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Planning and Starting to Write
As soon as you start to read for your literature review, you should start making notes (either in a Microsoft Word file or on note cards, etc.) of the main issue and arguments that you are reading. Also, reference as you go – note the complete Harvard reference of the material (see CASE Guide to Harvard Referencing). Even if you do not cite the material within the text of your final dissertation, you can cite it in your Bibliography. If you do use it, you will not have to track back to find the reference, so it is better time management if you do not leave it until last.
Use Appropriate Academic Style
Use the same formal academic style that you use in your HBS assignments (see CASE Guide to Academic Style). Take care to reference accurately and completely (see CASE Guide to Harvard Referencing). Number the chapters, sections and sub-sections (seeCASE Guide to Report Writing).
The CASE can provide you with an editor who can be hired to proof read your dissertation. The editor will not be allowed to change your content in any way – only correct your writing where necessary (see CASE Guide to Dissertation Editing Service).
Use the master template supplied in your Dissertation Handbook. If the dissertation contains confidential information, this should be indicated by the student on the title page. The University will treat all such information in the strictest of confidence and will undertake not to pass confidential information to a third party.
The title is up to you, but it should be relevant to your research, clearly focused and normally presented in a statement. It has to be accurate as markers will assess your dissertation against this title. It can have one, two or three parts, e.g. the academic subject (tourism/marketing), the context (industry/section/company), and the function verb (in a noun: analysis/investigation/evaluation). For example:
A comparative analysis of the impact of youth tourism on the towns of Brighton and Hove.
Agricultural machinery trade between China and Europe: a case study analysis over the past three years.
Has the role of HRM changed forever? A critical analysis with a focus on Smith plc.
Internal marketing as a change management tool; an evaluation of whether internal market segmentation theory really benefits companies: the case of ABC Corporation.
It is usual practice to acknowledge the help and guidance of your supervisor, and any other supportive staff. You can also mention people who have personally supported you during the research process, such as family members. If you have used a CASE editor, acknowledge CASE for help in organising this service.
The abstract must be written last, when you have completed the whole dissertation. It is a brief overview of the dissertation and its findings. A common mistake in this section is to write too much about methodology and none on outcomes. Your abstract should contain the following elements, in this order:
Brief statement of the issue
Brief statement why the issue is important, your topics relevance and interest value
Brief statement of methodology
Brief statement of findings, analysis and outcomes
Brief statements of conclusions and recommendations
Table of Contents
This should be compiled using the automatic Table of Contents facility in Microsoft Word in order that you can continually update page numbers, etc. (See CASE Guide IT for Written Assignments.)
Chapter One: Introduction
(approx. 10% of total words)
A good Introduction is more than just the first section of the dissertation: it tells the reader what the dissertation is intended to provide, in an interesting way. The Introduction sets the scene and puts the whole inquiry into its proper context. It includes a clear statement of the aim and objectives, the terms of reference, the sources of information on which the dissertation is based and how it was collected. It includes an outline of the research methodology. The topic/problem to be investigated is defined and explained, linked with a statement of the management issues involved and how the topic and issues changed as the work evolved. The reasons for the research are stated and the significance of related work on the topic is clear. Chapter One is very important and usually addresses the following questions:
What is the problem or issue? (a topic is not enough).
What is your research question?
Why does it need research?
What is the main aim of the study and the objectives to achieve this?
What are your research hypotheses? (if you have a scientific [positivist] design).
What methods will be used to get research data, e.g. primary research, case study approach, etc? (only briefly here you can give more details in the methodology section).
What are the constraints or limitations of the study?
You should include your dissertation aim and objectives (often 3-5 objectives) in the Introduction. Follow the advice of your supervisor. S/he will generally advise a structured approach to the dissertation (see the CASE research methods guide). With a structured approach, you decide which theories you are going to use to underpin the study before you start.
Remember that you are not setting out to prove anything, only to gather good evidence to help you evaluate the issue(s) and provide evidence to answer your initial question in your conclusion. Good research often has to revise its prior assumptions on the basis of the evidence. Bad research sets out to prove your idea at all costs and only includes supporting evidence. Choose your dissertation subject wisely and do not try to cover too broad an area
Chapter Two: Literature Review
This is a review of what is already known about your topic and issues. It is your main source of
You should evaluate the usefulness of past research, studies, articles from relevant journals, books, newspapers, etc. Summarise and review the literature of other researchers who have published around the theme of your research. Because of this, precise referencing becomes very important in this section. It is vital that you acknowledge the authorship of all other people’s theories and ideas.
The literature chapter should be drafted early on in the dissertation process (see CASE Guide to Writing a Literature Review). As you find relevant literature and read it, reference it and write draft notes on any relevant data you find. Think of the literature review as a patchwork quilt made up of paragraphs you have written about individual texts, and gradually put together to make a coherent whole. Highlight the findings that are relevant to your work. Your literature review should critically evaluate other research by indicating not only the relevance of it to your own study, but also any weaknesses in the research that other researchers have pointed out. Do not just make your literature review a description of material, or a listof any relevant research you found. Instead judge:
What are main general arguments and themes in the subject area?
How much is relevant?
Who are the main authorities in the field?
What are the major research findings?
Are there significant gaps in research knowledge?
What are the relevant theories, models and conceptual frameworks?
What research methods are commonly used?
So, a good Literature Review will identify appropriate academic and/or professional fields of literature. It will summarise and describe the main
in the literature that are important to your work. Evaluation of their usefulness to your study should be made. The connections or contradictions between the themes on the literature should be clearly identified in your writing. Point out the strengths, weaknesses, limitations and criticisms of theories and practice which have been made by other experts. Try to make sure that your writing is clearly structured into appropriate themes.
Theoretical and conceptual framework (optional)
Sometimes your supervisor may suggest that you make this a separate chapter, but usually any review of relevant theory is included in the Literature Review chapter. If your supervisor wants you to make this a separate chapter, then this is where you produce working definitions of the main concepts you will use in your own research, using the material and arguments you presented in the Literature Review. You might then form these concepts into a hypothesis or taxonomy (classification) or model to be tested (supported or not supported by the evidence). However, as this is challenging it is more likely to be relevant for a PhD dissertation!
Chapter Three: Methodology
This chapter is often divided into two:
The philosophy of research research methodology theory qualitative and quantitative data etc.
Practice what research methods you actually used and why. What I did? How I did it? Why did I do it that way?
Describe, explain and justify the research methods you are using. Evaluate the practical and technical aspects of conducting the research and justify your methods by referring to research methods experts/books. Also, discuss any ethical issues connected with the research. This chapter describes and evaluates in detail the methods, techniques and procedures used in the investigation which link to the scope and aims of the dissertation. It is also very important that you
the methods used by referring to experts in research methods (see the Recommended Reading list in your Dissertation Handbook). To judge whether you have been comprehensive enough, the reader should be able
the research using the same methods and techniques. Include a copy of the questionnaire, interview questions, etc. in an appendix, refer to it in this chapter and cross reference it in your data analysis chapter.
Discussion of data required:
What was the purpose of collecting and analysing the data?
Why was this topic interesting/useful?
Summarise the basic questions the research set out to answer in a few straightforward statements
What role did the findings of the Literature Review have in determining the data collection requirements? (very important)
Why did you need to collect quantitative and/or qualitative data? Or why not?
Discussion of alternative methods of data collection
Which methods might have been appropriate for data collection (e.g. observation, questionnaire, etc.)?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these methods of data collection with reference to your own research project? (This might be best summarised as a table.)
What reasons influenced your final choice?
Discussion of the question content and data required
If you used a questionnaire or interviews, how were questions asked to generate the required data?
Can you use elements of the literature review to strengthen your arguments for using certain questions (e.g. because there are gaps in the literature)?
Did you take any decisions to limit the data collection? Why? Why not?
Discussion of the format of the questionnaire(s)/interview(s)
Why were the questions presented in your chosen order?
How did the design of the research help/impede data collection for you as the researcher?
Discussion of the phrasing of the questions
Why was it important to take care in phrasing the questions?
What methods did you use to ensure that the phrasing of questions was effective in eliciting useful replies?
Discussion of the response formats
How many different response formats did you use, and why?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each response format you used in your questionnaire?
Discussion of data collection method
How were the interviews conducted/questionnaires distributed and returned?
Discussion of sample
Note that this applies if you distributed a questionnaire, focus group(s) or have based your work on case studies.
What is sampling theory?
Why is it important to research design?
What are the different methods of sampling?
What are their advantages and disadvantages?
Which sampling method did you use for this survey?
Why did you choose this method?
How did you determine the size of your sample?
Note on data analysis technique
Were the data collected analysed manually or by computer?
If analysed by computer, which software package was used?
Review of the methodology used for the research
What were the problems with the methodology implemented? (Limitations)
How could you have avoided these problems?
How did your method rate for reliability?
How did your methods rate for validity?
If you were to run the project again what improvements would you make to the methodological approach adopted?
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