The aim of this module is to provide students with an opportunity to work with a member of the academic unit to develop a research question and implement a project that generates new knowledge in the field of psychology and that serves to extend the discipline. The format of the dissertation report should resemble that of a journal article reporting original data, and it should not exceed 10,000 words.
The introductory section of the Dissertation should allow the reader to understand the problem you are tackling and why it is important. The dissertation should include answers to questions such as:
How do these research findings advance knowledge in the specific area of interest? How does the research add to the existing literature? It should demonstrate competence in: literature search and review and formulation of research questions/hypotheses; understanding of relevant conceptual issues; appropriate use of methods (e.g. design, sampling, data collection); competence in analysis and presentation; competence in research project management (e.g. managing legal and ethical aspects, time, resources).
The 10,000 word limit should not be seen as a target, but instead that the focus should be on writing a clear and concise piece of work that meets the learning outcomes of the module. A substantial component relates to developing a research question, choosing appropriate methods and analyses and disseminating the research effectively. This reflects the normal timeline of research leading to a publication, it is entirely appropriate for students and supervisors to prepare the Dissertation as a journal article to be submitted for peer review, if they so choose. Putting some parameters on the Dissertation is still necessary. Although many journals accept submissions of short papers, it is imperative that the learning outcomes for the module be met. After considering what a regular article might look like across the range of Psychology journals, we will impose a minimum of 6,000 words on the Dissertation. The dissertation must also be presented according to APA style with respect to formatting, references, etc. Writing a Dissertation with publication in mind brings up issues of Intellectual Property. If students and supervisors plan on submitting work for publication, they should discuss the relative contributions of all individuals involved, and the implications for authorship, author order, author responsibilities, timing of submission, etc.
What is included in the word count? An Appendix can be included for detail related to risk assessment, ethics application, study materials, paper trail, codebooks, details of questionnaire construction / selection, and details of data preparation. Transcripts of interviews, focus-group discussions, and similar materials need not be included in the word count. It is also not necessary to include SPSS output in the Appendix because the relevant statistics (e.g., F or t values from ANOVAs or t-tests, respectively) can be reported more succinctly in the text and/or tables included with your dissertation. The Appendix should not exceed 5000 words. Tables and figures (if they are used) should appear in the main text, in the appropriate places. Dissertations that report qualitative studies will include illustrative quotations from your data. These should be placed in text boxes in the main text – up to 2000 words of illustrative quotations should suffice, any more if desired should be placed in an appendix. Excluded from the word count are the Cover Page, the Title Page, the Abstract, the References, the Footnotes, the Tables, the Figures, Illustrative Quotations, and the Appendices.
This module is only taken by students on the following programmes:
MSc Health Psychology
MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology
MSc Research Methods in Psychology