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A Practical Guide to the Preparation, Drafting and Submission of Dissertations in Finance by Dr. G. Pollio

A Practical Guide to the Preparation, Drafting and Submission of Dissertations in Finance by Dr. G. Pollio

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London School of Commerce
Research Methodology
London School of Commerce
Research Methodology

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11/02/2011

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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 partial
fulfilment of the requirements for obtaining an MBA degree. Many students resent this
requirement; and would if they could take additional courses or, better still, produce a
Business Project instead. This is the practice of some business schools, though the vast
majority 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 not
strictly speaking formal academic studies. Business education is after all an applied
subject and students, accordingly, will expect that the topic of their dissertation should
emphasise practical relevance. The two of course are not mutually exclusive: most
business school dissertations combine the former with the latter, in that students are
expected to produce output that meets or exceeds established academic norms but within
the 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 hope
to show misguided. Throughout their course of study students have to face assessments
of various sorts, some oral, some written, some as part of a group exercise, others as
individual 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 topics
on 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 improve
their proposal and ensure that it can be completed within the time required. Only on very
rare 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 seldom
reject out of hand a dissertation topic, since we all recognise that a topic of the student’s
own 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 students
find the task awesome, especially international students arriving from countries where the
prevailing approach to education differs, in some cases quite radically, from that of the
United Kingdom. Yet the process is far less daunting than you might imagine, not the
least 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 chosen
randomly; you will have reviewed the websites of a number of different business schools

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that were of interest to you. You will have narrowed the focus by concentrating on those
where you meet all of the requirements, whether in respect of prior academic
accomplishment or linguistic proficiency. You will have determined whether tuition
costs are reasonable, and whether you can afford major ancillary expenses such as
housing, food and transportation. You will also have investigated whether you are able to
work, and if so, how many hours are both permissible and consistent with successfully
completing your course of study.

The answers to all of these issues will have come from a careful and detailed assessment
of the material from whatever source or sources you had access to, and quite possibly
from discussions with one or more students who attended the university you are
considering attending. These people will also be a source of valuable information
concerning the additional costs you will incur as part of acquiring your degree, what type
of work is available locally and what rates of pay are likely to be. Armed with this
information, you select from among the many post-graduate institutions you investigated
the one that best meets all of your requirements.

As will be seen the very same process applies when drafting your dissertation.

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