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Unit information: Dissertation (MSc in Public Policy) in 2021/22

Unit name Dissertation (MSc in Public Policy)
Unit code SPOLM1010
Credit points 60
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Phil Sayer
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

The dissertation is an opportunity to carry out original independent study enabling the student to select a field of inquiry and carry out research in depth over a substantial period of time. It is also an opportunity to apply some of the theoretical perspectives and research skills gained during the programme to their chosen area of study. Student learning is supported by regular individual supervision sessions and workshops, though the expectation is that the dissertation is primarily an individual piece of work.

The unit aims to:

  1. provide the student with the opportunity to investigate a topic of their own choice (within the broad framework of public policy).
  2. enable students to explore the conceptual and theoretical issues associated with their chosen topic.
  3. enable the student to apply some (but not necessarily all) of the research skills developed in the taught units in carrying out a short piece of research.
  4. enhance the practical and transferable skills of locating and using knowledge and information, conveying ideas in written format, planning and managing their time.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, the student will demonstrate, through the production of a dissertation between 10 – 15,000 words:

  1. an ability to frame suitable research questions
  2. an understanding of the conceptual and theoretical concerns associated with their chosen topic.
  3. an understanding of, and ability to apply an appropriate research methodology to investigate their chosen topic.
  4. an ability to analyse data, draw opposite conclusions which are integrated with wider academic debates.
  5. an aptitude to plan and carry out a sustained piece of independent research.

Teaching Information

Students will be expected to present their research proposal at a dissertation workshop after which they will be assigned a dissertation supervisor. Thereafter individual study will be supported by regular, negotiated academic supervision either online or in person as the situation allows. Students must submit an acceptable research ethics proposal to the programme director before beginning their research.

Assessment Information

A dissertation of no more than 15,000 words. The dissertation should demonstrate that the student understands how to: frame research questions, critique, draw upon and develop appropriate conceptual and theoretical approaches, develop and apply an appropriate research strategy (plan and complete primary data collection and/or identify appropriate secondary data sources), analyse data and draw conclusions that are integrated with wider academic debates.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SPOLM1010).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.