The research proposal and the dissertation presentation

Note: this post is aimed as a memory mnemonic for me not you (I’m studying an MSc in Digital Marketing )

Week 11 (there were no adobe presentations for weeks 8-10)

The research proposal and the presentation of your dissertation

The Research Proposal leads in to the dissertation however they are two separate bodies of work. E.g. The proposal is a Research Methods marked assessment, highly structured and focuses on a clear ID of the problem whereas the Dissertation is a longer piece of original, detailed, in depth analysis

The Research Proposal

The proposal acts as a structural plan for the dissertation

It will discuss and clarify the research problem and research objectives

Explain how exactly the research will be carried out

Now into research proposal parts:

Background (5%)

Gives background information to my topic

Research Problem (10%)

Identify a problem that needs to be solved.

First exploratory review of the literature (the key points as much of the detail will be conducted in the actual literature review section) needs to be undertaken – what are the gaps in the knowledge?

What is the overall aim of conducting the research?

Should be 1 page in length.

Research Objectives (10%)

Objectives relate directly to the research problem. i.e. They break down the overall aim.

All aspects of the research process flow from the objectives (they normally number 4-5)

In my case the objectives will be trying to prove my hypothesis.

The 3-5 Research objectives should follow a funnel approach going from general to pretty specific.

A good proposal will have: clear problem definition, extending the existing body of work, independent/original, clear structure and referencing.

Literature Review

Overview of the literature (20%)

A review (compare and contrast) of previously published research

Clarifies where the proposal fits into the literature debate

There needs to be a clear link between previous conducted work and my proposal

Might be 3 pages in length (whereas in a full dissertation this section would be around 15 pages) hence it is not a full critical review.

Methodology Research Design and Data Collection (30%)

You could either provide a short overview of the various methods available OR just identify in a paragraph what are the methods I’m suggesting and then go into the body of it (Basically there is no hard and fast rule here on how to proceed)

It’s a balance between the awareness of the various methods available and the justification for using certain methods

This section is almost an ‘action plan’ and this is how the research will be carried out (theory will come into it but only to support the reasons for the choice in methods)

In terms then of breaking down the methodology section:

  • What research philosophy…. are you going to employ (positivist, interpretivist, realist)
  • First of all you need to state which research designs… your research will use (exploratory, descriptive, causal).
  • Secondly you will need to show awareness of the different research approaches… (secondary/primary)
  • Primary research strategies… (quantitative/qualitative) need to be discussed, showing an awareness of each paradigm and your choice and justification.
  • Then Data Collection…. is another sub section where you detail how you intend to collect the data
  • Explain how you will collect the surveys (in my case online survey and analytical data collection and show this as an ‘action plan’ / clear blueprint on data collection)
  • Refer to the code of conduct by including a paragraph on overcoming ethical issues
  • Also talk of your target population and sample size, is this probability or non-probability, how are you going to ensure it’s a representative sample of your population, what data analysis techniques are you going to use (e.g. what outcomes are you expecting)
  • Then in regards to data analysis… univariate/bivariate/multivariate, simple cross tabulations, are you going to use SPSS/Excel, etc.

Research Timetable (5%)

Consider drafting a relatively detailed Gantt chart that plots against a time line of when the major elements of your project will be done. This will seriously help me know what I should be doing and when as well as getting me a few marks for the research assignment

Also include a paragraph of written commentary detailing the importance of proper time management

Sample Gantt chart:

gantt chart

Structure and Presentation

Work needs to be structured and logical. Follow the marking criteria (in my module guide)

In a report format with lots of sub headings

Do I need to also submit to Turn It In (ask teacher but hopefully not)?

Referencing (10%)

Make sure I reference correctly in the Harvard style with a good range / number


Moving on to the actual Dissertation….

Note: I should not wait for my proposal grade to come back in and should actually plough on with my actual dissertation e.g. I could be doing lots around the survey format, literature review, etc. (really everything moves on from my supervisor meeting though in January)

The dissertation normally takes 4-5 months hence by starting after my tutor meet-and-greet day in January I still have plenty of time to complete it before the 25th August deadline. Basically blitz it in 4 months and pass. What’s the benefit of getting a 1st?!

The Presentation of your Dissertation

Dissertation Chapters:

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Chapter 3: Methodology

Chapter 4: Findings

Chapter 5: Conclusions / Recommendations

Chapter 6: References


The first pages:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract / Exec Summary (a summary that unfolds the story in 300 words / 1 page)
  • Acknowledgments (thank people)
  • List of appendices / bullets of the dissertation format

Chapter 1: Introduction (10%)

Similar to my research proposal and might not be that much more detailed than in my proposal

Chapter 2: Lit Review (15%)

Much more detail than was contained in my Research Proposal

Chapter 3: Methodology (15%)

Similar to my research proposal but more detailed.

Sections within:

methodology table

methodology table 2

Chapter 4: Findings (40%)

Here you depart from the research assignment (as clearly this will not have been done for the research assignment) and really move forward

Give at least 2 months for the field work and for the analysis

Relate findings to my objectives

A popular way of dividing findings is by including different sections that answer specific objectives e.g. 1 section on socialisation, 1 section on technical/semantics, etc. Also split by type of research carried out (focus group, questionnaire and analytics insight)

Use a range of paragraphs, tables, charts (analytics, Search Metrics, etc.) and graphs

Need to analyse the data and discuss the findings in regards to past literature; does it agree/disagree with past findings?

Make sure I refer my findings to my supervisor as they can give some helpful advice on improvements

Chapter 5: Conclusions / Recommendations

A summary (highlight the main findings and reflect on what found) of my main findings

Recommendations should be directly related to the original objectives

A section should be included on the study limitations

A section should be included on possible future research


Should include a copy of my pilot questionnaire and the questionnaire used in my research

Include copies of transcripts, etc. form the qualitative research

Overall Presentation (10%)

Get points for ‘style’!

The dissertation should be divided into main chapters with a range of sections that are numbered.

Use the funnel approach in each chapter; starting with the broadest point and then become more focused

What Makes a Good Dissertation?

  • Extending the existing body of knowledge
  • Up to date information
  • Secondary research
  • Analysis of Theoretical background
  • Primary research
  • Interpretation and Analysis of Results
  • Independent and original research

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