What are the project and dissertation?
Together, the Project and Dissertation (P&D) represent the final challenge of your MBA programme. They will test your ability to apply what you have learned in your module studies to a practical business problem, to develop rigorously argued conclusions and recommendations and to report them effectively. The P&D requires you to identify your own research question and investigate it without the subject being set for you as per your previous modules. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the different disciplines within business and your ability to ask the right questions yourself.
This is an important learning experience in terms of reflecting on the tools learnt throughout your studies and being able to put it into practice, which is what your MBA is all about.
The dissertation is submitted in part-fulfilment of the requirements for the award of a Masters degree. University regulations require that all MBA participants submit a dissertation.
The Project is the source of the data/information etc that you will critically analyse in your dissertation (i.e. the actual work you undertake - gathering data, reviewing literature, conducting interviews/surveys etc). It will tend to be based around an issue, problem or event. This can either be through looking at a 'live' project or through desk based research. In terms of the focus of your project it can range from company specific to a whole industry.
The Dissertation is an academic document in which you critically analyse your project, with full reference to current academic thinking. It is a structured argument which should reach some conclusions or recommendations.
It should demonstrate:
# learning from the MBA programme
# an understanding of subject literature
# appropriate use of methodology and analyses.
You will also show drive, determination and self-management skills in taking your work to a satisfactory conclusion in the agreed timescale.
You will be assessed on your Dissertation alone. All dissertations are assessed by a minimum of two members of staff, one of which will be your academic supervisor. Your work may also be reviewed by a 3rd marker, either an internal member of staff or an External Examiner.
Types of project
Projects tend to fall into two main types; those which are based on an in-company problem and those which are research orientated.
There is a difference between a project for your employer and the dissertation for your MBA. The dissertation is not part of the evaluation process of your company, but for the University, which will be looking for evidence of objective assessment.
Indeed, a very satisfactory dissertation could be written about a project which, from the employer's perspective, was a failure. Whilst based on the project, it is as much about the process of carrying out projects (of justification, of planning, and of control) as it is about the specific task undertaken.
The project objectives for the company are the focus of the dissertation. The main body may concentrate on such matters as the planning of the project, the critical review of decisions made, the weaknesses of the work, and any relevant theoretical frameworks (were they valid in this situation, and if not, why not?).
You might also look at what has been learned from this project which might be of value to the next, what went well (and why), what went badly (and why - could mistakes have been avoided?). It is not the topic, but the analytical and self-critical approach, that matters.
Independent research projects
These can be of two kinds (however, unlike the In-company project, the focus of both is a concept, theory or general business problem):
The library-based research project, where a student defines a problem area, and then discusses a chosen body of knowledge (can be both theories and pre-existing data), set of concepts, or theories, in relation to that particular area.
Empirical research projects, where a student is again required to define an area of concern, and then design and execute a piece of empirical research work within that area. This may contain a hypothesis.
The guiding principles are the same for both types of dissertation, namely, a critical review of existing and relevant literature, and a linking to relevant frameworks, theories and tools from the MBA course as a whole.
However, as a set of general guidelines:
The methodology section in independent research dissertations may not be as in depth as with In-company dissertations, however the author should explain the research methods chosen.
Given the more theoretical influence of the work in the independent research dissertations, more is expected in terms of the topic’s conceptual development, which may, for example, include a hypothesis or research propositions.
The independent research dissertation may not involve managerial recommendations as the emphasis; instead, it may conclude by proposing a new conceptual model or framework.