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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

COMM5600M Dissertation and Research Methods

60 creditsClass Size: 300

Module manager: Dr Penny Rivlin

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

Year running 2021/22

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 in March (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 supervision with an academic supervisor at monthly intervals in Semester 2 until the end of July in the summer period. Students are expected to complete the writing-up process in August for submission of the dissertation at a date between 2nd – 4thSeptember.


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; 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


Lectures: 1. Introduction to the dissertation
2. Developing a research focus: Asking the right question, using the right method and the literature review
3. Qualitative and quantitative approaches and methods
4. TEXTS: Content Analysis
5. TEXTS: Visual Analysis: A range of visual methods
6. TEXTS: Discourse and rhetorical analysis
7. TEXTS: Historical analysis and archive research
8. PEOPLE: Qualitative interviewing methods and focus groups
9. PEOPLE: Ethnography and online research
10. PEOPLE: The survey method
11. GOOD PRACTICE: Ethics and the MA Dissertation
12. GOOD PRACTICE: Reviewing the Dissertation Process: The Research Proposal and Ethics Form
Seminars: Three seminars run in weeks 2-4. They are designed to be interactive sessions allowing students to discuss what their current research interests are, and how they want to develop their skills as a researcher. The seminars focus on developing a viable research topic. Learning Advisor support: Learning Advisor Michell Schneider facilitates 3 optional interactive workshops on Academic Integrity, Literature Searching, and Writing the Literature Review in Semester 1, Weeks 6-8. The workshops are designed to support students’ research skills and good practice in the research process. Workshops:This module is a large international cohort and the specific needs of international students are supported by optional academic literacy and language use workshops in Weeks 14-16 by Dr Simon Webster. Three audio-recorded interactive online workshops on ‘Writing the Dissertation’ are located in Minerva to specifically support the lectures in Weeks 1-3 and Week 14, and as a resource throughout the dissertation process. 1:1 Dissertation consultations: The module leader offers support to students throughout the academic year in office hours and by appointment. A TA offers optional 1:1 student consultation on the design of the research question and methodology in office hours in Weeks 8- 10 to support the development of the Research Proposal and Ethics Form to be submitted in March, Semester 2 (formative assessment).Dr Simon Webster offers optional 1:1 language use and academic literacy consultations to international students in Semester 1 and 2.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Supervision Meetings80.504.00
Private study hours562.50
Total Contact hours37.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)600.00

Private study

12 x 5 hours preparation for lecture classes: 60 hours; (optional) Interactive online audio-recorded ‘Writing your dissertation’ workshop: 5 hours Preparation of dissertation proposal: 25 hours; Total Field work and preparation of the dissertation: 460 hours. Total hours of private study and independent learning: 460

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students’ submit a 2500 word Research Proposal to Turnitin 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

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: 03/08/2021


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