The purpose of this Guide is to acquaint you with the purpose, sources and structure of your finance dissertation.Most graduate business schools require students to produce a dissertation in partialfulfilment of the requirements for obtaining an MBA degree. Many students resent thisrequirement; and would if they could take additional courses or, better still, produce aBusiness Project instead. This is the practice of some business schools, though the vastmajority still require production of what might best be described as an ‘academic’dissertation.We place the word academic in inverted commas to emphasise that dissertations are notstrictly speaking formal academic studies. Business education is after all an appliedsubject and students, accordingly, will expect that the topic of their dissertation shouldemphasise practical relevance. The two of course are not mutually exclusive: most business school dissertations combine the former with the latter, in that students areexpected to produce output that meets or exceeds established academic norms but withinthe context of addressing a topic that will advance understanding of a narrowly defined business issue.Student hostility towards the dissertation requirement is understandable, but as we hopeto show misguided. Throughout their course of study students have to face assessmentsof various sorts, some oral, some written, some as part of a group exercise, others asindividual assignments. What these assessments have in common is that they were all set by the student’s lecturers, with the choice, if any, confined to the limited range of topicson offer.
A dissertation is the only assessment the choice of which is determined more or less uniquely by the student.
Students, of course, have the benefit of their Supervisor’s advice, designed to improvetheir proposal and ensure that it can be completed within the time required. Only on veryrare occasions will a Supervisor reject the student’s topic and then only because it is too broad and thus unlikely to be completed within the time allotted. Supervisors seldomreject out of hand a dissertation topic, since we all recognise that a topic of the student’sown choice is the best motivator for getting on with the work.A logical place to begin our discussion is with the concept of research. Most studentsfind the task awesome, especially international students arriving from countries where the prevailing approach to education differs, in some cases quite radically, from that of theUnited Kingdom. Yet the process is far less daunting than you might imagine, not theleast because, perhaps without even being aware of it, most students have already produced some fairly sophisticated research results of their own.Consider the following: the university at which you are studying was not chosenrandomly; you will have reviewed the websites of a number of different business schools