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2017/18 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

COMM5600M Dissertation and Research Methods

60 creditsClass Size: 305

Module manager: Dr Penny Rivlin

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

Year running 2017/18

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 producing a good dissertation. The dissertation itself counts for 60 credits and forms one third of the programme of study; therefore, a good dissertation is vital for obtaining a good Master’s degree. The module runs over two semesters and is complemented by meetings with a personal supervisor. The first semester is taught by lectures covering general issues and theory of research design, and gives an introduction into the common research methods in media and communications studies. The second semester provides in-depth training in specific qualitative and quantitative research methods.


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 Communication and Media Studies. The main objective of this module is the preparation of the dissertation. 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 the understanding and application of which are not only essential for an academic career, but also for professional careers in communications-related fields.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:

- understand the dissertation process
- comprehend the basic philosophical and theoretical issues in communication and media research;
- understand the main research methods in communication and media studies, the social sciences and humanities;
- critically evaluate competing approaches to empirical enquiry, in particular the strengths and weaknesses of theoretical dissertations, quantitative and qualitative research methods;
- be able to recognise the pros and cons of employing particular approaches and methods for a specific research project;
- develop a coherent research design including the formulation of hypotheses, choosing adequate research instruments and collecting and interpreting empirical evidence.



1. Introduction
2. Question development
3. Methodological approaches – an overview
4. How to develop an argument and writing a literature review
5. Content analysis
6. Visual methods
7. Rhetorical and discourse analysis and ideological critique
8. Historical analysis and using archives
9. interviewing and focus groups
10. ethnography and online research
11. Ethics
Run parallel to the lectures in weeks 1-3 specifically for students who have completed a dissertation previously. These seminars replace the introductory lectures for experienced students. They are designed to be interactive sessions allowing students to discuss their past experience of a dissertation, what their current research interests are, and how they want to develop their skills as a researcher and build upon their previous experience.
Online methods workshops will be set up in semester 2 and more information about them will be made available closer to the time. Drop-in sessions with teaching assistants will also be scheduled for you to use as you start developing your research proposals.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Supervision Meetings80.504.00
Private study hours575.00
Total Contact hours25.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)600.00

Private study

11 x 5 hours preparation for classes: 55 hours;
Preparation of dissertation proposal: 25 hours;
Field work and preparation of the dissertation: 495 hours.

Total hours of private study and independent learning: 560

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

In semester 1 each student is allocated a supervisor from within their programme of study, and it is expected that students will have 8 meetings of half an hour in length with their supervisor between December and July. The students are advised to meet with their supervisors at least once a month. The role of the supervisor is to provide advice and guidance on the research process and to suggest appropriate readings and methods. Through the discussions in these meetings and the feedback provided on drafts of written work, the supervisor can monitor student progress during the module. The supervisor is also responsible for marking the 2,500-3,000 word research proposal, submitted at the end of February. This assessment will allow for formal progress monitoring before the fieldwork/data collection begins.
In order to ensure the most productive progress, students are advised to follow these deadlines with their supervisors:
- 2,500-3,000 word assessed research proposal must submitted at the end of February (marked by supervisor).
- Final drafts of literature review and methodology should be submitted to supervisor by the Easter break.
- Final drafts of any additional chapters should be submitted to supervisor by July.
- Final revisions carried out in July/August, following feedback from supervisor.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay or Dissertation1 x 12,000-15,000 word dissertation to be submitted at the end of the academic year100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 26/09/2017


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