Structure of an Empirically-based Masters Dissertation

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Structure of an Empirically-based Masters Dissertation

What is the word count of a dissertation? How long should my dissertation be?

Get all of your questions answered here on “Structure of an Empirically-based Dissertation”


Text and Page formatting of dissertation

  • printed in 12 point Arial font
  • set out in double spacing, except for indented quotations or footnotes which conventionally appear in single-spaced format.
  • printed on A4 sized paper (either single side or double side are accepted)
  • set out in a 25mm margin edge of the page
  • 12000-15000 words + references + appendices
  • Written for the general academic reader.


Pages should be numbered consecutively throughout the text, including pages containing illustrations or diagrams.

Abbreviations should be those in normal use.  Where necessary, a key to any abbreviations should be provided.


This is a synopsis of your work, normally not more than 500 words long. This synopsis should describe concisely and clearly the main aspects of your finished research, that is, context, strategic issue, research questions, knowledge domain, research design, principal findings, and implications to management. A sharp synopsis suggests to the reader that the work is focused and that you have a good grasp of your accomplished work.


Chapter 1 – Introduction

This chapter provides the underlying rationale and purpose of the study.  It should set out the business context and any existing strategic issues, demonstrating to the reader the relevance of the study in this context. In this chapter, you are expected to describe aims and objectives of the investigation and to identify specific research questions, which may take the form of hypotheses that will be tested within the study.


Chapter 2 – Literature Review (4000 words)

This chapter provides a critical review of the literature related to the problem area you are studying. This means that you should demonstrate your ability to identify and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the theories or schools of thought relevant to your topic. You should also demonstrate your ability to identify how your study may contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

This chapter should close with the articulation of a conceptual framework, that is, a comprehensive synthesis of the analytical models and concepts which you used to answer your research questions. This framework consists of patterns of concepts and their interconnections. In other words, it explains how all the concepts fit together and how they relate one to another. The conceptual framework informs your data collection, in determining what ‘measurable’ concepts may constitute empirical evidence, and in determining the nature of the data to be collected.


Chapter 3 – Research Design

This chapter presents your research plan. This includes a reference to your ‘measurable concepts’ or research variables, a choice of method(s) for data collection, a rationale for the implementation of the method, how the gathering of raw data was operationalised, and a choice of method(s) for data analysis. This chapter should describe and justify the choice of methodology and methods adopted for the work, exposing any potential weaknesses. You should also characterize your data source, your sampling technique, the sample size, and the rate of response (if applicable).


Chapter 4 – Analysis of the Data

This chapter presents the application of your chosen methods or techniques to your raw data in order to generate data summaries and findings. Examples of such techniques are Chi Square test and Content Analysis. The outcome of your analysis provides the evidence that supports the answer to your research questions. This section of the dissertation is about finding things out by research, rather than discovering “ready-made” results reported in the literature. The findings of the research undertaken should be presented in a clear and unambiguous manner.  Diagrams, charts and tables should be employed, where appropriate, to aid the reader in understanding these findings.


Chapter 5 – Interpreting the Research Material

This chapter should focus on drawing together the findings that have emerged from your analysis and relating them to other previous studies identified earlier in the literature review. In this chapter you are expected to show your capacity for reflective and logical argument. This might include validating specific hypotheses advanced at the outset of the study, or summarising the degree to which particular assumptions advanced in the literature appear to be borne out or contradicted by the findings. The interpretation of the research material reflects your understanding of and your insights into the processes and dynamics of the topic you have researched.


Chapter 6 – Conclusions

Your final conclusions should relate back to the aim and objectives of the study stated at the Introduction. These should be strategic conclusions. They summarise your judgement on the implications of the research outcomes to management and professional practice, what options should be taken or what should be done in response to your strategic questions. The strategic conclusions should be based on the new insight provided by your research findings.



 Details of the bibliographic references made in the text should be included in this section. MMUBS Executive has introduced a standard Harvard referencing style for all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the School. You should use this standard.

A document is available from the library providing instruction on applying the MMUBS Harvard referencing standard to your work – this includes detailed instruction on how to cite from and reference different sources. In addition, a two page handout providing examples of how to reference different sources is available from the library.

MS Word End Note software can help you manage your database of references, and help you apply the MMUBS Harvard referencing standard to your work.



Some of the more important characteristics that the Examiners will expect to find exhibited in a dissertation of Masters standard are listed below:

  • It should represent a significant piece of scholarly work that would be recognised as such by other scholars researching in the field.
  • It should be an original piece of work. This need not necessarily be in terms of the topic itself, but might be in terms of the originality of the approach adopted to researching the topic, or in terms of the sources of information used.  A case study in an organisation can be original.
  • The topic of the dissertation should be one that is clearly of relevance to the field of study and the author should produce a sound rationale for her/his choice of topic.
  • The work should demonstrate the author’s ability to apply and integrate the knowledge and understanding assimilated during the taught phase of the course.
  • The work should demonstrate the author’s awareness of the breadth of the literature in her/his chosen field of study and should demonstrate critical analysis of the relevant literature.
  • The work should demonstrate the student’s ability to synthesize and analyse the information collected via desk research, empirical study or a combination of the two.
  • The author should locate the dissertation in relation to previous research in the area and should show how it adds or differs from the existing body of knowledge.
  • The work should demonstrate the selection and application of appropriate research methodologies to the investigation of the topic.
  • The work should demonstrate the student’s ability to produce clear and well-argued conclusions based on the data collected, and to expose the limitations of data.
  • The audience for the work is the Board of Examiners. It should not be addressed to a client or organisation.  A consultancy project may need to be written up in a different way for the client.
  • The work should be addressed to a ‘general informed reader’ rather that to an expert in the subject and its academic frame of reference.


Types of Academic Papers

Research Paper
Reaction Paper
Lab Report
Book Report
Book Review
Movie Review
Synthesis Paper
Review of the Literature
Research Proposal
Thesis Proposal
Dissertation Proposal
Annotated Bibliography
Article Critique
Term Paper
Case Study
Capstone Project
Presentation Design
Mathematical Problem
Mind Game
Tricky Questions

Dissertation Chapters

Dissertation Abstract

Dissertation Introduction

Dissertation Literature Review

Dissertation Methodology

Dissertation Results

Dissertation Discussion

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