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ED6015: Dissertation (Education Studies)

PROJECT REPORT GUIDELINES

Role and purpose
  • The project is designed to give you an opportunity to present evidence of scholarship in a field related to education studies.
  • It must demonstrate familiarity with relevant literature, the use of research skills and systematic analysis of evidence.
  • It must seek to improve personal knowledge and understanding of professional practices in a defined area associated with education studies.
  • Above all, a research report should present new perspectives on professional knowledge and practices. It should, at minimum, confirm validity of continuing accepted practice of the known, in a contemporary context. At best, investigation should result in progress from the known to the unknown, and it should demonstrate the boldness of original thought, defended by sound debate.

Criteria for a successful dissertation report

  • Competent reporting of an investigation focused on a succinctly-defined problem or focus area.
  • Critical discussion of previous research in the field presented in relevant literature.
  • Evidence of personal investigation, including data collection, report and analysis of findings and a statement of further questions for immediate and/or future action resulting from your enquiry, perceptions and consequent thoughts.
  • Proposals for future development or research both in the immediate practical situation and more widely.
  • Statements of what you have learned as a result of the investigative process and how the work has, or should, improve your professional knowledge, understanding and skills.

Relationship to ES Programme content
The dissertation is designed to enable you to select a field of study which is of personal interest to you and of future value to you as someone with interests in the professional, working field of education studies. Within this chosen area, you should select a topic for investigation which focuses on the quality of provision associated with your programme of study.
The dissertation will usually follow the conventions of an evidenced based (empirical) enquiry related to first-hand information (data) gathering in settings such as schools, colleges, training organisations, youth organisations and their associated staff or student groups.
Relationship to your supervisor
It is part of the rationale of a dissertation that you conduct a good deal of this work under your own guidance and initiative. However, you will be allocated a supervisor who will help you:

  • focus down on the chosen research topic;
  • determine exactly what you are investigating and the key questions for research;
  • expand your review of literature for the section in the dissertation;
  • identify ethical issues you will have to consider and address;
  • investigate your data;
  • formulate appropriate conclusions.

Each supervisor has only a limited time allocation per student. You will therefore have just six formal sessions with your supervisor. It is important that you take full advantage of the opportunity to meet with your supervisor and that you make the visits totally focused on what you want to know. Your supervisor will support your initiative and provide feedback about your work progress within the specified time periods mentioned above.
A supervisor cannot give advice on your final draft submission and so you need to make good use of your individual tutorial sessions well before the time of final draft so that you know that you are moving along the right lines. You should remain in close contact with your supervisor and make an advance booking for tutorials during the specified time periods. Individual consultations with supervisors are your responsibility to arrange and so please be pro-active in this respect.

Supervisions and Tutorials

To help you gain maximum benefit from the supervisions and tutorials the following should be observed:

  • You must negotiate supervision times with your supervisor.  Each supervision has a time limit of 20 minutes.  You must maintain a record of the supervision meeting by completing the supervision log.
  • If you fail to use a scheduled tutorial time, no replacement will be made available. Responsibility for your own work is expected; no one will chase you to meet the requirements.
  • There will be no tutorials concerned with the dissertation during the fortnight preceding the submission date. Supervisors can take no responsibility for the quality of your work, if you do not take advantage of their expertise during the allocated time.
  • If progress is inhibited through illness or other personal difficulties, seek advice from your supervisor or the Module Leader.
  • Make an appointment to meet with your supervisor at least one week in advance.
  • Arrive with a carefully prepared progress report and notes of issues you wish to raise. An abstract of your work to date is good practice and may save you time at the end of the whole process. It is your responsibility to bring your Supervision log which you must fill in at each session. The supervisor will note your attendance and sign accordingly.
  • It is not the supervisor’s responsibility to proof-read the work, nor to re-draft sections for you. The supervisor advises modifications, additions and potential for further investigation lines.
  • Discuss and set realistic targets for your work, and keep to them.
  • Consider what the supervisor has to say in a positive manner. Try to keep an open mind and be prepared to consider a range of viewpoints. If all you are doing is reporting someone else’s ideas, without offering something of your own, the research report will lack the element of originality and academic rigour, which it should contain.
  • You must accept the academic conventions for writing research reports, so be prepared to accept the supervisor’s guidance in this aspect of your work.
  • At the end of a tutorial, the supervisor will sign your supervision log and record the advice given to you. This action plan will be reviewed at your next tutorial. You are given a proforma to assist.  Keep this safe, as you will need to present it with your dissertation report.
Presentation of the Research Report
  • There must be strict adherence to the conventions of presentation; failure to do so may affect the mark you will be given.
  • You may draw upon your own personal and professional experience, hence you could (but don’t have to) write the introduction and methodology section in the first person singular, and in the past tense. For all other sections, you should write in third person and present tense.
  • Protect confidentiality of identities by using pseudonyms, initials or numbers.
  • Use a thesaurus or synonym dictionary to extend your vocabulary.
  • The script should be font 12 point and consistent in style; lines must be 1.5 or double-spaced.
  • Margins need to be a minimum 3 cms.
  • Pagination is essential.
  • Each new section starts on a new page.
  • Ensure that the work, data collection and statements are professionally and ethically defensible and that the prevailing Data Protection Act is rigorously observed in collecting and presenting material.
  • Make sure you choose your words carefully to avoid sexist or derogative language, as well as stereotyping. As students of education studies it is particularly important that you use inclusive, positive language when discussing aspects of disability, ‘race’, gender, ethnicity, religion, social class or any other form of social or cultural difference.
  • All references must be accurately documented using the following guidelines:
  • Avoid footnotes
  • Make explicit reference within your text to all sources, using the Cite Them Right method. These should indicate the surname of the author, publication date and page in brackets, in the text e.g. Tomlinson (2001, p.205) postulates…
  • An author who has more than one reference in the same year is shown as Smith (2012a) suggests…… Smith (2012b) hypothesises….Authors with the same surname showing the same publication date may be distinguished by the inclusion of initials as Adams, P. (2011) notes… and Adams, E. (2011) contends…
  • The authors are listed in your List of References in alphabetical order. When the same author has several texts, list in chronological order.

Word Count

  • The word count of the dissertation does not include the Reference List and Appendices.
  • Convention allows you up to 800 words on either side of the stipulated 8,000 words.
  • More or less, a penalty is applied or may constitute a fail.
Completion Schedule
  • The schedule for writing a dissertation is very demanding. If you miss a deadline you could find yourself in difficulties by the submission time. Be disciplined in your approach, write a research plan with time allocations.
  • Computer spell-checks should be used, but English spelling conventions must be maintained, rather than American. You will need to check that all words are correctly spelt and used eg. Have/of; practice/practise; there/their; our/are; won/one. Check that grammar and punctuation are correct.
  • It is not your supervisor’s responsibility to correct the final draft. Ask a friend to read it out loud to you and to comment on its coherence and content.
  • Never submit work for examination without reading it first. Read it out loud to yourself or ask a friend to proof-read. Mistakes are more easily identified by such practice. Do a final check from the last to first page – this is good proof-reading practice.
  • Keep a personal copy of all work submitted.

STRUCTURE OF THE DISSERTATION

This is a ‘model’ structure for Education Research dissertations. Individual dissertations may vary in organisation only following negotiations between student and their supervisors. However, it is unlikely that a successful dissertation will deviate widely from this overall strategy.

Title Pages:
Front Cover

The front cover of your report must display:

  • The title of the project

(The title is important and, therefore, must be agreed with your supervisor.

  • The initial title should allow you to address one fundamental question and a minimum of three related ones.
  • The final title should be short, focused and invite attention)
  • The module code and title (ED6015: Education Studies)
  • Your Student ID
  • The Programme (BA Education Studies), the School (Cass School of Education and Communities) and the title of the University (University of East London)
Table of Contents
  • The titles of each section should be listed in chronological order and the page references provided.
  • Appendices are listed A, B, C etc., but pages do not have to be numbered.
Acknowledgements

Thank anyone who has assisted you in providing data or help with your investigation. You can refer to tutors and relations by name, but protect the identity of individuals and schools used in the investigations (particularly if sensitive data is presented).  Dedications are permitted.

Abstract (Approximately 150 words):

This is a brief overview of the aims, research questions (RQs), participants/institutions sampled, methods employed, and a brief account of findings and conclusion. Write approximately 150 words.
Introduction/Purpose and Aims (Approximately 800 words)

  • This provides the reasons for the AREA of research, which you have selected. It should present the overall question which you set out to address.
  • The introduction provides a reference point for all subsequent writing and will be written mostly in the past tense, with occasional reference to the present.
  • It should be possible to read this section and to go straight to the Conclusions and Recommendations, to gain a continuous understanding of the whole work and to be directed to different sections for additional information.
  • What do you want to find out, with whom, where, and why (referenced to literature)?
  • Why did you choose this area for research (referenced to literature but also to personal experience if appropriate)?
  • How is your proposed research important; identify key issues and debates (referenced to literature)?
  • Briefly define specific terminology in relation to your research (referenced to literature)
  • Who might be a potential user of this research?
  • What are the specific research questions?
Literature Review (Approximately 2000 words)
  • This should discuss the specific questions or problem you have identified, both with reference to relevant literature and with regard to professional practice.
  • You must demonstrate critical engagement with a wide range of literature:
  • Present the literature reviewed as a body rather than itemised individual pieces, incorporating a thematic approach.
  • Interrogate academic literature from a range of sources (e.g., books, chapters in edited books, journal articles, conference papers)
  • Elaborate on specific terminology/definitions in relation to your research (referenced to literature)
  • Engage critically with the literature by exploring, for example, gaps, weaknesses, strengths, contradictions, agreements and disagreements
  • There is never a case of there being no relevant literature on the subject. Think ‘outside the box’ and search journals and media reports for related items. Your tutor will give you some guidance, but become a researcher and engage in an ‘archaeological dig’.
  • It is useful to have a concluding paragraph in your literature review in which you state how your research will attempt to build upon/develop/extend what is already known. How does it influence your own research?
Methodology (Approximately 1600 words)
  • This chapter, written in the past tense, should identify the processes by which you set out and followed through the next stages of investigation.
  • State what research paradigm you used and why. What are its key principles?
  • State what methodological approach you used (e.g. Survey, Action Research, Case Study, Ethnography, Grounded Theory, Discourse Analysis, etc) and why.
  • State where you went to collect the data (the setting), the time frame used and the successes, limitations and problems experienced. Core readings and lecture notes will help your analysis of process and tools used for investigation.
  • Be sure to report the size and characteristics of the sample of participants (gender; age; faith; socio-economic status of parents-as applicable) and note how they were selected (probability (random) or non-probability (convenience) sampling, and why?).
  • What did you do to ensure that your reseach was valid and reliable? Triangulation (the use of two or more research methods / collection of data from different sources / engagement with a wide range of literature) is said to maximise the validity of qualitative research, but some researchers place more importance on integrity, honesty and comprehensiveness of coverage than on other validity criteria. Whilst the use of a minimum of two research methods to collect data is recommended, you must seek the approval of your supervisor if your particular methodological approach does not necessarily require this.
  • Never approach a school or other institution without knowing what you want to find out. You will be given an introductory letter by your supervisor when s/he is satisfied with your Ethics Form.
  • Agree, with your supervisor, the content of any further letters and questionnaires going to an external body.

Research Ethics (Approximately 600 words)

  • Demonstrate your understanding of ethical procedures and, where appropriate, how they were applied in your research.
  • Your discussion in this section must be supported with relevant literature on ethics.
  • The key word in this section is It is not just a question of stating, for example, what informed consent/assent is, but how it will be applied in your research.
  • What is informed consent? How did you gain informed consent in your research? Make reference to gate keeping.
  • What is meant by confidentiality and anonymity? How did you guarantee that confidentiality and anonymity were observed in your research?
  • What are the benefits of your research?
  • Discuss any possible risks in your research. How has your researcher identity and positioning had an impact on your research. Consider power relations in your role as researcher
Discussion of Findings (Approx. 2000 words)
  • In this section you should analyse your data. However, remember that the aim of your analysis is to answer your research questions! It might be useful to use a thematic approach to structure your analysis. Think about presenting your findings in different ways – this needs, however, to tie in with your research paradigm.
  • How did you sort, choose and make sense of your data?
  • How does your data support and/or contradict the literature on your topic?  Remember, you should refer to the literature reviewed in Chapter 2. If pertinent new literature becomes available at a later stage, you can of course draw on it, but make sure to incorporate it in the literature reviewed.
  • Anonymised raw data, such as excerpts from your interviews, must be drawn upon in the text to support the arguments you are making throughout the text.
  • Reference to relevant appendices, where appropriate, should be made throughout the text.
  • Take care not to indulge in assertions and assumptions. Take the available evidence and work with it, rather than engineering it to confirm a personal hypothesis or worse, prejudice.

Conclusion and Recommendations (Approx. 800 words)

  • Remember, most work involves too small a sample for results to ‘prove’ anything. The data provides indications and possible trends for further investigation. In education there are not truths – truth is transitory and relative to the criteria to which it applies at a specific time in history.
  • Refer back to your introduction and note the intentions at the outset of your work and summarise your subsequent discoveries. Provide guides to the chapters and pages where supporting evidence can be found.
  • Follow through with a statement of what value you would place on the work for yourself, for other professionals in the field and indicate areas of need for future research, with reasons.

A reader should be able to read your Introduction and this Chapter and gain a comprehensive, but succinct picture of what the whole dissertation is about.
References
The overall purposes of the reference list are:

  • To allow the reader to verify all sources used in the text to indicate the range of literature consulted.
  • You must use the conventions set out in Cite Them Right.

Do not include any text not explicitly mentioned in your text. There must be discernible evidence of having made reference to a work.
Appendices
Include here material necessary for the reader’s fuller understanding of the text. This must include:

  • A copy of your project time table or personal action plan, which should be annotated
  • Completed Research Supervision Log
  • A copy of your completed approved ethics form
  • A copy of the information letters/sheets and consent forms
  • If interviews were used to collect data, the interview questions (also known as interview protocol or interview schedule)
  • If questionnaires were used to collect data, a blank questionnaire
  • If observations were used to collect data, a blank Observation schedule
  • If interviews were used to collect data, anonymised transcripts and an indication of how you analyzed/coded the data.
  • If questionnaires were used to collect data, anonymized completed questionnaires and a summary of data from all the questionnaires, which could be presented in graph or tabular formats, as appropriate.
  • If observations were used, completed observation schedules
  • Appendices should not include ‘padding’ or other extraneous material.
  • A reader does not necessarily refer to the appendices, so do not include material that is essential for understanding when reading the main body of your work.

 

Criteria for marking Dissertations

Statement of research focus

  • Is the focus succinctly defined?
  • Is the focus a recognised educational problematic area?
  • Is a rationale for undertaking the particular study provided?
  • Is there an element of originality to the focus?
  • Are the aims of the research set out clearly?
  • Is the area of focus valid and useful to Education or related area of study?

Analysis and integration of relevant literature

  • Is there evidence of wide reading?
  • Are cited readings appropriate to the focus?
  • Do the readings cited show a range of opinions / previous findings?
  • Does the literature provide a suitable educational backdrop for the research?
  • How up-to-date are the references made?

Use of appropriate research techniques

  • Are the research methods clearly defined and discussed?
  • Is the choice of methodology justified?
  • Are other forms of methodology considered?
  • Does the methodology produce data and evidence pertinent to the focus?
  • Is a clear account of the various stages of the investigation given?
  • Are the research findings presented appropriately and accurately?

Evidence of a critical & analytical approach & synthesis of theory & findings

  • Is there evidence of a greater understanding?
  • Is the synthesis of theory and findings achieved?
  • Are the findings presented in a critical form?
  • Are their significance and limitations considered?
  • Is the argument well reasoned, considered, informed and developed?
  • Is the analysis substantiated by the findings and theory – does it address the focus?

Conclusion and suitable recommendations for action

  • Does it draw on learning from findings and theory?
  • Does it relate back to the focus?
  • Are the judgements and recommendations appropriate and meaningful?
  • Are they relevant to the immediate practical situation and more widely?
  • Are areas for future research recognised?

Presentation and structure

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Grammatical structure of writing
  • Referencing
  • Specific acknowledgements of sources
  • Clearly indicated sections
 

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