Dissertation for master of Science international

The dissertation forms an important part of the assessment of the MSc International Business

Programme, carrying a weighting of four modules (60 credits), i.e., one third of the entire Programme. The dissertation requires a demonstration of ability to carry out an original investigation into an area of interest. As such, the process should reflect skills of formulating research questions, synthesising and analysing data, drawing insights and conclusions, and written communication.

The aims of the dissertation are to:

conduct an independent investigation of an issue relevant to the content of the MSc Programme of which it forms a component, under the supervision of an academic member of staff;put into practice theories and concepts learned on the Programme;provide an opportunity to study a particular topic in depth;combine relevant theories and suggest alternatives; andenable the student to show evidence of their ability to plan and manage a project within a given deadline.

The dissertation will normally address the following objectives:

to build on the fundaments of research taught in the Research Methods module;to review specific literature on issues relating to the selected area of enquiry;to adapt, modify or confirm research questions in light of the literature review;to select and justify an appropriate research design;to select and employ suitable methods/techniques to investigate the questions;to analyse any data collected; andto write a report covering an introduction, a review of the relevant literature, the research questions, an explanation and justification of the design, a description of the conduct and analysis of the research, and a discussion of the findings in relation to the literature and methodological issues, drawing insights and/or conclusions.

After completion of the dissertation students should be able to:

define, design and deliver an academically rigorous piece of research;understand the relationships between the theoretical concepts taught in class and their application in specific situations;show evidence of a critical and holistic knowledge and have a deeper understanding of their chosen subject area;appreciate practical implications and constraints of the specialist subject;understand the process and decisions to be made in managing a project within strict deadlines.

The main point of information will be through the dedicated module area on QM+. On this page the student will find:

a discussion board for questions and queries;an explanation of the supervision process and arrangements; anda full set of guidelines on different aspects of the dissertation.

Regulatory information

The Dissertation assessments must each be an individual piece of work in their entirety in full compliance to the letter and the spirit of Academic Regulations. Collection of relevant data, data processing, interpretation and analysis must be carried out individually by each student. Students must seek ethical approval from the University for any research which involves human participants (for details see here). The University’s Research Ethics Committee has granted authority to the School of Business and Management to carry out in-house consideration for ethical approval. Students should submit their application via the QMplus module page before the deadline. Secondary sources could be shared, but the search for secondary sources, and their interpretation and analysis must reflect the independent work of each individual student.Different students could well end up applying the same methodology, but the reasoning for choosing a specific methodology and the explanation of its implementation and epistemological implications must be original and independent from the work of other students.

You will need to obtain ethics approval before you can start the empirical work for your dissertation. If you do not do so, formal supervision will cease, and your dissertation will not be accepted for marking.

Research ethics is a fundamental part of research design and conduct. Research ethics principles underpin every aspect of a research study, from design to dissemination of findings and beyond, such as storage and use of data for future research. Addressing ethical issues requires researchers to reflect upon the design, recruitment method, eligibility criteria, consent process and the study information they provide to participants. Keeping ethical issues at the forefront leads to a high-quality application, which is a key component of the Queen Mary Ethics of Research Committee (QMERC) review and approval process and, ultimately, optimises the effectiveness of the research design.  

If you are collecting primary data you should complete the ethics form below. Please consider each section carefully – note that some sections will not apply to Business & Management students. The form should then be signed by the applicant and their advisor before being submitted for consideration.

There are two deadlines for submitting the ethics form (beginning of April and end of May). If you require a faster review of your submission, please contact us with your request.

TypeWeightingDetailsSubmission dateEthics Approval0%UngradedPlease refer to Qmplus for ethics submission dates in April and May. Dissertation100%10,000 wordsMonday 16 August 2021,  15:00

You will write a 10,000-word dissertation, to be completed in consultation with an appointed advisor, on an empirical study of a topic broadly concerned with International Business. The    empirical study will address specific research questions through the use of quantitative methods. The empirical study can also be based on secondary data when this is suitable.

Students should submit the dissertation as a Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF document online via QMplus. As with standard coursework, dissertation submissions received after the deadline will be subject to a late penalty. Please refer to the PG Student Handbook for further details.

Additional information/breakdown regarding assessment details:

Your dissertation will contain:


Is the rationale / justification for the research clearly explained? Is the research question(s) or problem clearly stated?

Literature Review

Has appropriate literature been chosen for review?  

Is there sufficient competence displayed in summarising the literature?Is the literature review broad/extensive enough?

Methods / Data collection 

Is there an adequate explanation of the research strategy/approach?

Have appropriate methods been used to tackle the research question/problem?

Has the choice of methods been justified?

Is there a full explanation of how the methods were used? 

Is there an adequate explanation of the data collection process and choices made (e.g. sampling, selection of data base, conceptual framework)?

Is the process, as described, appropriate (i.e. without serious flaws)?

Is there an explanation of any problems encountered and how these were overcome? Is there an awareness of any limitations in the approach taken?

Analysis & Findings

Has the data been analysed using appropriate techniques?

Is there evidence of the competent use of specific techniques (at a level appropriate for an MSc student)?

Has the data been analysed sufficiently to meet the research objectives?

Is there sufficient evidence of general analytical competence/insight at a level appropriate for an MSc student?

Is there an effective use of summaries/tables/diagrams or other appropriate data presentation devices?

Is there evidence of the ability to draw effective inferences or conclusions from the analysis?  Is the written discussion of the analysis and findings competent?


Are the implications of the results/findings discussed adequately?

Is there an attempt to relate the results/findings to the literature reviewed?

Are the results/findings used explicitly to answer the original question?

Are limitations adequately discussed?

Are areas for possible further study identified?

At the beginning of the process you will need to choose a topic and a type of dissertation. The choice is up to you but the advisor will be able to help you in defining the specific approach and the relevant research questions.

Explanations of marks awarded

Mark 80+  Work of exceptional quality and insight. Well written, with style and fluency, it will articulate a coherent argument and thesis. It will make excellent use of the literature, using a wealth of sources and developing an informative literature review. The dissertation will display a thorough and detailed justification of choice of method(s) and/or its (their) use. Methods chosen will be suitable for the research questions proposed and articulated without mistakes. The dissertation will provide insightful data that will be integrated seamlessly within the conceptual argument. Dissertations at this level are expected to show excellent critical ability, demonstrating maturity and self-reflection while engaging with novel and complex problems which are largely not discussed in the existing literature.   Mark 70-79  Work of excellent quality displaying high level of critical and innovative thought. Well written and well structured. It will articulate a coherent argument although the cohesion of different chapters might be less clear. It will make excellent use of the literature, using critically appropriate sources and developing a literature review which covers the most important sources. The dissertation will display a comprehensive justification of choice of method(s) and/or its (their) use. Methods chosen will be suitable for the research questions proposed and articulated without obvious mistakes. The dissertation will provide useful and interesting data tackling an areas of interest which is largely novel. Data is expected to show strong support for the argument developed. Dissertations at this level are expected to show good critical ability and the ability to articulate coherent explanations of complex problems.   Mark 60-69  Work of good quality displaying critical thought and the ability to develop a nuanced argument. Mostly well written and with a clear structure. A good attempt at developing a cohesive argument. It will develop a suitable literature review with only minor/secondary gaps. The dissertation will display a good justification of choice of method(s) and/or its (their) use. Methods chosen will be mostly suitable for the research questions proposed and articulated with only minor mistakes. The dissertation will provide a good attempt at tackling an area of interest which is mostly novel. Data is expected to show reasonable support for the argument developed. Dissertations at this level are expected to show a reasonable critical ability and the ability to articulate fairly developed explanations of complex problems.   Mark 50-59   Work of reasonable quality displaying at least some critical thought and the ability to develop a competent argument. Some lack of clarity or immaturity of expression but a clear structure. An acceptable attempt at developing a cohesive argument. It will develop a reasonable literature review with only minor/secondary gaps but a reliance on basic sources/course materials. The dissertation will display some justification of choice of method(s) and/or its (their)use. Methods chosen will be reasonably suitable for the research questions proposed and articulated without major mistakes. The dissertation will provide a reasonable attempt at tackling an area of interest although the area/problem might be of limited novelty. Data is expected to show an acceptable level of support for the argument developed. Dissertations at this level are expected to show at least some critical ability although details of the articulation might be superficial or lack clarity.   Mark 49 and lowerWork of poor quality displaying very little critical thought and lacking the ability to develop a competent argument. Lack of clarity and immaturity of expression. Weak structure that makes the work hard to follow. Poorly constructed or weak argument. The literature review will have serious gaps; excluding critical sources for the topic studied. The dissertation will display a poor justification of choice of method(s) and/or its (their) use or no justification at all. Methods chosen will be only marginally suitable for the research questions proposed and not articulated well. The dissertation will provide a poor attempt at tackling an area of interest and/or the area/problem might be of very limited novelty or interest. Data will be poorly presented and only loosely related to the argument. Dissertations at this level are expected to show poor critical ability.   

Responsibilities of the students

It is a student’s responsibility to:

attend the five meetings scheduled with the advisor, do any work prior or after such meetings and keep the advisor informed of the progress. Difficulties must be communicated at the time they are encountered. Retrospective information is not acceptable;write the dissertation in a good standard of clear English using appropriate academic terms and citation and referencing conventions. It is not the responsibility of the advisor to ensure that this condition is met;write the dissertation with guidance from the advisor; the dissertation and research work must be your own. The dissertation is to reflect your subject understanding and research abilities, not that of the advisor;inform the advisor (and Programme Director where appropriate) of any absence during the time nominated period for working on the dissertation.

Supervision and the role of your dissertation advisor


Dissertations are supervised and supervision takes place through five group meetings. Although supervision is an important element in the process of researching and submitting the dissertation, students are responsible for the dissertation and the advisor only has an advisory role.

The advisor advises on various aspects of the research project including:

the title of the dissertation;the topic area;the feasibility of the proposed research and the possible risks that may be involved, e.g.

problems in trying to access information, potential poor response rates to surveys concerning commercially sensitive issues;

ethical implications of the planned research;the time scale of the research;the specification of the research questions;the design and adequacy of methods;sources of data and access to fields of observation; •            analysis and interpretation of results;structure and style of reporting.

Students are advised to turn up to each group supervision session prepared, and to keep a record of meetings with advisors and the work they have agreed to carry out. Advisors cannot give an indication of the mark that might be expected, and advisors are not expected to read a draft chapter, help with formatting documents, do proof reading or to correct English. The advisor would be expected to give feedback on the ideas you present at the sessions and to make general comments on how the structure and logic of arguments can be improved. The advisor will not instruct you on which articles to read or data to analyse and you will have to independently identify and collect these yourself.

The advisor is an expert in International Business but not necessarily in your specific field of research. It is not the responsibility of the advisor to provide specific information on the literature. Regardless of the subject background of the advisor, the advisor will understand the research process and will provide advice on such process.

The advisor is there to facilitate and not to lead, hence the responsibility for the quality and content of a dissertation is entirely that of yourself, the student. The advisor will not mark the dissertation. The dissertation will be marked by a member of faculty expert in International Business not necessarily your advisor. All dissertations are also second marked by a third staff member. The process ensures fairness, consistency and impartiality.

Changing advisors

Once you are allocated to an advisor, it is not normally possible to change this arrangement. On rare occasions, however, a student may find that she/he cannot work with the allocated advisor. In the first instance, the student should try to discuss the difficulties with the advisor and attempt to resolve these through some agreed action plan. If, after this, it becomes evident that the relationship has broken down irrevocably, you should contact directly the Programme Director to discuss other possible arrangements. It is important to sort out such difficulties as soon as possible.

Advisory arrangements and meetings with the advisor

Towards the end of January 2021 students will be informed of their advisor allocation. All students are allocated one advisor and will be part of a group of ten students working with the same advisor. The advisor will run five workshops with the relevant students to support them in the process of scoping their research topic, identifying the relevant questions and conducting their research. Each of these five meetings will last two hours and students will be informed of the exact timetable for these workshops in due course. The outline of the meetings and the period when the meeting might take place are as follows:

Meeting 1: Finding a research topic or question (22nd – 26th February)Meeting 2: Review of the literature (15th – 19th March)Meeting 3: Research methodology (19th – 23rd April)Meeting 4: Data collection and analysis (14th – 18th June)Meeting 5: The writing process (5th – 9th July)

Please check your timetables regularly some dates may change. If you wish to prepare before the first session, have a look at the readings:

Your supervisor will address your questions at your first meeting. Students should not expect the advisor to provide advice after the last meeting. Equally students should not expect additional one-to-one meetings with the advisor outside those scheduled in the timetable. During the write-up phase of the dissertation, including after the formal supervision sessions end, students will have access to a wide range of different dissertation related ‘islands of support’, which include academic writing support for dissertation, library search support, quantitative and qualitative research support. PG Admin Team will provide additional information on these services in due course. Thus, the advisors will not be expected to support students on these activities beyond the scope of what is arranged in the five meetings. It is students’ responsibility to take notes at meetings with the advisor. This will help ensure that students make a record of any advice given and any action they need to take. A template “Record of Supervision Meeting” form is available on the QMplus page and students can use it if necessary. Students will be expected to take a proactive approach to these meetings and bring material or options to be discussed rather than expect the advisor to say what should be done next. Students should also make the most of the expertise of other team members and ensure they share insights with other students allocated to the same advisory team. 

Dissertation style guide  

Word limit of the dissertation 

The word limit of the dissertation is 10,000 words, which includes all footnotes or endnotes but does not include the declaration page, references, bibliography, appendix, or figures/tables. Raw data such as a summaries of interview transcripts, survey or content analyses, etc. should be relegated to an appendix and excluded from the word count. 

An appendix may be included in a dissertation but will not be assessed. Tables should be used primarily for numerical data but both numerical and non-numerical tables should use words sparingly, i.e. they should not include passages of text which should be more appropriately included in the main text. 

Please note that penalties may be imposed for exceeding the maximum word count of 10,000 words. Markers will read up until the word limit so any text above that limit will not be assessed. In order to capture the word count of the dissertation, highlight all the text after the declaration page up to the start of the references and then do a word count. The word count must be stated on the declaration page, which must be signed by you. 

Structure of the dissertation 

For the structure of the dissertation, students should follow the structure below. 

Title page 

Declaration page 


Contents page 

Dedication and acknowledgements (if required) 


Literature Review 

Methods / Data collection 

Results / Analysis 




If in doubt, students should consult the advisor about the most suitable structure for the dissertation. 

Title page    The title page can be formatted in any way you wish but it must include the following details (a template is provided on the QMplus page): your full name the title of the dissertation the name of your advisor the name of the programme the name of the department and college: School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London the month and year of submission  Declaration Page  The declaration page should follow the title page of the dissertation. The declaration page includes a declaration form you about the originality of the work. Students must use the exact wording that is provided on the template called ‘Dissertation declaration page’ which is available on the QMplus page. Students are also expected to state the word count on this page. Students must insert an electronic signature or simply type the name in the signature field.  Abstract  This should be no more than one page in length. You should write it at the end, once you have a final draft of your dissertation, and it should cover the following: What you did: outline the specific purpose of your research, including a clear statement of the central research question/problem. How you did it: state the methods used to undertake your research. What you found: summarise the main findings of your research.  Contents Page  This page simply sets out the structure of your dissertation by listing the main sections and sub-sections as well as the corresponding page numbers.   Dedication and acknowledgments (if required)  

  This page is optional, but there might be people you want to thank. If you are thanking participants in your study then make sure not to state anything that might identify them. Keep this as brief as possible.       The main body of your dissertation    The main body of the dissertation should consist of: Introduction Literature Review Methods / Data collection Results / Analysis Conclusion   You should think carefully about each of these sections because they require you to include different types of information. To help you decide what to include please refer to the marking criteria.  References    Students should provide an accurate list of references that have been used for the dissertation. You must use the Harvard referencing system and you must ensure that your reference list is complete – in other words that every reference cited in the main body of the dissertation is listed at the end. You should be familiar with the Harvard referencing system because you have been using it throughout the year. We expect you to be able to use it accurately and failure to do so will incur penalty marks.   Appendix  You may include any items in the appendix that provide supplementary information about your research and which might be useful for the marker to see. However, all essential information should be included in the main body of your dissertation. If you are in doubt then you should consult your advisor about what to include in the appendix. You should keep the appendix to a minimum. Remember it is somewhere to place supplementary information that you consider useful but not essential for the marker to see. Remember also that a marker may choose not to refer to an appendix, so if you think the information is vital to your analysis or argument then it should be provided in the main body of the dissertation. If you do not include data relating to your research (e.g. interview transcripts, syntax and log files of Stata, SPSS, Datastream or other software used) as an appendix; you should retain this for at least three months after submission of your dissertation so that it can be presented to the markers for reference if needed. 

Presentation and formatting of the dissertation 

A high standard of presentation (i.e. how the dissertation looks) is expected. The following elements affect the standard of presentation: 

Referencing issues, e.g. failure to reference adequately, inaccurate use of the Harvard referencing system, incomplete references Formatting issues, e.g. failure to comply with the specified formatting instructions General presentation issues, e.g. inadequate abstract, inclusion of illegible tables and figures, errors of grammar that inhibit understanding, frequent spelling errors/typos (i.e.

more than one per page) 

The dissertation should be formatted considering the following aspects:

Order of pages/ contents:    Please see under “Structure of the dissertation”    Margins:    2.5cm for top, bottom, left and right margins               Font type and font size:    Times New Roman or Arial, 12pt font size   Line spacing:    Double spacing   Tables/figures:    Tables and figures can be formatted in whatever style and spacing you choose. Yet, please ensure they are clearly presented.   Referencing:    Use the Harvard referencing system   Page numbers:    Ensure each page is consecutively numbered at the bottom.   Electronic copies:    The accepted submission formats are Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF. Remember to keep an electronic copy of your dissertation until you receive your mark and feedback.   

Assessment for resit students  

A student who submits a Dissertation which then receives a mark of less than 50 is required to resubmit in the following academic year. The student can select instead to terminate their study at Queen Mary with the award of a Postgraduate Diploma. If this option is chosen, there is no possibility of resubmitting at a later date. 

As a resit student, you will be allocated an academic lead with whom you will have one meeting to agree a list of corrections to submit in the following academic year. 

The academic lead is not required to re-read the dissertation. Again, you are responsible for all activity and redrafting to achieving the required standard.