This document provides guidance for students undertaking the
Business Innovation Module in partial fulfillment of their MSc
- Introduction to dissertation
This section aims to provide guidelines and advice to help you to successfully complete your
dissertation. By following the information in this guide you will be able to successfully meet the
learning outcomes of the dissertation which include:
- Identify and critically discuss appropriate literature sources
- Identify and critically discuss the applicability of a range of research methodologies and
paradigms within a range of disciplines
- Critically evaluate and apply appropriate research tools and techniques
- Appraise the validity and reliability of research data.
- What is a dissertation?
Your dissertation is a 60 credit module that is expected to be 3 months (see table for indicative
learning hours) in duration.
Indicative learning hours
Lecture 30 Fieldwork
Seminar 10 External visits
Tutorial 5 Work based learning
Project supervision 20 Guided independent
Demonstration Practical classes
Supervised time in
The dissertation involves the execution and communication of a piece of investigative academic
research which demonstrates an understanding of a specific problem, together with evidence of
critical and analytical evaluation.
There are three types of acceptable dissertations all of which require a literature review. The
distinction between the three types comes in the application of material in the literature review.
Type 1 Primary data based dissertation
Primary data based dissertations involves students collecting primary data. Here the primary data
must be based on the secondary data and should compare and contrast your findings with the
data presented in the literature.
Type 2 Secondary data based dissertation
Secondary data based dissertations requires students to find related data which can be further
analysed using primarily statistical techniques. The University have data sources, companies and
historical macroeconomic time-series data for many countries.
Type 3 Product/service/innovation based dissertation
Product/service/innovation based dissertation requires students to develop a new product or
service or enhance an existing product or service based on their analysis of secondary data and
stakeholder expectations. Such dissertations may be the result of a specific request from an
Most students find the dissertation both challenging and rewarding. There will inevitably be ups
and downs but by keeping in regular contact with your supervisor you will find that most problems
can be overcome before they become too big.
- The topic
Topics can be generated from a variety of sources, they may be generated from work experience,
and they may result from a seminar discussion, newspaper articles, journal article or from a piece
of coursework. You will be provided with guidance about what is an acceptable topic but in
general you may find the following four steps useful:
The topic you choose should be of interest to you as otherwise there is a potential for boredom to
set in as you progress with the research.
Your dissertation topic must be approved. It should not be purely descriptive, but should produce
original conclusions and/or recommendations even though these may represent only a minor part
of the work. The dissertation topic must have theoretical content which is outlined in the literature
review and this MUST BE supported by references to academic literature. The literature review
should provide the basis for the application stage of your dissertation.
You should submit provisional topic areas as soon as possible as this will allow them to offer
advice on its suitability.
It is difficult, and not advisable, to change dissertation topic once you have started and this may
only take place after consultation with, and counselling by your supervisor.
Step 1 Can you develop a ‘YES’ ‘NO’ question? This
will allow you to identify a subject area where
there are at least two separate viewpoints
If you cannot develop a Yes/No question
you may find it difficult to develop your
discussion past the descriptive stage.
You should reconsider if this is a suitable
Step 2 Is there sufficient literature to support the yes
and no question?
If you cannot collect data to support both
the yes and no points of view you may
have difficulty in developing the
analytical and evaluative aspects of your
discussion. You should reconsider if this
is a suitable topic
This may be a suitable topic
Step 3 Can you identify stakeholders or data sources?
Can you get access to stakeholders or data
sources? Will the stakeholders or data sources
provide you with the data you require?
It is unlikely that you will get the quality
of data for you to develop the
application aspect of your dissertation.
You should reconsider if this is a suitable
Step 4 Can you complete the study in 3 months? You should consider redefining the topic
or consider if this is a suitable topic.
- Allocation of supervisors
All students will be allocated a suitably qualified supervisor once their topic is approved and all
staff are experienced in supervising dissertation at postgraduate level.
- Roles and Responsibilities
5.1 The Student
The dissertation is your work and as such, you are ultimately responsible for the success of your
dissertation. Your supervisor is there to offer guidance but you should assume ownership of the
dissertation, managing your work load, meeting deadlines and understanding the requirements
for the success of the dissertation. To that end you must:
- arrange and attend meetings with your supervisor;
- provide the supervisor with current contact details;
- allocate a sufficient amount of your time to your dissertation to carry out the work;
- inform your supervisor promptly and honestly, of your progress on the tasks allocated to
you and of any problems encountered;
- comply with ethical considerations and restrictions;
- take responsibility for liaising with any external clients;
- ensure the dissertation is of an acceptable standard;
- submit the dissertation by the deadline.
Remember to back up your work. You should be well aware of the need to maintain additional
copies of your work (electronic and paper). We know that is easier said than done, but do not
learn the hard way. Hard disk failure, theft, etc. are not valid excuses for you to gain extra time.
We provide computing facilities (with backup) and we expect you to use these appropriately.
Similarly, if you choose to use your own resources e.g. newer versions of word-processing
software than is available at Salford, etc. you need to live with the consequences of failure of that
Collect references and write up as you go. The best time to record a reference is when you get it.
It is far easier to write up your literature review at the time you are reading the books and papers
you have found.
If you have particular difficulties with written reports (perhaps your grammar or spelling is poor, or
English is not your first language), then you may need to seek additional help. Electronic spelling
and grammar checkers can be useful, and a human proof-reader can be a valuable aid. This
person is not your supervisor!
You may find the links in appendix 10 useful if you are experiencing difficulties in writing up your
Determine a structure and presentation style as soon as possible. You may wish to use outlining,
styles and automatic tables of contents in MS Word. If so, the time to learn this skill is at the
beginning of your dissertation.
Develop the skill of reading your dissertation as others may read it. It may help the readability and
should trap glaring errors and inconsistencies.
5.2 The supervisor
Your supervisor will:
- offer advice on the suitability of the chosen topic, aim and objectives;
- comment on your ideas;
- offer guidance on the dissertation process;
- inform the student of planned absences and procedures for maintaining contact;
- make the student aware of inadequate progress
You should not expect your academic supervisor to list all the reading that will be required nor to
write any part of the dissertation. Supervisors will agree appropriate supervision methods and will
read and give advice on chapters within your dissertation once you have written them.
You should agree a timetable with your supervisors indicating when various stages of the
dissertation preparation – preliminary reading, overall design, document structure, write up of
individual chapters, production of preliminary draft and final draft – will be completed. Your
supervisor is not expected to intervene at each of these stages.
Your supervisor will guide you as much as possible, while at the same time ensuring that it is your
work and your ideas that are finally assessed. It is for you to implement their suggestions (or
argue your case for doing otherwise if you wish). Also, your supervisor will not tell you what mark
you will achieve or what your dissertation is worth. It is your responsibility for ensuring that your
work will achieve a pass mark.
- The dissertation process
6.1 Planning your dissertation
During your research methods module you will have already prepared a proposal for a dissertation.
You may choose to further develop this proposal in terms of final dissertation or to start with a
new topic area. You will find it useful to discuss your proposal with your supervisor before you
start on your dissertation. In order to assist you in this discussion you may find the following
- Proposed title
- Rationale for the study
- Context of the study
- Proposed methodology
- Limitations of the study
- Delimitations of the study
- Proposed structure of the study
Be clear that this is an independent piece of work and the ultimate responsibility to produce your
dissertation rests with you.
Be careful about typing up. There are many things that can go wrong so try to allow plenty of time.
Penalties may be applied if your work is submitted late and generally computer problems will not
be accepted as mitigating circumstances.
Submission of draft chapters to your supervisor is by personal arrangement, but please be aware
that supervisors often have several students and many other commitments, so please allow plenty
of time for return of your work. Normally a maximum of two weeks is required for feedback.
Supervisors are obliged to read and comment fully on one chapter but cannot read the full
document prior to submission.
As a general rule, you should invest nearly as much time reading your work as writing it. Read
your writing back to yourself, putting yourself in the mind of the reader. This will help you to
produce coherent and precise writing. Leave sufficient time for reading and correction, re-reading
and further correction.
- Format and presentation
Dissertations should be between 12,000 and 15,000 words and include a word count.
The following should not be included in the word count: abstracts; indented quotations (of more
than 50 words); tables; figures; diagrams; footnotes/endnotes used for reference purposes and
kept within reasonable limits; bibliography; and appendices.
The dissertation must be prepared in double spaced, Arial 12pt typescript on A4 paper, with
margins of approximately 4cms left and 2.4cms on the right. The abstract and bibliography should
be single spaced.
Illustrative items such as tables and diagrams etc. should be produced and reduced to A4 size
unless this would seriously detract from their illustrative value. They should be inserted as near
as possible to the main portion of the text referring to them and should be titled and numbered
sequentially throughout the report for ease of reference.
Pay attention to tenses (past, present, future) and be careful not to mix them within chapters.
Methodology and results, for example, include what has been done/found and so should be in the
Page numbering up to the abstract should be by small Roman numerals, (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.) and the
main body of the text plus appendices should be numbered consecutively throughout in Arabic
numerals. The general style of layout should be similar to that in academic works and journals,
except that in relevant cases, that part of any dissertation which also serves as a report to a host
company may be prepared with numbered paragraphs and greater use of headings, sub-headings,
and other appropriate devices for emphasis, etc. (underlining/italics, etc.).
Each chapter should contain an introduction, the main body of arguments and a conclusion. You
should attempt to anchor each chapter into the body of the text so that its relevance to the whole
dissertation is clear to the reader.
The format of the dissertation should be as follows:
a. Title Page (see appendix 1 for example)
b. Declaration (see appendix 2 for example)
The aim of this is to give the reader an overview of the work contained in the dissertation.
It should be no longer than one page of A4, single spaced and should make reference to
the aims and objectives, the methods of investigation, the main findings and the
conclusions reached. It is NOT a description of your contents page.
You should refer to those people who have assisted you in your research. For example,
your supervisor, advisors, and those who completed questionnaires and interviews etc.
Please ensure you spell names correctly and ensure that you conform with ethical issues
(do not name any individuals or companies who have provided you with data or personal
e. Contents Page
Your contents page should list the sections and subsections of your dissertation followed
by references and then appendices. You should provide the title of each appendix and it
is common practice to number the pages in the appendix A1, A2, A3 etc. Pages in the
contents table are normally numbered in small case Roman numerals.
f. List of Tables and Figures
List all, figures, tables and diagrams by number, title and page number
g. List of abbreviations
Abbreviations should be listed. In the text, the abbreviation should only be used after its
first mention, which should be written in full.
h. Introduction (word length guide 1,500 words)
This should set the scene and give the reader a complete overview of what you intend to
do. It should include a general introduction, a rationale for doing the research which is
based on secondary data, an aim and three to four supporting objectives and/or
hypotheses, the proposed methodology, limiting and delimiting factors and an outline of
the organisation of the study.
i. Literature Review (word length guide 5,000 words)
A literature review is “an interpretation and synthesis of published work” Merriam, 1986,
Case Study Research in Education) and it is not simply an extended essay. The next
section is a brief overview of the resources available to you via the University of Salford
Library to help you search for sources.
Quality of information
Information overload has become a familiar term recently but it is a concept that is likely
to be clear to you after your search. Your problem may not be finding the information, but
selecting what you should use (particularly with Internet searches). Internet sources are
of very variable quality, you need to be particularly critical in your use of these sources. It
is often worth asking yourself: who supplied this information and why did they supply it?
An evaluation of, say, Customer Relationship Management software from a peer-reviewed
journal may carry more weight than one offered by the leading supplier of that type of
Use of information
At this level, it is essential that you observe scholarly conventions for the attribution of the
work of others. Please read the notes on plagiarism in your student handbook. References
are those sources (written and unwritten) which were consulted in the course of your
research and which are actually referred to in your text. During the literature search of
your dissertation topic, you will find published material (books, book chapters, scientific
articles, magazine articles, press articles, commercial reports, etc.). It is essential to refer
to your source when quoting actual text, when referring to numerical data, and when using
a diagram or figure found in the literature. Figures (pictures, diagrams, models, maps, etc.)
and tables (numerical data usually) should be clearly labelled and of a sufficient size to be
readable. The source of each map, picture, diagram or statistical table should be clearly
acknowledged. Thus each figure or table should have:
- a number (so that you can refer to it as an explanation or illustration of your
argument in the main text – reciprocally, all figures and tables should be referred
to and used in the text);
- a title;
- the source, if the figure or table has been found in a book, article or report (if it is
a result of your own work, it does not need a source).
In the interest of accuracy and to avoid having to waste time checking sources at the last
minute, it is very strongly recommended you take careful notes when material is being
collected during your investigation, when using primary sources (people you interview for
instance) or secondary sources (books you read, i.e. work done by someone else). Be
careful to record accurately name of author, title of work, page numbers, date, publisher,
etc. or name of the person interviewed, job title, date, company, location, etc. and indicate
clearly in your notes from published work what is copied exactly and what is a précis (a
summary in your own words).
Where original sources have been studied only in a reprint edition or published collection
of readings, this secondary source should be documented as well as the original
publication. Incidentally, direct and indirect quotations (both of which should be referenced
to their original sources) should be used only sparingly – the object of the dissertation is to
establish the student’s own personal understanding and contribution in the area of study.
Similarly, an outline style or the excessive use of short paragraphs should be avoided in
the dissertation; in the dissertation each topic should be as rigorously and deeply
discussed as practicable, which normally requires longer paragraphs. This should
culminate in a chosen theory or theories with an outline expressing how these are to be
tested – the design of this is reported in the next section.
Finally, do not cite your lecture notes, it is not appropriate.
For an introduction to academic misconduct we strongly recommend that you complete
this short online package – http://library-files.salford.ac.uk/elearning/academicmisconduct/story_html5.html.
j. Methodology (word length guide 2,000 words)
You must give reasoned arguments for your choice of research methodology, including
any alternate methods that have been deemed less suitable. Selections of your sample
should be discussed along with details of how you implemented your methodology (how?
where? when? who? why?) information on pilot studies should be included, together with
details of any changes made as a result. You must discuss and justify how the field work
was undertaken, what happened, and the methods used to analyse data. Reliability and
validity issues should be discussed including the steps you have taken to ensure your
findings may be relied on by others as accurate and trustworthy. The main emphasis of
this chapter is on justifying what you have done and the process you have applied in data
collection and analysis.
k. Results and Discussion (word length guide 5,000 words)
The results should be presented in a logical manner using tables and figures as necessary.
You should discuss the meaning of the results as you present them. Remember to relate
your results back to your aim and objectives and literature review. This section should not
be just a description of your results but should include a discussion and evaluation of the
findings you have made.
l. Conclusions and Recommendations (word length guide 1,500 words)
Your conclusions are a summary of your overall findings and should relate to your original
aim, objectives and hypotheses. The conclusions should be based on your results and
discussions section but should NOT be a regurgitation of this section. The key parts of the
literature must be revisited in this section and where appropriate your conclusions should
assess implications of your work.
Your recommendations should be based on your conclusions chapter. Where appropriate,
your recommendations should include aims, implementation strategies, resource costs
and resource benefits.
m. Evaluation of Study and Scope for Further Research
This section gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you have done. There may be
obvious opportunities for further research other than the same work carried out in a
different geographical area or using a different sample.
In your evaluation don’t be afraid to state what went wrong preferably with ways that this
could be avoided if the research were to be carried out again. Critically evaluate your
methodology again with ways that this could be improved. Discuss the limitations of your
n. Reference List
Throughout your dissertation you will be referring to the work of others. You must provide
a list of those sources which you use and refer to in the dissertation. All sources you use
must be referenced and must be included in this list. Each source in the list must be in a
form that is traceable by the reader—thus you need to include the authors’ names, the
year, the title of the source, etc. The School insists that you use the Harvard system.
Failure to acknowledge and reference correctly may lead to accusations of plagiarism and
if proved, you will be subjected to the disciplinary process of the university. These may
be accessed at
Appendices are not marked and hence should not be included in the word count. They
should include only relevant information to aid in the understanding of the text, e.g.
questionnaires, interview questions, letters and responses to and from third parties,
relevant raw data, etc. There is no need to present each complete questionnaire although
it is extremely important that this is saved and as it may be required for inspection. This
also applies to taped transcripts of any interviews.
Robert Kennedy College will confirm your submission date and give you instructions on how to
If you wish your dissertation to be kept from public view due to the nature of its content (i.e. where
this is sensitive or confidential to an organisation for example), you must include the word
‘Embargoed:’ and a date when this can be lifted on your title page. Dissertations without an
embargo will be placed in a public place for consultation by staff, students or other interested
Where a student undertaking assessment or reassessment does not submit coursework by the
submission due date and time, the following penalties for late work shall be applied to the mark
or grade for that work, except as provided in Regulation 1.2.2 (h):
(a) if the work is no more than four working days late and marked then five marks shall be
deducted for each working day (or part thereof), but if the work would otherwise pass then the
mark for the work shall be reduced to no lower than the pass mark for the component;
(b) If the work is no more than four working days late and marked and the mark is lower than the
pass mark, then no penalty shall be applied;
(c) if the work is no more than four working days late and graded either Pass or Fail then no
penalty shall be applied;
(d) if the work is more than four working days late then it cannot be submitted and shall be
recorded as a non-submission (NS). The penalties for the late submission of work required during
the final 60 credit stage of a Master’s Degree (the project stage) shall apply from the submission
due date unless an extension has been granted under Regulation 6.4, in which case the penalties
shall apply from the deferred submission date determined by the expiry of the extension. See also
Regulation 1.2.2 (h)
If you do have personal mitigating circumstances, do not leave it until the last minute. Make sure
you complete the relevant form in good time and provide documentary evidence to support your
- Ownership of copyright
Any written material, computer programs, or other material produced as part of the dissertation,
is produced for the purpose of assessment of the student by members of this and other
universities (e.g. external examiners) and copyright is owned by the University of Salford. The
supervisor, or other member of this university, is free to use the material as the basis of further
dissertations or research and may publish, or otherwise disseminate, information about the
dissertation if he or she so wishes. In any publication or presentation, the contribution of the
student(s) would be properly identified and acknowledged. This could be by co-authorship, where
your contribution is a major part of the published work, or by an acknowledgement, where the
contribution is a minor part.
In the event of commercial exploitation of all or part of the dissertation work, the student(s) would
be entitled to a fair share of the profits, but the supervisor and the University would also be entitled
to shares. If the dissertation had been suggested, or contributed to, by a commercial company,
they would also be entitled to a share of the profits. The allocation of shares of profits would be
by negotiation, taking account the circumstances of each particular case. One consideration
would be whether any further work had been done by the students, or by a company, to develop
the dissertation work into a commercial product after completion of the dissertation.
Your dissertation will be double marked (see appendix 03), firstly by your supervisor and
secondly by one of the other supervisors. If there is a significant difference in the marks they will
be moderated by a third marker. Many dissertations are sent out to external examiners and, thus,
some may be marked up to four times. Due to the nature of the marking, no marks will be released
until they are ratified at the Examination Board.
Dissertation detailed marking scheme is as follows:
Criteria Key factors