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Masters Dissertation Handbook: Writing Guidelines and Requirements

Introduction to the Dissertation Component of the Masters Course

The dissertation component of your course is an important and substantial piece of work for your Masters degree.  This handbook is designed to help you, so that the experience is enjoyable and rewarding. 
Your dissertation will be, in many ways, unique.  The dissertation module will provide you with the opportunity to engage in an in-depth study of a topic that you find interesting and worth investigating.  An important aspect of writing a dissertation is the investigation of focused research questions in a systematic and rigorous way.  Dissertation work not only benefits you in terms of your being able to define a health or social care issue for analysis, but also benefits the professions through your contribution to the knowledge base and understanding of health, social care or welfare work. 
The dissertation module is a compulsory module.  It is a triple module worth a total of 60 credits at level 7.  You will have six months in which to undertake and complete the dissertation.  It will give you the opportunity to use learning gained through the Advanced Research Design module in the direct experience of investigative work.  The dissertation module allows you to explore one particular substantive area in depth, and at least one particular research design.


You are required to use a ‘Literature Review’ as this design.


The topic or research question should be relevant to the Masters programme which you are undertaking; for example for MSc in Management in Health Care this should be relevant to the development of your management practice. By management is meant management of people; resources; situations and practice challenges. It does not mean management of clinical conditions. For MSc in Nursing Studies (Leadership in Clinical Practice) the topic should be relevant to your nursing practice. 
You will have a supervisor for the duration of the module.  There are additional opportunities for you to continue learning with your peers groups should you choose.


Normally studied after completion of six modules, as completion of a MSc, in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.  


Students produce a 5-8,000-word (maximum) piece of research using a Literature Review. This is the main component 2. You also need to submit the formative proposal (component 1, 2,000 words) and the appendices (component 3, 5,000 words) 


General Educational Aims 
Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students will have had the opportunity to develop.


Literature to guide you on writing a dissertation

Importance of Writing a Masters Dissertation


The University library has prepared a guide to the literature on writing a dissertation.  It is entitled Writing a dissertation? A report? A thesis?  Details of useful library information can also be found on the library site of the University’s website. 


The University Library has a list of journals currently held and have a number of specialist databases including, the Cochrane library, MEDLINE, CINAHL (Nursing and Allied Health Care), AMED, ASSIA, Dissertation Abstracts, HMIC Indexes, Psycl/LIT (Psychology) Sociofile (Sociology) and the NHS National Research Register (NRR), which are updated at regular intervals.  Non-specialist science and social science databases, such as Web of Science, Zetoc and Academic Search Premier, which can be accessed via the Library web pages can also be a useful source of relevant journal articles.  Bibliographical details can also be exported directly from Zetoc to your documents.  
Remember that you are (usually) looking for primary research articles to answer your literature review question. This can include systematic reviews but if you find a review that addresses your research question exactly, you are advised to find a different question. This is because, in this case, the systematic review has answered your research question directly.

Assessment Strategy 
The assessment is divided into THREE components. Students must pass all assessment components to achieve an overall pass. Students must pass component 1 (the proposal) before being permitted to attempt the other two components.  The final mark for the module will be the mark given to Component 2. 
All assessments should be in font size 11, 1.5 line spaced, and should not include your name. The cover page (title page) should state your programme of study and both student numbers (AIE number and OBU username). 
All word counts exclude reference lists and cover pages, but they do include TABLES that are used to convey information in the text.  Please pay attention to this as this is different from the previous modules. 


Component 1


Literature Review Proposal (Search Strategy) - 2,000 words (max), pass / fail The first assessment component is a proposal of up to 2,000 words. The proposal must explain and justify the literature review that is being planned, and explain the practical details of its methods, and any ethical implications. The proposal must provide a convincing argument that the literature review is feasible, academically justified, and ethically sound. It will be marked as pass or fail. Your supervisor can give feedback on TWO drafts of this work. 
Suggested structure: Introduction (Why this topic?) Methodology (Why a literature review?) Search Strategy (How will you search?)

Module Requirements and Assessment Strategy

? Databases to be searched, and why these

? Search terms to be used incl. Boolean operators

? In- and exclusion criteria Critical Appraisal Strategy (Which critical appraisal framework or tool will you use?)

? Purpose of critical appraisal (exclusion of papers vs understanding papers)

? Tools you could use:



? Joanna Briggs


Analysis or Synthesis Approach (How will you analyse? For example,thematic vs content vs meta analysis) Ethics (What ethical principles are relevant to your topic?) Timetable (use a Gantt chart) 


Component 2


Thesis paper - 5,000 words min, 8,000 words max, marked out of 100% The second assessment component is a thesis paper in the style of a publishable, peerreviewed journal paper of 5,000 to 8,000 words. It must be directly relevant to the student’s programme of study and it must set out a coherent academic argument or report. It must be a literature review. Depending on the student’s field of study, the thesis will follow an appropriate method of literature reviewing. This type of paper will exclusively draw on data from published sources, and it will draw on an established and justified approach to literature searching. 
Recommended structure & recommended (approximate) word count: Abstract - 500 words Introduction and Background (this can draw on your work in the proposal) - 750 words Methods and methodology (this will again draw on your work in the proposal) - 1,000 words  Results / Analysis - 2,500 words Discussion - 2,500 words  Conclusion and Recommendations - 1,000 words 
Your supervisor will comment on ONE draft of each chapter.  It is recommended that you send your supervisor one chapter at a time (except abstract which could be sent with the last chapter), rather than the whole paper in one. This will allow your supervisor to engage with each part as you are writing it. Please do this over the full time period available to you, but not in the final two weeks before the deadline. Your supervisor will not give feedback on any drafts sent in the 2-week period before submission, as you will not have enough time to amend your work accordingly. 


Component 3 
The third assessment component is an appendix of up to 5,000 words that you submit in one file with your thesis paper. The appendix will include a data summary sheet for each paper. You are likely to use between 10-15 papers. It will also include the critical appraisal information, structured by the critical appraisal framework that you are using, for each paper that you reviewed. This assessment will be marked as pass/fail. Your supervisor can give feedback on one data summary sheet. 
The data summary sheet needs to address:

? Full reference  

? Method used in paper

? Main findings that are relevant to your literature review

? Summary of critical appraisal (scientific strengths and weaknesses of the paper) 

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