Note: The material contained in this document is for guidance only. The document does not form part of a contract and may be subject to change during the period of a student’s registration.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction. 4

2 The Dissertation In Outline. 5

2.1 Aims of the dissertation. 5

2.2 Planning and Key Milestones. 6

2.2.1 Key Dates. 7

2.3 Supporting Documents. 7

3 Dissertation Supervision. 7

3.1 Supervision. 7

3.2 Role of Academic Supervisor 7

3.3 Responsibilities of the Student 8

3.4 Dissertation Supervisor Meeting Schedule. 8

3.4.1 First Meeting. 8

3.4.2 Subsequent Meetings. 9

4 The Dissertation. 10

4.1 Dissertation types. 10

4.2 The Research Proposal 13

4.3       Writing the Dissertation. 14

4.3.1 Title Page. 14

4.3.2 Acknowledgement 14

4.3.3 Abstract 15

4.3.4 Contents Page. 15

4.3.5 Introduction. 15

4.3.6 Literature Review (see appendix 4 for useful resources) 16

4.3.7 Research Methodology. 22

4.3.8 Findings / Results / Data Analysis. 24

4.3.9 Discussion. 25

4.3.10 Conclusions. 26

4.3.11 References. 27

4.3.12 Appendices. 27

5 Layout, Style and Writing suggestions. 28

5.1 Dissertation Formatting. 28

6 Citations and References. 29

6.1 Within text citation. 29

6.2 End of text referencing. 30

6.3 Text notes. 30

6.4 Useful links. 30

6.5 Referencing Software. 30

7 Attribution and Plagiarism.. 31

8 Ethics. 31

9 Submission. 32

10 Assessment 32

11 Report references. 33

12 Appendices. 34

Appendix 1 Dissertation Module Timetable. 34

Appendix 2 Front cover (First or Title page) 35

Appendix 3 Proposal Form (see also Canvas) 36

Appendix 4 Literature Review Resources. 37

Appendix 5 Plagiarism Cover Sheet 40

Appendix 6 Dissertation Ethics Checklist 41

Appendix 7 Consent Form for Volunteers. 50

Appendix 8 Dissertation Marker’s Report 51

Appendix 9 Time line of research activities: An example. 55

Appendix 10 Submission Guide. 56




















1 Introduction

Writing an MSc Dissertation is a major piece of academic work and contributes significantly to your overall degree. It starts at the beginning of the programme with you finding a topic of interest, and ends with the submission of your Dissertation twelve months later. Hence, the time span where thinking about and working with the Dissertation in all of its aspects includes several stages, and more than ‘just’ writing up the Dissertation. Finding and searching for a topic is as much a part of the Dissertation as writing the Dissertation itself, and an obvious place to search for a topic and start collecting ideas are the modules you take. Keep a research diary for your notes on ideas and how they develop,as this will help you to get started and give vital input for different parts of the Dissertation. Exciting and challenging times are waiting for you ahead, and we will provide you with support and guidance to make the most of it.


The Dissertation aim is to enable students to demonstrate that they can identify research issue(s) or problem(s), understand different research approaches, apply relevant research methods and analytical techniques, and write an academic report. It provides the student with the opportunity to study an Accounting and Finance topic of personal interest in considerable depth. It is a demanding aspect of the programme, and requires intensive and independent study. Writing an MSc Dissertation will also give the students an opportunity to participate and contribute in the research debate that is surrounding their topic of interest.


As transferable knowledge it will provide you with skills that are highly appreciated for any type of professional career you wish to purse. These includeidentifying and contextualising problems such as organising the time available, organising the collection of relevant material; analysing relevant material, providing possible answer(s) and writing convincing arguments.


A good start then is to have the right and useful information. This includes issues such as supervision, dissertation formats, deadlines,plagiarism, assessmentand where help and support can be found. Such is the purpose of this Handbook. This Handbook provides you in one document with the essentials that you need,so you will be in a good position to get started and plan the steps required in your Dissertation journey.



2 The Dissertation Outline

It is a piece of original work, usually with a maximum of 12,000 words in this instance. An ideal Dissertation resembles an article published in a recognised journal. It tries to answer a question, and in doing so tells a story. The default language is academic English. Where it contains references to the work of other authors, it includes a clear entry in the References List. These other authors are never followed slavishly, but the Dissertation’s author ‘adds value’ in some way.In order to do that, you need to develop critical skills in reading- review section ( for guidance.


The Dissertation gives the impression of being written by one author for another. It uses a variety of tools and shows evidence of research and scholarship. A good Dissertation should be planned to demonstrate your own particular strengths.



2.1 Aims of the dissertation

Students who complete the module successfully should be able to:

  1. Undertake a substantial piece of independent research.
  2. Demonstrate critical and analytical thinking – by challenging the literature, defending methodology, analysing data, collating evidence, relating theory to practice and considering the implications of their work.
  3. Plan and organise a major project.
  4. Present their work in an academic research report.




2.2Planning and Key Milestones

1. Collect material

2. Keep a research diary

3. Attend Dissertation lectures and workshops

4. Read, sort, think and Summarise key papers

5. Explore different Qualitative and Quantitative Research methodologies.

6. Consider the feasibility of your ideas, access to data and skills needed to successfully completing it.

Finding your topic
1.Familiarise yourself with the Proposal form (Appendix 3) and start filling it in.

2.Attend the Research Proposal Recap in Mid-February.

3. Submit the Research Proposal (including Dissertation Timeline) for Marking (10%). and the Ethical Check list,

4.After submission, attend thefirst meeting with your Supervisor, where you will :

4.1 Discuss the feasibility of the Proposal and whether changes are necessary.

4.2 Discuss the Ethical Checklist form (Appendix 5).

4.3 Plan your data collection methodology, Primary (e.g. surveys, interviews)and/ or Secondary(e.g.databases)

5. Upload your ethics form to the ‘Ethics form’ submission box on Canvas.

Preparing the Proposal
Working on your Dissertation
1.Update your Dissertation Timetable.

2. Follow your Supervisor’s guidance, but remember the Dissertation is an independent project so you should use your judgment.

3. Attend the subsequent meetings and discuss your progress.

4. Prepare the first draft, allowing enough time for changes and proof reading.


1.Make sure all forms are attached and properly completed

2. Submit your work via Canvas

3. If you are a Tier 4 student, early submission might affect your visa status. Please contact ISAS for more information.




































2.2.1 Key Dates

  • Semester 1: Dissertation lectures and workshops (Completed by Dec 2018). Collect material for possible topics and create a first draft of your research proposal.
  • Semester 2:Re-draft the research proposal (see Appendix 3). Submit the final research proposal and a draft of the ethical checklist by 25th March 2020 at 12.00 noon at the latest.
  • A final ethical form needs to be submitted by 12th July 2019 at the latest and before the main research starts.
  • Dissertation submission: on Canvas by 12 noon on Wednesday 9th September 2020.
  • The provisional result of the Dissertation will be released before the end of November 2020.

2.3Supporting Documents

  1. MSc Dissertation Meeting Point of Contact Form, download here
  2. Proposal Form, Appendix 3
  3. Ethics Checklist Form, Appendix 6

Your dissertation may not be submitted unless the MSc Programmes Office has received an ethics form.

  1. Plagiarism cover sheet, Appendix 5

3 Dissertation Supervision

3.1 Supervision

Your Dissertation Supervisor will be allocated to you in the second semester. Please note that your Dissertation Supervisor may be a part time visiting lecturer or an Academic from another institution. These academics are carefully chosen. They will have a Phd and/or have extensive experience in supervising post-graduate dissertations (e.g., not be on probation). Your Supervisor will be available to you after you have submitted your research proposal. You are required to be available throughout the period that you are writing your Dissertation.However, if you need to go abroad for research you must apply for an Authorised Absence (see the following link for further advice: https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/registry/studentrecords/services/authorised-absence-international-students.aspx). You must also inform your Supervisor.

3.2 Role of Academic Supervisor

The nature of the Dissertation supervision process is student-led. Students are expected to manage their own work and time independently. It is not the responsibility of the Supervisor to provide a topic, design a study or write material for you.

The Supervisor’s role is advisory and s/he will:

  • Mark the research proposal submitted
  • Approve the timeline of research activities
  • Comment and offer guidance on the suitability of your chosen topic and related research questions, and also the research activity timeline
  • Review the project’s proposed ethics procedures and approve them.
  • Offer guidance regarding planning issues (e.g., chapter outlines, timetable).
  • Offer advice relating to the literature review, such as directing you to certain databases.
  • Offer advice on the study’s design
  • Offer advice that will stimulate the student’s critical thinking.
  • Comment on your first draft.

You should arrange with your Supervisor a mutually convenient date to meet and submit your first draft. If a meeting proves difficult to arrange, you might agree to send your First Draft, and receive comments on it, by post or email.

3.3 Responsibilities of the Student

  1. A student at this University is expected to submit work that demonstrates compliance with two important prerequisites:
  • A level of independent thought and work, grounded in the teaching and guidance received. As such it requires an active learner approach, by one who is willing to improve his or her learning and skills.
  • The provision of clear referencing to all sources consulted, both within the main body of the work submitted and in any separate
  • listing of sources.
Academic Skills Gateway: Research skills


It should be clear from a consideration of these two key requirements why plagiarism is unacceptable. By definition, a piece of work that has been plagiarised will never be able to meet either of the above criteria. Asking yourself prior to submission whether your work passes both tests is a useful method for determining whether there is likely to be a problem with plagiarism.

Proper adoption of these points will normally be reflected in a good mark for the work submitted. This is because the appropriate use of source material is considered a crucial part of academic life. The resultant marking process will therefore acknowledge this.Hence the inherent irony involved in the position of the student plagiarist who runs the risk of a serious penalty by hiding an aspect of their work that, done properly, is likely to help achieve a good mark without putting their student career in jeopardy.If, during the preparation of the Dissertation, the focus and direction of your work changes substantially from that outlined in your Dissertation Proposal Form, then you should immediately discuss this with your Academic Supervisor.

3.4 Dissertation Supervisor Meeting Schedule

3.4.1 First Meeting

The purpose of the first meeting is to meet your Supervisor,to introduce yourself and discuss your marked research proposal. Students will need to bring to the meeting a copy of the dissertation proposal, the feedback provided, the timeline of the research activities and the ethics form. This meeting should take place between 20th and 26th April 2020.

At all times bear in mind that your Dissertation is your responsibility. It is a test of your ability to carry out an independent in-depth study of a topic.  Therefore, supervision must be limited in order to not give a wrong impression to the examiners. In other words, your Supervisor’s role is to provide advice rather than to initiate your study or to do any part of your Dissertation. Clearly, the nature of this meeting will somewhat vary depending on the quality of the research proposal submitted. In some cases, for example, the Supervisor may need to offer some alternative courses of action if the proposal is not suitable. This would be to enable him or her to provide you with effective supervision. Please note that it will not be possible to reallocate any student to another Supervisor.

Depending on the quality and type of research you want to execute the meeting may spend more time on the proposed ethical procedures. However, the Supervisor will need to approve the form via Canvas. The final ethics form must be submitted to Canvas before the main research takes place and by Friday 120h July 2020.

During this meeting you should arrange and agree a schedule of meetings with your supervisor to fit with your research plans. The second meeting should not take place before the end of the examination period which is the 5th June 2020.


3.4.2 Subsequent Meetings


SECOND MEETING: This meeting will consider any progress and if you are on target according to agreed deadlines. If there are any problems these will be discussed and guidance will be provided (e.g. additional literature, methods to use, how to improve questions to ask interviewees). If any adjustments to the research were needed in the first meeting, this is the meeting when you should have completed them. In addition, if you have not already done so you should complete the electronic Ethics form which can be found via the Modules section of the Dissertation Canvas page and once completed should be uploaded to the Ethics Form Submission Box in the ‘Assignments’ page on Canvas.

THIRD MEETING:  The purpose of this meeting is for your Supervisor to consider your progress and offer you suggestions regarding how to complete your Dissertation effectively. It is important that you agree with your Supervisor the timing of submittinga draft dissertation.

Our advice to you is to submit a COMPLETE FIRST DRAFT of your Dissertation before the fourth meeting with your Supervisor. This complete draft should contain everything from cover page to bibliography and appendices. The reason for this advice is that your Supervisor is required to read only one draft of the dissertation. Therefore, if you submit drafts on a chapter-by-chapter basis, it is difficult for your Supervisor to comment on the flow of the Dissertation and its overall quality.

So it is essential during this third meeting that you agree with your Supervisor whether to submit a complete first draft or a chapter-by-chapter submission, together with dates and method of submission (i.e. post or email).


FOURTH MEETING: The purposes of the meeting are either:

  • To receive comments on the first draft of your Dissertation, and to discuss any issues raised by the comments.This is so that you are in a position to address the comments effectively in the revision you make prior to submission of the completed Dissertation; OR
  • If you are still working on your Dissertation (perhaps because you were granted an extension to prepare for supplementary examinations), to discuss your progress to date, and agree a submission deadline for a draft dissertation for comments.

Please also note that you are expected to contact your Supervisor by email as soon as possible if you encounter a major problem. Once again, a reminder that it is your responsibility to find out whether your internal Supervisor will be available during the summer vacation, and to arrange meetings at times your internal Supervisor is available. The final submission date is 12 noon Wednesday 9th September 2020.



Remember to take your MSc Dissertation Meeting Point of Contact Form in order to fill it with your supervisor and upload it to Canvas.


4 The Dissertation


You write a Dissertation to show not only your knowledge but also your ability to use that knowledge, and bring it to bear on some topic of importance. You will need to unite your many abilities – analytical, literary, social, organisational and practical – to produce a piece of finished work of the type a future employer or thesis examiner is likely to demand.

This section will take you through the main types of Dissertation, the proposal and the main sections of an MSc Dissertation.

4.1 Dissertation types

There are several types. Here are some suggestions, which can be adapted or combined to produce your own type. There are different ways of categorizing types of dissertation that you may find interesting. Below are five ways:


Empirical Study (case study/field study):

Involves not only the identification and design of a piece of research but also the collection and analysis of data (primary and secondary), and the drawing of conclusions from that analysis. Depending on your theoretical grounding, research question and research design, it may include mainly (but not exclusively) qualitative or quantitative methods (See lectures on qualitative or quantitative methods).Most dissertations fall into this category. For quantitative methods,relevant data is often found in our available databases. You also need to develop relevant hypotheses and choose what statistics models are relevant depending on what phenomena you are looking at. In using qualitative methods,you may want to use case or field studies.Thisoften requires access to people and companies, where you can set up interviews and observe people. Sometimes telephone interviews are also a possibility. However, getting hold of relevant documentscan also be important.Theseare often found in companies’ archives, but many documents are available in public archives and some on-line as well.  A case study may also be built on documents alone(e.g. studying how companies communicate via webpages and annual reports to the public and stake and shareholders). Examples of empirical studies are illustrated by P. Wang (2011) Asymmetry in Return Reversals or Asymmetry in Volatility? – New evidence from new markets, Quantitative Finance;A-C Frandsen (2009)From Psoriasis to a Number and Back,” Information and Organization; M Contrafatto, I Thomson, E Monk (2016)‘Peru, mountains and losniños: Dialogic action, accounting and sustainable transformation’, Critical Perspectives on Accounting;Whitley, Richard (1986) The Transformation of Business Finance into Financial Economics: The roles of academic expansion and changes in U.S. capital markets inAccounting, Organization and Society(this paper could also be seen as a historical study) or Fosu, S. (2013), Capital structure, product market competition and firm performance: Evidence from South Africa. The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance.


Literature Evaluation/Review:

Is based wholly or largely upon existing published material. It involves an in-depth examination of the literature on a specific topic,and a synthesis and critical analysis of that literature. It can involve a meta-analysis (a statistical analysis of a collection of individual studies). It is expected that it will give the reader fresh insights which will add to the existing body of knowledge.(See also lecture on literature review). Examples of such literature reviews are Bradley Pomeroy Daniel B. Thornton (2008) Meta-analysis and the Accounting Literature: The Case of Audit Committee Independence and Financial Reporting Quality.In European Accounting Review;Apostolou B, Dorminey, J. W.Hassell, John M. (2015) James E. Rebele (2015) Accounting education literature review (2013–2014) in Journal of Accounting Education.McPhail K. (2006) Ethics & the Individual Professional Accountant: A Literature Review; Saqib, Najia (2015) Review of Literature on Finance-Growth Nexus in Journal of Applied Finance & Banking; McGoun E. (1995) The History of Risk ‘Measurement’ in Critical Perspectives on Accounting.


-Proposal (and/or Pilot Study) for research:

Such a dissertation will make a case for a major research study. It will include a rigorous review of the literature and a detailed explanation of the methodology which will be adopted if one were to proceed with the research study. Again such a study may incorporate mainly (but not exclusively) qualitative or quantitative methods. Examples of such studies are Soin Kim (2004) Management Accounting, Risk and Regulation: A Pilot Study of Compliance Practices in UK Financial Services. Chartered Institute of Management Accountant (CIMA) and Brierley J.A., Cowton, C.J. Drury, C. (2001) How product costs are calculated and used in decision making: a pilot study, in Managerial Auditing Journal.


Development and contribution to a new theory:

Such a dissertation gives new insight into existing knowledge, provides us with a novel way of looking at a subject and offers a new theoretical lens. However,this type of study can be challenging as it needs careful readings and a really good understanding of the theory you want to develop or improve. Here Jensen and Meckling (1976)Theory of the firm: Managerial Behaviour, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure in Journal of Financial Economics and the development of Neo-Institutional Sociology DiMaggio, P.J., and Powell, W.W. (1983) The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields, in American Sociological Revieware classical papersand good examples of this type of study or Kaynes, J. M. (1934) A Treatise On Money.


Historical-oriented studies:

Accounting and Finance history is a huge field that can shed new light on phenomena we either take for granted or do not know much about. The topic chosen may have the potential in explaining current phenomena. Chandler’s (1977) The Visible Hand: The Managerial revolution in American Business, is a good example of this type of study. His historical work is an attempt to explain why we today see these huge managerial run modern business enterprises and why we have oligopolies. Historical work involves the identification and design of a piece of research and the collection and analysis of secondary. This may be found in various places including companies’ own archives and public records. Historical work can focus on relatively recent phenomena such as the Big Depression in the 1930s, how the new legislation of accounting standards was argued to have contributed to the depression, or the fall of Enron in 2001. However, such studies may also go back to when Double Entry was published by Patolli in Italy 1494, or to Mesopotamia 8,000 BC when the first token accounting appeared to current date as discussed by Macve (2015) Fair Value vs Conservatism? Aspects of the History of Accounting, Auditing, Business and Finance from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern China in British Accounting Review. Debate on history and system of money such as by Ezzamel and Hoskin (2002) Retheorizing Accounting, Writing, and Money with Evidence from Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt,” in Critical Perspectives on Accounting, or from a finance perspective Goldsmith, R.W. (1987). Premodern Financial Systems: A Historical Comparative Study or Goetzmann William (2016) Money Changes Everything: How finance Made Civilization Possible. Or aspects on financial reporting by Zeff, S.A. (2013). The objectives of financial reporting: a historical survey and analysis in Accounting and Business Research.


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4.2 The Research Proposal

The research proposal is an important working document which over the next few months becomes transformed into the Dissertation. You will see that the main sections replicate the structure of the Dissertation. A copy of the Research proposal can be found in Appendix 3. It should be no more than 3 pages. With a deadline of 12noon on 25th March 2020, the proposal is marked and constitutes 10% of the overall mark of the Dissertation.

Used correctly, the proposal will become your road map through the Dissertationprocess. Because of a wide variety of circumstances, the focus of your research may change. If this happens then you should change your proposal document and alsoagree with your academic Supervisor that such a change is appropriate.

The research proposal shows that you have thought through what the main researchobjectives are to be, that you have identified the main sources of primary andsecondary data, and that you have given thought as to the research methodology. Theproposal should provide your academic Supervisor with a ‘detailed skeleton’ of thewhole Dissertation; the fine details are added when the literature review is completedand the primary research has been undertaken.

Part of your proposal is the initial literature review, which willthen be taken and expanded as an important section of your Dissertation. For guidance on developing a sound and critical Literature Review refer to section (4.3.6) and the relevant Dissertation lecture.

The research proposal includes eight key sections:

  1. Working Title (WT)
  • Basic Research Questions (RQ)
The Proposal accounts for 10% of the overall Dissertation Module and should be no more than 3 pages in length
  • Key Papers (KP)
  1. Motivation/Puzzle
  2. Idea (E), Data (F) and Tools (G)
  3. Key questions (What’s new and So What?)
  4. The contribution
  5. Other Considerations

The proposal document also needs to include a timeline and deadlines of important work that needs to be executed.

The research proposal adoptsFaff (2016) Pitching Research framework; for more information the paper can be found following this link http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2462059.




Examples on Accounting (Qualitative and Quantitative) proposals can be downloaded from the Supplementary Material for “Pitching Research” site at https://www.business.uq.edu.au/supplementary-material-pitching-research.


  • Writing the Dissertation

A Dissertation must be an original work which makes a significant contribution to knowledge in or understanding of a particular field of study. It must contain material worthy of publication. It also demonstrates its relationship to the general corpus of knowledge in the field. In short it is the presentation of the results of original research in a critical and scholarly fashion. For these reasons it is essential that an appropriate presentation is adopted.


The cornerstone of your Dissertation is your research question(s). Before starting your Dissertation, you should have a clear idea of these questions that you are trying to answer. A good research question is firmly anchored in previous research. This will give you (i) credibility from a reader’s point of view that you are knowledgeable about the topic you want to investigate (ii) help to account for the knowledge gap of interest (and hence your contribution) and (iii) help to develop a clear and manageable question to answer. The research question(s) will also set up and direct the methodology (e.g. concepts, models, type of data, methods), the analysis that is relevant for the research and the design of the discussion sections. Think of the Dissertation as a quest to identify, problematise, investigate, analyse and contribute by answering your own questions.


Review the Dissertation Marking Criteria Details (Appendix 8) as the guideto evaluating the quality of the dissertation.

4.3.1 Title Page

The title page should adopt the format shown in the template Appendix2.

4.3.2 Acknowledgement

Including an acknowledgement is optional. It is usual to acknowledge:

  • YourSupervisor(s) and anyone else who has given you substantial assistance with the research.
  • Any organisation that has given you financial support.
  • Anyone else who has read all or parts of the thesis and commented on it.
  • Anyone who has given special personal support – normally a family member or close friends.

Normally, the acknowledgements are about half a page in length; they should not exceed one page.


An abstract is a 100-200 word succinct summary of the thesis containing all of the important concepts andconclusions of the work. The Heriot-Watt handbook (p.7) provides the following useful hints in constructing your abstract:

  • Aim and objectives: What are the main themes, ideas or areas of theorybeing investigated?
  • Boundaries: What is the context and background to this dissertation? Inwhat areas of theory or business practice should the reader concentratetheir attention?
  • Methodology: What was/were the main method(s) employed togenerate the results?
  • Results: What were your main findings?
  • Conclusions: What are the main conclusions that you arrive at whenviewing the entire Dissertation?
  • Recommendations: (if appropriate) What solutions do you offer inanswer to the problems posed in the research objectives?

4.3.4 Contents Page

A contents page specifies the chapters with their titles, and any Appendices with their titles. Your chapters should have informative titles, giving the reader more help than just a bald statement of the subject matter. Show how the chapter will contribute to answering your research question. For example, ‘The Ruritanian Stock Market’ is not nearly as an informative title as ‘The Role of the Ruritanian Stock Market in the Final Collapse of Capitalism.’


Follow an appropriate numbing system for numbering the main titles and subtitles, the tables and the graphs.

4.3.5 Introduction

Notice that the Dissertation begins with four summaries of increasing length: the title, the abstract, the contents page, and finally the introductory chapter 1. This should allow the reader to understand the logical flow of the Dissertation, by providing a one-paragraph summary of each chapter, including any conclusions.

The introduction to your Dissertation should explain to the reader what you are going to investigate. It should describe the Dissertation’s topic and scope. You should explain your reasons for investigating your chosen topic by referring to the appropriate literature. Having completed the work on the main substance of your Dissertation, you should have a much clearer idea of its nature and scope than you did when you wrote your preliminary abstract or proposal.

It is important, however, to write the introduction as though you are setting out on a process of investigation. You need to emphasise the exploratory nature of your work. You should also avoid anticipating the discoveries and conclusions that you have made in the course of your investigations. So, you might simply say that you have identified certain common features in the relevant literature, or a particular issue that it deals with, and that yourDissertation will examine the literature closely in order to demonstrate the relationships between treatments of the issue in the sample texts. When you have completed the main body of the work and your Tutor has commented on your complete draft, you may well wish to revisit the introduction to take into account your findings and your Tutor’s comments on their significance.

TheBirmingham International Academy- UoBsuggest the following hints to constructing a good introduction to your dissertation:

  1. Establish the research topic
  2. Establish the topic of the thesis more specifically
  3. Summarise extant research on the research topic (this will be expanded in your literature review section)
  4. Indicate what is missing in previous research, or what in the previous research may be extended
  5. State the aim of your research

Tip: The recommended proportion of the introduction is roughly 5% of the overall word count

4.3.6 Literature Review (see appendix 4 for useful resources)

Your Dissertation is a substantial piece of written work that ideally should conform to a number of academic conventions. One of the most important of these academic conventions is the literature review.

You are going to carry out an initial literature review as part of

  1. Finding your topic

This is doneby identifying, collecting and (re)sorting the relevant material to develop your proposal.This then is expanded to a discussion or ‘review’ of secondary literature that is of general and central relevance to the particular area under investigation. (see also Lecture on Canvas). There are many reasons for a literature review such as:


  • to learn more about a subject or a topic(i.e. the theory and background information)
  • to determine the appropriate conceptual framework for the study of the subject or topic
  • to determine contemporary thinking on the subject or topic
  • to avoid unnecessary duplication of what has been done and identify gaps in the literature
  • to inform your research design and methods.

For the purpose of writing a Dissertation, a literature review may be described as a survey, or an examination, of the existing publications on a subject or a topic. While the literature reviews sounds like it is a clear defined phase, it is however an ongoing process. You will discover that you will update at later stages as well. There is however more time spent on the literature review at the beginning then there is at the later phase of the Dissertation, not least because you need to learn about the field you are interested in so as  to formulate a research question/research questions. Throughout this process it is a very good practice to keep a research diary.


In the early stage of the literature review the focus is broaderin order to map out the fieldand the topic, and also to learn about what has been done before. You may start with the literature in the modules you take. They are carefully selected and a useful starting point. You may also use key search words when using UoB databases. Keep track on what search words and databases you use. You may also search for an author whohas done some interesting work to see what they have done overall, or search key words in specific journals. Read strategically by quickly reading abstract, introduction and conclusion in order to do a first sorting of possible relevant literature. Keep in mind to record key points of what you have read, who wrote it, when and where you have found it. You learn about previous questions asked, methodology and methods, findings and conclusions. It often also gives you a history of how the topic has evolved, the current status and who has been part of the discussion so far. You will also learn where views differ and where there is a still a big debate. This mapping will help to map out what is more or less relevant for your topic. Often you can sort the literature in three piles (i) very relevant (ii) maybe relevant (iii) not so relevant for overall understanding.


When you have a pile of relevant material the focus is more on careful readings and analysing it carefully.  However, it is worth spending some time evaluating the quality of your sources. Ask your Supervisor for guidance if you are not sure.


It is also here where you often find more relevant literature, not least as all researchers have done their literature reviews which you will find at the back. If you do, add these to your literature review. While you may have read only the abstract, introduction and the conclusion, it is now time for careful and detailed readings of the full article, book or chapter. Make notes while you read. These will be the key for your literature review. Often there will be a few key references that will inform your Dissertation, and where your contribution will be ‘located’. Hence devote more detail and time to these particular works as they are more important and central to your topic. Indeed they may highlight the gap in the literature that exists which you seek to fill; they may provide the basis on which you seek to build, or they might be works which require some critique from your particular perspective. e.g.

  • Detailed analysis of theoretical and conceptual debates
  • Discussion of main findings of important empirical studies and their critiques
  • Focused analysis of policy implementation


(see also http://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/evaluating-resources)




  1. Evaluate the materials

The University of Birmingham’s general guidelines are as follows: Once you have a list of references for your Dissertation, you now have to access and read this material. This process is going to be time consuming because you will be reading a large amount of material. Furthermore, once you start your reading you might find that some of the literature is of little relevance to your study. Don’t panic, this is something that many researchers and Dissertation students go through and is often a necessary part of the process. It is better to read something that is not central to your Dissertation than miss something that might be an important and relevant contribution to the field.

While reading, make notes about the central themes and arguments of the book, chapter or article. These notes can then be incorporated into the finished version of your literature review. Try and get a sense of the theoretical perspective of the author This will be of use when you come to organise and present your literature review. Also, emphasise the way in which the piece of literature you are reading seeks to set itself apart from other literature. Importantly, start to think critically about the piece you are reading; ask: what is this person trying to say and why? How is it different from the way others have dealt with this issue? This critical component is very important as it demonstrates that you are engaging with relevant literature in an appropriate manner and that you can discriminate between different perspectives and approaches that exist within your chosen field.

  1. Guidelines for critical reading

We expect you to engage in critical reading of the overall claim/argument to enhance your understanding of management accounting issues in a broader and inter-disciplinary way. This will help you analyse problems (some which might be familiar to you, but some which might be totally new), suggest and account for possible ‘solutions’, but also to define new problem areas. Below you will find some suggested questions that can help you conduct critical reading and  help you in summarising the article.

  • What is the main research focus/question?
  • What is the knowledge gap the article tries to fill? (e.g. What is lacking or not fully explored in previous research?)
  • What kind of references does the article draw on?
  • What are the main arguments developed in the article?
  • What evidence does the article use to support its claims?
  • What connections or ‘hooks’ are constructed to link evidence to claims?
  • What are the main results from the research?
  • What are the limitations of the findings?
  • When was the article published?


Analyse the findings

Once you have generated a large number of notes around your reading you might start to feel overwhelmed by the literature. In terms of the organisation and presentation of your literature review, it is worth dividing your review into two main areas: general reading and literature that is of central importance. You will also need to further divide the literature into specific areas relevant to your study e.g. for theories and concepts; policy analysis; empirical studies etc. What follows are some general guidelines on how you might do this.



General texts

It will be clear that some of the reading you have done is of more relevance than others. It is important, however, that you do not discard the less relevant work.Instead this can form the broad background of your discussion of the more relevant literature within your field. For example, you may mention different authors that have dealt with a question related to your field but which may not be central to it. Highlight these in broad termsand state how these works have impacted on your particular area. You need not go into great detail about these more general works, but by highlighting these works you are demonstrating your awareness of the scope and limits of your study and how it touches upon other areas of study.



Central texts

Once you have discussed the range of literature that is only of general interest to your study, you can then go into more detail on the literature that more sharply focuses on the questions that are of interest to you.

Remember that throughout your Dissertation writing,updating your literature review is an ongoing process.You will come across literature that is of relevance to your area of study.Do not ignore this material, you can always add more literature to your review as you come across it.

  1. Common Pitfalls (Academic Skills Centre)


  1. Omissions

Major studies may have been omitted. This is particularly likely if your initial literature search has not been planned carefully.


  1. Poor coverage of recent material

Recent material may have been covered only to a limited extent. In some subject areas, you need to be as up-to-date as possible.


  1. Irrelevant material

Too much material of peripheral relevance may have been included. You have to select from a larger body of literature in most cases. Choose in relation to relevance to your study. Irrelevant material should not appear in the literature review and deciding what not to include is one of the key skills.


  1. Descriptive rather than critical approach

Critical reviews can very easily turn into uncritical reviews in which you simply list and describe items that you have read. You are expected to think critically about the literature you are reviewing.

  1. Equal treatment
Training: Systematic Literature Searching




Too much equal treatment: beware of the “auction sale catalogue” approach where every item is equally valuable.  In your literature review, individual items are not equally valuable. So don’t feel obliged to cover all the texts in equal detail and at equal length.  Always be selective and highlight the most significant studies.

  1. Not knowing when to stop

It is possible to keep on searching the literature forever. Be prepared to have cut-off dates and say:

Doing a Quality Literature Review




“After tomorrow, I’m not going to look for anything else.  I’m just going to work with the material I’ve got.” Just make sure you haven’t missed out any really major contributions to the field.

  1. Poor linkage to your research

The review fails to relate the works surveyed to the nature of the study you are undertaking. It is obviously important to find ways of linking the existing work to your intended area of study. Make it clear why the literature was worth reviewing.

The literature review should be presented in the form of a précis, a classification, a comparison and a critical analysis of that material which is germane to a full understanding of your research study. Such published material may be drawn from all, or a combination of, textbooks, journal articles, conference papers, reports, case studies, the Internet, magazine features or newspaper articles. It should be remembered, however, that the most important source ofacademic literature are journal articles,and you should ensure that you are familiar with the most recent publications in journals relevant to your subject area.


Remember that your literature review should lead and justify the research objectives and questions of your Dissertation. Your literature review should not just be a catalogue of authors, frameworks and ideas, but should attempt to introduce a critical evaluation of those authors’ works. You need to paraphrase and reference (See section 6) the material appropriately.



Tip: The Academic Skills Centre offers training workshops that run during the academic year.These include’Critical Thinking’ and ‘Writing clearly and Concisely’.For more information visit their websitehere.


Tip: Take advantage of the vast resources offered by the library. If you cannot find an important paper on Findit@bham.ac.uk, do not ignore it. There are schemes and serviceswhich provide you access to such material.Ask a librarian about: SCONULand Interlibrary Loans and Document Supply service.


4.3.7 Research Methodology

This must clearly identify the epistemological (i.e. your stance on what should pass as acceptable knowledge) basis of the study and demonstrate a good working knowledge of the methods to be employed. Methodology follows from the assumptions of the theoretical approach you have chosen to locate your research. It is here where you have to specify the overall frame and design of the research, key concepts, how and what to collect as suitable material and how also to analyze it. Methods follow from methodology and are just practical ways of doing things. However, when methods are put in a methodological frame they are understood based on specific assumptions.Hence the ‘same’ method such as interviews will have different purposes and meaning. For instance, structured interviews may be relevant for a positivistic approach where the variables that you are testing will have a better chance to be collected.In contrast, a non-structured/ semi structured interview is relevant for a phenomenological study where life experiences are central and you want the interviewee to expand on their life experiences. These choices have to be made clear and be explained. In doing so you will demonstrate your understanding of what methodology ‘is’, and how relevantly you have applied it to your research. It should include good coverage of the process of the fieldwork and indicate how the analysis was undertaken. As well as covering the ethical issues, it should also contain an element of reflection on the research process.(See also Dissertation lecture 1 on Canvas)

According to the University of Southern California research guides, the content of the Methodology section should:

  1. Introduce the overall methodological approach for investigating your research problem. Is your study qualitative or quantitative or a combination of both (mixed method)? Are you going to take a special approach, such as action research, or a more ‘neutral’ stance?
  2. Indicate how the approach fits the overall research design. Your methods should have a clear connection with your research problem. In other words, make sure that your methods will actually address the problem. One of the most common deficiencies found in research papers is that the proposed methodology is not suitable for achieving the stated objective of your paper.
  3. Describe the specific methods of data collection you are going to use such as, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, observation, archival research etc. If you are analsying existing data, such as a data set or archival documents, describe how it was originally created or gathered and by whom.
  4. Explain how you intend to analyse your results. Will you use statistical analyses? Will you use specific theoretical perspectives to help you analyse a text or explain observed behaviours? Describe how you plan to obtain an accurate assessment of relationships, patterns, trends, distributions, and possible contradictions found in the data.
  5. Provide background and a rationale for methodologies that are unfamiliar for your readers. Very often in the social sciences, research problems and the methods for investigating them require more explanation/rationale than widely accepted rules governing the natural and physical sciences. Be clear and concise in your explanation.
  6. Provide a justification for subject selection and sampling procedure. For instance, if you propose to conduct interviews, how do you intend to select the sample population? If you are analyzing texts, which texts have you chosen, and why? If you are using statistics, why is this set of statistics being used? If other data sources exist, explain why the data you chose is most appropriate to addressing the research problem.
  7. Describe potential limitations. Are there any practical limitations that could affect your data collection? How will you attempt to control for potential confounding variables and errors? If your methodology may lead to problems you can anticipate, state this openly and show why pursuing this methodology outweighs the risk of these problems cropping up.

Once you have written all the elements of the methods section, subsequent revisions should focus on how to present those elements as clearly and as logically as possibly. The description of how you prepared to study the research problem, how you gathered the data, and the protocol for analysing the data should be organised chronologically. For clarity, when a large amount of detail must be presented, information should be presented in sub-sections according to topic (http://libguides.usc.edu).

Saunders et al.(2009:535) provide the following checklist for the Method chapter:



  • What was the research setting?
  • Why did you choose the particular setting?
  • What ethical issues were raised by the study, and how were these addressed?


  • How many?
  • How were they selected?
  • What were their characteristics?
  • How were refusal/non-returns handled?


  • What tests/scales/interview or observation schedules/questionnaires were used?
  • How were purpose-made instruments developed?
  • How was the resulting data analysed?
  • Procedures
  • What were the characteristics of the interviewers and observers and how were they trained?
  • How valid and reliable do you think the procedures were?
  • What instructions were given to participants?
  • How many interviews/observations/questionnaires were there; how long did they last; where did they take place?
  • When was the research carried out?

Approval of Questionnaires, Surveys and Interview questions

All questionnaires which are to be used in research must first be approved by the Academic Supervisors, and in the case of company projects by the company concerned. This is to ensure that questions are grammatically and logically correct. The Academic Supervisor will not necessarily make the necessary corrections but highlight where improvements are required. Remember to submit your Ethics Checklist (Appendix 6) in addition to the Consent Form (Appendix 7).


4.3.8 Findings / Results / Data Analysis

Many students confuse findings with discussion and it is important to keep them separate. The findings are often presented in charts and tables (even from qualitative data). Exact references to participants’ comments are particularly helpful.

The main objective of this chapter is to report findings that emerged from the methodology you applied. Thus, Saunders et al.(2009:535-536) stress two important guidelines in constructing this chapter:

  1. The purpose is to present factsand this must be done objectively. The writers state ‘Many of us become confused about the difference between findings and the conclusions drawn from these which form the basis of the discussion and conclusion chapters’.


  1. The order of presenting the findings is suggested to align with the research questions/objectives. It also can be themed and ranked in accordance to its importance.



Make sure to adopt a consistent and a clear presentation throughout your dissertation to make it easier for the reader.


4.3.9 Discussion

The University of Southern California research guides lay down the objectives of the discussion section to be as follows:

  1. Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings

Briefly reiterate for your readers the research problem or problems you are investigating and the methods you used to investigate them, then move quickly to describe the major findings of the study. You should write a direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results, usually in one paragraph.

  1. Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important

Consider the likelihood that no one has thought as long and hard about your study as you have. Systematically explain the meaning of your findings and why you believe they are significant. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think critically about the results [“why didn’t I think of that?”]. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. If applicable, begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most significant or unanticipated finding first, then systematically review each finding. Otherwise, follow the general order you reported the findings in the results section.

  1. Relate the Findings to Similar Studies

No study in the social sciences is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to previously published research. The discussion section should relate your results to those found in other studies, particularly if questions raised from prior studies served as the motivation for your research. This is important because comparing and contrasting the findings of other studies helps to support the overall importance of your results, and it highlights how and in what ways your study differs from other research about the topic. Note that any significant or unanticipated finding is often because there was no prior research to indicate the finding could occur. If there is prior research to indicate this, you need to explain why it was significant or unanticipated.

  1. Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings

It is important to remember that the purpose of research is to discover and not to prove. When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations for the study results, rather than just those that fit your hypothesis or prior assumptions and biases. This is especially important when describing the discovery of significant or unanticipated findings.

4.3.10 Conclusions

The conclusion offers the opportunity to review your work as a whole, to identify the points of comparison and contrast the various texts you have examined It is also to show that, in the process of your study, you have developed a more precise, critical understanding of the way these texts deal with your topic. Furthermore, it is here where you can reflect on your contribution to knowledge (the main purpose of doing the Dissertation) in relation to the key literature you based your study on in the introduction and in the literature review. This is also an appropriate place for you to point to the limitations of your research and to indicate possible avenues for researchers to address the issues in the future.This is further discussed below:


  1. Acknowledge the Study’s Limitations

It is far better for you to identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your Professor! Note any unanswered questions or issues your study did not address and describe the generalizability of your results to other situations. If a limitation is applicable to the method chosen to gather information, then describe in detail the problems you encountered.


  1. Make Suggestions for Further Research

You may choose to conclude the discussion section by making suggestions for further research [this can be done in the overall conclusion of your paper]. Although your study may offer important insights about the research problem, this is where you can address other questions related to the problem that remains unanswered, or highlight previously hidden questions that were revealed as a result of conducting your research. You should frame your suggestions by linking the need for further research to the limitations of your study [e.g., in future studies, the survey instrument should include more questions that ask…”].


4.3.11 References

This is an important part of the thesis. It is important systematically to record the sources you have consulted and to manage your references in a way that facilitates their incorporation into your thesis.

The list of references must contain all of the sources which you have found significant enough to mention in the text. These may include primary and secondary sources, published and unpublished writings, books, articles, images, media, data and internet. Presentation of these sources must be consistent, and in line with whichever referencing system you have adopted. “List of References” is often the preferred heading for introducing such a list.

It is noteworthy here to point the meaning of Bibliography. It is often used to include sources which have not been cited in the text itself, but which the author thinks that readers might wish to go on to consult. Such a bibliography, if included, is often sub-divided into sections if this is likely to prove more helpful. Where your research has made extensive use of primary sources (unpublished materials) then these might best be listed separately from published material. Where the work is exclusively about one individual then it may be advisable to give separate lists of works by and about that individual. If these conditions do not apply, then normally a consolidated alphabetical sequence is to be preferred.

For more information of referencing review section 6.

4.3.12 Appendices

Appendices and special notes may in effect be interchangeable. Appendices are often used for information which is supportive in nature and will not impede the progress of the reader in the main text. They are especially useful for readers who require greater clarification. Therefore, they can be used as follows:

  • For explanations and elaborations which are too long for footnotes, but are not essential parts of the text;
  • Texts of documents, laws etc. which illustrate the text;
  • Long charts or tables of test-data, specifications for equipment and materials used, etc.

Do not regard them as repositories for things which do not fit elsewhere in the text – ensure that you have a clear justification for including them. Appendices should be listed on the contents page. Where more than one appendix is included, assign each one a number and list them like chapters.


5 Layout, Style and Writing suggestions

5.1 Dissertation Formatting

Aspect Recommended Setting
Word count Excludingacknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, list of tables, appendices, the list of references and bibliography, Dissertations should be word- processed and 12,000 words in length. Any additional material in Dissertations which exceeds the 12,000 word limit by more than 5% may not be marked
Paper Size A4
Line spacing 1.5 spaced
Page Numbering For sections from Acknowledgements to start of Main Text page number format is i) ii) iii) ..and so on continuously

For Main Text page format is 1,2, 3 and so on continuously,with position on page centredand aligned

Dissertation Font Arial or Times New Roman
Font Size 12
Alignment Justified
Typical Dissertation Layout  
Front cover (First or Title page) Required, see Appendix 2
Acknowledgements Optional
Abstract Required,
Table of Contents Required,
List of Figures Required (Note all figures in the main text must be

numbered, titled and attributed)

List of Tables Required, (Note all tables in the main text must be

numbered, titled and attributed)

Abbreviations Optional
Main text Required,
Chapter & Section


List of references According to Harvard system, Guide here
Appendices Appendix title should be bold, outlined, numbered (e.g.

Appendix 1).Start each Appendix on a new page

Number of copies Upload one electronic versions of the Dissertation to Canvasby 12 noon on submission day, Wednesday 9th September 2020 [unless you have an extension].



6 Citations and References

Referencing correctly is an important academic skill as it shows the reader of your work the sources you have used to research your topic and gives support and weight to your arguments and conclusions. In summary, there are four good reasons for referencing;

  1. To allow a reader of your work to find and check the sources you have used.
  2. So that you can come back to your own work and know where you found a particular quotation or piece of information.
  3. To avoid accusations of plagiarism.
  4. To make you think twice about using outdated and inaccurate books, articles, or websites. As a general rule you should not put your trust in any resource which does not give references.

The library has developed a detailed Referencing Handbook and can be found at:https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/libraryservices/library/referencing/icite/referencing/harvard/index.aspx. The information below gives you a brief introduction. .

6.1 Within text citation

The author’s surname and year of publication are inserted into the text wherever a source is cited. The way this is done will depend on whether the author’s name occurs naturally in the sentence or not.

Academic Skills Advisors

The Academic Skills Advisors can provide help with finding information for your dissertation, such as discovering relevant journal articles, finding financial or contextual information for a company, market reports or statistical data. Our Advisors can also provide guidance on how to reference correctly.

To book an appointment with an Advisor please email asc@contacts.bham.ac.uk


Using this method of referencing, the in-text citations in your work must be included in the final word count. In-text citations give brief details of the source that you are quoting from or referring to. These citations will then link to the full reference that will be found in your reference list at the end of your work. The reference list is always arranged in alphabetical order by author. If you have cited a work in an appendix, but not in the main body of your text, this should still be included in the reference list.  The list of references is not included in the word count.

Footnotes and endnotes are NOT used in this style.

There are many ways in which citations can be used in your work, but your Tutor or Supervisor should advise you on which format they prefer.

Your citations should always include the following elements;

  1. Author(s) or editor (s) surname/family name
  2. Year of publication
  3. Page number(s) if required

If you have used a direct quote or an idea from a specific page, or set of pages, you should include the page number(s) in your citations. The abbreviation for page is p. or pp. for multiple pages. See the examples below to see how they are used correctly.

According to Guy (2001, p. 37), the Zulus faced many grave dangers when confronting the British…It is maintained that medicine has improved (Jones, 1985, p. 74)

For a detailed guidance to Citing In-Text follow this link.


6.2 End of text referencing

In the Harvard (author-date) System the list of references is arranged alphabetically by first author’s surname, year (and letter, if necessary), and is placed at the end of the work.

A reference list is the detailed list of references that are cited in your work. A bibliography is a detailed list of references cited in your work, plus the background readings or other material that you may have read, but not actually cited. Different courses may require just a reference list, just a bibliography, or even both. It is better to check with your Tutor first.

6.3 Text notes

Text notes can provide additional information on points made in the text of the Dissertation. They may be presented as footnotes or as endnotes, either of which should be kept to a minimum. Neither footnotes nor endnotes should be used.However, if the sole purpose is to give a page or reference, these should be presented as parenthetical insertions into the main text of the Dissertation. Articles and books mentioned in the text, including text notes, should be identified by the author’s name and the year of publication. The title of the article or book should then be listed in the Dissertation’s list of references.

6.4 Useful links

The Library Services have developed a comprehensive guide to referencing, called iCite which you can find here. They also provide access to the online resource Cite Them Right Online (www.citethemrightonline.com),which gives examples of citing different kinds of published material in a range of styles.

The library also offers a range of subject support, including finding information in Accounting and Finance as well as referencing. Further details and links at:http://libguides.bham.ac.uk/subjectsupport/accfin

6.5 Referencing Software

There is referencing software to help you reference

  • RefWorks is a web-based package and is available free of charge to all members of the University. It is recommended for Undergraduates and Taught Postgraduates. Access is via FindIt@Bham.ac.uk and help with using it can be found here.
  • Mendeleydesktop and web reference manager and PDF organizer (please note that Library Services are unable to support you in using this product).
  • EndNote is recommended for PhD students, researchers and lecturers.A personal copy needs to be purchased if you wish to use it on your own PC or laptop (the software is available to use on all PCs across campus managed by IT Services)


7 Attribution and Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the submission for formal assessment of an assignment that incorporates, without proper citation or acknowledgement by means of an accepted referencing standard, the intellectual property or work of a third party.

To avoid plagiarism, make sure you take time to reference accurately and don’t be afraid to ask for help! We’ve put together a set of resources for you to use as a starting point.


Failure to identify sources upon which you draw is plagiarism, the most serious of academic offences and a possible breach of copyright law. A thesis which embodies deliberate plagiarism will almost certainly be rejected. If you are in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, or how to avoid it, you should consult your Supervisor, and read the University’s Guidelines on Plagiarism at https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/studentservices/conduct/misconduct/plagiarism/guidance-students.aspx. On submission of your final thesis for examination via Canvas, your work will go through the plagiarism software known as TURNITIN.

For more information about plagiarism, please select from the links below:

8 Ethics

  • You are required to submit a copy of your ethics form with your Dissertation proposal. This form is to be completed by you.
  • At the first meeting with your supervisor, the ethics form must be discussed. Before the research starts (and at the latest by the 10th July 2020) you must upload your ethics form to Canvas for your supervisor to approve.
  • As you progress with your dissertation you should review the appropriateness of your ethics form. If you make any changes to your research which impacts the accuracy of your ethics form then you should complete and resubmit a new form for your supervisor to review.
  • A copy of your final ethics form MUST be uploaded to the Ethics Form Submission Box in the ‘Assignments’ page on Canvas. Your dissertation will not be accepted unless this has been done.


9 Submission

One copy of the dissertation must be uploaded to Canvas (International Accounting & Finance dissertation submission box) by Wednesday 9th September 2020.

10 Assessment

There are two markers, one of whom is your Supervisor. They must agree on a mark. Should they fail to agree the External Examiner will be consulted.

The External Examiner will look at a selection of Dissertations and their marks to ensure that our marking is robust, and that the marks awarded at Birmingham are similar to those awarded for similar work in other high-ranking UK universities.

For a summary marking sheet and assessment guide review Appendix 8 to this guide.



11 Report references

Berkeley LibraryUniversity of California (2016). Library Guides: Evaluating resources. [online] Available at: http://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/evaluating-resources [Accessed 31 Sep. 2016].

Emerald group publishing (2016).How to write a literature review [online] Available at: http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/authors/guides/write/literature.htm?part=3 [Accessed 29 Sep. 2016].

Faff, Robert W., Pitching Research (June 12, 2016). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2462059 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2462059

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2017) (7thed.). Research methods for business students. Harlow, England: Prentice Hall.

University of Southern California (2016). Research Guides: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper [online] Available at: http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide [Accessed 27 Sep. 2016].




















12 Appendices

Appendix 1 Dissertation Module Timetable

Date Time Venue Lecture Topic Lecturer
03-Oct 5.00-7.00 p.m. Aston Webb Main Lecture Theatre Choosing a Dissertation topic George Georgiou
17-Oct 5.00-7.00 p.m. Aston Webb Main Lecture Theatre How to conduct a literature review George Georgiou
31-Oct 5.00-7.00 p.m. To be Confirmed Data bases and search skills Paula Anne Goodall
14-Nov 5.00-7.00 p.m. Aston Webb Main Lecture Theatre Qualitative Research Ann-Christine Frandsen
28-Nov 5.00-7.00 p.m. Aston Webb Main Lecture Theatre Quantitative Research George Georgiou
Date Time Workshop Topic Tutor
10-Oct 3.00-4.00 p.m. Aston Webb Main Lecture Theatre Choosing a Dissertation topic Ann-Christine Frandsen
24-Oct 3.00-4.00 p.m. Aston Webb Main Lecture Theatre How to conduct a literature review George Georgiou
07-Nov 3.00-4.00 p.m.* UNIVH102/LC-UG08 Data bases and search skills Paula Anne Goodall/ Madlen Sobkowiak
4.00-5.00 p.m.** UNIVH102/PYTGP06 Data bases and search skills Paula Anne Goodall/ Madlen Sobkowiak
21-Nov 3.00-4.00 p.m. Aston Webb Main Lecture Theatre Qualitative Research Madlen Sobkowiak
05- Dec 3.00-4.00 p.m.* UNIVH102 Quantitative Research Viktor Pekar
4.00-5.00 p.m.** UNIVH102 Quantitative Research Viktor Pekar
06-Dec 3.00-4.00 p.m.* AWPGH 213 Quantitative Research Viktor Pekar
4.00-5.00 p.m.** AWPGH 213 Quantitative Research Viktor Pekar
*,** For these two workshops the class will be split into two groups. Each student will be allocated into one of these two groups.






Appendix 2 Front cover (First or Title page)



University crest and name

(from www.bham.ac.uk)

Title of Dissertation

Name of author

Name of Supervisor

Programme and academic year of study

You should also state:

‘Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the degree of MSc in Programme title

(academic year)’


















Appendix 3 Proposal Form (see also Canvas)

Master Research Proposal Template


Name & ID Number  


Working Title Succinct/informative title


Basic Research Question IN one sentence, define the key features of the research question.



Key paper(s) Identify the key academics papers which currently underpin the topic. 3 is often enough.






In 100 words  capture your core academic motivation, Identifying the “puzzle”, “paradox” or “problem”  you hope to resolve and “core” idea that drives the intellectual content of this research topic.



  Three core aspects of any [empirical] research project



Identify the “core” idea that drives the intellectual content of this research topic.


Material and data to collect?




What data and material do you propose to use and why? One or several sources? (cases, companies, countries, interviews, industry, observations, webpages, archives, annual reports, data from data bases, newspapers)

What sample size do you expect to use?

What period will you be looking at?

What is the quality of your sources?

How relevant are your data sources to answer your research question(s)?

May there be any possible problems in collecting the data and material?








E.g. What framework and key concepts will you use? What research design are you going to apply?

e.g. Survey design and interview design are you proposing or what Econometric software is needed/appropriate for job? How accessible are these to you?


  Two key questions
What’s new? Is the novelty in e.g. the idea/data/tools? Ways of addressing the problem? Application of a theory or model or a concept? New type of material? etc.
So What? Why is it important to know the answer? How may your conclusion impact on decisions, ways of thinking, or existing theory?
  One bottom line



What is the primary source of the contribution to the relevant research literature?
Other considerations Is Collaboration needed/desirable? – idea/data/tools? (either internal or external to your institution)

Target Journal(s)? Realistic? Sufficiently ambitious? Is the scope appropriate? Not too narrow, not too broad.



Template adapted from Faff, Robert W., Pitching Research (March 22, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2462059 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2462059







Appendix 4 Literature Review Resources



Key Features of Thirteen Resources Useful to Accounting & Finance


The University subscribes to a number of electronic databases which will be useful to you. These are free to University of Birmingham staff and students and include:



  • ABI/INFORM Global (ProQuest)
  • Bloomberg
  • Business Source Premier (EBSCO)
  • Compustat
  • CRSP
  • Datastream
  • Emerald
  • FAME
  • Financial Times
  • MarketLine
  • Nexis UK
  • PI Navigator
  • com



With the exceptions of Bloomberg, Compustat, CRSP and Datastream, these resources can be accessed on- and off-campus via FindIt@Bham (http://findit.bham.ac.uk). Information about accessing Bloomberg, Compustat, CRSP and Datastream can be found below.


Section A:Business Journal Databases – For Your Literature Review




These three resources are large journal databases and, between them, provide access to articles published in several thousand business-related journals (including ones on Accounting and Finance topics). Many of the articles are ‘peer reviewed’ and are very valuable for literature reviews. You can search for articles on a topic of your choice. You are advised to use all three databases as their coverage is different, so you will find different articles in each.


More on databases 1-3:intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/library/databases> Business electronic journals.



Section B: Financial Databases – For Finding Financial and Market Data



Bloomberg provides financial and economic data. It covers all countries and markets and data can go back as far as the 1980s. There are 11 Bloomberg terminals in the Alan Walters building. It is hoped that a twelfth terminal will shortly be available in the New Main Library.


  2. CRSP

CRSP and Compustat provide data on US companies: CRSP provides access to daily stock pricing from 1925andCompustat provides company financial statements and balance sheets going back to the early 1960s. Both are available via the CRSPSift interface, which is installed on PCs in the computer clusters in University House.




Datastream is our most extensive company information database and contains over 40 years of quantitative data. It provides financials for most companies quoted on any stock exchange (including daily share prices). It also contains economic data, exchange rates and index data. Datastream is only accessible from two computers. These are located in zone 1B of the New Main Library and it is advisable to book in advance at www.mypcbooking.bham.ac.uk to ensure access.

  1. FAME (Financial Analysis Made Easy)


Fame is a database which contains information on over 2.8 million (public and private) active companies in the UK and Ireland. Detailed information (Company accounts, ratios, activities, ownership etc.) is available for the largest 1.9 million of these. There is up to 10 years’ worth of information for each company.


  1. PI Navigator


PI Navigator provides access to 15 million global filings including annual and interim financial reports, and also corporate action transactions such as M&A, IPO and announcements. The documents are available in PDF format, as published, with more recent documents allowing linkage to financials in Excel. Coverage can extend back to the mid-1980s.



  1. com


ThomsonONE.com (T1.com) provides access to company and financial data from a variety of industry-leading sources. It contains information on over 60,000 domestic and global companies. Data includes: key financials, share prices and company news. Stock exchange indices and exchange rate data are also available. We subscribe to a number of ‘add-ons’:

  • Investextcontains detailed brokers reports, covering data and information on companies and industries from around the globe. Reports are written by independent brokers and date back to 1982. Reports are added within 7-10 days of publication.
  • Mergers and Acquisitionscontains details of 400,000+ global transactions as far back as 1977.
  • Equity contains details of 80,000+ global transactions as far back as 1970, and will provide information on IPOs and private equity backed deals amongst other things.


More on databases 4-10:intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/library/databases> Company Information.



Section C: Other Databases for Accounting & Finance Programmes




MarketLine Advantage provides access to company, country and industry intelligence, as well as news and case studies. The resource provides access to over 3,000 industry profiles, 32,000 company profiles and brief information on 400,000deals:

  • Industry Profiles: provides detailed information including: market overview, value, segmentation, forecast, five force analysis and leading companies in the industry.
  • Company Profiles: provides detailed information including: company overview, history, major products and services, competitors and often SWOT analyses.
  • Financial Deals: provides details of thousands of financial deals in brief.




This world renowned daily business newspaper covers global financial and economics issues as well as topics such as industry, international politics and management. The full-text of the Financial Times, all the way from 1888 to 30 days ago, is available electronically. More recent issues are available in print in the Main Library.




Nexis UK provides full-text access to articles from many of the UK broadsheets (starting from the mid-1980s) including: The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. This database also covers full-text access to articles from some local, trade and international press.


SAB, 25th October 2016.





Appendix5 Plagiarism Cover Sheet










I confirm that I have read and understood the regulations on plagiarism* and acknowledged the work of others that I have included in this dissertation.


I AGREE to allow my dissertation to be seen by future students.□

I DO NOT AGREE to allow my dissertation to be seen by future students.□



Student’s ID number:  ………………………………………………………..



Student’s Programme of study:………………………………………………



Student’s signature (DO NOT PRINT YOUR NAME): 




Title of dissertation:  ………………………………………………………….





Date:  …………………………………………………………………………



*Plagiarism, in this context, is the reproduction of material from books and articles without acknowledgement.  It is the act of passing off another person’s work as your own, copying a fellow student’s work or reproducing work submitted by a past student.  Such actions are seen as a form of cheating and, as such, are penalised by examiners according to their extent and gravity.


You should not quote existing work without quotation works and appropriate reference.  An attempt to present the work of someone else as your own may lead to your dissertation being awarded a mark of zero.  You are required to state the full references of all sources that you use.  If quotations are made, they must be explicitly and fully referenced, including stating the relevant page number(s).  You will be penalised very severely if examiners find that you have presented a section of a book, an article or a paper without appropriate referencing.  If you are not sure about how to quote an existing work, please ask for advice from your supervisor.



Appendix 6 Dissertation Ethics Checklist

Birmingham Business School

MSc Programmes

Dissertation Ethics Checklist

This form should be completed by the student.

MSc Programme  

Title of Project*


Name of Student and ID no.  
Email Address  
Name of Supervisor  

* A title that is descriptive of the project is required

1 Will the research project require the use of databases and internet resources?    
2 Will all databases and internet resources be used within the terms and conditions specified by the source of the data?    
3 Will you have access to confidential or personal records as part of your research?    

If you have answered NO to question 2 or YES to question 3, please attach an explanation on a separate sheet. Answer questions 4 to 8.

    YES NO
4 Will the research project involve asking people to participate in your research (e.g. for interviews or a survey)?    
5 Will it involve the collection of primary data from research participants?    
6 Will you have access to personal information that will allow you to identify research participants?    
7 Could the research results be used to inflict harm to any person or the general public?    
8 Will the publication of the results pose a risk of physical or psychological harm or distress to any person or the general public?    

If the answer to all of questions 4 to 8 above is NO, you can omit questions 9-20. Just tick box A or B as appropriate and sign.  If you have answered yes to any of questions 4 – 8 then you must answer questions 9 -20.


    YES NO N/A
9 Will you describe the main research procedures to participants in advance so that they are informed about what to expect?      
10 Will you tell participants that their participation is voluntary?      
11 Will the consent of participants be obtained (this includes observational research)?      
12 Will you tell participants that they may withdraw from research at any time and for any reason?      
13 Will you tell participants that their data will be treated with full confidentiality and their anonymity protected?      
14 Will participants be debriefed after the research is conducted (e.g.. give them a brief summary of the results)?      

If you have ticked NO to any of questions 9-14, please give an explanation on a separate sheet. [ N/A = not applicable.] Continue answering questions 15 – 20.

    YES NO N/A
15 Will your project involve deliberately misleading participants in any way?      
16 Could the study induce psychological stress or anxiety beyond the risks encountered in the participant’s normal life?      

If you have ticked YES to question 15 or 16, please give a full explanation on a separate sheet. Continue with questions 17-20.

    YES NO N/A
17 Does your project involve discussions of sensitive topics affecting individual respondents, or people engaged in illegal activities (e.g. drug use)?      
18 Does your project involve participants who are members of vulnerable groups e.g. school children (under 18 years of age), people with learning or communication difficulties, in custodial care etc…?      
19 Does your project involve participants with whom you have a working or personal relationship (e.g. employer, employee, friend, colleague, family member, University staff or students in the same school as the researcher etc..)?      
20 Does your project involve participants, as a group, who have particular cultural, religious or social beliefs that you should be sensitive to?      

If you have ticked YES to any of questions 17 to 20 above, please give a full explanation on a separate sheet.

There is an obligation on the researcher to bring to the attention of the School Research Ethics Coordinator any issues with ethical implications not clearly covered by the above checklist.



Please Tick either box A or box B below:


A. I consider that this project has no significant ethical implications to be brought before the School Research Ethics Coordinator.


B. I consider that this project may have ethical implications that should be brought before the School Research Ethics Coordinator.

If you tick box B above, please provide all further information listed below in a separate attachment

Title of project

Purpose of the project and its academic rationale

A clear but concise statement of any ethical considerations raised by the project and how you intend to deal with them.

This form (signed, and including any attachments) should be submitted to the School Research Ethics Coordinator.




Print Name Date
(MSc Researcher)


Print Name Date




Print Name Date
(School Research Ethics Co-ordinator)


A Guide to completing the Ethics Form[1]

All students are now required to submit a duly completed Ethics Form to Canvas. This ethics form can be found in the learning material section of the International Accounting and Finance Canvas page. Your Dissertation will NOT be accepted if this document has not been submitted.


A brief guide to the Extended Essay (Dissertation) Ethics Checklist




The Ethics Checklist must be signed by you and submitted with your Dissertation proposal.

The purpose of the checklist is to provide a focus for your discussion with your Supervisor about the ethical aspects of your extended essay (Dissertation).  Every piece of research has ethical issues (just like life!).  The questions are designed to get you to think about particular aspects of your research that may trigger the need to think about the design of the study.  The idea is not to make research impossible – just to contribute to making the research we do the best quality we can.  There may be other issues that your research raises that are not covered by the checklist.  If they are significant or you and your Supervisor are unsure how to deal with them, then you should tick box B on page 2..  The checklist form provides documentation that demonstrates your awareness that the ethical conduct of your research is your responsibility, and that you have considered it in conjunction with your Supervisor.  This level of care would be important in supporting your argument that you took mitigating action to reduce risk to others should any claims against yourself or the University arise as a result of your research.  In order for this to be helpful, you must of course do what you have indicated on the checklist that you will do.  It also means that if your research changes substantially in ways that affect the accuracy of the checklist you should work through it again with your Supervisor and re-submit it.


The next section is not a comprehensive guide to every question on the checklist.  You can discuss them with your Supervisor.  What I have sought to do is to provide you with an overview of what the questions on the form are about and highlight some common issues that arise.

Working through the form:

The first box is basic information about you and your extended essay (Dissertation).  A descriptive title is important – it helps you to keep your focus in doing your research and it gives your Supervisor an indication of some potential ethical issues in your research.


Questions 1-3

These questions are designed to get you to think about how you use what are often referred to as ‘secondary research’ resources (databases, records, material from the internet).  There are ethical issues even if you are not doing a survey or interviewing people.  The Data Protection Act has strong requirements to protect people where data is stored about them, so receiving personal information about individuals and especially giving such information to others must be carefully considered in the light of the requirements.

Example: If your research requires access to a database that requires that you pay and you can’t afford to (don’t want to, or otherwise couldn’t get access to) – you may consider getting a ‘friend’ to access the data and pass it on to you.  It is very likely that this is theft of data and against the terms and conditions of the use of the database.  So you should neither receive nor pass on data this way.


Questions 4-8

These questions relate to the collection of ‘primary research’ data.  That is, data that you collect directly from people who participate in your research.  If you are not doing any primary research or potential harm (i.e. all the answers to questions 4-8 are ‘no’), you can simply tick box A or B as appropriate and sign.


If you are undertaking primary research – you will tick ‘yes’ to some of questions 4-6.  In that case you also need to work through questions 9-20.  Think about each of the questions in relation to your proposed research and how you can make it as safe and productive as possible.  Note that if you are asking people to give you their time, it is important that we make the best use of that data as possible and treat it with care and respect.


If you tick ‘yes’ to question 5, it is most likely that you have to tick ‘yes’ to question 4 (how can people participate if you haven’t asked them to in some way?).  The invitation to participate is an important step in achieving informed consent and making sure that participants feel that they have a choice about whether or not to be part of your research (ability to opt in or out).


Example:If your Mum, Dad, Uncle (etc..) is the owner of the company and he/she tells employees they must help out with your research – your participants’ rights have not been protected in your research design.  There is a more familiar problem with getting your friends to do a survey or interviews for your research.  Will they feel that their friendship with you is at risk if they refuse? If so they may not feel free to opt out.  In general any relationship with participants may interfere with preserving their rights – but often that is the way that we get access to case study sites or survey participants. So, we need to take care with how participation in the project is presented to the potential participants in that situation (including how your Mum, Dad, friend, Uncle etc. tells them about your project). It is not that you can’t do the research – you just need to take some extra care.


Note that it is best, if you are contacting a third party through a company or someone you know, that you do not do that directly.  Giving you the personal data of a third person may put your contact in breach of the Data Protection Act.  Rather, they can contact the potential participants informing them of the research and ask them either to contact you or give permission for your contact to pass on their details to you. The first option is the ‘safest’ but often people don’t initiate contact – so it may result in a smaller sample. You should consider your options in your research design.


If you have access to sensitive or personal information about participants you must store and secure it carefully. Employees of the government have recently been guilty of putting sensitive data on CDs and USB drives and losing it. Let’s NOT follow their example! Make sure you have thought about procedures for keeping data as anonymous and secure as possible, and be sure to tell your participants how you will protect their confidentiality. If you are creating a database of personal information it will fall under the Data Protection Act – so you must conform to its requirements which are embodied in the University’s Data Protection Policy (http://www.legalservices.bham.ac.uk/campusonly/dataprotection/university.htm).


Questions 7 and 8 ask you to think about the research from the perspective of the participants and the general public. Could they suffer any harm as a result of participating in or the outcome of your research? Often the first inclination is to think – of course not! However, it is important to actually think this through carefully. Once again, the risk of doing harm doesn’t mean you cannot do the research – it means that you must design the research to reduce the risk to as close to non-existent as possible.It is also important that you inform participants of the risks to them and how you will mitigate them when you invite them to participate.


Example: if you are asking employees questions about the company they work in, and they answer honestly (and what they say doesn’t reflect well on their employer!) then there is a risk of possible harm to the employee (through risks to their employment or promotion prospects). Similarly, if you do a case study that suggests a company has weaknesses that may be exploitedby competitors, or that could reduce the confidence customers and suppliers have in it, then you may do harm. Ways to reduce this risk include not naming the company or participants, and doing your best to ensure that neither would be identifiable. Note that unless you take steps to make it confidential, you should treat your extended essay (Dissertation) as a public document.


Questions 9-14

These questions are designed to get you to think about how you can ensure that the primary data you collect and store is obtained and handled in a way that protects participants’ rights, and creates a high quality research process and output. The participants have the right to be fully informed about your project before they agree to participate. This includes its purpose, who you are and who else is associated with the research, whom they may contact and how to do so to find out further information or indeed opt out, how you will store their data, data confidentiality and their potential identifiability, what the risks and benefits of participating are. If you have a reason to deceive them, this is covered in question 15. Once again there are situations in which this can be justified, but then it is normally important that they are debriefed and told what the research was actually about afterwards. Note that if you tell participants that you will do something you are also duty bound to do it!


Questions 15-16

These questions are designed to find out about higher risk category research designs. As mentioned above you may need to temporarily mislead participants in order to investigate the real issue. This usually happens where respondents’ answers would be biased by knowing what you were really asking about. Or perhaps you inform them you are observing what they do for a reason that is not accurate so as not to make them self-conscious about the aspect you actually wish to observe. In these cases there is usually no actual harm done to the participant or increased risk to them. The difficulty with misleading participants is that it involves breaking their trust and they do have the right to withdraw their data from the research, so it has to be handled very carefully. If you just leave them not knowing the real purpose – and they do find out – they may take action against you and your failure to tell them has not benefitted the research, it just saved you some trouble. Good quality research involving deception is done, but it does have to be done very carefully! One type of deception that is not ok is effectively conducting industrial espionage. While it may sound like something out of a novel, it is possible that ‘Company A’ may ask you to find out sensitive information from a competitor without disclosing you are in fact reporting to Company A. This deception actually disadvantages the participant in the research and depending on the information obtained, may be illegal. You should not agree to this.


Similarly if you are considering placing participants in a stressful situation for the purposes of your research, then this has to be handled very carefully. It is very rare in business schools – but these days being an investment banker and being asked about your share price or asset backing could be very stressful – so do consider it from the point of view of the participant!


Questions 17-20

Once again these questions encourage you to think about issues in conducting primary research which may have design implications for your study. There is also a question about your safety as a researcher that you should consider. If you are asking people about illegal activities (e.g. tax evasion, money laundering) or perhaps not directly doing so – but indirectly putting together information that would reveal such potentially criminal behaviour – you may put yourself at risk. You may also face an obligation to reveal what you know to the relevant authorities (a difficult ethical situation if you have promised confidentiality, but it may be required by law or your sense of moral obligation).


Question 18 asks about vulnerable groups of participants. If you are talking to employees or business people, then it is unlikely that your participants will fall in this category. If you are not sure then you should talk to your Supervisor about this.  Note that there are legal requirements for police checks if you are going to be working with young children.


Question 19 picks up on the issue discussed at Question 4. A personal relationship with participants should be thought through carefully and care should be taken to protect their rights.


Question 20 suggests that you think about ways in which your research participants may be different to you. There may be a need to take special consideration of their social, religious or cultural beliefs in order to interact with them in a way that is not impolite. Or it may be a question as basic as language. If you don’t speak the same language as your participants how can you be sure you have communicated the nature of the project and their rights properly? How will you have their responses translated etc…?


Example: in New Zealand the indigenous people (Maori) may consider it rude if you ask to speak to a group of them and don’t provide a meal. It is also extremely offensive to sit on a table. Other cultures expect you to remove your shoes when you enter a home, not make substantial eye contact, have different attitudes to being recorded etc… Once again the key is to find out what is important to your participants and take care to act in a way that they will be comfortable with.


Box A or B?

Pick a box! Think about whether or not there are any significant ethical issues that need to be considered at the School level. If there are not then tick A, if there are then tick B.


Researcher safety

There isn’t a specific question on the form, but you should also consider your own safety. If you are planning to conduct interviews make sure someone close to you knows where you are going and when to expect you back. While it is appropriate to organise interviews in locations that participants are comfortable with, it should never be at the risk of the safety of the researcher. Similarly if you are planning to ask people to complete a survey in public – be sure that you are in a safe place and you have thought about with how to get help should anyone becomes aggressive.


Example: The participant wants to meet at a coffee shop at a time and location that means you won’t have reliable public transport home. Negotiate a different time/location – most people are understanding about the public transport system! If you can’t meet safely then perhaps you can do a telephone interview instead.


Conclusion and contact information

Taken all together, a careful consideration of the ethical issues in your research will contribute to a better quality project. Any time taken filling in the form will be worthwhile in establishing a clear idea of what your research is about and what you need to do to achieve your research goal.





















Appendix 7 Consent Form for Volunteers







This pro-forma has been produced by the School Research Ethics Co-ordinator for the guidance of students and researchers.  You should amend the information as necessary.








The confidentiality of personal information and the anonymity of all volunteers involved in this investigation will be preserved in the following way:






I understand the nature and the purpose of the research study being conducted.  I have had the opportunity to discuss it with the researchers and to ask any questions.  I agree to take part in the above project and I have been informed that I am free to withdraw at any time.



Signed: ………………………………………………………………………



Dated: ………………………………………………………………………..








Dissertation Module- 07 07941

Dissertation Marking Criteria Details


Appendix 8 Dissertation Marker’s Report


Grade Introduction Literature Review Methodology Data presentation Analysis Conclusions



An introduction that provides an excellent motivation for the dissertation and also excellently states:


– the objective(s) to be pursued; and


– arrangement of the rest of the dissertation.



A literature review that is comprehensive in scope and depth




– shows excellent  understanding of the appropriate conceptual framework and a sound application of the framework to a research problem;


– directly supports the research problem;


– (where appropriate) identifies a testable hypothesis; and


– uses appropriate sources of information.


Excellent description of the method of analysis used is provided;


– (where appropriate) excellent description, and justification, of the variables and technique(s) of analysis used; and


– excellent understanding of the method (and technique(s), where appropriate) is demonstrated.



(Where appropriate) Excellent description of the following is provided:


– the source(s) of data used;


– the study period used and the justification for using the period;


– how the data was collected;


– how the study sample was selected;




– the summary statistics of the sample.



A comprehensive and focused analysis is provided; and


– (where appropriate) excellent presentation, interpretation and discussion of the results obtained from the test(s) of the hypothesis is provided.




A comprehensive set of coherent, logically-derived conclusions supported by, and drawn directly from, the results of the analysis undertaken is provided;


– an excellent explanation of the relationship of the conclusions to the literature is provided; and


– recommendations for further research are made and explained excellently.


Grade Introduction Literature Review Methodology Data presentation Analysis Conclusions
Merit An introduction that provides a good motivation for the dissertation and also contains:


– the objective(s) to be pursued;  and


– arrangement of the rest of the dissertation.



A literature review that shows a good understanding of the literature and also do the following:


– identifies the appropriate conceptual framework and makes a reasonable attempt to apply the  framework to a research problem;


– directly supports the research problem;


-(where appropriate) identifies a  testable hypothesis; and


– uses appropriate sources of information.

A good description of the method of analysis used is provided;


– (where appropriate) a  good description, and justification, of the variables and technique(s) of analysis used is provided; and


– a good understanding of the method (and technique(s), where appropriate) is demonstrated.


(Where appropriate) A good description of the following is provided:


– the source(s) of data used;


– the study period used and the justification for using the period;


– how the data was collected;


– how the study sample was selected; and


– the summary statistics of the sample.


A good analysis is presented and related to the objective(s) of the dissertation; and


– (where appropriate) a good presentation, interpretation and discussion of the results obtained from the test(s) of the hypothesis is provided.


A good set of logically-

derived conclusions drawn from the results of the analysis undertaken is provided;


– a good explanation of the relationship of the conclusions to the literature is also provided; and


– recommendations for further research are made and explained well


Grade Introduction Literature Review Methodology Data presentation Analysis Conclusions
Pass       An introduction that provides a satisfactory motivation for the dissertation; and/or


– contains the objective(s) to be pursued; and/or


-contains  arrangement of the rest of the dissertation.



A literature review that shows a satisfactory understanding of the literature and also do some of the following:


– identifies  appropriate conceptual framework and attempts to apply the  framework to a research problem;


– supports the research problem;


-(where appropriate) identifies a testable hypothesis; and


– uses appropriate sources of information.

Adequate description of the method of analysis used is provided;


– (where appropriate) adequate description of the variables and techniques of analysis used is also provided;




– adequate understanding of the method (and technique(s), where appropriate) is demonstrated.

(Where appropriate) Adequate description of the following is provided:


– the source(s) of data used; and/or


– the study period used and the justification for using the period; and/or


– how the data used was collected; and/or


– how the study sample was selected;




– the summary statistics of the sample.


A satisfactory analysis is provided and related to the objective(s) of the dissertation; or


– (where appropriate) a satisfactory presentation,  interpretation and/or discussion of the results obtained from the tests of the hypothesis is provided.

Adequate effort made to draw and justify conclusions from the analysis undertaken and to recommend further research.


Grade Introduction Literature Review Methodology Data presentation Analysis Conclusions

An introduction that does not motivate the dissertation well;


or does not state the objective(s) of the dissertation clearly.


A literature review that:


– fails to identify the appropriate conceptual framework or uses an inappropriate conceptual framework;


– is narrow or shallow;


– (where appropriate) lacks a testable hypothesis or uses an unsuitable hypothesis; and/or


– has inadequate referencing of the sources used.

Lack of a clear methodology;


– or application of an inappropriate methodology or test technique(s) – where appropriate;


– or (where appropriate) inadequate description of the variables or technique(s) of analysis used.


(Where appropriate) lack of a clear description of the data used, or their sources;


– or inadequate description of the data and their sources.


Failure to analyse the data collected well;


– or failure to present, interpret or discuss the results of tests well


– or a weak or heavily biased analysis of data, presentation, interpretation or discussion of test results;


– or (where appropriate) failure to relate test results to the hypothesis tested.


Failure to draw conclusions from the results obtained;


– or failure to relate conclusions to the results;


– or a lack of recommendations;


– or failure to link recommendations to the conclusions drawn;


– or failure to relate conclusions and  recommendations to the literature.










Appendix 9 Time line of research activities: An example



Appendix 10 Submission Guide

MSc Dissertation Submission Guidance 2019/2020

-The Dissertation is due no later than 12noon on Wednesday 9th September 2020.

-If you need an extension, please fill in the form which can be found in the following link: https://coss.formstack.com/forms/extenuating_circumstances.   Please note that if you submit your final dissertation any later than the 9 September 2020 deadline, then we cannot guarantee that your degree will be conferred at the December 2020 Degree Congregation. The next available graduation date will be July 2020.

-Your Dissertation should be submitted via the online submission box, found in the ‘Assignments’ section of the ‘MSc International Accounting & Finance’ Canvas page. By submitting it in this way, it will automatically go through the Turnitin plagiarism software.

-You must make sure that your work is submitted online in a format that is supported by Canvas (e.g. Word). Advice about submitting work online can be found at the following link: https://canvas.bham.ac.uk/courses/185/pages/faq-submitting-assignments

-You need to include with your Dissertation a completed submission form, which can be found on Canvas. You must also have submitted a completed Ethics form to Canvas.

-After you have submitted your Dissertation online, you can re-submit your work if you wish. You can do this as many times as you like before the deadline. It will always be the most recent submission that will be marked.

-If you submit, or even re-submit your Dissertation after the deadline, you will incur late penalties. Late penalties are deducted at a rate of 5 marks per working day, starting at 12:01pm on the day of the deadline. Work submitted at 12.01pm on Wednesday 9th September 2020 will lose 5 marks, work submitted at 12.01pm on 9th September 2020 will lose 10 marks etc. If you re-submit your Dissertation after the deadline and have made few changes, or indeed none at all, you will still be subject to late penalties. Late penalties are applied by the MSc Programmes Office and are non-negotiable. Please also be advised that computer problems are not a satisfactory excuse for handing work in late, so please don’t leave it to the last minute and risk being caught out by a computer glitch.

-If you have any problems or queries regarding the submission of your dissertation, please do not hesitate to contact the MSc Programmes Office by email (mscinternationalaccountingandfinance@contacts.bham.ac.uk).

[1]This guide was prepared by R. W. Bailey (2014) as part of the Guidance on how to write your MSc Dissertation.

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