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Module XME-4103:
Dissertation: Research Design

Module Facts

Run by School of Education and Human Development

60 Credits or 30 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Fliss Kyffin

Overall aims and purpose

The dissertation module is an opportunity for you to delve into an area of educational research in considerable depth, allowing you to explore the literature in an area relevant to your own interest and experience, and to plan your own research in this area.

Course content

There are two dissertation pathways; XME-4103 Research Design project, and XME-4100 Applied Research project. If you are not a practitioner currently working in education, this Research Design project may be your preferred option. If you are currently working in education, please also see the information on XME-4100.

For students not currently working in education who are interested in conducting an Applied Research project, a voluntary research internship option may also be available. This would involve working with a supervisor who is already running a research project; you would work closely with the supervisor to assist with data collection and analysis. Each year, these opportunities will be advertised to all students on the course, and you will have the opportunity to apply. Selection of students for the internship opportunities will occur following individual interviews.

If you do not have access to relevant settings for data collection then you will undertake a research design project. This will consist of a literature review, a proposed methodology - including in depth planning and critical discussion of methods and methodology, designing data collection tools (e.g. questionnaires, interviews, observation plans), and creating appropriate research ethics documents and a detailed discussion of data analysis. It will be presented as a 7000-word research design report (70%), a 20-minute viva presentation (15%) and a 2000 word critical reflection report following feedback from the viva (15%).

Following on from your research methods module (XME-4401 or XME-4001), you will be allocated to a supervisor who will support you throughout your dissertation period. You will meet regularly with your supervisor, and will agree a timeline for submissions of draft work for feedback.

Assessment Criteria


52% / 55% / 58% ( Pass). Adequate evidence of reading and planning. Limited evidence of critical reflection, understanding of key concepts and application of skills. A satisfactory description of research methods and analysis of results: conclusions are drawn from the results. An outline of ethical considerations provided. Sound overall structure and presentation.


62% / 65% / 68% (Merit) Showing insight and good evidence of critical reflection. Sustained and relevant chain of argument, good illustration, a sound basis of evidence and written with clarity.


74% / 80% / 87% / 95% ( Distinction). Outstanding in power of analysis, argument, originality, range of information, organisation, and stylistic quality.

Learning outcomes

  1. Conduct a contemporary, detailed literature review at Master level to demonstrate a critical and balanced judgement when reviewing research papers.

  2. Design a piece of quantitative and/or qualitative research, to address (a) relevant research question(s).

  3. Demonstrate an understanding of research methodology, and be able to justify the research method(s) chosen to address the research question(s).

  4. Describe how the research would be conducted, in appropriate detail.

  5. Demonstrate an understanding of appropriate data analysis related to the proposed study and research questions.

  6. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the proposed study through an assessed oral presentation.

  7. Critically discuss the key issues raised during the oral presentation, revising the proposed study where relevant.

  8. Demonstrate expert knowledge in relation to the chosen area of research.

  9. Consider ethical issues related to their research, understand the procedures needed to demonstrate compliance with School, College, University and workplace ethical requirements.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Research Design Report 70
20 minute VIVA Presentation 15
Critical Reflection Report 15

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Students working independently on their dissertations, including reading, writing and collecting data where appropriate.

One-to-one supervision

Meetings with Supervisor: The student will meet with the supervisor for 8 face to face/ e-mail /or Skype tutorials. (Supervisor reading of drafts and providing feedback: 20 hours)


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Show originality in the application of subject specific knowledge and understanding.
  • Adapt and transfer ideas from one educational context to another.
  • Identify problems, evaluate solutions and critique research associated with educational practice.
  • Acquire and analyse data in an educational context.
  • Adopt an ethically sound approach to research with children and vulnerable adults.


Resource implications for students

The resources will differ depending on the student's area of study. For example, some students may need to visit schools or settings and will need access to transport to do this. In this case students would need to pay for public or private transport.

Reading list

Supervisors will support students in finding literature appropriate to their study area. Research methods sources:

Bowen, G.A. 2009. Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method. Qualitative Research Journal. 9 (2). pp. 27-40.

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology. 3 (2). pp. 77-101.

Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. 2011. Research methods in education. 7th ed. Routledge: Abingdon.

Creswell, J.W. & Miller, D.L. 2000. Determining Validity in Qualitative Inquiry. Theory Into Practice. 39 (3). pp. 124-130.

Denscombe, M. 2010. The Good Research Guide for small-scale social research projects. 4th ed. Open University Press: Maidenhead.

Edwards, E. & Holland, J. 2013. What is qualitative interviewing? Bloomsbury: London.

Hopkins, D. 2014. A teacher's guide to classroom research. McGraw-Hill Education: New York.

Hyett, N., Kenny, A. & Dickson-Swift, V. 2014. Methodology or method? A critical review of qualitative case study reports. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being. 9 pp. 1-12.

Koshy, V. 2009. Action Research for Improving Educational Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide. 2nd ed. SAGE: London.

McNiff, J. 2016. You and your action research project. 4th ed. Routledge: London.

Newby, P. 2010. Research methods for education. Pearson Education Ltd: Harlow.

Nowell, L.S., Norris, J.M., White, D.E. & Moules, N.J. 2017.

Thematic Analysis; Striving to Meet the Trustworthiness Criteria. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. 16 pp. 1-13.

Owen, G.T. 2014. Qualitative Methods in Higher Education Policy Analysis: Using Interviews and Document Analysis. The Qualitative Report. 19 (26). pp. 1-19.

Robson, C. 2011. Real World Research. 3rd ed. John Wiley and Sons: Chichester. Stake, R.E. 1995. The art of case study research. SAGE: London.

Wilkinson, D. & Birmingham, P. 2003. Using research instruments; a guide for researchers. RoutledgeFalmer: London.

Yin, R.K. 2011. Qualitative research from start to finish. The Guilford Press: London.

Yin, R.K. 1984. Case study research: design and methods. SAGE: London.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: