Business Innovation Module Guide for Postgraduate Students
This document provides guidance for students undertaking the Business Innovation (Dissertation) Module in partial fulfillment of their MSc programme in partnership with Robert Kennedy College.
Last updated: 28/04/2015 1. 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:
1. Identify and critically discuss appropriate literature sources
2. Identify and critically discuss the applicability of a range of research methodologies and paradigms within a range of disciplines
3. Critically evaluate and apply appropriate research tools and techniques
4. Appraise the validity and reliability of research data.
2. 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 study 535 Demonstration Practical classes and workshops Placement Supervised time in studio/workshop Year abroad 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 industrial partner.
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. 3. The topic Topics can be generated from a variety of sources, for example they may be of interest to you or your supervisor, they may be generated from work experience, they may result from a seminar discussion, newspaper articles, journal article or from a piece of coursework. Your supervisor will provide you 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 supervisor must approve your dissertation topic. 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 to your dissertation supervisor 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. 4. Allocation of supervisors All students will be allocated a supervisor and all staff are experienced in supervising dissertation at postgraduate level. Where students have a preference to be supervised by a specific member of staff every effort will be made to accommodate this request but due to other commitments by staff this may not always be possible. You will be allocated a supervisor by Robert Kennedy having completed a form indicating your proposed area of research (see paragraph 6.1)
5. 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: negotiate with your supervisor to determine a suitable dissertation topic; 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 resource.
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 dissertation.
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. 6. 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 structure useful: Proposed title Rationale for the study Context of the study Aim Objectives Proposed methodology Limitations of the study Delimitations of the study Proposed structure of the study References Be clear that this is an independent piece of work and the ultimate responsibility to produce your typed and bound dissertation rests with you.
Be careful about typing up. Most of you will word process your own work, but remember there will often be heavy demand on computers in the University at certain times of the year. There are many things that can go wrong so try to allow plenty of time. Penalties will be applied if your work is submitted late and generally computer and/or printer 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. 7. 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 typed or word-processed and 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 past tense.
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 you 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 information)
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. As such your literature review should involve the following processes:
Searching for sources
Searching for references is a standard part of your dissertation and should be done as early as possible. Search tools are available and include: internet search engines such as Business Source Premier (EBSCO), Emerald, Google other databases bibliographic databases such as the Web of Science and OCLC (check with ISD through the University web site and the information desk in Clifford Whitworth). The Salford library catalogue and those of other local universities (again see ISD pages on the University web site). Your most accessible sources are those in print form in the library and those electronic journals to which Salford subscribes. Electronic journals are an exciting innovation, and as the situation is very fluid, you need to keep up to date with exactly what is available. Clifford Whitworth information desk has up to date information on what is available and how to access it (e.g. you may need user ids and passwords).
Not all of the items you find in your search will be available to you directly, and hence the earlier the search is started the better. For those items not available at Salford or on the internet, you may wish to use the inter-library loan service. The time taken for the loans to arrive varies from forty-eight hours for loans from local libraries to up to three months for items requiring a search in the British library. The average time is probably about ten days, but you should enquire at the time you make the request. If the item is available at another local university it may be easier to reference it there (though you will not be able to borrow it directly).
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 software.
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).
For details of citation conventions, please see the useful links included in appendix 10.
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.
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 work.
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 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
You are reminded that if you are using sentences or phrases that are not your own you must enclose the relevant passages with inverted commas, for example: “To be or not to be, that is the question” (Shakespeare 1505 p.32) then give the reference at the end. It is NOT sufficient to just give the reference at the end.
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. 8. Submission You will have three months to complete your dissertation. You will be allocated a supervisor after you have progressed to the dissertation. Staff at the University of Salford will advise you on your submission date. 9. 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. 10. Assessment 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 to be considered Excellent
Introduction and literature review (40% marks available) a) Statement of research purpose and objectives.
b) Extent, depth, currency of literature review
c) Referencing a)Very clear aims and objectives together with a clear precision of thought
b)Extensive in depth coherent, logical literature review, very critical in nature
c)Complex issues handled with clear logical outcome a)Clear statement of aims and objectives argued in a structured way and justified
b)A broad and deep literature review with critical analysis and logical, justified outcome a)Logical clear aims and objectives
b)Wide review, lacking depth but some evidence of critical evaluation, satisfactory knowledge and understanding of main issues. The outcome may lack clear justification a)Attempt at aims and objectives but lacking a clear rationale
b)limited review, descriptive in nature and may show lack of knowledge and a clear outcome a)Little or no evidence of aims and objectives
b)No or little evidence of reading outside of any course material
(20% marks available)
b)Defence of chosen methodology
c)appropriate data collected
a)Well selected methodology which delivers objectives, incorporating outcomes of literature review
b)Very clear defence of methodology chosen
c)Appropriate data collected a)Appropriate and well designed and justified methodology
b)Clear evidence of appropriate data collected a)Competent design
b)Some justification of chosen methodology
c)Evidence of adequate data collected a)Weakness in design and methods chose
b)possibly no defence of chosen method
c)minimal data collected a)Difficult to link to objectives
b)no defence of chosen method
No or inadequate data collected Results, discussion, conclusion recommendations and presentation (40% marks available) a)Meaningful data analysis
b)Conclusions and link to aims objectives and literature review
c)Clear recommendations for future
d)Handling of concepts, models and theories
e)Presentation a)Effective analysis utilising the correct tools and techniques
b)A critical evaluation against objectives and literature review
c)Clear valid discussion linking findings, objectives and previous research
d) Considerable ability and maturity in handling concepts and theories
e)Very high standard of presentation, layout, grammar a)Good analysis going beyond pure description with sound evaluation against objectives and literature review
b)logical linking findings with objectives and previous research
c)Theories and concepts handles satisfactorily
d)Coherent , soundly structured and well written with good grammar a)A pure simple descriptive presentation
b)Limited evaluation against objectives and literature review
c)relevance to findings and objectives but may lack links to previous research
d)Adequate handling of theories and concepts
e)Acceptable with sound structure and coherent a)weakness in analysis and discussion of data
b)little evaluation against objectives and literature review
c)conclusions not necessarily relevant to objectives and previous research, i.e. imposed
d)limited ability to handle concepts or theories
e)some attempt to structure but unclear in places and with format/grammar errors a)Limited effort
b)No evaluation of data to literature review or objectives
c)conclusions weak and limited to description of findings
d)little or no ability to handle concepts/theories
e)difficult to read, poor grammar and format
11. Extensions Students who registered before September 2014 are entitled to two extensions, the first extension is for three months, the second extension is for two months. There is a charge of £250 for the second extension.
Students who registered from September 2014 are covered by the following regulations
Extensions on Masters programmes is covered by regulation 6.4 (see Academic Regulations for Taught Programmes 2014/15)
6.4.1 A student undertaking the final 60 credit stage of a Masters programme (the project stage) may apply for one extension which shall, if approved, have the effect of deferring the student’s submission date for the remaining assessment component(s) of the stage.
6.4.2 A student’s request for an extension, together with the relevant fee, must be received by the University in advance of the assessment submission date(s) to be deferred.
6.4.3 The University shall verify and confirm a student’s eligibility to be granted an extension, which shall take into account, where applicable, the student’s legal right to remain in the UK for study purposes for the duration of the extension.
6.4.4 The length of the extension, for which a fee is payable, shall be one semester for
students registered as full-time at the start of the project stage and two semesters for part-time students. One semester equates to 14 teaching/assessment weeks in accordance with the approved structure of the University’s academic year11
6.4.5 Where an extension is granted by the University it shall not entitle the student to the continuation of any tuition or supervisory arrangements beyond the normal scheduled length of the stage module(s).
6.4.6 A student may be permitted an extension during reassessment provided that they
have not previously been granted an extension.
6.4.7 A student may be permitted an interruption of study during an extension.
6.4.8 A student may submit their assessed work at any time during an approved extension but the work may not be marked nor any mark ratified until after the extension has expired. Where coursework is not submitted before the expiry of a permitted extension this shall be recorded as a non-submission (NS) (see Regulation 7.2.6).
A student may submit a case of personal mitigating circumstances for nonsubmission up to ten working days after the expiry of any approved extension.