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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Dissertation MSc by Research Social and Political Science (International Development) (PGSP11565)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeDissertation AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits120 ECTS Credits60
SummaryThe dissertation is an extended piece of independent scholarship.
It is the main work in which students demonstrate achievement
of crucial learning outcomes for the MSc by Research, drawing on
relevant material covered in the taught element of the degree
and through supervision. The dissertation can be up to 18,000
words in length.
The nature of a dissertation for the MSc by Research may vary.
For students proceeding to a PhD or MPhil, it will normally take
the form of a full research proposal. Alternatively, the
dissertation may comprise a discrete piece of (usually empirical)
research, possibly a pilot study for the eventual doctoral research
or a standalone project.
Course description 1) Academic description
The dissertation is an extended piece of writing of up to 18,000
words, based on independent study of a topic largely of the
student¿s own choosing. It tests the ability to conduct research
autonomously, to organise effectively bigger quantities of
information and to communicate research findings in a fluent and
structured fashion. The topic is negotiated with a supervisor from
within the School of Social and Political Science.
2) Outline Content
This is a supervised course in which students work autonomously,
and will have a great deal of freedom to choose their own
The nature of a dissertation for the MSc by Research may vary.
For students proceeding to a PhD or MPhil, it will normally take
the form of a full research proposal. In this case, it will contain an
extended review of the literature, establishing the research
questions, plus an extended discussion of the likely research
design and any methodological issues. Alternatively, the
dissertation may comprise a discrete piece of (usually empirical)
research, possibly a pilot study for the eventual doctoral research
or a standalone project. This will usually incorporate literature
review, research questions, research design and methodology,
The Graduate School of Social and Political Science
data collection and analysis elements, discussion and
3) Student learning experience
The course consists of independent study and research, under
the guidance of a supervisor. The timetable is for students to
negotiate with their supervisor. Supervision meetings will be
regular. In the initial period the aim is to narrow down a broader
research topic and to discuss the student¿s emerging ideas.
Advice will be given on what to read. This is followed by a focus -
in due course - on draft chapters of the dissertation.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Flexible
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 1200 ( Dissertation/Project Supervision Hours 7, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 24, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 1169 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %«br /»
Assessment criteria:«br /»
1. Formulation and presentation of research problem«br /»
2. Review of literature and contextualisation of study«br /»
3. Discussion of methods used to collect and analyse relevant information, including ethics«br /»
4. Development and coherence of arguments«br /»
5. Use of supporting evidence and evaluation of evidence«br /»
6. Drawing together major arguments by way of conclusion in relation to the original research«br /»
problem«br /»
7. Degree of reflexivity and critical thinking; originality of argument«br /»
8. Formal presentation of dissertation: correct referencing and quoting; spelling, grammar and style;«br /»
lay-out and visual presentation.
Feedback This field should be used to describe the assessment and feedback strategies used on the course, along
with their indicative pattern and schedule of feedback.
The supervisor will:
- help to define the research problem and focus of the argument and topic;
- advise on the structure of your dissertation;
- advise on the methods and on the coherence of the dissertation;
- give advice on relevant bodies of literature to get the research started or refer to another member
of staff for suggestions on sources;
- discuss and approve draft outlines and timetables of the work;- provide comment and constructive suggestions on at least one full chapter and maximum two chapters.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Carry out a sustained piece of independent scholarship, involving project and time management
  2. Frame and design a coherent and answerable set of research questions, to justify these in relation to existing knowledge and theories, and to demonstrate that answering them would constitute an advance on existing knowledge.
  3. Achieve a command of existing knowledge in their field of research, through a critical review of relevant literature engaging with salient debates.
  4. Demonstrate a critical understanding of research methods, appropriate to the research topic and questions, taking due account of any practical, political and ethical issues affecting the conduct of the research.
  5. Where relevant, demonstrate the ability to implement the chosen research design and methods of data collection and analysis and produce scholarship that demonstrates the ability to integrate theoretical and empirical element.
Reading List
Booth, A., Papaioannou, D. and Sutton, A. (2012) Systematic approaches to a successful literature review,
London: Sage.
Bryman, A. (2012) Social Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cryer P (2006). The research student¿s guide to success (3rd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.
Dunleavy P (2003). Authoring a PhD thesis. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Gilbert GN (ed.) (2006). From postgraduate to social scientist. London: Sage.
Gough, D., Oliver, S. and Thomas, J. (2012) An introduction to systematic reviews, London: Sage.
Punch KF (2006). Developing effective research proposals (2nd edn.). London: Sage.
Ridley, D. (2012) The literature review. A step-by-step guide for students (2nd ed.). London: Sage
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Independent research: Conduct research and enquiry into relevant issues through research design, the
collection and analysis of quantitative and/or qualitative data, synthesising and reporting.
Analytical thinking: Analysis of data, synthesis and critical appraisal of literature.
Critical thinking: Capability to evaluate information thoroughly; identifying assumptions, detecting
contradictory reasoning and defining terms accurately in order to make an informed judgement.
Numeracy: Proficiency, confidence and competence with numbers and measures.
Handling complexity and ambiguity: have an understanding of contextually relevant ethics and values,
follow ethical guidelines, demonstrate reflexivity and positionality in relation to own research topic.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Andrew Bowman
Tel: (0131 6)51 1000
Course secretaryMr John Riddell
Tel: (0131 6)50 9975
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