Typing is to be double-spaced or one and a half spaced on A4 paper. Allow a left-hand margin of at least 4cms and a right-hand margin of 2cms.
Page numbering should begin on Page 1 of Chapter 1. The page number is placed centrally in the bottom margin. Appendices should be numbered and lettered separately on each page e.g. A1, A2, B1, B2 and so on
- Key contents of the dissertation
- Title page (About online banking in China, should be more detailed)
- Abstract（600 words）
- Literature review – your subject area(s)
- Research methodology and methods
- Findings = presentation and analysis of your ‘data’
- Conclusion, includes limitations, reflection
- References (Harvard style) Important！In-text references also needed.
- Introduction (10%, 1800-2000 words)
- Background of the topic area
- Introduction of ‘research gap’ + topic selection
- Importance and contribution of the research
- Research aim and objectives
- Literature review and hypothesis development (30%, 5400-6000 words)
- Basic definition of key concepts
- Importance of chosen topic
- Evaluation and analysis of existing literature (should present an appropriate knowledge framework and should be relevant, comprehensive and critically)
- Identification and discussion of ‘research gap’→ why do this topic requires further research
- A clear summary and discussion of the research objectives or hypothesis emerge from the literature review
- Research methodology and methods (20%, 3600-4000 words)
- Detailed requirements see page 6-8
- Better use questionnaire and case study
- Justification of chosen methods (appropriateness, validity and reliability)
- Should cover questionnaire design process (take what action to make sure the questionnaire is valid; set what questions in order to gain what information)
- Should cover sample selection (why select these samples)
- Put questionnaire in the Appendix
- Findings (10%, 1800-2000 words)
- Use SPSS to integrate and present data
- See page 8-10
- Descriptive analysis (samples’ age, gender, education background etc.; measure of central tendency, measure of dispersion, measure of normality and frequency distribution)
- Present and analyze test results with an appropriate number of tables and diagrams.
- All diagrams and tables must be clearly labelled
- Discussion (20%, 3600-4000 words)
- Discuss through combining findings with literatures which have been reviewed above
- The boundariesof the research and the limitations to its comprehensiveness.
- Conclusion and reflection (10%, 1800-2000 words)
- Conclude and answer the research questions put forward in the Introduction
- Highlight what have done to improve the dissertation
- Limitations and reflection of the research
- Relevant documents, questionnaires, statistical details, tables, graphs and so on
- Key tables, graphs, etc. in the body of the text as well
Marking scheme in more detail:
1.Topic selection/ research aim and objectives (Weighting approx. 10%)
Did the dissertation demonstrate clarity in the research aim and explanation of topic under investigation? Was the dissertation clear and consistent in the aim and objectives being addressed throughout? Was the aim innovative/ important/ relevant?
2.Literature Review (Weighting approx. 30%)
Did the dissertation establish an appropriate framework of literature to provide an academic basis to the empirical investigation? In particular, was there a comprehensive, masterly and critical investigation of the relevant literature and/or bodies of knowledge?
3.Methodology and Method (Weighting approx. 20%)
Was there an appropriate acknowledgement of methodological underpinnings/ ontological position (ontological and epistemological) and selection and application of research methods appropriate to that a) methodology/ ontological position and b) the aim?
4.Presentation and analysis of empirical results (Weighting approx. 10%)
Did the dissertation include an appropriate and considered presentation and analysis of empirical results?
5.Discussion (Weighting approx. 20%)
Did the dissertation critically relate the empirical results and the literature discussed in the literature review?
6.Conclusions and Reflection (Weighting approx. 10%)
Did the dissertation address/ answer the aim and objectives in a way that contributed new knowledge? Did the student adequately engage in critical reflection?
- What should a dissertation contain?
While every dissertation is, or should be, a unique piece of work, there are enough commonalties for us to suggest how it may be divided up into chapters or sections. The suggestions that follow are substantially drawn from the requirements of the QAA for Masters level dissertations.Please note that these are suggestions only and not a rigid prescription for how you should set out your dissertation.
- Title Page
The first typed page should contain the title, your name, your student number, the month and year of completion, and the statement:
“This dissertation is submitted in part fulfilment of the (MSc. in Accounting
It should also contain the following signed and dated declaration:
“I declare that this dissertation is the result of my own independent investigation and that all sources are duly acknowledged in the bibliography”
You may include an acknowledgements page. This will allow you to thank individuals and organisations that have helped you with your dissertation.
An abstract should be included at the beginning of the dissertation. This should normally be no more than one or two pages long (600 words) and should cover all aspects of the dissertation including the conclusions.
- Table of Contents
You should include a table of contents giving chapter and section headings and page references. E.g. Introduction, Background, Literature Review, Research Methodology, Research Findings, Research Analysis, Conclusions. You should include a list of figures such as diagrams and tables after the contents page.
This should contain a contextualisation of the research, in other words what is the research rationale and what is the organisational background. There should be an acknowledgement of the scope and boundaries of the dissertation. It is critical that the aim and objectives of the dissertation are made explicit.
- Literature review
This should provide the theoretical background to the dissertation, including a demonstration of why this literature is relevant to your specific aim. It is absolutely vital that this chapter is a critical evaluation and discussion of the relevant literature and its theoretical roots, and not merely an uncritical listing of ‘who said what’ in an attempt to demonstrate how much you have read. In criticallyevaluating the literature you should demonstrate an understanding of the ‘leading edge’ thinking in the relevant discipline, as well as an appreciation of where the gaps in the literature exist. Some consideration should also be given to the dominant methodological approaches found. Are they appropriate? Is there room for a different approach? It might be useful to keep in mind that in later sections you will be discussing your findings and how they relate to the literature.
In order to find out what research other people have done on your chosen topic, you will need to undertake a literature search. Your review of the literature will then act as a background against which you can carry out and report your own research. As Jankowicz points out (2000, pp. 159) “Knowledge doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and your work only has value in relation to other people’s. Your work and your findings will be significant only to the extent that they’re the same as, or different from, other people’s work and findings”.
Remember that you are expected to carry out a critical review of the literature. It is not enough simply to list and describe that which has been previously done by researchers. However tempting it might be to demonstrate exactly how many texts you have consulted, it is vital that you remain focused and take a critical view of what you read. You need to summarise and compare the pieces of research to see how they differ (in their approaches, research methods, and findings) and to see whether any common themes emerge. Aim for what Gill and Johnson (1997) call an “insightful evaluation” of the literature (p. 21). What is needed is a “critical review which demonstrates some awareness of the current state of knowledge on the subject, its limitations, and how the proposed research aims to add to what is known” (Gill and Johnson, 1997, p. 20).
A good literature review will make explicit the basic theories in which the models and frameworks adopted by a particular management discipline are grounded. For example a much-quoted framework, like the ‘five forces’ structural analysis, used by strategists and others, could be said to be grounded in basic economic theory, which attracts its own critics. Considering the theoretical provenance of models allows the critical researcher to evaluate how appropriate certain models and frameworks are in particular situations.
Throughout your dissertation you will be using the results of the literature review as a backdrop, or theoretical framework to your own research. The review can help you to plan parts of your own research, and you should use the key ideas from the review in your own discussion of your results showing how your findings fit in with the previous research.
- Finally, remember that criticality can be achieved by comparing, contrasting and critiquing the literature.
- What has been written before
- Is there agreement?
- Are there differences in approach; nuance; style; outcome?
- Avoid trying to synthesise the opposed positions.
- Emphasise the differences
- Why do they exist?
- Are they crucial to the debate?
- Can we characterise both sides to help understand them better?
- Does emphasising the distinctiveness teach us something?
- Weigh the ideas
- Try to give equal weight to theories even when one may be more appealing to us
- What has been written before
This chapter is sometimes referred to as ‘defence of method’ but should be more than merely a setting out of what methods you have used and why. An explanation and evaluation of your underlying philosophical methodology will be necessary, which will include considerations of an epistemological and ontological nature. This evaluation should show why the particular position taken is relevant or appropriate to this research and how it will inform the nature and quality of the conclusions. Similarly the selection of particular methods and techniques should be evaluated in terms of how appropriate they are for this research. This chapter should also address any ethical problems implicit in the methodology and how these may be minimised.
Based upon this understanding of different types of research, and in order to meet the assessment criteria for your dissertation you will probably be conducting Applied, Empirical Research, and although you may well use various sources of secondary data to inform your research, you will usually be expected to collect Primary data for your own research purposes.
- Turning topic ideas into focused research aims
It is preferable to think of your research aim in terms of discovery (what you want to find out) rather than enquiry. This helps to identify your aim.Your aim should be able to be phrased as a question, but ask yourself…
- Is it actually more than one question?
- If it is addressing more than one question:
- Are those questions related?
- Are they addressing fundamentally different issues? g. should we do it, compared to how should we do it?
The most common features of poor research aims are that they are:
- Too operational for masters level
- Organisational rather than a research aim
- More than one aim
- Unconnected aims, or worse where aim #2 is dependent on aim #1
- Research philosophy
Your methodology chapter should adequately explain and defend the philosophy of your research
This brief overview of various philosophies underlying academic research is no substitute for reading texts and journals on research methodologies. It is intended only as a guide to the key areas you will need to address in order that you may more fully explore the philosophical stance you will take and defend in your dissertation.
In this chapter of your dissertation you should discuss the following:
Ontology– concerned with questions of ‘knowing’. Do you believe that phenomena have an actual or material existence which can be known, measured and studied? In which case you are tending to favour Realism. Or do you believe that no universals exist outside of the mind? In which case you are tending to favour Nominalism.
Epistemology – theory of knowledge creation and reality. Realists
tend to favour Positivism i.e. phenomena can be objectively studied (etic viewpoint). Knowledge is scientific as has ‘generalities and patterns waiting to be discovered’. Nominalists tend to favour Interpretivism i.e. any human action is dependent upon comprehension of the context for deep understanding (emicapproach).
Human Nature– Concerned with degree of self determination.
Realist; Positivist researchers tend to favour Determinism i.e the world is preordained, determined or fate bound. Nominalist, Interpretivist researchers tend to favour Voluntarism i.e. human beings’ actions are voluntary
- Method – the techniques to collect or interpret data that arise from
the researcher’s philosophy of research. The realist; positivist; etic; deterministreserahcer is likely to use nomothetic methods i.e.objective, ‘scientific’. The nominalist; interpretivist; emic; voluntaristresearcher is likely to use ideographic methods, i.e. subjective
- Methods of Data Collection
Whichever you use, you will need to describe and justify the methods used in your Methodology chapter. For example, why did you choose the methods you did? In what ways were they more appropriate than other methods?
These can be extremely useful for collecting information from a large number of people in a relatively short period of time. If you are going to use questionnaires, you need to consider a number of issues:
- Will you use an existing questionnaire or will you design your own? Questionnaires are quite difficult to design effectively and you will need to show a draft to your supervisor for comment before you issue the questionnaire to respondents.
- Are you planning to “pilot” the questionnaire with a small sample of respondents to see whether the questions are clear and the questionnaire is easy to complete? You may well want to modify or improve the questionnaire in the light of lessons learnt from the pilot study.
- The questions should be relevant to your research question. Test each one against your statement of purpose. The questions should be unambiguous and likely to elicit useful and relevant data.
- One of the advantages of pre-coded questions is that the replies will be easier to analyse. The advantage of using un-coded questions is that you may be less likely to lead respondents with preconceived ideas about how the questions should be answered: you will end up with “richer” data but it may be more difficult to analyse it to see what patterns are emerging.
- One of the difficulties of using questionnaires is that response rates are commonly low, especially with postal questionnaires. You can reduce this problem by ensuring that the questionnaire does not take long to answer (it has been suggested that if it takes more than a quarter of an hour to complete it is too long), by enclosing a stamped addressed envelope for replies by specifying a date for replies, and by following up with reminders (and another S.A.E.).
- If the number of questionnaires is large, will you use a computer to analyse the results (e.g. for “number crunching”)? If so, do you have the necessary skills, or do you need to learn how to use certain analytical software?
- Findings: presentation and analysis
This may be quite a short chapter or section presenting the primary research findings in a clear and focused manner. Keep in mind the aim of the research at this point. You are beginning the process of presenting your answer to the question you set yourself in the aim. Remember also your ethical obligations: the findings should be presented in a way that protects vulnerable subjects.
It is essential to consider at an early stage how you would code your data for any computer analysis. This can have a bearing on how you ask your questions and allow you to take advantage of pre-coding possibilities that can cut down on work later on. For example, instead of asking an open-ended question about a person’s qualifications and then having to group and code each of the many types of answer that you get, it would be far more efficient to construct a question which contains a small number of pre-coded alternatives (e.g. 01 – First Degree; 02 – Masters; 03 – Doctorate; 04 – Professional; 05-Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma; 06 – Higher National Diploma; 07- Other).
In the case of quantitative data, the need for statistical advice should also be identified at the design stage. If you are anticipating carrying out some of the technical statistical analyses referred to later on in this section, then it is wise to establish the requirements of such procedures in terms of type of data, sample size, etc. before launching into sampling schemes and data collection. When necessary, ask your supervisor to direct you to sources of statistical advice within your department.
Please be aware that in a dissertation employing a qualitative method the presentation of findings, and their analysis may be combined. To separate the two may be clumsy or involve unnecessary repetition.
The final stage consists of a close study of the set of segments within each subdivision; this involves identifying relationships, linkages, contrasts, connections and so on, which may lead to theories or propositions arising from the data. You may find such an approach particularly well suited to a situation where you have not begun with a grand theory that you set out to test, but rather perceive your research as exploratory and opportunistic.
Another related, though slightly different, use of statistical inference arises in situations where you wish to test an initial hypothesis. For example, you may start with a hypothesis that there is no difference between male and female workers in the time they spend at their PCs. Sample evidence reveals that for males the average time is 1.6 hours, and for females the average is 1.2 hours. You should then offer a statistical comment on how likely it is that a difference of this magnitude could have arisen by chance just because of the sampling process. In other words, you need to comment on the statistical significance of the difference between sample means, by for example establishing that there is less than a 1% probability of such a difference between males and females arising just through chance effects in the sampling process. Hence the difference would be described as one that is statistically significant.
Statistical methods relevant to this kind of work include the t-test (small samples) or z-test (large samples) for the difference of two sample means, or a similar test based on the Normal distribution for comparing sample proportions in two large samples. Even in situations where you have plotted a scatter diagram based on sample data and then calculated a correlation coefficient for the relationship between two variables, it would be useful to offer a comment on the statistical significance of any relationship that you observe.Statistical tables are available which give you the probability of observing a particular correlation coefficient value just by chance effects, depending on your sample size.
- Other Matters Relating to Presentation of Results.
It is probable that only a minority of dissertations require extensive use of formal statistical analysis. However, a far greater proportion of dissertations are likely to involve the summary and presentation of some kind of numerical information.
It is also worth paying some attention to the choice of methods available for summarising data using diagrams. The aim is always to convey as many clear, unambiguous messages as possible using the smallest possible number of diagrams, but avoiding clutter. You should attempt to select diagram-type using fitness-for-purpose criteria. For example, to illustrate how a total quantity is broken down into its component parts, you might choose a pie chart, or possibly a compound bar chart. To illustrate trends over time, you would choose a line graph, taking care to space the time-points appropriately along the horizontal axis. For line graphs and bar charts, remember that the choice of scale for the vertical axis can influence the reader’s perception of the trends; the honest choice is always to start off your vertical scale at zero. Finally, remember that all diagrams and tables must be clearly labelled, with appropriate use of keys and so on.
Whenever you are committed to producing a large number of tables or diagrams as part of your dissertation, you should consider whether or not that material might be more appropriately included in an appendix. As a general rule, anything that diverts the reader from the main text of your thesis for more than a couple of pages is a good candidate for inclusion in an appendix.
This chapter allows you to discuss and analyse your findings in relation to what you found in your critical evaluation of ‘the story so far’ in the literature review. This is where you clearly, and in a focused and structured way, show the relationship between your primary findings and the secondary data themes from the literature. You will want to show how your dissertation has contributed to the leading edge thinking in the relevant discipline, perhaps by confirming or contradicting that which has been found previously. Inherent in this discussion will be an acknowledgement of the boundaries of your research and the limitations to its comprehensiveness.
There should be some concluding comments to this discussion, drawing out the main themes that emerge from the synthesis of your primary data and the secondary research you conducted.
- Conclusions and critical reflection
This is where you conclude the entire work. Firstly you would need to answer the question, or aim, that you set yourself. In addition you need to reflect on the process of the research, highlighting where you might have done things differently to improve the dissertation by, for example, using alternative methods and approaches or attempting to neutralise any bias you may have brought to the process. You might like also to reflect on any ethical issues or difficulties that arose from your relationship with the organisation being studied. Finally, conclusions to research almost always include recommendations for further enquiry. This is not an exhaustive list of what may be in your conclusions, merely a guide.
Clearly you will need to be selective as to what to include in an appendix but at the same time ensuring that relevant documents, questionnaires, statistical details, tables, graphs and so on are included. You will, of course, include key tables, graphs, etc. in the body of the text as well. Your supervisor will advise you on what should go where.