structure your dissertation in module




 Lincoln International Business School


Dissertation –BUS9036M




A guide to a recommended Structure for Postgraduate Dissertations





Ian Pownall, PhD, SFHEA, MA, BSc, DIS.


An adaptation of materials published: Pownall, I. and Acquaye, D. (2021). Guiding without prescribing – a structured image approach to postgraduate research support – (2021) .International Journal of Management Education,19,]

Adapted with the kind permission of David Acquaye, on whose original concept this framework is based.



Table of Contents

Welcome! 3

Thinking about your Time. 4

Thinking NOW about your time. 6

What have you already done?. 7

The Overall Dissertation Structure. 7

Word Count 9

The First Introduction Chapter 10

The Literature Review Chapter 12

The Methodology Chapter 19

The Findings and Analysis Chapter 24

The Concluding Chapter 26

Further Reading. 30






This is a guide as to how you can approach and structure your dissertation in module BUS9036M. It serves as a structured framework and complements the taught sessions in our module.


This guide is derived from the experiences of the successful completion of a PhD programme, with minor adaptations for postgraduate taught study.  It is built from a review of the issues arising from undertaking an initial research project at university for postgraduate students and framed using ideas and concepts from wicked and messy problems[1]. This framework is called TIPS (T(ime) I(mage) P(lan) S(ummary)). TIPS formally acknowledges the techniques put in place by the researcher to achieve a successful project.


  • T=time available for the research.
  • I=image identified from trends from literature or research questions.
  • P= the master plan to address key components of the research such as the methodology.
  • S= summary of the research through the abstract, chapters and overall summary.


A Quality Outcome (QO) is the summation of T, I , P and S


The guide is presented to offer you structure in your dissertation planning and writing as you progress through your research. The guide begins by considering the importance of time before then moving on to consider the overall structure of a dissertation (which you will consider as part of your proposal writing).




Thinking about your Time


Time is central to your thinking and work in your dissertation. You only have a short period of months (your available research time) in which to complete a successful dissertation project. This is made up of actual time (the time used on work specific to this project) and other time (the time spent on other activities).


Only you will know and can determine what your actual time for your project is and will be, but you do need to consider potential factors which might interfere with your planning.


Think about constructing a time management framework; this will limit the options and capacity you will have for excuses, procrastination, or self-sabotage in pursuit of your research.  You can ‘gain time’ in your schedule by, for example, combining research activities with other time commitments (e.g., the time travelling to class on the train is also time that could be used to read a research paper).


An example of how you might approach creating a time management framework follows. You can break down your total research time available into a time budget over say a week  (168 hours) to identify actual time for research.



Keep in mind that 168 hours equates to 10080 minutes in a week.  This will help when budgeting in the next section.


After calculating how much time is available realistically as actual time for research, you can then, following the guidelines for your chapters here, develop and maintain an estimation of how much of this actual time (TR) is available for the tasks in your research project.



This should be a living document and calculation reflecting your ongoing experiences. It is a more detailed and nuanced approach than generating an initial GANTT chart for your work (which is then rarely referred back to during your research).  It WILL change as you progress, and you should be prepared for and not worried by this.


A simple example worksheet can be used (see BB site) to help you calculate and determine the effective use of your available and actual research time.






Thinking NOW about your time


You will be studying this module in either the February cohort (studying the module from September that year of entry) or the September cohort (studying the module from February of the year after entry).  Planning your Time is critical to your success – especially as some processes that you need to complete involve others in gaining and supporting your intended research.

Ethical Approval for your work is one of these processes that you MUST allow sufficient time to complete. This is detailed more in section 3.9 of the Methodology discussion. However, the following is an indication of how you need to plan your time.


February Cohort When
Idea formation August/September
Start module September
Intention & Survey September- deadline 1st October
Supervisor Allocation Late September
Proposal Mid October
Literature Review* October – November
Methodology (framework**) October – November
Ethical Approval Submitted By (latest) End of November (aim for earlier!)
Data Collection December – January
Analysis January
Write Up January – February



September Cohort When
Idea formation November/December
Start Module January /February
Intention & Survey February
Supervisor Allocation February
Proposal Late February
Literature Review* March
Methodology (framework**) March/April
Ethical Approval Submitted Late April
Data Collection July/August
Analysis August/September
Write Up September/October


* You do not need to have developed a complete draft by this time – BUT you do need to have identified and developed any data collection instruments and constraints by this time
** You do not need to have developed a complete draft by this time – BUT you do need to have identified and justified HOW you wish to undertake your data collection.



What you should have done already


This guide assumes you have already undertaken some preliminary research to identify the area or problem you wish to conduct your research within. You should have a workable research title.


A supervisor will be allocated to you during the module and you will have access to the resources of the business school and university.


The Overall Dissertation Structure


Table 1: Overall Structure of your dissertation
Title Page i
Declaration Ii
Dedication iii
Acknowledgements iv
Abstract v
Table of Contents vi
Table of Tables vii
Table of Figures viii
Glossary of Acronyms (if applicable) ix

Numbering: Note that this section of your dissertation is numbered using ‘Roman Numerals’ (i, ii, iii, etc. as indicated). For ease of formatting the numbers, page and section breaks are highly recommended for this task.


Declarations- These are standard layouts for use in your dissertation.


On the cover of your work there should be the following statement:


·         Your Name

·         University of Lincoln

·         Lincoln International Business School


On the first page (inside the cover), you should give the title of the dissertation and your name should appear again; centred.






This page should be laid out in the following order:


Title of your work: Submitted in partial fulfilment of Name of your Masters’ Programme; Student Name; Student ID; Supervisor; Date Submitted; Word Count.  For example:


A comparative analysis of the use of ‘big-data’ in food retail: the case of Waitrose and Casino.


Submitted in partial fulfilment of:


MSc Marketing Management


Frank Go (GO196876769)

Supervised by Professor Elliott White


16th September 2022

12,034 Words


The second page must be a signed declaration that the work is your own. This must include the following statement:


I declare that this dissertation is my own work and that I have correctly acknowledged the work of others.  This dissertation is in accordance with University and College guidance on good academic conduct (and how to avoid plagiarism and other assessment irregularities). University guidance is available here.


Signed: Insert Your Name.





Dedication and Acknowledgements: Add these on your third page. These are personal; hence, you have the discretion of the names contained in the text. It is an opportunity to appreciate all stakeholders who have positively contributed to your research or education journey.


Abstract: Add this on your fourth page. It should be a strong statement summarising the entire research-it should clearly state the rationale or motivation of the research (why this research- what was the aim or purpose?); the methodology (how it was done) and the findings and its implications (what was found). No references are required. Preferably 3 paragraphs (in published output this tends to be reduced to one paragraph), maximum 250-300 words. Write the abstract using  the past tense.


Table of content: Add this to your fifth page. MS Word makes this easier by using relevant ‘Headings’. It will be advisable to watch a video on this (see here) if you are not very familiar with how to do this.


Table of Figures and Table of Tables:   Construct any necessary tables and the numbers of the pages on which they occur.  If the tables or figures are referred to more than once, they should be placed in the Appendices; if you refer to them just once, you may place the table or figures within the texts.


Where a significant amount of abbreviations has been used within the dissertation, it is preferred that a glossary of acronyms is also added.




The entire work must be paginated.


12-point font (lettering) must be used with 1.5 spacing on one side of the paper. Your headings should be differentiated from your main body text; for example, use Times Roman for the main body text and Arial for the section or chapter headings; alternatively use bold/underlining.


Margins must be 30mm on the left-hand side of the page and 25mm on the right-hand side, top, and bottom of the page.


Referencing should be fully compliant with Harvard Referencing.


If you would like to retain a hard copy of your dissertation, please feel free to bind one for yourself; you only submit electronic copies of your final thesis.

Chapter 1 – Introduction I
Chapter 2 – Literature Review J
Chapter 3 – Methodology & Methods K
Chapter 4 – Findings & Analysis L
Chapter 5 – Conclusion & Recommendations M
References (Insert the EndNote Library used in Harvard format) N
Appendices (Neatly format them E.g., Questionnaire, Ethical Approval (LEAS)) O





Word Count


As a guide you may consider the following word counts /chapter as helpful – Introduction (1-2K), Literature Review (2-3K), Aims and Objectives (1-1.5K), Methodology(2-3K), Findings (2-3K), Analysis and Discussion(1-2K), Conclusions (1-2K))


[Word counts suggested are ONLY indictive. They are NOT prescriptive and are offered on the basis of indicative guidance for a ‘standard’ research design thesis focused upon primary data collection and analysis. Your research design may be different].



The First Introduction Chapter


Table 2: Chapter 1 – Introduction: 

It is recommended that you make a sketch of this chapter when you start your research and use it as the working document. It will continue to provide your goal (the IMAGE of what you are seeking to achieve through your research). This sketch is then properly rewritten when you have completed all the other chapters. With the aid of your proposal, the introduction should provide the purpose of your work and reaffirm what you seeking to achieve.


Background Context or Background of Research

This is basically the ‘introduction of the introduction’. An opportunity is given here to put the research in context. It should have solid citations embedded in it. Note that you are trying to build a strong case for the justification of the research.



Problem Statement or Research Problem

This is why you are doing the research-it is the ‘problem’ you are investigating. You need to think then about WHY are you doing this? Is there a particular need – or a particular audience?  Do you believe there is a gap in understanding or indeed a misunderstanding? Or do you see value in taking an idea from one area and applying it as a new idea to another area? All of these questions (and more) provide your reason and sustain the IMAGE of what you are seeking to achieve.


Note that the problem statement should have a solid academic underpinning (supported with the literature) and practice.  It will typically reference and use the ‘core’ literature (with the big names in that area that you have identified or been guided to) and that you are using / intending to use to structure your research.



‘Rationale of research’ or ‘Significance of research’

This is the motivation as to why you chose this topic.  You have identified that there is an issue needing (in your view) to be addressed so now you must clarify and justify why you wish to undertake this research.  What are the benefits of this knowledge?


The focus here is upon the potential impact that is likely to be made within the research space, the community, the sector, or with other stakeholders.  You may ultimately be contributing to theory (the literature), methodology and practice.



Research questions:

These are key questions generated from the research problem as a result of reviewing the literature and thinking more about your topic.  They are the inconsistencies in the literature, the ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ many times over. It is highly recommended that you build questions around the theories (gaps or inconsistencies or areas for improvement), and specifically the key area of your intended contribution, with possibly another around challenges, bottlenecks, etc. These research questions will be instrumental in the writing of the literature review, the design of your methodology, and the analysis and writing of the conclusion. It must be done with attention to detail, even at this early stage of first drafting.  Keep your eye on the finish line.



Bringing together your research aim (s) and objectives

The aim is not very different from your topic or the research problem; it tends to reaffirm what is being researched. However, think of this as ‘the big statement’ which then needs some formal and structured steps (objectives) in order for the aim to be achieved.


The aim of your research needs to be clear, robust, rational, and above all defensible under scrutiny of academic experts.


Prepare your objectives (to-do list) in such a way that they interrogate the aim of the research. Typically, the objectives are the action points (the research questions) that the successful completion of will cumulatively achieve the aim of the research.  You want them to vigorously challenge and test your theories so as to add strength and solidity to the final result.


It is good practice to ensure the questions are aimed at addressing the objective.




Research Aim: A Critical exploration of the expression of national cultural bias in the operational management practices of Logistics managers – Case Carrefour.


Research Questions:


1)     Critical exploration of national culture and its identification

2)     The review of the scope of practices of operational managers specifically in retail

3)     A critical review of the identification and measurement of bias evidenced through management practices


Snapshot of methodology

You may include a snapshot of a methodology in this chapter. For example, stating some relevant hypotheses (its derivation should be given adequate attention in the methodology later) and investigated in the analysis chapter. If some specific techniques were used (e.g., Event Study, Content Analysis, Structural Equation Modelling etc.), state them in the text. Also, you may generally add to your discussion whether the research is a qualitative or quantitative research. One paragraph (120-150 words) will be adequate because of the later whole chapter is dedicated to this section.



Structure of research

This is where you signpost your reader on how the research is structured. State the number of chapters (including how they flow into each other) and present with very short narratives on what each chapter entails.


As outlined earlier, you will be rewriting and updating this chapter as your work proceeds.



The Literature Review Chapter


Table 3: Chapter 2 – Literature Review 

2.          The literature should have a theoretical bias or a theoretical foundation. Even an applied piece of research such as a Business Plan – will draw upon established frameworks of understanding and knowledge to construct.


The literature should rely extensively on peer-reviewed journal articles wherever possible. Aim for a journal bias over textbooks.


3.          The articles used in the literature should be contemporary in nature: It is recommended that a sizeable amount of the literature should not be more than 5 years old for most topics you may focus upon. You will develop a focus upon Quality Reading (QR) through completing the literature review.


The value of the literature should be in its critical use and not reliant upon its descriptive: in other words, identify the common themes amongst the articles; the conflicts; the small differences and examine extensively.


Note that the literature should address the research questions (or research objectives). This should be very clear in the chapter.



o State the purpose of the chapter

o Discuss the key highlights of the chapter

o A paragraph or two here will be adequate. Ensure it is coherent and has depth.



Research Question 1/Objective 1:

o   Identify 3 to 5 leading articles relating to this research objective or question; Examine the common grounds and connections in that work; Examine the conflicts and minute similarities and differences; Examine the gaps etc. extensively.

o   As you direct the discussion towards this research question (or objective), make good use of the reference list (the citations made by your leading authors in their work that you are using) and retrieve these articles yourself.

o   Use a numbering system: 2.2.1; 2.2.2 etc. (Heading 2) under this section


You may find using the Harzing Publish or Perish literature tool helpful in constructing and tracking sources from work you cite. Go here (it is a free meta tool).


Research 2 or Objective 2:

o Repeat the same process as above. Continue this for all the research questions or objectives.



Conclusion of chapter:

Provide a reflective summary for the chapter and set a tone for the next chapter.


Your summary must generate some form of map / conceptual output / structure of themes and topics that are then used to structure and shape what information you collect / will need when you apply your methodology, and any data collection tools in the next chapter.


Sometimes this is called generating a conceptual framework from the literature.


An outline of the chapter is suggested below using the example research aim (also see Planning section later in this guide).




Notes A simple example of how literature might be used to support your research questions about the scope and benefits of completing a dissertation:


F Leading Authors or articles Findings of the authors 

Should a dissertation have structure?

1a:  Taylor & Satu (2015) Dissertation is a structured document…
1b: Jason et. al (2016) The structure of dissertation is varied…
1c: Bailey & Ammo (2020) Dissertation does not need a structure…

What are the benefits

of writing a dissertation?

2a: Ericsson & Erics (2010) Critical for job application after graduation….
2b: Keeton & Keeton (2015) It helps with a PhD application
2c: Sefa et al. (2016) It equips the student with soft skills
2d: Blay & Clarke (2018) Other alternatives have better advantages

You can do the same with your research questions.


As per the required word count, appropriately allocate this across your 3-5 research questions or objectives.

Keyword Search Use keyword searches from peer-reviewed databases such as the following:

Library Search Lincoln University Library Search
Referencing Software (free) EndNote and RefWorks
Electronic Journals by Discipline Here
Browse Business Journals Browzine
Student Dissertations in the library Browse them here
Interlibrary Loans – for works not held in Lincoln Submit a request


EndNote You may use EndNote (or other referencing software) to build a library of all articles you retrieve to help with your citations. It is recommended that, you watch videos on how to use EndNote (Video or Video) if you are not very familiar with its use.


Used and adapted by permission from – David Acquaye ©

Table 4: You may use this template to assemble your articles for the literature-this will also help you build the EndNote Library
Topic: ‘What are the core factors influencing the choice of a UK university by an International Student ’.(Change to YOUR TITLE here)
Research Q/Objective Keywords used Author Title of article Key finding of article (you may use the abstract) Make a note on the methods used in the source(s)

Dedicate this to theory



















The Methodology Chapter

Table 5:  Chapter 3 – Methodology 

The objective of this chapter is to discuss the actions and mechanisms required for the implementation of the objectives of the research. The chapter should therefore achieve the following. Provide a suitable approach or design of the research; a clear philosophical stance of the research; clear justification for the choice of samples including validity and reliability; justification of methods used for analysis of data and the awareness of ethical issues and how they were addressed.




The introduction should address the objective of the chapter. This will set the agenda of the chapter from the start. Also, include key highlights of the chapter. Ensure that the introduction is clear and robust. A maximum of two paragraphs may be adequate.



Research Philosophy

In your discussion note the strengths and weaknesses of each of these philosophies that could be used to explore your aim. Then choose a philosophy with relevant justifications in the context of your research aim. This is where you may capture key words such as  epistemological, axiology, ontology etc. Alternatively, you may choose to discuss from the lens of positivism, interpretivism, realism, pragmatism etc.


A solid justification should be provided for the choice of your philosophy.  Draw upon your literature review and the nature of your problem as outlined in Chapter 1.



Research Design/Strategy

The objective of this section is to provide a scope for this research. You should discuss various designs and choose the most suitable one for the research. A clear justification should be provided. Some of the examples can include: Experimental, cross sectional, longitudinal, comparative, case study etc. Note the unique role this will have on your choice of methods for data analysis hence, this should be done with some attention to detail.


Remember that the choice of your philosophy shapes the choice of your design that shapes the choice of your data collection tools. In other words :


Your philosophy (how you feel your problem should be seen) – shapes your epistemology (how you argue knowledge is understood and constructed about your problem) – shapes your methodology (how you argue you can gather the type of information you need to progress your problem).


This defines your research design.



Research Approach – Quantitative or Qualitative

This discussion is next to clarify as to whether the research is qualitative or quantitative. As a result, it is likely to have significant influence on the data collection tools you develop and also the method of analysis of data.


For example – quantitative reasoning (deductive) is where concepts such as hypothesis testing can be examined in addition to the discussion or qualitative reasoning- has a focus on theory building. Add some degree of rigour by linking your justification of choice to the chosen philosophy.


A number of sampling techniques should be discussed with special emphasis on the justification for the sampling technique used for your research. The sampling technique should be clearly defined in the context of the relevant population. Again, the sample size should have deeper roots in literature and statistics (if applicable) to help with the generalisation of the findings (strong external validity of findings). If there are eligibility criteria set up for the choice of sample, you may have to capture this here (e.g. females over the age of 30 occupying defined managerial posts).



Data collection

The key objective of this section is to address the techniques used for collecting your data (instrumentation): primary and secondary data (questionnaire, interview, databases-E.g., FAME, annual reports, Yahoo Finance etc.). Link this discussion to your sampling and ethical considerations. If there are key measurements or eligibility criteria used in the choice of sample, you may capture them in this section here again.



Data analysis techniques

Discuss the relevant methods used for analysing your data. For example, if you are using inferential statistics, regression; t-tests, event study, structural equation modelling (SEM) or thematic analysis, content analysis, ethnographic techniques, descriptive statistics etc. You may also wish to give some attention and state the tools available to carry out this analysis (for example, Excel; SPSS; AMOS; NViVo; MaxQDA etc.). Again, address potential limitations to these methods. Measurements or formulas used in this research may also be given some attention.


Validity and Reliability

Some special attention should be given to the validity and reliability of the data. A reliability test, for example, can be performed to help with this section (such as Cronbach Alpha for statistical analyses). Ensure you have engaged with the literature and focus (it is often neglected).



Ethical Consideration


Lincoln University, like other universities, has an ethical procedure in place to ensure all research conducted, by staff and students alike, conforms to established ethical and good practice guidelines.


You will use the Lincoln Ethical Approval System (LEAS).


You may NOT conduct any research until you have received approval with a successful LEAS application.


You start your LEAS application  here.


Work with your supervisor when completing your application.

To COMPLETE your application, you will need:


·         Any participant information sheets (PI sheet)

·         Any questionnaire /interview questions and schedule

·         Any schedule for focus groups of other data collection approaches

·         Have considered the risks and data management of your proposed work*

·         Have considered the literature AND methodological arguments outlined so far in this guide before you commence your LEAS application.

·         Have considered the language used in your data collection instruments with your participants


There are approved university templates to guide you through a number of these tasks that you can adapt here or here.


All of this information is submitted at the same time as your LEAS application.


You cannot therefore undertake a successful LEAS application BEFORE you have considered and reviewed the literature and your methodology, as outlined in this and the previous section.


Research is broadly viewed as one of two kinds: that involving humans and that not involving humans. Both types need approval BEFORE you start any data collection. In the case of research not involving humans, you would complete with your supervisor a Project Registration Form (PRF). PRF applications are not formally reviewed and once submitted (after working with your supervisor) you will receive approval for the research to proceed. In the Business School you might complete a PRF application if for example you are undertaking a literature-based analysis or some other desk-based research.


For most research undertaken by students in the Business School however, you will complete a full LEAS application working with your supervisor. This will be signed off by you and your supervisor and then the second marker for your work will review it. Queries may follow from the review and which after they are addressed, you will receive approval.


If your proposed research involves any aspect of a special human characteristic (such as working with children) then your LEAS application is reviewed by a committee in LIBS prior to a decision being taken. This will take more time to approve.


In all cases, please ensure you allow enough time between submission of an application and the intended start of your research (this may take up to a month if there are complications and difficulties in the proposed work and/or the LEAS application).


Remember – all LEAS and PRF applications must include ALL supporting documentation required – this includes any questionnaires, interview schedules and participant information sheets etc. The University provides a number of templates for this information here or here.


Remember – you may only use approved questionnaire services – presently this is (where the university will create an account for you) or MS Forms.


Remember – you may NOT start any research until your application has received a ‘favourable review’ (received by email).


You will be allocated a first supervisor and a second marker who will help you through the ethical approval process and support you in your research.


*Generic guides are available to help you complete the risk assessment.






Constructing your data collection tools: 


If you are intending to use a questionnaire or other form of data collection instrument, this is the chapter where you outline its construction. This will follow from the emergent foci and outcomes of the literature review chapter. You don’t need to include a full copy of the constructed data collection tool (such as a questionnaire – which you would normally include as a blank in an Appendix). You can discuss your approach to the construction of a data collection tool here by using examples of what you have done.


Conclusion of chapter: 

Provide a reflective summary for the chapter and set a tone for the next chapter.


Your summary must fit the pieces of your methodology together. There must be some clear continuity and clarity in why you have proposed addressing your problem / research aim in a particular way.

















The Findings and Analysis Chapter

Table 6: Chapter 4 – Findings and Analysis or Analysis of Findings: 

The objective of this chapter is to examine the data collected in an attempt to find answers to the research questions. With the aid of the relevant tools captured in the previous chapter (for example SPSS, Excel, NViVo or qualitative coding etc.), the data is summarised using established mechanisms such as descriptive statistics and data visualisation-the findings or results. When inferences are made with findings in the context of theoretical and practical implications it addresses the ‘analysis’ component of the chapter. In short, the summary or presentation of the results is the findings, and the examination of the findings will constitute the analysis




The introduction should address the objective of the chapter. This will set the agenda of the chapter from the start. Also, include key highlights of the chapter. Ensure that the introduction is clear and robust enough. A maximum of two paragraphs may be adequate.



Sample characteristics

It would be a good idea to help your reader understand the characteristics of any sample. Here, use the relevant demographics, sample categorisation (sectors, type of product, department, and other grouping variables), response rate and other nominal variables captured. Integrate some of these variables and use relative frequencies or cumulative frequencies to polish the discussion. For example, ‘Age’ and ‘Gender’: A significant percentage (say 65%) of the respondents were men over 40 years old.

Another example can be ‘the finding revealed that, 7 out of the 10 (70%) banks were located in Liverpool with a cumulative profit of £4billion. This will set the tone for the discussion. After you have addressed the nature of the data, proceed to examine the data and findings in the context of the research questions.

If you are using a case study – ensure you present sufficient rich and deep information about that case and context to help the reader fully understand and be able to contextualise your results from that upcoming analysis.



Research Question 1 or Objective 1

If data has been collected to examine the research question, examine this set by paying attention to the following:

•       What method has been justified in the previous chapter for this objective?

•       For example, if this research question is to examine a linear relationship between some variables, hence you chose a regression, then proceed and carryout out a regression analysis for this objective.

•       For example, if this research question is to examine the occurrence of a particular phrase of word through a content analysis, then proceed with an inspection and/or use appropriate software.

•       Then interpret the outputs as results of the work.

•       The next step is to go beyond the data and make inferences to both theory (refer to the literature on this objective-compare your findings to these authors) and practice: try to get some practical examples to support your discussion.  In other words, what do your results mean in the wider context of what is known and understood about the problem you are researching?

•       Note that further interrogation can be done by manipulating the data with the grouping variables captured: for example, comparing the output when filters are applied to the data (By Sector; Gender; Size, etc.).

•       You must ensure that this objective has been given comprehensive attention before you move to the next one.


Research question 2 or Objective 2

Repeat the process as you did for ‘Research question 1 or objective 1’. This method here may be a test, an event study, ANOVA etc. Use the same principles, ensure there is some degree of rigour and depth in your discussion. For example, if this objective was done with an interview, ensure you have grouped the required questions under this research question or make a conscious effort to identify the relevant themes which will fit into this.



Research question N or objective N

This is your last research question or objective. Repeat the process as above. Your ability to re-engage with the literature and identify the practical implication of your findings suggests and conveys confidence to the reader/marker that you are in control of your research.



Conclusion of chapter

Provide a suitable conclusion to the chapter. Highlight the key findings and context of your analysis. Outline their relationship to your research questions.












The Concluding Chapter

Table 7:  Chapter 5 – Conclusions (and Recommendations) 

This chapter focuses on the summary of your work as the entire chapter. Attention should be given to how the objectives of the research have been carried out. The major findings and how they answer the research questions should also be given space. Probably the most important section of this chapter is the discussion relating to the practical and theoretical implication of the findings of the research. As you consider the whole work, you will be able to reflect on any new information/data you subsequently read/located. You will be able to comment about the starting point for your research journey. Would you have done something differently? You can comment about the dynamism of the research. Don’t forget your work is a snapshot, an image of the area you focused upon – but that is constantly evolving and changing too.





The introduction should address the objective of the chapter hence setting the agenda from the very start. Also include key highlights of the chapter. Ensure that the introduction is clear and robust enough. A maximum of two paragraphs may be adequate.



Review of research objectives

Take the opportunity to review all the objectives / research questions stated in the introductory chapter. For example, if one objective was to review relevant literature of the subject matter to form the conceptual framework of the research, discuss how you achieved this objective. In that example, the strategy adopted such as the use of key word searches, reliance on peer reviewed sources such as EBSCO host, Emerald, ProQuest etc. Confirm again how research questions were derived from the literature, possibly through some conflicts in the literature.  Endorse again, the use of leading authors or the use abstracts. Also, the instrumentality of tools such as EndNote or Mendeley to help achieve this objective. In this way you are communicating how each objective was achieved.




Major findings & answers to research questions

Focus on major findings from the previous chapter. Reinforce by summarising how these findings answer the research questions.


Practical and theoretical implication of findings

The bulk of the discussion in the conclusion chapter should be devoted to this section. What is the implication of your finding(s) in the context of practice and theory (literature-comparing to the ones earlier discussed and possibly new ones)? This section should have some degree of rigour-in your attempt to add further weight and credibility to findings of the research mindful also of the limits of your research.



Recommendation (s) for future research

Based on your findings (use 5.3 above), make relevant recommendation (s) for future research. For example, recommending aspects of your investigation in a different setting or sectors. Also, your major findings may generate a research theme which can trend in the research space.




The limitations of the research should also be given adequate attention. A clear statement should be made as to why these limitations may not nullify your findings (note that you have generalised your findings). Outline the challenges (if any) relating to data collection and method of analysis should be honestly addressed in this section.



Recommendation (if this is a project)

If this is a research project, some relevant recommendations should be made based on your findings. For example, if your topic is ‘The relevance of Dissertation in the Business School’ (as a project), you should make recommendations to the Business School based on your findings to inform their curriculum design and delivery. This section may be omitted if it is not technically a project.




Technically this is the ‘conclusion of the conclusion’. In an attempt to be consistent, every chapter should have a conclusion. Therefore, this particular conclusion should concentrate on the content of this chapter.















Further Reading

Further reading framing the issues experienced and support developed when undertaking student research in higher education.


  • Amran, N.N and Ibrahim,R. (2012). Academic rites of passage: reflection on a PhD journey. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 59, pp.528 – 534
  • Bienkowska, D., Klofsten, M. and Rasmussen, E. (2016). PhD Students in the Entrepreneurial University Perceived Support for Academic Entrepreneurship. European Journal of Education, 51(1). DOI: 10.1111/ejed.12160
  • Graham, J.M. and Kim, Y-H.,(2011). Predictors of Doctoral Student Success In Professional Psychology: Characteristics of Students, Programs, and Universities. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(4), 340-354. DOI: 10.1002/jclp.20767
  • Jones, M.(2013).Issues in Doctoral Studies: Forty Years of Journal Discussion- Where have we been and where are we going? International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 8, 83-104
  • Marshall, S. (1999). Supervising projects and dissertations. In Fry, H. Ketteridge, S and Marshall, S (Eds.). A handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (pp 108-119). Koogan Page: London.
  • Seale, J. (2010). Doing student voice work in higher education: an exploration of the value of participatory methods. British Educational Research Journal .36(6),995-1015.





[1] For further information you can review the published paper or review relevant work at the end of this guide, but, in essence, a messy problem is one that cannot easily be resolved with reference to precedents, experience, or well-defined and proven formula – the differences in how countries responded to the Covid-19 pandemic is a good example of a wicked problem.