Writing a First Class UK Dissertation MBA
Writing a dissertation is always an onerous task. It requires plenty of planning and conceptualization in importance. It is also a task which will inevitably take a great deal of your time. Hence time management is of immense important while planning your MBA dissertation. In the middle of the rest of your coursework, assignments, presentations and discussions, you will need to make a reasonable amount of time your dissertation.
Usually, the faculty will tell you very early on in the academic year about the requirement to prepare a dissertation. Choosing a topic, getting it approved and finally doing your due diligence and research is bound to be a time consuming procedure. Hence start early, and you will be able to manage. In your MBA dissertation, your supervisors will be looking for a balance between information which is relevant to work as well as signs of intellectual engagement and a superior academic effort that matches a postgraduate qualification.
To begin with, it is good to be aware of the expectations from your dissertation. In other words, you dissertation will be tested on the following parameters- is the student able to test current knowledge to new and emergent scenarios, is the student acquainted with the existing literature in their area of research, has the candidate provided a relevant critique of what is already known , does the dissertation demonstrate the analytical abilities of the student. Further you will be evaluated to see if you have managed to address a management problem satisfactorily and in a competent manner.
MBA often end up submitting weak dissertations because their proposals are too broad or generic. Research has to be conducted on a specific and precise area which has to be narrowed down and selected from the broader area. You need a single question which has focus. Try working with existing theories and frameworks. Certainly, you will not have the time and even the intellectual ability to create new models or theories. Nothing is preventing you from presenting new theories, but do try and make use of existing theories. Your research question ought to be something which is of interest and has utility value. This will likely keep you engaged and motivated. There is no reason to spend time researching a topic you have zero interest in. Do not select impossible topics. Select an area, where at least moderate data exists so that you can gather information which is credible and useful. Keep in mind that your dissertation must be recommending something. It ought to make recommendations which have both practical and theoretical value. Do not end up overly focusing on one aspect of the recommendations else you result in losing focus on the other recommendations.
Remember to focus on the written aspects of your dissertation. No matter how hard you work, or how much you read, what matters is what you will write. Hence presentation, structure, grammar and language is of supreme importance. Pay adequate attention to these details. Most importantly, the reader has to understand what you want to convey. Follow the rough structure given below at the time of writing your dissertation
1. Executive Summary
3. Literature and theoretical background
4. Research Hypotheses
Follow this rough structure, but also ensure that there are appropriate linkages between all chapters so that it appears that you are making a logical and structured argument with substance. Ensure that each and every chapter has an introduction and a conclusion. You need to include sufficient signposts in every chapter to ensure that the various points that you are making are standing out and can be understood.
An executive summary is a crucial component to your work- it sums up the key arguments of your dissertation in about a page and no more. It has to ‘sell’ the most significant findings or arguments of your research in a succinct and crisp manner. Write it in a manner that the person reading your summary feels encouraged to delve deeper and read more of your actual research. The research should ideally state what you have researched, state why it is significant and sum up your main findings. The main findings should be stated in a few bullet points. Typically, you should write your summary after your research is done, since you will be familiar and would have completed all aspects of your research.
At the time of conducting research, stick to a few thumb rule questions which will keep your focus- what you are researching, why are you research it, where will you conduct your research, what questions do you expect to answer by the end. Also submit a brief summary of answers. How will you construct your dissertation to ensure that your answers are flowing from a logical argument.
In your literature review, you are expected to give a critical review. This review should take into account scholarly publications in academic journals. Findings from different studies should be mentioned and analyzed, particularly in relation to how they contribute to the formation and testing of your theory. Thought processes need to be traced and significant changes to a certain concept need to be highlighted for their implications in terms of theory and practice. In your literature review, you are certainly not expected to start at the very beginning of the history of your area, yet you are expected to show familiarity with the important and significant works and writers in it. You will be needed to take an intellectual position in your literature review. However, a major error that students make is that they tend to do the literature review after their research is done. This is a self-defeating step in research; literature review has to come very early in your research process and not later.
A substantial part of your dissertation will be occupied by research methodology. In this section, you are expected to elaborate on the manner in which you gathered your data, why this is a reliable way of data collection, how the approach you have selected is suited to the questions you have posed. You also have to state why you chose a certain method and the manner in which you will study your data, mention the tests and procedures you will use. Briefly mention the problems with your methods and their limitations and how it can be improved on.
The results chapter is another important section of your research. It is in this section that you outline the added value of your research. This is the data that will be unique to your dissertation.
Your conclusion chapter is probably as important as your chapter of introduction. It is in this last chapter that you have to tie up all arguments together to present a neat, coherent and logical case for your research. Importantly, this chapter will also include a critique of your findings. As MBA students, you might find this strange since you have been taught to never criticize your product or approach. Yet self-critique is appreciated in academia and is a hallmark of integrity. Thus acknowledge the limitations and drawbacks of your research and you should be able to state where it lacks. No research is perfect or complete. You are the best person to critique your research, hence be upfront but subtle in your criticisms. This section can also indicate the problems you encountered in the course of your research.
The conclusions section offers a good platform to communicate to the supervisors regarding what you have learnt while doing business research. You can also suggest a different approach that you could have used and how the results might have differed in that case. Your final section in the conclusion should include a note on proposed areas for further research. Most good research pieces always include a few suggestions on further research. Your aim should show that your own investigation has been productive in generating further avenues for research.
Finally, do remember that it is a grave mistake to suggest that the theories or findings that you are suggesting are complete or absolutely true and cannot be contested. A good theory is that which can be falsified, or in others words, a theory which has scope for being proved wrong. Your task is to present the best possible argument of your case. However, as a researcher, it is a compliment to you if your research is picked up by other researchers for refutation or reiteration. Writing an academic dissertation at the MBA level is a serious matter and involves operating within a certain framework and following a certain set of rules. Follow these rules, do your diligence and plan your time well and your dissertation is sure to impress your supervisors and readers. You may also find you own areas of interest where you might like to work further, in the course of your research. Remember that writing an MBA dissertation need not be all monotonous work; it can be a rewarding and intellectually fulfilling process as well