Masters Dissertation at Newcastle Business School.

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This document covers many aspects of the Masters Dissertation process as well as information relating to student/staff responsibilities and appropriate presentation of the dissertation.


These guidelines provide comprehensive written guidance to enable both students and staff (in the role of supervisor) to fully understand the dissertation process and follow a common Newcastle Business School approach.  This will help to ensure that the challenge presented by this individual piece of work is manageable and that enjoyment and satisfaction are maximised.


Supporting your Masters Dissertation


These guidelines should contain the answer to any queries you may have about the dissertation.  Should you require further information please refer to the eLearning Portal (eLP/Blackboard) site that supports the dissertation module (NX0480).  The NX0480 site contains all the forms and information that you need and many other resources.



The guidelines are intended to help students of the Newcastle Business School in the preparation of the dissertation necessary to obtain their qualification and should be read carefully. The Masters Dissertation is an individual piece of work and there is no intention to unduly restrict students in their approach and therefore this document can only be in the form of guidelines.


A successful dissertation for the Masters degree will present a thorough and critical review of relevant literature and of current subject knowledge. It will demonstrate high levels of analytical and critical awareness, the ability to synthesise theories and the ability to relate theory to practice. The theoretical base will be tested against practical illustration(s)

Dissertation Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the Masters Dissertation module, students will be able to:

1. Plan and complete a major  research project on a contemporary business, financial, management or leadership topic and organise the findings into a comprehensive and explicit structure that is critically assessed and is linked to the conclusions drawn;


2. Demonstrate skills of analysis and synthesis in the selection and application  of appropriate research methodology and method(s) to their chosen research topic;

3. Demonstrate an understanding of the impact of innovative and contemporary research on the business and management community.;

4. Critically reflect on the processes involved in the research, including reflection upon their own ethical values and the contribution of the research to the topic area;


5. Acquire, interpret and apply specialist functional knowledge in relation to their programme of study (specialist programmes only).


Students will also illustrate and document progress within the dissertation process by providing an adequate set of working papers and log book.


Masters’ Programme Goals and Objectives

Goal 1: To develop the skills necessary for employment and career progression

1.1          Demonstrate awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses and the ability to engage in continuing self-development

1.2        Demonstrate the development of  inter-personal and intra-personal skills

1.3        Demonstrate competence in contemporary analytical and ICT applications    

Goal 2: Be culturally and ethically aware

2.1        Demonstrate their ability to work in culturally diverse groups and teams and make appropriate an personal contribution to team effectiveness

2.2        Reflect on their own ethical values

2.3        Understand the wider impact of individual or organisational decision making on social and environmental contexts

Goal 3: Have developed leadership and management capability

3.1        Analyse and communicate complex issues effectively

3.2        Demonstrate decision making, problem solving and project management skills

Goal 4: Have developed and applied knowledge of international business and management theory

4.1        Acquire, interpret and apply knowledge of international business, management and organisational functions

4.2        Demonstrate an understanding of the impact of innovative and contemporary research on the business and management community

4.3        Acquire, interpret and apply specialist functional knowledge in relation to their programme of study (specialist programmes only)

Goal 5: Have developed a range of research skills and project capabilities

5.1        Plan and complete a major piece of research or project on a contemporary business, financial, management or leadership topic

5.2       Demonstrate skills of analysis and synthesis in the application of research methods to the exploration of contemporary business and management issues

Dissertation Process


You will be asked to complete an online registration form to enable a supervisor to be assigned. The link to this will be made available on the module blackboard site.


Once a supervisor has been assigned, students must then work under the guidance of their supervisor to complete the dissertation. Students will need to arrange to see their supervisor on a regular basis so that steady progress can be made over the course of the dissertation process.


Topic Selection


Selection of a suitable dissertation topic rests with the student. The student cannot be required by a member of staff to undertake a topic that is not acceptable to the student.  Ideas for topics can be gleaned from many sources.  Work placement experiences, aspired career paths, course work and readings are just a few.  Start thinking early about potential topics that interest you. Copies of previous Masters dissertations are available for inspection via the eLP; consult these to see what previous students have done.


Your dissertation should describe an original piece of work undertaken by yourself. The topic needs to be related to business or management or to the specific named degree the student is studying.  You may have come across the phrase ‘addressing a gap in the literature’ but this applies most strongly to doctoral level research. At Masters level your research may be investigating a business (or accounting) issue that has been studied by others but you should still produce a critical literature review and obtain/analyse some data. It is the student`s responsibility to verify that the title and the approach of the dissertation are original.  However, a student may not claim exclusive rights to a topic area.


Students can assume that the topic as initially conceived may evolve as the dissertation progresses.  By ‘evolve’ it is meant that the particular aspect of the topic which becomes central to the dissertation may well change in one direction or another as the dissertation progresses.  This evolution or “fine tuning” of a topic is quite usual and should be expected. The goal is to find a topic which is general enough to be significant, but specific enough to become focused. A common problem is to have the scope of the work too wide so that the work is not sufficiently focussed to allow successful completion with the resources available. 

Main sections of the dissertation


Title – The title should be succinct yet clearly specify the content of the report. This should be descriptive and explicit rather than poetic or implicit. It should be agreed and finalised as part of the final draft. It may be different from the original proposed title.


Abstract – The purpose of the abstract is to summarise the entire dissertation, including a description of the problem, the student’s contributions, and conclusions. Four keywords are required.


Acknowledgements – The student may wish to thank those people who have been particularly helpful in the preparation of the dissertation. Consideration of persons external to the Newcastle Business School is particularly appropriate. Facetious acknowledgements are not acceptable.


Declarations and Word Count – a declaration page signed by the student MUST be included. See the eLP for the Declaration template. Please do not forget to sign the Declaration.


Introduction – The purpose of this section is to contextualise the study. This means that the significance or importance of the subject is set out. If there is no apparent importance to the study to any external reader, the topic may not be appropriate. Personal interest may inspire selection of the dissertation topic, but ultimately, its importance to others should be specified. This can often be done by positioning the dissertation in relation to other work that has been published either as an advancement, continuation, compilation or verification. This section should also tell the reader how the topic will be unfolded and the order of forthcoming material.


Body of Work – The sections of each dissertation will differ, but in any case should progress logically, starting with a critical review of existing knowledge (the literature review), presentation of a summary or synthesis, introduction of research methodology and findings, if applicable, or introduction of case material.


The Literature Review - This will include the following qualities:


  • The topic of the dissertation will derive from a systematic body of knowledge;
  • The review of this knowledge is made as current as possible;
  • The knowledge is organised into a comprehensible and explicit structure;
  • All major points are included and extraneous information omitted;
  • Critical theoretical analysis/evaluation informs the choice of research approaches/methods;
  • A summary is produced outlining the current state of the knowledge.


It is further implied that the result of the literature review will be used either in 1) a situation for which the student has collected primary data OR 2) to critically examine and assess the operation of this knowledge in an existing case study OR 3) to re-evaluate existing published data or knowledge to derive new knowledge or meaning. The main points of the body of knowledge being synthesised are to be i) critically selected and analysed and ii) the strengths and weaknesses of the synthesis itself are to be discussed and appropriate conclusions drawn.


Research methodology and methods - A degree of proficiency in the understanding, selection and execution of research methodologies and methods must be evident. It is expected that these procedures will provide:


i)       a defensible verification of the ideas put forward in the dissertation,

ii)      development and exploration of the ideas in applied conditions. If an existing case is presented, sufficient secondary research must be attempted to produce a coherent and informed critical evaluation of that case.


It is also possible that the application of knowledge can be made under some other circumstances not directly indicated here, so long as the use of the knowledge is appropriate and illustrative.

The Masters Dissertation Logbook


This is a dated, chronological record of your dissertation progress. The Logbook is available via the eLP. You should use the Logbook to record items such as:


  • Date and times of meetings with your supervisor
  • Agenda
  • Questions
  • Notes of discussion
  • Action plan
  • Date of next meeting


The Logbook is to be submitted as an appendix of your dissertation since it provides evidence of how well you have managed the dissertation process. It will also enable the supervisor to give better information to prospective employers regarding your organisational and time management skills. It will also enable you to write a more informative reflective statement to accompany your submission.


You should keep all your ‘working papers’ as your work progresses since you may be asked to submit them – see Working papers section. 



Northumbria University strives to uphold the highest standards of ethical practice in research and academic integrity. Irrespective of the nature and ethical complexity of a research project, staff and students are expected to ensure that their conduct is driven by the ethical imperative of respect, the intent to do no harm and to contribute to society’s knowledge and practice through engagement in research that has beneficent intent.

To achieve a high quality research culture, the following key elements are promoted:

  • Respect for the dignity, rights, safety and well-being of participants and researchers
  • Valuing diversity in society
  • Personal and scientific integrity
  • Leadership
  • Honesty
  • Accountability
  • Openness
  • Clear and supportive management.

Dissertation work conducted by postgraduate students is recognised as research activity by the University. Therefore, it is subject to appropriate ethical scrutiny and review. Ethical approval must be obtained prior to the commencement of the research.  This applies to all dissertation regardless of whether primary data is being collected (for example using interviews/questionnaires) or secondary data is being analysed (no primary data is being collected). Ethical approval is awarded by an independent reviewer.

The ethical approval process

Here is the process that students must follow:

  1. Ethical approval MUST be obtained for all research projects PRIOR to the commencement of the research. Students must not collect/analyse any data without ethical approval. A failure to secure this approval in advance risks both your dissertation grade and having an academic misconduct allegation made against you (risking your degree).
  2. Applications for ethical approval must be submitted online through the University’s online ethics system. To access Ethics Online go to Ethics and Governance webpage You should discuss your application with your supervisor and get their sign off on your completed application at one of your supervision meetings or via email prior to the submission.
  3. In the application, you also will be asked to determine the level of ethical risk of your dissertation. Please note that this module does NOT ACCEPT High ethical risk dissertations. You are only allowed to conduct medium and low risk dissertations. In the next section you will find an explanation for each level of ethical risk.
  4. Your application will be approved (or returned for reworking) by a reviewer i.e., your supervisor. In most cases, the reviewer will be able to authorise the research. Occasionally, a reviewer may have concerns over the proposed research and then it may be necessary to make amendments to your application
  5. Informed consent is one of the core ethical principles of conducting research with human participants. Students MUST obtain informed consent from all participants in the research. This applies to all forms of primary research including online surveys. You must use the appropriate version of the University consent form, which is available in Blackboard.
  6. If you work with an organisation, organisational consent is required. In this case, students must complete the “Faculty Organisational Consent Form” and have it signed by an appropriate manager within the Organisation being studied. The signed form must be included in the appendix. The company name may be obscured to retain anonymity.
  7. If you wish to collect data within the Faculty of Business and Law, the Faculty Organisational Consent Form needs to be signed by the Director of Research Ethics. Dissertation students may wish to approach students from other faculties; they must seek approval from the Ethics Committee in the relevant School / Faculty after having discussed the research with their supervisor.
  8. It is the duty of all students undertaking research activities to follow and maintain the highest standards of academic practice when processing information about living individuals (personal data) as part of their research. All processing of personal data must be in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulations.
  9. Failure to submit for ethical approval risks a case of academic misconduct being brought against you. Students failing to follow these procedures for ethical approval will be unable to score over 6 marks for the methods chapter of their dissertation and may be awarded a zero grade for the chapter.



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