or failure to explain
and justify methodology
and/or research design and/or appropriate consideration of ethics
|All elements; methodology, research
design and ethics must be present.
Selection of adequate methodology and
research design and
incorporation of ethics
and adequate justification of these choices.
|Selection of appropriate methodology and
research design and
incorporation of ethics and convincing
justification of these
|Complete consideration of ethical issues
Selection of appropriate methodology and
research design and
robust justification of these choices.
Some reflection on practical limitations of choices made
|Complete and detailed consideration of ethical issues
Selection of appropriate methodology and
research design and
robust justification of these choices.
Adequate reflection on practical limitations of choices made
|Complete and detailed consideration of ethical issues
Selection of appropriate methodology and
design and critical and
detailed justification of these choices.
Critical reflection on practical limitations of choices made
|Execution of method including collection, interrogation or
presentation of data
|No, or very little, primary and/or secondary data collected, or
|Insufficient primary and/or secondary data collected or significant shortcomings in
interrogation/analysis or presentation
|Sufficient primary and/or secondary data collected and adequate
|Sufficient primary and/or secondary data collected and thoughtful
|Sufficient primary and/or secondary data collected and excellent interrogation/analysis and
|Extensive primary and/or secondary data collected and sophisticated
interrogation/analysis and presentation
|Critical interpretation and discussion of
findings, meanings or reading of the data in context of the
summarised in the conclusion
|Interpretation and discussion of
findings/meanings not present AND
Conclusion unrelated to interpretation or findings
|Interpretation or discussion of
findings/meanings inadequate AND
Interpretation or discussion of
adequate but conclusions unconvincing and lacking
in logical connection to research objectives and/or discussion.
|Fair interpretation and discussion of
findings/meanings with some criticality
Conclusion present and satisfactory
|Critical interpretation and discussion of
Well considered and link between conclusion to
discussion and research
|Substantial critical interpretation and
convincing discussion of findings/meanings AND
Conclusion/s drawn, with direct relevance to
discussion and research
clear understanding of contribution to knowledge
|Extensive critical interpretation and
convincing discussion of findings/meanings AND
Conclusion strongly linked to discussion and research objectives
Contribution to the literature clearly outlined.
|Original, critical and creative interpretation
and convincing discussion of findings/meanings AND
Incisive conclusion/s strongly linked to
discussion and research objectives.
Contribution to the literature clearly outlined.
|Structure, referencing and writing style||
Poor structure or significant shortcomings in referencing and
|Poor structure or significant shortcomings in referencing or
|Satisfactory structure and acceptable referencing and writing style||Clear and appropriate structure and technically correct referencing and appropriate writing style||Clear and appropriate structure and technically
correct referencing and well written
Clear and appropriate structure and technically correct referencing and precisely articulated
|THESE ITEMS ARE IMPORTANT BUT ARE NOT SUBSTANTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE DISSERTATION IN THEIR OWN RIGHT|
|Introduction provides an overview of the
work and motivation for the research
|Not present, or attempted but
|Loosely or partially identified||Sufficiently identified and expressed||Clearly identified and expressed||
Fully identified and well expressed
|Fully identified and precisely articulated
Identification and framing of research
purpose, objectives, questions, or
|Not present or attempted but limited/inadequately
|Objectives lack clarity and little evidence of
grounding in context,
theory or literature
|Clear objectives which are adequately grounded in theory or literature
|Clear objectives which are well grounded in theory
|Precise objectives which arise from a review of theory or prior literature||
Precise objectives which arise from a critical review of theory and prior literature
Document Version Control
UYMS Master’s Degree Dissertation Module Handbook: Version 1.0, 17th February 2021
 Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2019) Research Methods for Business Students (8th edn). London: Pearson.
 Lee, B. (2012) ‘Using Documents in Organisational Research’, in G. Simon and C. Cassell (eds) Qualitative Organisational Research Core Methods and Current Challenges. London: Sage: 389-407.
 Including systematic literature review, following recognised method, where literature is treated as data, but theoretical and/or philosophical research framework, research design and methodology are appropriately critically explained and considered within the work.
 If a student has achieved the threshold in this criterion, then the mark awarded for this criterion is equivalent to the overall dissertation mark.