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2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

COMM5600M Dissertation and Research Methods

60 creditsClass Size: 300

Module manager: Dr Penny Rivlin

Taught: 1 Jan to 31 Oct, 1 Oct to 30 Sep (12mth) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is mutually exclusive with

COMM5800MFinal Independent Project

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module provides students with the academic competencies necessary to study successfully at postgraduate level and particularly for conducting independent research and producing a good dissertation. Students are offered the opportunity to gain practical skills associated with empirical research design and conduct, which contributes to their transferable skills set and employability. The dissertation constitutes 60 module credits and forms one third of the programme of study; therefore, a good dissertation is a key component towards attainment of a good Master’s degree. The module runs over two Semesters. The first semester is taught by 1.5 hour lectures addressing the design, structure and process of writing a dissertation, the theory of research design and research ethics and good practice, and introduces a select range of qualitative and quantitative research methods within the field of media and communications studies. The second semester presents a concluding 1.5 hour lecture on the dissertation format and design in preparation for the submission of a 2500 word Research Proposal to be submitted at the end of February (formative assessment). Additional learning and teaching support is provided in Semester 2 in optional drop-in workshops that focus on academic literacy and language usage with Dr Simon Webster. Students are supported by group and 1:1 supervisions with an academic supervisor from late Semester 1 and at monthly intervals in Semester 2.


This module provides students with the theoretical and methodological knowledge that enables them to carry out an independent piece of research in the field of media and communication Studies. The main objective of this module is the preparation of the dissertation (12,000 – 12,500 words). The module introduces the dissertation process, the key underlying principles of research projects and major methodological approaches that guide research in the field of Media and Communication, in order to help students develop a coherent research design for their own dissertation. In addition, it makes students familiar with basic research techniques and approaches, the understanding and application of which are not only essential for an academic career, but also contribute to the acquisition of key transferable skills for professional careers in communications-related fields.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. understand the dissertation process
2. comprehend the basic philosophical and theoretical issues in communication and media research;
3. understand qualitative and quantitative approaches to research and the main research methods in media and communication studies, the social sciences and humanities;
4. critically evaluate competing approaches to empirical enquiry including the strengths and weaknesses of theoretical dissertations, and quantitative and qualitative research methods;
5. to recognise the strengths and limitations of employing particular approaches and methods for a specific research project and the ethical implications of their chosen research methods towards obtaining ethics approval;
6. develop a coherent research design including the formulation of research questions, aims and objectives, hypotheses, choosing appropriate research instruments, data collection and interpreting empirical evidence


Teaching in lectures provides students with an introduction to the postgraduate dissertation process, and addresses a range of key research methods relevant to media and communication based on three themes – Texts, People and Good Practice. Lectures cover philosophical and theoretical approaches to research alongside a range of qualitative and quantitative methods, including content analysis, visual analysis, discourse and rhetorical analysis, historical analysis and archive research, qualitative interviewing methods, ethnography, survey methods and ethics and good research practice. Workshops provide opportunities for topic development, exploration of key research methods and approaches, peer learning and formative feedback. Language workshops aimed at international students cover academic literacy and language usage in the dissertation. 1:1 supervision provides formative feedback on student progress and drafts of work

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Supervision Meetings80.504.00
Private study hours565.50
Total Contact hours34.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)600.00

Private study

12 x 5 hours preparation for lecture classes: 60 hours;
Preparation of dissertation 2500 word proposal and Ethics approval form: 40 hours;
Field work and preparation of the dissertation: 460 hours;
Total hours of private study and independent learning: 560

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students’ submit a 2500 word Research Proposal to Turnitin (submission at end February Semester 2) and an Ethics approval form which is signed off by their supervisor. Students’ are advised to submit written drafts of the dissertation to their supervisor for formative feedback throughout the dissertation process. Last drafts are submitted in early July for final feedback. Students’ have the opportunity to discuss their dissertation progress with the module leader during office hours throughout the academic year. TA support is provided in weeks 6-8 in office hours to support students’ development of the research question and choice of methods.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay or Dissertation1 x 12,000-12,500 word dissertation to be submitted at the end of the academic year100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Students must pass the Ethics Form phase in order to progress to fieldwork/data collection. The student must pass the dissertation component in order to pass the module.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 15/12/2020 10:38:44


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