Structure of a Library-based Dissertation
This is a synopsis of your work, normally not more than 500 words long. This synopsis should describe concisely and clearly the main aspects of your finished research, that is, context, strategic issue, research questions, knowledge domain, research design, principal findings, and implications to management. A sharp synopsis suggests to the reader that the work is focused and that you have a good grasp of your accomplished work.
Chapter 1 – Introduction
This chapter provides the underlying rationale and purpose of the study. It should set out the business context and any existing strategic issues, demonstrating to the reader the relevance of the study in this context. In this chapter you are expected to describe aims and objectives for the investigation, and to identify specific research questions, which may take the form of hypotheses that will be tested within the study.
Chapter 2 – Literature Review
This chapter provides a critical review of the literature related to the problem area you are studying. This means that you should demonstrate your ability to identify and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the theories or schools of thought relevant to your topic. You should also demonstrate your ability to identify how your study may contribute to the existing body of knowledge.
This chapter should close with the articulation of a conceptual framework, that is, a comprehensive synthesis of the analytical models and concepts which you used to answer your research questions. This framework consists of patterns of concepts and their interconnections. In other words, it explains how all the concepts fit together and how they relate to one another.
In a library-based dissertation, the literature review process also identifies secondary data sources. These can be for example sources of ‘raw’ data such as government statistics, or sources of summarised and analysed data in the form of case studies. The conceptual framework guides the identification of the data sources relevant to answering your research questions. In this type of dissertation the bulk of your argument is substantiated by secondary data but you may also include a limited amount of primary data.
Chapter 3 – Research Design
This chapter presents your research plan. This includes a clear statement of your ‘measurable concepts’ or research variables, encapsulated by your conceptual framework, and a rationale for the methodology and methods used.
In a library-based dissertation, it is appropriate for you to discuss the methodology and methods used for data collection and for data analysis adopted by secondary sources, thus exposing any potential weaknesses. This will reflect on the scope and limitations of your own research, as you will be using secondary sources to largely base your conclusions on.
Even if you use a limited amount of primary data in your study, you still must discuss your choice of method(s) for data collection and analysis, as well as the rationale for the implementation of the method(s), grounding the discussion on your conceptual framework. You should also characterize your data source, your sampling technique, the sample size, and the rate of response (if applicable).
Chapter 4 – Analysis of the Data
This chapter of the dissertation is about finding things out by research, rather than discovering “ready-made” results reported in the literature. The findings of the research undertaken should be presented in a clear and unambiguous manner. Diagrams, charts and tables should be employed, where appropriate, to aid the reader in understanding these findings. The outcome of your analysis provides the evidence that support the answer to your research questions.
In a library-based dissertation, you are likely to be doing a meta-analysis of published data, using appropriate techniques argued for in chapter 3 (Research Design). The word ‘meta’ implies that your analysis should be ‘one level up’. This means that whatever the type and level of data analysis done by the secondary sources that you have used in your investigation, you are expected to do further analysis and therefore further enhance the understanding of your topic (one level up!). It is not sufficient to only collate the research outcomes accomplished by others.
Chapter 5 – Interpreting the Research Material
This chapter should focus on drawing together the findings that have emerged from your analysis and relating them to other previous studies identified earlier in the literature review. In this chapter you are expected to show your capacity for reflective and logical argument. This might include validating specific hypotheses advanced at the outset of the study, or summarising the degree to which particular assumptions advanced in the literature appear to be borne out or contradicted by the findings. The interpretation of the research material reflects your understanding of and your insights into the processes and dynamics of the topic you have researched.
Chapter 6 – Conclusions
Your final conclusions should relate back to the aim and objectives of the study stated at the Introduction. These should be strategic conclusions. They summarise your judgement on the implications of the research outcomes to management and professional practice, what options should be taken or what should be done in response to your strategic questions. The strategic conclusions should be based on the new insight provided by your research findings.
Details of the bibliographic references made in the text should be included in this section. MMUBS Executive has introduced a standard Harvard referencing style for all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the School. You should use this standard.
A document is available from the library providing instruction on applying the MMUBS Harvard referencing standard to your work – this includes detailed instruction on how to cite from and reference different sources. In addition, please see the guidance provided in the Study Skills section.
MS Word End Note software can help you manage your database of references, and help you apply the MMUBS Harvard referencing standard to your work.