Guidelines for writing a Masters dissertation
This document has been prepared by an experienced marker of Masters dissertations,
one who has graded such dissertations over many years both for Robert Kennedy Collegeand for several other institutions. You would be well advised to read it through carefullybefore starting on your dissertation, then subsequently to refer to it now and then, aboveall when writing up. There is a wealth of material on aspects of doing dissertationresearch, from working in a conducive physical environment, through planning and timemanagement, to academic writing style. Some good sources are mentioned in thebibliography. This document, however, contains most, if not all, of what you need toknow. If you have already started writing up, or even have finished doing so, it will stillbe worthwhile reading it and making any consequent amendments you think necessary.For most students, especially those who have little or no experience of producing anacademic dissertation, if these guidelines are followed, the chances of a better mark willcertainly be increased. Nevertheless, while some of the material presented is prescriptive,some of it is optional – that is to say, advice rather than instructions – and some of it willdepend on circumstances such as the type of dissertation undertaken and, consequently,different kinds of source material. The difference in this document between what isprescriptive and what is optional will be made clear where it is not self-evident. However,since no series of guidelines, no matter how detailed, can hope to cover every possible setof circumstances, it will almost certainly be necessary to adjust some of what is said toyour particular project.The document is divided into three sections. Section A consists of basic guidelines andgeneral advice. Section B deals with specific issues, such as page layout, writing style,referencing and the like. Section C is divided into two parts. Part 1 is a sample from a(fictitious) MBA dissertation for you to mark as an exercise. Part 2 is a commentedversion of that sample.
It is best not to look, either now or later, at the commented version until you have marked the uncommented version.
If you have not yet discussed the matter of your dissertation with your supervisor, you areadvised to arm yourself at least with the information in Section A before doing so. Itmight save him or her a lot of explanation!
If you go to sources other than this present document for help and advice on writing a dissertation, youmay see the term
referred to as
, although MSc and MBA dissertations, which form onlypart of a course, and which are usually done at the end of that course, are more usually referred to asdissertations. A thesis tends to be longer than a dissertation. However, in the USA, even PhD theses areoften called dissertations.