Guidelines

Contents

Overview
Document Requirements
Support
Research Diary
Workshops
Ethics
Empirical Studies
Theoretical Studies
Creative Studies in Corporate Communication
Creative Studies in Arts Practice

Overview

What makes an Independent Study?

An Independent Study Report is the written account of a piece of independent research which you have identified, designed, and completed – with support from a research supervisor. The research itself has to be grounded within a field of theory and existing research, a response to a real world issue and/or about an issue for which you can construct an argument concerning its value as a research topic.

Copies of some previous students’ projects are available in the library. These should only be used as a starting point for your own research as the nature and requirements of the Independent Study has changed since these students completed their work.

A framework for guidance in structure and content of the Independent Study is provided below. It is important that you appreciate that these are only general guidelines. It is up to you, in discussion with your supervisor, to decide on the best structure for your Independent Study report. However, it is also important to realise that the nature of the information that must be included in your report is going to be the same whatever the nature and structure of the report. This information will include: what you have done and why you have done it; relevant research literature; theoretical support for, and detail of the method(s) used; research analysis and your findings; and some sort of conclusions.

I have included specific guidelines for each of the Independent Study options here (Empirical Research project, Theoretical Study, and Creative Study). One of these sets of guidelines will most likely be more appropriate for you. However, you should read all of the guidelines before deciding which is most appropriate for you – it might inspire you to be innovative with your research or with the structure that you adopt for the research report. For each of these specific sets of guidelines, an appropriate marking scheme is provided. These marking schemes are flexible, and markers will adapt the most appropriate one to reflect the structure of your project.

You should note that the proposal that you submit at the beginning of the academic year will comprise 10% of the final mark for the Independent Study unit; ie. The final marks contributing to your degree is weighted as follows:

Proposal (10%)
Independent Study report (90%)

Who marks your Proposal and Independent Study report?

Your Independent Study supervisor and a second marker (internal examiners) will independently mark your work. They will then meet to compare the independent marks awarded, discuss your work and award a final agreed mark. If there is a large discrepancy between internal markers, a third member of staff will be elected to arbitrate between the first two markers.

In addition, a sample of all Independent Study reports is sent to external examiners for further moderation.

Note: the student does not select the second internal marker. In those exceptional cases where a student has had two supervisors both will act as internal markers

What do you submit?

You must submit three bound copies of your Independent Study report. One will be returned to you. The second copy is kept as a library copy. The third will be kept as a research resource by your supervisor. In addition, you are required to submit a research diary (see below).

Progress requirements

In order to successfully complete the Independent Study Unit of your degree Programme, you must submit the following:

  • Independent Study proposal (You should keep your own copy of this document for on-going reference)
  • Ethics approval form
  • Research diary.
  • Three copies of Independent Study Report
  • Submission of unbound copies of the Independent Study Report incurs a 30% penalty.
  • Non-submission of a research diary will incur a 30% penalty.

Document Technical Requirements for Independent Study Report

All Independent Study reports should adopt the following format:

  • Typed or word-processed
  • Double line spaced
  • Print on one side of the paper
  • Font size 12 with the exception of headings, diagrams/figure labels, etc
  • Pages must be numbered
  • Title, Abstract and Contents pages
  • Bound (permanent or semi-permanent soft binding)

Word limit is 10-12,000 words unless negotiated and agreed with your supervisor at least 2 weeks in advance of submission (See also specific guidelines for the Creative Study). This negotiated flexibility is permitted to accommodate the differences in the nature of research being reported, and the differences in the type of study being conducted. For example, a student who is submitting a video with supporting story-boards and research process journal, may wish to submit a shorter analytic report; a student reporting the findings from a series of experiments may require an increased word allowance over a student reporting the findings of a single experiment.

Be aware that changes in word limits will not be granted on the basis of organization problems (such as not wanting to cut down background literature, running out of writing time, etc).

The word limit does not include diagram labels, information in tables, references and appendices. Hence, ‘organizational’ word limit problems can be overcome by astute and appropriate use of your appendices.

Citations and References must be complete and adopt the standard format as set out in the Course Handbook

Note to supervisors: Before granting increased (or reduced) word limits the student must provide a well reasoned case for the change in word limit.

Student Support

Research supervisor

Your supervisor will be more than willing to support you in your research by giving you advice and guidance about doing research. They will also be keen to work with you, and to be kept informed about your progress throughout the whole research process. Indeed, they should be the first point of contact when you are NOT making progress. Part of their role is to help you when you are ‘stuck’; they will be able to inspire you, or help you redirect your research in more productive ways. Research supervisors have experience in doing their own research and will only be too aware of the kinds of obstacles and pitfalls that litter the research process journey. Many of the problems that you will be having are problems that they themselves will have encountered- and hopefully resolved – in the past.

However, you should understand that it is your Independent Study. Your supervisor cannot do the work for you, nor is it their responsibility to make you do the work. A big part of the Independent Study Unit is about you accepting the responsibility of maintaining and managing your enthusiasm and motivation in conducting your research.

Finding and agreeing a research supervisor

The first two weeks of term have been specifically designed so that you can begin your Independent Study without the interruption of other Programme Units. Part of the process of beginning your Independent Study is that you find a research supervisor who is willing to act as your supervisor. You should do this at the earliest point during the first two weeks of the Autumn term.

You should ask your supervisor to sign the supervision agreement form (available on the Level III student notice board) and hand it in to the ACS office marked: For the Attention of Neil Carey. In this way I can keep a central record of who is being supervised by whom.

Student/supervisor communication

Having requested and sought agreement for supervision, you are required to meet with your supervisor at least a further two times in the Autumn term: once in the middle of the term and then again in December. Again, you should meet with your supervisor at least twice in the Spring term.

The amount of additional contact you have with your supervisor will vary with the stage of the research you are at and the nature of your research; it is up to you to find a balance that suits you and your supervisor. Be aware that your supervisor has other responsibilities (teaching, administration, tutoring, research) as well as other students to supervise. They will most likely not be available immediately when you need them. Arrange meetings with your supervisor in advance – this is particularly the case towards the end of the research and writing phases of the Independent Study.

It is your responsibility to arrange, facilitate, and manage these meetings with your supervisor. It is also your responsibility to make these meetings effective forums of communication. To this end, you should:

  • Organize a time that is convenient for you and your supervisor
  • Make sure that your supervisor has a clear idea about what is required at the meeting
  • You should e-mail your supervisor, well before the meeting, with an agenda or a plan of what you have been doing up to that point, and in what ways you need guidance and help.
  • Demonstrate what your achievements are to date.
  • Tell them in what ways you are ‘stuck’.
  • Tell them about how you are motivating yourself and managing your time.
  • Be specific about your progress and any problems you are facing – Supervisors can detect when ‘vagueness’ means that you have actually done nothing at all!
  • Turn up for the meeting on time. Be focussed and clear about what you need. Always bring your research diary/journal/folder/files as evidence of your progress. Supervisors have limited time – so use it wisely.
  • Take notes during the meeting – you should never come to a meeting without a means of recording or taking minutes. You should e-mail a re-written copy of these notes back to your supervisor as a record of the meeting. Keep a copy of these meeting minutes – add them to your research diary.

The Independent Study Unit is designed to give students the opportunity to conduct research in an independent and responsible way. The unit is structured so that students can develop a range of skills and practices that are both directly relevant and of value to employers on leaving the Communication programme. The ways in which you design, manage, conduct and report your research are directly translatable to those skills that employers will want you to demonstrate. Examples of these skills would include the ability to, organize research resources, negotiate with external organizations, meet deadlines, create a product for a well-defined audience, manage your own time effectively, work with a supervisor.

Remember that your Independent Study supervisor is most likely the person who you will ask for a reference when applying for jobs. The more you keep them informed about how you have encountered problems during the Independent Study and worked with them in resolving those problems, the more likely they are to provide a positive employment reference.

Make a comparison between the following two scenarios. For whom, do you think, is the supervisor likely to provide the best employment reference?

Student A achieves a fairly average mark for their Independent Study report. During the process of the research they experienced many difficulties but kept their supervisor informed, and worked responsibly with their supervisor in creating and actioning effective solutions.

Student B achieves a fairly average mark for their Independent Study report. During the process of the research they experienced many difficulties, was paralysed by their own inaction and avoided their supervisor, or pretended that nothing was wrong.

Be aware that ‘being Independent’ does not mean ‘being on your own’ or ‘being alone’!! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from, or keep your supervisor informed about your progress – or lack of it! That is what learning and developing is about. The earlier in the process you do this, the more able and willing your supervisor will be to help.

Writing support

Supervisors cannot be expected to read, or make extensive comments on, full drafts of your research report. This is for a number of reasons, including:

At this level of study you are expected to be able to communicate effectively in the form of written reports.

The Independent Study report has to be your own independent work.

Demands on staff time limit their ability to give this kind of detailed support to all students.

Supervisors are required to mark the projects that they supervise. Consequently, it is necessary for them to retain some distance from the actual text produced. Without this distance marks achieved for your report could be open to severe criticism from the external examiners.

However, supervisors may be able to read short extracts of your report during your on-going writing process. They will be able to make general comments about the quality, style and appropriateness of your writing. In addition, supervisors are available to discuss and comment upon your early plans for how best to structure your report. This kind of discussion is especially recommended so that your supervisor has a clear idea of what form of writing you will adopt in the final report.

Other Types Of Support

Administrative and financial support

No administrative or financial support can be provided by the University. Students are responsible for providing any material resources that are required in conducting the Independent Study. Supervisors will be helpful in advising you about the likely resource implications for the study you propose to conduct.

Insurance

There is an assumption that any empirical research field work is covered by the insurance of the host organization, rather than by MMU. You need to check this out at the early stages of the project, i.e. when negotiating access to any external organization.

Gaining access to and working with external organizations

You need to recognize that getting access to external organizations is often a difficult and lengthy process – so don’t be downhearted if it doesn’t happen instantly. You may have to persevere. However, as you are working under a strict time schedule, you should identify a realistic point in time after which it would not be feasible to continue to pursue access. Having an alternative research strategy as a back-up plan is a good way of ensuring that you can ‘let go’ of the original research idea. If access appears to be becoming a threat in terms of finishing your research on time, you must inform your supervisor who will advise you about the appropriate action.

First contact with any outside organization should always be made by the student but preferably, only after consultation with your supervisor. You should keep your supervisor well informed about any further contact you have with external organizations.

All access to external organizations should be made formally. This should take the form of a written request, or written contract. This formal request and any further written correspondence between students and external organizations should be agreed in advance with your supervisor. Copies of this correspondence must be included in the appendices of your report.

It is the responsibility of students to act in a professional and ethical manner when working in/with external organizations. Equally, you must inform your supervisor at the slightest sign of a problem or unethical behaviour affecting you within the organization where you are doing your field work. We would encourage you to think carefully and talk to your supervisor before acting or responding to any unexpected or changed situations.

Research Diary

As stated previously, the Independent Study is designed so that students can demonstrate their ability to conduct and report an independent piece of research. Conducting research that is independent, valid and reliable, and reporting that research is considered by many employers – as well as academic institutions – as a valuable and necessary set of skills. In most areas of employment you will have to research and write reports on a variety of topics and in a variety of formats. In many instances you will have to keep comprehensive records in order to demonstrate the validity, reliability and independence of whatever findings you make. The Independent Study is an ideal way to demonstrate these skills, abilities and practices.

It is, in part, for this reason that you are required to keep comprehensive notes or a “diary” or a journal about what research you did and why you did it. Use the diary to comprehensively record your research practices. Make notes on at least the following:

  • Initial ideas about your area(s) of interest. What motivates these interests?
  • What research have you done to explore these areas of interest? Keep an accurate and comprehensive note of all your reading (accurate references, quotes with page numbers, summaries, questions to raise in light of this reading).
  • This kind of exploratory research might include watching film/tv, browsing magazines, talking with friends/family/work colleagues, or experts in your field of interest. Again keep good notes.
  • Having ‘fleshed out’ your areas of interest, how are you going to focus your research? What are the possibilities? What are the strengths and weaknesses for each?
  • Start mapping out possible research strategies to adopt. Keep refining these.
  • Make out a timetable. Again, this will be reviewed and refined at different stages of the research process.
  • Do a needs analysis for yourself. What do you need in order to carry out your research? Maybe it’s some input on time-management, or you need to do some reading about research methods or methodology?
  • Notes from all your reading.
  • Keep lists of questions/issues that you want to ask/discuss with your supervisor
  • Reflect on your own learning – either about your area of interest or about research more generally.
  • Any other material that you think is relevant and/or useful.

Keep all these records together. Keep them in chronological order, and in some sort of hardbound notebook form. You might decide that you want to use a ‘scrapbook’ approach so that you can insert materials that you find as part of your research. However, all materials should be securely affixed, clearly labelled and annotated by you (for example, how is this relevant? What does it demonstrate?).

This diary should be submitted at the same time that you submit your Independent Study report (only one copy of the diary required).

In the event that there is any doubt, the ‘diary’ will be used by internal and external examiners in making a judgement about the extent to which your Independent Study Report is actually your own, independent work.

For your own purposes, the ‘diary’ will also be an essential tool when you come to write up your report. Using a diary means that you have a comprehensive record of what research you did, how you did it, and the ways in which you have developed and learned during the research process. It will also make you aware of how your research findings may be affected by your starting position, what happened to you during the research (intellectually, emotionally, psychologically – both in- and outside the research project), and the impact that these things have had on your data collection and interpretation. It will also give you (and any external reader) an insight into the impact you had on the subject of the research (e.g. how things were altered by your (mere) presence in the research setting; what were the (un)reciprocal dynamics involved in your research process). A diary helps you avoid the kind of fabrication, or post-hoc rationalization of how things happened and the order in which they happened during the research.

If you are doing a study which is ethnographic in nature, a diary is considered an essential research tool; it is a direct record of your raw data. You may be required to present this raw data to support any of the arguments/conclusions that you make in the report. In addition, using a diary or notes in this case allows you to clearly locate yourself in the study and its context.

Whatever your area of interest or your methodological approach to research, keeping a diary allows you to document, in a professional manner, a record of your activities. This document will then act as a source of evidence for you in accounting for your research activities.

Workshops

Independent Study workshops will run throughout the academic year. A number of workshops are planned.

The purpose of these workshops is to provide a forum for respectful mutual support. Peer supervision/support is an important resource when carrying out research. One of the aims of the workshops will be to share research experiences, knowledge and practices. These workshops are, therefore, planned as an opportunity for you to discuss common themes and threats that will arise in the process of doing your research.

NB. If you have a suggestion for an optional workshop, please notify Clive McGoun. Requested workshops can be for the whole group or for sub-groups formed around specific needs and interests.

Ethics

All research involves a consideration of ETHICS.

Bhatt (2004;420) outlines the following situations where a consideration of ethics is vital in conducting research:

  • Conducting research in sensitive areas
  • Interviewing vulnerable people
  • In any situation involving direct contact with the service users of hospitals, voluntary sector agencies, charities, schools, or local authority social and care services
  • Research involving children or young adults
  • Any kind of research that is intended to be covert or semi-covert
  • Research involving potentially controversial or politicised themes
  • Research involving private information and records (such as personal diaries and documents)

To this list, I would add and (re)emphasise the following:

  • Ignoring or being overly naive about the consequences of conducting and reporting research in topics that are socially and politically sensitive.

It is impossible to ‘list’ what these topics are, but you should demonstrate your awareness that all research (and how it is reported) has political and social significance. Some extreme examples might help you to think about this: making an argument that Race and IQ are related; or representing women as the unwitting or unthinking ‘victims’ of particular media. The literature in your area of interest will be informative about the ethical and political pitfalls inherent in your research – but you will have to be active in seeking this information out. Your research supervisor will also be an invaluable resource.

Take care in how you represent other people in your research work.

Clearly, if you have assured research participants that they will remain anonymous, then you need to ensure that this is the case. If you are using photographic or other kinds of filmic evidence in your research, then you need to get consent from those images you are re-presenting. Perhaps, less obviously, you should ensure that you take appropriate steps to represent the ‘voices’ of others in a fair and sensitive way. Wilkinson and Kitzinger’s (1996) book ‘Representing the Other’ is a good starting point in considering some of these issues – even if your research topic is not mentioned specifically, think carefully about how their arguments apply to your own area of research.

At all stages of the research process, you should be aware of and observe the conventions for reporting and using other people’s work as part of your own research.

These conventions include guidance on: not misrepresenting the work of others by taking it out of context; not reporting others’ work in inaccurate ways – that is, clearly indicating another’s words by using quotation marks and citation conventions; and, not trying to present other people’s work as your own. For detailed information on what constitutes Plagiarism see Sections 13 and 14 of ‘Regulations for Undergraduate Programmes of Study (Manchester Metropolitan University)’.

There are many other sources of help in identifying and resolving the ethical dilemmas inherent in conducting research. Your research Supervisor will be able to direct you in the most appropriate ways.

All students are required to submit details of their planned research and its ethical implications as part of the Independent Study Proposal. In addition, you are required to include in your Independent Study Report, a detailed account of the ethical dilemmas that you faced in the process of conducting your research, and the ways in which you responded to those dilemmas.

Students who are doing empirical field research using research participants are required to submit an ‘Ethics Approval Application’ to their supervisor at the earliest opportunity. This Application will be scrutinized by the appropriate Ethics procedures in the Department, and students will be given feedback on the appropriateness of their research plans. An ‘Ethics Approval Application’ is included in this pack. Students must seek Ethics approval through their supervisor before contacting research participants and conducting their fieldwork.

It is expected that you will behave within accepted ethical boundaries. Of course, ethical issues are not straight forward and it is important that you discuss any issues which are of concern with supervisors. If you act alone and contravene ethical guidelines, the staff group cannot share in any responsibility or repercussions.

The need for you to behave ethically and fulfil your commitments to organizations and participants cannot be overemphasised. Contravention of ethical guidelines in conducting research are treated as serious issues and will be dealt with accordingly.

References

  • Bhatt, C (2004) Doing a dissertation. Ch 30 in Seale, C. (ed) Researching Society and Culture. London, Sage.
  • Wilkinson, S & Kitzinger, C (1996;ed) Representing the Other: A Feminism & Psychology reader. London Sage.

Framework for writing up Empirical Research Projects

In the first instance refer to the technical requirements for submitting an Independent Study Report given earlier in this handbook.

For specific guidance you can refer to the literature in your field of study and other research literature where a researcher has used a similar methodology. It might also help to find research projects from other courses that are related in topic or methods.

The following framework is purposefully non-specific and general, so you may need to make some adaptations. Remember that you have conducted the Independent Study, and you are trying to tell the story of the research process. Provide all the necessary detail, data and discussion to tell a full story – someone may want to replicate your study in the future. Use a structure that allows the reader to follow the story easily: i.e. don’t jump about, make sure the narrative follows a logical pathway, cross-reference clearly and appropriately between sections, etc.).

The headings used below are fairly standard when reporting empirical research studies but the content of your particular report may vary to some degree. The only sections that will not change are the Title, Contents (index), Abstract (summary), Aims of the Study, and References. The other sections included in this framework need to be included in some form. Ideally, each section that you include in your report will have a series of appropriate sub-headings that will help the reader understand the structure of your research ‘story’.

Any uncertainty about what should be included, and where, can be discussed with your supervisor or raised at any of the project workshops.

The following is an outline of the framework:

Title

This page should include a clear and descriptive title for your report, your name, the name of your supervisor, the date of submission and what the report represents. For example: “Submitted in part fulfilment for the award of BA(Hons) Communication -or other named degree award”.

Abstract or Summary

This section is a synopsis or summary of the project. It should clearly state what you did, why you did it, how you did it, and what you found. Aim for about 200-250 words.

Contents

This should be a simple index referring to each main section (including references and appendices) and the page it can be found. You could also include the sub-headings that you included in each main section.

Introduction

The context of the research In this section you should outline your own particular reasons for doing this study. These reasons might be personally, practically, politically, socially, economically, geographically motivated. Ideally, you should also outline how these reasons have implications for the research that you conduct.

Review of the Literature

This section should provide sufficient background on theories, research and discussion of all the major aspects related to the subject matter of your research.

By reading the section your reader should be clear about, and understand the historical and theoretical context of your research.

For example, what is the current state of the research work in this field? Outline the kinds of tensions and disagreements in current thinking by explaining and analysing some relevant theories and models – include your own arguments about which are more and less valuable; give an historical overview of the area of interest – how have understandings changed over time and from place to place?; report recent findings. This section should further inform the reader about why you are doing the study: for example, are you testing a relevant theory, filling a gap in the field, applying a concept to a new target group, or replicating an existing study?

The Review of the Literature should also make reference to relevant methodological issues about that literature which you have introduced: what are the debates and controversies in this field of research about the methods or methodologies that are used? What are the accepted wisdoms about what is considered the best methods and methodologies in this field of research? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these methodological approaches?

Aims of the Research

This may be a heading or a subheading and should be a straightforward statement of what you are trying to achieve, evaluate, or find out. It can be a statement, a question, a hypothesis, or a series of any of these. It should come as no surprise to the reader what these aims are given what you have already informed them about in the rest of the Introduction and the Review of the Literature.

Typically it should be at the end of the introduction OR at the end of the Review of literature with a clearly denoted sub-heading. Alternatively, you can put this as a separate section before the Methods section (see below).

Method or Sources of Data and Methods of Data Collection

This section should be in sub-sections, with appropriate sub-headings, which reflect the type and content of the research you have undertaken. Most textbooks that deal with Social Science or Empirical Research Methods will give a clear idea about what these sub-sections are and what is required in each. Throughout, make reference to the methodological discussions that you introduced in the Review of Literature section above – using these discussions as a rationale for why you have adopted a particular methodology.

Basically you must include an explanation of the overall design you adopted for the study. Other details that you will explain include: what sample you used and how you selected that sample; what research materials you used and why (include examples or outlines in the appendices); how access to participants was gained and on what basis; how and when participants were approached or contacted; the steps you took to ensure that the study was ethical. In addition, you will outline and justify: what data you collected, how your data were collected – with a full description of the means by which you gathered, collected or created the data.

This section should also include an outline of and justification for how you analysed the data that you gathered.

No matter whether your study is purely quantitative, qualitative or a combination- you must have a sufficient level of detail for somebody else to fully understand what you did and why it was appropriate to do it in this way. There should be no question about what you have done, why, how, and the type of data emerging. You reader should be able to easily replicate your study on the basis of the information contained in the Method Section.

Results; Analysis And Evaluation Of Data; Or Interpretation Of The Data.

This is where you simply report the findings of your empirical research work, and whatever analysis you have done on the data collected. Only in very exceptional circumstances would this entail you listing all your raw data. It is more likely that you would report some sort of condensed form of the raw data; giving the reader an accurate ‘feel’ for the data collected without overloading them with all the details. Using tables and graphs, the results of any statistical procedures you carried out on the data, the themes derived from qualitative data with selected exemplars of those themes are all good ways to do this.

Where you have a separate ‘results’ and ‘analysis/discussion’ section, interpretation of the findings should not be included in this section or at least they should be minimal, and only where essential (see next section for notes on interpretation).

The number of alternative headings for this section gives the idea that, for certain types of study (e.g. Critical Discourse Analysis of existing texts), the reporting of findings and the interpretation/discussion of those findings may not be easily separated. In this instance the results and analysis/discussion sections may have some degree of overlap. For example, you may demonstrate the analytical strategies or frameworks that you adopted, and the likely interpretations of these analyses by giving comprehensive examples from the texts that constitute your data. In this case, your ‘Results’ and ‘Analysis/Discussion’ will appear in the report in a series of analysis chapters.

Discussion, evaluation or interpretation of the findings/results

This is the section where you discuss, interpret and consider the implications of your findings in light of the literature reported earlier and the nature of the organization, sample, and materials used in obtaining the data (and their limitations!).

In doing so you are informing the reader about how your own research ‘fits with’ the existing research in this field of interest.

You should also highlight any methodological flaws and issues in your own empirical research approach that have become apparent during the process of the research. These methodological issues should be covered in detail toward the end of this section. In this way, you are demonstrating to your reader that you are aware of and can be critical of your own work. In addition, you can use this section of the report to reflect critically on any personal and/or academic development issues experienced as part of the process of doing the research.

NB All interpretation and/or discussion of the data needs to be argued, evidenced, supported and justified in terms of the data, analysis, theory and literature introduced earlier in the report. You should not be introducing new literature at this point in your report. You must not make any interpretations that go beyond the scope of the data you present in the report – unless you clearly indicate that these particular interpretations are highly speculative.

Conclusion(s)

Conclusion(s) can be the final part of the ‘Analysis/Discussion’ section or a distinct section in its own right. Use this section as a useful way to restate, in a clear, simple and straightforward manner the main findings/conclusions of your research. This is an opportunity to re-emphasise the value of your project after all the (necessary) ‘distraction’ of the complicated arguments and discussions that are contained elsewhere in the report. The contents of this section act like a summary of the key findings, interpretations or implications of your study.

On the basis of the research findings and the concomitant conclusions you have made, you could also take this opportunity to include whatever recommendations you think are appropriate. These might be, for example, recommending further future study (give some detail), or the need to apply your findings in particular settings, or the need to generate explicit policy on the basis of your findings.

For the purposes of assessment, your conclusions will be considered as an important and integral aspect of the discussion section.

References

All references should be given using a standard format. Be consistent in your approach to citing and referencing the work of others. Inconsistent or inaccurate use of citation and referencing will incur a heavy penalty throughout all sections of the report.

References should be presented in alphabetical order. If the same author occurs more than once, then single authorship precedes joint authorship, and chronological order (starting with earliest)

NB. This is not a bibliography

Appendices

Fully labelled and in correct order, and containing all the information referred to in the text as being in the appendices!

Marking scheme for Empirical Research Project

The marking scheme laid out here simply states the proportion of marks allocated to each main section of the empirical research project. The marking scheme will be used with reference to the framework for writing Empirical Research Project reports laid out above, and with reference to those discussions between Supervisor and Student in agreeing any alterations to the structure of the Independent Study Report.

In assessing reports, examiners will give attention to the following criteria, as they apply to the report and to each section of the report:

  • Is this research appropriate to this level of study?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to conduct independent research?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to critically analyse their own and others’ existing research?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to clearly evidence and give support for any assertions and conclusions that they are making?
  • Is the student demonstrating an awareness of the ethical implications of their research?
  • Is the student demonstrating a clear understanding of the academic conventions related to using other people’s work?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to access a wide range of relevant literature?
  • Is the student demonstrating an understanding and appreciation of the complexities of the issues/themes/concepts that are explored as part of the research?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to organize and present material in a clear and well structured way?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to write clearly and succinctly whilst giving appropriate levels of detail? (Has the student given adequate time to editing and re-editing their written work?)
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to be innovative in their approach, or original in their thinking about the research?

Allocation Of Marks

  • Introduction and Review of the Literature (20%): This section should include the Abstract or Summary, Aims of Research, and, if appropriate, the Context of the Research
  • Method or Sources of Data and Methods of Data Collection (20%): If appropriate, this may include the Context of the Research
  • Results or Analysis and Evaluation of Data (20%): This should include whether or not the aims of study were addressed, ie. have they answered the ‘research question’, or directly addressed the stated aims of the study; if not have they stated why.
  • Discussion (20%)
  • This section should consider the Conclusions made. Are the conclusions stated clearly? Do they relate to the original aims and the research question? Are they supported by the rest of the report?
  • Overall Structure and Clarity (20%)
  • Include here an assessment of the clear and appropriate use of references and appendices.
  • Total (100%)

Written comments providing detail of why a specific mark has been awarded by the internal examiners will be forwarded to external examiners.

Note: This is a general marking scheme. Appropriate adaptations will be made where students have submitted research reports that do not adhere strictly with this format. For example, a student might have several analysis and discussion chapters that deal with different kinds of data that they have collected.

Framework for writing up a Theoretical Study

Framework for writing up a Theoretical Study

A theoretical study is most often an extensive and analytic review of some secondary sourced materials. This just means that you are not generating primary data, as you would if you were to conduct a series of interviews, or record your observations in a classroom, or produce and edit a short film.

Secondary data sources then, might be in the form of previously published literature (e.g. books, academic journal articles, practitioner journal articles, and to a lesser extent, popular media texts), statistical information, government or other organizations’ reports, or Hansard reports. It is more usual that you would use a combination of these secondary sources in your theoretical study – with an emphasis on reporting your research based on academic journal articles.

A theoretical study is not just an extended essay. The aim of a theoretical study is that you review a wide range of secondary sources and that you additionally make some independent conclusions about the theme or issue that you are researching. In doing so you would use your review of the relevant literature to support and evidence whatever argument you are making.

In a good theoretical study you would address many of the following:

Introduce your area of research interest. Clearly outline the parameters of the study you are going to report (the focus of the study and how the study was conducted), and also give a clear indication of what is contained in the report that will follow. This might take the form of a short summary chapter that informs the reader about what they should expect from reading your research report/dissertation.

Make clear why you are interested in this area of research and how that interest has developed in the process of conducting that research.

Find clear definitions of the theme/issue or research problem that you have identified as your area of interest. This does not mean that you will find the ‘one and only’ definition of a concept or concepts. Most often, you will discuss the kinds of disagreements and tensions inherent in defining any concept – and in particular the concept(s) you have chosen to focus on. In effect, you want to convince the reader that you are aware of the complexities involved in your research area.

In defining your concept(s) you will distinguish it/them from related concept(s). For example, in discussing ‘disability’ you will show how it is different from and related to ideas of ‘illness’, and how this relationship may have changed over time.

Demonstrate that there are competing theories and/or interpretations associated with the concept(s) you are exploring.

Explore the historical and academic lineage of the concept or concepts that you are interested in. Here, you might want to look at the ways in which the concept(s) have been approached by different academic disciplines, at different time periods, or by different cultures.

Outline what is known to date about your chosen area of research interest. This is a means of documenting what you have read and researched.

Reviewing existing literature should not just be a matter of listing the research reports that you have found. Try to find other ways of organizing the material.

For example, you might review a range of existing studies based on their conceptual weaknesses and strengths, or compare and contrast the different methodological approaches adopted in those studies.

Identify gaps, problems, weaknesses and strengths in the current state of knowledge in your chosen area of research.

Explore the different methods that have been use to investigate the chosen concept or field of research and explore the appropriateness of these methods. For example, how successful have non-participant observational methods been in investigating children’s behaviour in classrooms? Why are they successful or not successful?

Try and find connections in the literature that no one else has made to date.

Explain and analyse any ‘contentious’ terms that you introduce into your discussion. For example, in discussing ‘discourses of the body in a post-feminist age’ you would want to show that ‘discourse’ is used in many contradictory ways by different writers/researchers. Indeed, you would also have to explore what you meant by ‘post-feminist’! This is not always such an easy thing to do as, what is considered ‘contentious’ in a particular field of study is often a matter of judgement. However, your reading in the chosen research area will give you a good idea about what you need to explain in detail and what is considered more acceptable. In addition, your supervisor will be able to help in this respect.

Systematically account for why you have chosen to explore some existing research knowledge and not others. In other words, give an account of HOW you conducted your library research: what databases did you use? What journals did you look at? What research strategies did you adopt in gathering your information? Did you start at a recent research article and work your way backwards in time, and how did you do this? Did you limit yourself to research in a particular academic discipline? Give a rationale for each of these decisions.

Critically analyse the research material that you have read and are reporting. This is not just about expressing a personal preference for one theoretical claim over another, or for one research method over another. You must explicitly demonstrate WHY you think this work is ‘good’ and/or this work is ‘bad’.

Clearly show what is the work of others and that you are reporting, and what is your own work based on that existing research.

Make sure that you are not misrepresenting the research work of others – either by taking the original work out of context, or by trying to disguise it as your own. It is for this reason that a good theoretical study will rely on original research reports rather than relying exclusively on second- or third-hand reviews of research on a topic of interest.

Construct an argument that ‘goes beyond’ what is already known about in your area of research interest. Reporting and summarizing the research that already exists is not enough on its own. You must show how your knowledge of that existing research allows you to draw conclusions about the argument that you are making in your dissertation.

Show how your research work is adding to the state of knowledge in this field of research.

Make conclusions that are clearly based on the research that you have done. Your conclusions will not just summarize existing research. Conclusions should demonstrate how that existing research supports the argument that you are making in the theoretical study.

Identify areas for further study.

Writing up a theoretical study demands the same kind of discipline that reporting any other kind of research requires. In effect, you are telling your reader a comprehensive and systematic ‘story’ about what research you have conducted, how you conducted that research, and what that allows you to conclude.

It is impossible to give any sort of well defined structure for this kind of dissertation because the structure you adopt will vary depending on the research topic, how you choose to research it, and what argument you want to construct. Indeed, your ideas on how to structure the report will probably change substantially during the course of the research process! However, don’t panic. Your research supervisor will be more than willing and able to advise you on the structure that is most appropriate for your report.

At the most general level, the theoretical study report should include at least the following:

Title page

This page should include a clear and descriptive title for your report, your name, the name of your supervisor, the date of submission and what the report represents. For example: “Submitted in part fulfilment for the award of BA(Hons) Communication [-or other named degree award]”.

Contents:

This should be a simple index referring to each main section (including references and appendices) and the page it can be found. You could also include the sub-headings that you included in each main section.

An abstract

This section is a synopsis or summary of the project. It should clearly state what you did, why you did it, how you did it, and what you found. Aim for about 200-250 words.

An Introductory chapter. This will briefly outline, the nature of the research you conducted, the way in which you conducted the research, an outline of the structure of the report (what each chapter deals with and why it is there), and your main conclusions.

A chapter, or part of a chapter which gives a detailed account of the way in which you have conducted your research. In effect, you will give a detailed account of your research process.

A series of chapters, each of which examine a related but different concept or aspect of your research topic. Each of these chapters should also aim to progress the main argument of your dissertation.

A comprehensive concluding chapter which briefly summarizes your research and, in which you offer whatever independent conclusions you can make on the basis of that research.

You may also wish to include a chapter giving details about your own engagements with the research topic. Here you could reflect on why you conducted research in this particular area, how and what you have learned in the course of conducting the research, and how your interests have changed during and/or as a result of the research process.

Marking Scheme For Theoretical Study Report

The marking scheme will be used with reference to the framework for writing Theoretical Study reports laid out above, and with reference to any discussions between Supervisor and Student in agreeing a suitable structure for the Independent Study Report.

In assessing reports, examiners will give attention to the following criteria, as they apply to the report and to each section of the report:

  • Is this research appropriate to this level of study?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to conduct independent research?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to critically analyse their own and others’ existing research?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to clearly evidence and give support for any assertions and conclusions that they are making?
  • Is the student demonstrating an awareness of the ethical implications of their research?
  • Is the student demonstrating a clear understanding of the academic conventions related to using other people’s work?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to access a wide range of relevant literature?
  • Is the student demonstrating an understanding and appreciation of the complexities of the issues/themes/concepts that are explored as part of the research?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to organize and present material in a clear and well structured way?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to write clearly and succinctly whilst giving appropriate levels of detail? (Has the student given adequate time to editing and re-editing their written work?)
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to be innovative in their approach, or original in their thinking about the research?

Allocation Of Marks<

Introductory sections (20%)

Introducing reader to content and structure of report; Setting context for research,Clearly stating aims of research

Method or procedure of collecting materials reviewed (20%)

Outlining the parameters of research, Clearly defining the method of selecting secondary sources; Giving some indication about what has been omitted and why

Main Body of Theoretical Study 40%

Consider the following: –

Range and breadth of materials collected and reviewed;

an appropriate range of secondary sources accessed and reviewed

do the materials reviewed conform to the research procedure outlined above?

Structure and clarity of arguments used in reviewing secondary source materials;

are arguments being supported and evidenced?

are arguments being progressed across main sections of the report?

Level of analysis adopted in reviewing secondary sources;

demonstrating an awareness of the complexities in existing literature?

adopting sophisticated ways of analysing existing literature that goes beyond a simple ‘listing’ approach?

Demonstrating an awareness of the political and social significance of their own and existing arguments?

Degree and quality of critical reflection made by student in light of their research;

awareness of own role in research process

awareness of their own learning as a result of research

awareness of how their ideas have developed as a result of doing the research.

Conclusions (20%)

Do the conclusions add to existing knowledge?

Are the conclusions supported by the arguments offered earlier in the report?

Do the conclusions go beyond a mere summary of the review?

Total (100%)

Framework for writing up a Creative Study In Corporate Communication

A creative study in Corporate Communication / Public Relations involves the production of a corporate communication tool and a study of the production process.

To that effect students need to select an existing organisation as a potential client but can fake the communication campaign their communication technique relates to.

Students may choose to produce:

  • press releases,
  • advertorials,
  • newsletters,
  • feature articles,
  • web pages,
  • intranet pages,
  • information leaflets,
  • photocalls,
  • CD Roms,
  • press packs,
  • news or product photography etc.

Whichever tool is chosen, it must be submitted in an appropriate and relevant format – for instances, the production of an electronic newsletter for an intranet could be supplied on a CD Rom; photography needs to be supplied in context (attached to a press release for instance); and press packs need to be supplied as they would to journalists.

This should be accompanied by a study that aims to provide a context and a rationale for the creation using primary and/or secondary data, and that considers the following elements:

Title page

This page should include a clear and descriptive title for your report, your name, the name of your supervisor, the date of submission and what the report represents. For example: “Submitted in part fulfilment for the award of BA(Hons) Communication [-or other named degree award]”.

Contents

This should be a simple index referring to each main section (including references and appendices) and the page it can be found. You could also include the sub-headings that you included in each main section

An abstract

This section is a synopsis or summary of the project. It should clearly state what you did, why you did it, how you did it, and what you found. Aim for about 200-250 words

The motivations and objectives of the study

This should take into consideration the professional, personal and academic objectives and provide some background about the organisation chosen by students.

An explanation as to what the artefact is and what context it was designed in.

Here students need to outline the objectives of the production (as opposed to the study), the audiences it is targeted at and outline both the professional and academic contexts. This section may include whether the communication tool is part of a communication campaign and the role it plays within it; and/or a discussion comparing this tool with another which may not be judged as potentially successful. Students may also choose to carry out their own primary research to contribute to their arguments made in this section and the next.

An outline of the process of development of the tool

Here, students should go through the choices they have made with regards to the writing style, design, and placement of the artefact and provide a rationale for them within the contexts outlined above.

An evaluation of the study

This should look at whether the objectives of the study were achieved, what limitations the student faced in completing the study and in designing the communication tool, suggest how the student may seek to evaluate the potential success of the communication technique used (if appropriate) and finally, draw some conclusions from the process.

Alternative framework

Alternatively, some students may choose to separate the professional context from the academic context and accompany their creation with two separate pieces of work: a business report and an academic study.

In this case, students must bear in mind the different audiences that such reports would be written for and adapt their piece of work accordingly.

The business report would be written for a client and therefore, should include a communication campaign as a context for using their chosen communication technique. Within this campaign, a section would single out the student’s chosen technique by outlining its audience, its specific objectives, its message, its professional rationale (in terms of writing style, design and placement) and suggestions for evaluating the potential success of this technique.

Because of the audience the report is targeted at, students should make no academic references in this section. However, they may want to include appendices such as a list of media contacts, examples of competitors’ public relations activities, and statistics used in their report from organisations such as MORI.

The academic study is targeted at the dissertation tutor and as such, needs to be written in academic style. From the information above, this section would highlight the process of the creation and outline the following:

  • the objectives of the study,
  • an explanation of what the tool is
  • an academic context and rationale for designing the tool (this could include a literature review/discussion)
  • an outline of the process of development of the communication tool
  • a critical evaluation of the study outlining whether students have reached the objectives of their study.

Marking scheme for Creative Study in Corporate Communication

The marking scheme will be used with reference to the framework for writing Creative Studies laid out above, and with reference to any discussions between supervisor and student in agreeing a suitable structure for the independent study report.

In marking reports, examiners will give attention to the following criteria, as they apply to (each section of) the report:

  • Is this research appropriate to this level of study?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to conduct independent research?
  • Is the student able to use corporate communication techniques and apply their concepts creatively?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to critically analyse their own and others’ existing research?
  • Is the student demonstrating a clear understanding of both the academic and professional contexts?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to link academic and professional findings through discussion?
  • Is the student showing an ability to challenge and debate such findings?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to clearly justify the choices they made during the production of the artefact?
  • Is the student demonstrating an awareness of the ethical implications of their research?
  • Is the student demonstrating a clear understanding of the academic conventions related to using other people’s work?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to access a wide range of relevant academic and professional literature?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to organise and present material in a clear and well structured way?
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to write clearly and succinctly whilst giving appropriate levels of detail? (Has the student given adequate time to editing and re-editing their written work?)
  • Is the student demonstrating an ability to be innovative in their approach, or original in their thinking about the research.

Allocation of marks

Production/creation (30%)

Here examiners will look at whether the communication technique’s characteristics reconcile the client’s existing style and identity with the needs of the audiences, the message parameters and the technique’s basic requirements (in terms of format for instance).

The following features will be assessed:

  • creativity
  • writing style
  • format
  • quality of the design
  • placement (what platform does the student suggest to use to place the piece, magazine, newspaper etc.)
  • Process/academic context (30%)

Here examiners will look at the academic context within which the production took place and how well students reflected on the process they went through.

In particular they will assess the following criteria:

  • quality of literature review and academic discussion
  • understanding of what the tool is and how to use it
  • understanding of the academic context
  • research carried out; relevance and use of primary research if appropriate; quality and interpretation of secondary sources
  • quality of the academic arguments made for making relevant choices during the process of creation
  • critical evaluation of the process
  • relevancy and appropriateness of conclusions drawn from the study
  • Professional context (30%)

Examiners will assess whether students have a clear understanding of the professional context within which the communication is taking place and how they have taken it into consideration when producing their artefact.

  • The following points will be looked at more specifically:
  • understanding of the organisation students have chosen as clients
  • understanding of the use of the communication technique in a practical setting
  • application of the academic concepts within this professional context
  • quality of the communication campaign designed by students (if appropriate)
  • creativity, appropriateness and relevancy of the technique within the communication campaign
  • understanding of the professional parameters affecting the decision made during the creation process
  • professional justification and rationale for the choices made throughout
  • suggested evaluation techniques for the campaign and the student’s production

Overall (10%)

Here examiners will look at how the sections of the report work as a whole and whether academic and professional objectives were achieved.

  • They will also look at:
  • the structure
  • the format
  • the writing style
  • the student’s chosen approach including creativity and innovation
  • the student’s overall understanding of the subject
  • the potential contribution of the study to the field of work

Total (100%)

Framework for writing up a Creative Study in Arts Practice

This relatively new option has been adopted to give students a chance to develop their creative work, as well as their academic skills It is an opportunity to produce a substantial piece, in a creative discipline that you already have some experience of.

That latter point is very important. This is not the occasion to try a new creative discipline for the first time. So, if you already write poems/novels/short stories/plays, make films, compose music, act in theatres, paint, sculpt, work creatively on computers, take lots of photographs etc – then, perhaps, this is worth considering. These caveats are to make sure you know what you are putting yourself forward for.

Advantages and risks

The advantages of the Creative Option are obvious. You may never again get an opportunity to spend six months working on your play, artwork, short story, photographic essay, symphony etc. It is a unique chance to develop a skill to a more professional level. You may also have something to show to an employer at the end of it.

The risks are equally obvious: it could be too ambitious in terms of time and equipment; you may not finish your piece; you may not like it, (we may not like it!); there’s very little training for creative work on our kind of course; it is, by far, the most difficult option to succeed with.

So, first of all, think very hard as to whether you want to choose this option at all, and then think very hard about what it is you want to do, before making your final decision. Get some tutorial advice before committing yourself.

How will it work?

The Creative option will have TWO components:

  1. the creative work
  2. the contextual dissertation

You will need to complete both in order to pass the assignment.

The Creative Work

The aims of the Creative element are to develop your imaginative and creative potential. The outcomes will be a piece of creative work.

The Contextual dissertation

The aims of the contextual dissertation are fourfold:

  1. To show that you can carry out creative research.
  2. To show that you can reflect and make aesthetic and creative judgements.
  3. To show how your work fits in with the traditions of the discipline you have chosen.
  4. To be a record of what you have achieved.

The outcome will be a dissertation of between 6,000 and 8,000 words.

Guidance notes for the dissertation

These are just some suggestions as to how you might frame a creative dissertation, as opposed to a standard dissertation which would be more based on the general models acceptable in the social sciences.

Structure

Think of the creative dissertation in sections.

The Historical Context

All creative practices have a history. You will need to show us that you understand this general history and can give a researched account of it. Much of this will be similar to the researched essays that you have done on the course so far. You will need to show us a sense of the ordered progression of your discipline up to the present day; how its practitioners have worked; how judgements have been made in that practice; what its contemporary practices are and how they might develop in the future. You will need illustrations to back up the points you are making.

Case Studies

A very useful way of deepening your understanding of creative practice, in any discipline, is to undertake case studies. If, for example, you were working in photography, then it might be useful to pick two or three photographers who have worked in similar areas, with related subject matter or whose style has influenced you. If you are writing a creative piece, then a critical analysis of two or three similar writers would help you to avoid pitfalls and help us to place your work culturally. By doing researched case studies you will learn how to grapple with the problems of creative originality, how aesthetic judgements are made, how influence is passed from one practitioner to another, perhaps how biography shapes the output of major artists. If you opt for a case studies approach as part of your dissertation, then both you, and ourselves, will have some understanding of the specific traditions you are working in and trying to develop.

Your own work

Artists continuously reflect on their own work. We would expect you to do the same. A section of your dissertation would have to explain the genesis of your work; why you work in the medium you have chosen; what were you trying to achieve; what problems you faced and overcame. Most importantly, we would need to know what was the meaning of your work and how might people react to it and judge it. So,a key component of your dissertation would be the critical reflection on the work you have produced for public consumption.

The future

Most artists hope to go on producing work after they have left university. If you wish to develop your creative skills, you need to be thinking of your next project, on how you might build on the opportunity presented by the creative option. So, as there is unlikely to be a formal ‘conclusion’ to creative research, we need to know how you think what you have achieved so far can be taken further.

The dissertation, as a whole, will, of course, still need all the formal apparatus of a piece of research – excellent presentation, quotations, references, illustrations, booklists etc – and these must be presented in an appropriate academic style.

Assessment

The assessment will be weighted overall in the following ratio:

  • The creative work (30%)
  • The contextual dissertation (70%)

This weighting is to minimise the risks to you – either of your failing to achieve what you set out to do, or of your assessors being unimpressed by the final product.

For the creative piece, we will be looking for professional levels of competence, originality of ideas, skill in structuring a creative piece and success in terms of what you set out to achieve:

  • Originality (30%)
  • Professional Competence (20%)
  • Structure (20%)
  • Success in terms of Aims (30%)

For the contextual dissertation we will be judging presentation, research skills, academic rigour, language competence and intellectual coherence.

  • Clarity of presentation (20%)
  • Historical context (30%)
  • Case Studies (30%)
  • Personal Critical Reflection (20%)
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