DISSERTATION 8000-10000 WORDS - 2017/8

Module code: PSYM034

Module provider


Module Leader

GATERSLEBEN BC Dr (Psychology)

Number of Credits


ECT Credits



FHEQ Level 7

JACs code


Module cap (Maximum number of students)


Module Availability

Year long

Overall student workload

Personal Tutorial Hours: 10

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Project (Group/Individual/Dissertation) WRITTEN DISSERTATION (8000-10000 WORDS) 100%

Alternative Assessment


Prerequisites / Co-requisites

Successful completion of taught portion of their programme equating to 120 Level 7 credits.

Module overview

It is a requirement of the University that taught postgraduate programmes include a dissertation and/or major project module. For this module students will conduct their own piece of empirical research in an area of Psychology relevant for their Masters course under supervision of a member of academic staff. For the assessment students will subject either a qualitative research report of 10,000 words or a quantitative/mixed research report of 8,000 words.

Overall student workload: 600 hours

This study time is split as follows:

Supervisor meetings: 10 hours

Individual study time: 590 hours

These hours will include development of theoretical framework, aims and hypotheses, recruiting samples, fieldwork and liaison with key personnel as appropriate, data recording and analysis, interpretation and writing up. Specific times for these subsections cannot be given as they vary from project to project.


Module aims

The dissertation aims to provide students with the opportunity to undertake an in-depth, empirical investigation of a psychological problem or topic. The process of preparing and writing a dissertation provides the student with the opportunity to pursue in depth a topic of his or her own choice. It should allow them to apply and develop research skills acquired during the MSc program and to demonstrate a reflective understanding of the research endeavour through their own work

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
Identify a viable research issue or question pertinent to the domain of psychology they are currently studying. This issue may be problem driven (arising from a real world setting) or theory driven (guided by a clear research question and/or leading to conventional hypothesis testing) or both (most research has a problem context that will need to be formulated with reference to relevant theory and literature) C
Conduct and present a coherent literature review
Design a strategy for investigation (design, procedure, methods of data collection) that will address the research question and/or hypotheses that can be logically defended and is in accordance with the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences and BPS ethical guidelines CP
Conduct appropriate statistical analyses that address the hypotheses and/or applying other more qualitative analytic method as appropriate to the research question. Studies that do not involve data collection are not acceptable; however there may be instances where existing datasets (including media resources such as newspaper articles and transcripts of television programmes) can be used for meta-analytic purposes or for additional analyses C
Interpret findings – whether numerical/statistical or in the form of verbatim transcripts, with reference to relevant theory and/or previous research, in an informed and defendable way acknowledging their own role in the analytic process.
Coherently articulate the benefits and limitations of the research C
Identify the implications for future research and, where appropriate, also the practical implications with due recognition of the scope and boundaries of these implications C
Present these findings in a potentially publishable format in accordance with APA guidelines P
Self-organisation (project planning and scheduling, time management) and initiative (in seeking answers to questions, in conducting the research), including the ability to work increasingly independently and with initiative throughout the duration of the project PT
Communicate with the supervisor in a constructive and proactive manner about the above, and with view to develop a clear and workable modus operandi for supervision (that may mean discussing mutual expectations and process issues arising during the course of supervision) PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Module content

The dissertation content must be appropriate for your MSc degree programme. If there is any doubt about this because the boundaries of a topic are fuzzy (for example, a study of receptionists as gatekeepers to seeing GPs could be classifiable as health or occupational research), students must defer to their supervisors before embarking on the research.

Students whose projects are problem driven must be careful not to allow the client to dictate the project such that academic standards are contravened. In this case, the student may be obliged to produce a client report of executive summary that can be attached as Appendix to the academic dissertation.

The dissertation must be an original piece of work: students must demonstrate this throughout the project duration.

It is expected that the dissertation will consist of new analyses of data collected to address a clearly specified research question. Normally students will be expected to collect new data of their own though secondary data analysis (including analyses of media data) and meta-analyses are acceptable and indeed encouraged by some members of staff. Dissertations that consist solely of reviews of the literature and contain no new analyses of data will not normally be acceptable, Your dissertation topic must be clearly identifiable as one appropriate for the degree course you are pursuing - if you have any doubts about the appropriateness of a proposed study, consult your Course Director.

Student projects and available supervisors are advertised on the MSc dissertation pages on SurreyLearn in early October. Students should refer to this page before contacting potential supervisors. The process for allocating students to supervisors will be explained during the workshops and on SurreyLearn. When a suitable match is found, the supervisor will officially agree on supervision for the work. Soon after the agreement, the student should submit a proposal for investigation.

The specific project’s timetable is within the jurisdiction of the student but must be agreed up front with the supervisor.

Below are a set of guidelines you should aim to work towards the deadlines in bold are formal deadlines.


Look for a supervisor on the MSc dissertation project website
Planning the research: submit a summary of the research proposal after discussion with the likely supervisor
Early December – submit dissertation proposal form
Contact ‘gatekeepers’ for access to respondents and start preparing for ethical approval. Clear guidelines about ethics procedures are given in module workshops and in the student handbook.
Arrange data collection with gatekeepers and participants
Prepare literature review
Start prepare study materials


Apply for ethical approval by March but earlier if NHS approval is needed. All students must apply for ethical approval either through the fast track procedure or the full ethical procedure. This needs to be discussed with the supervisor. Clear guidelines about ethics procedures are given in the workshops and in the student handbook
Data collection and analysis
Mid July: submit first draft of your results to supervisor
Prepare full draft of dissertation
End July: submit full draft of dissertation (without discussion section) to supervisor
Make changes and write discussion
Early September: Hand in dissertation

Please note that July and August deadlines need to be discussed with your supervisor as they may be away for some periods over the summer.

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy

Students are entitled to 10 hours of contact time with their supervisor scheduled as required to suit both supervisor and student. Contact time includes face-to-face meetings, telephone conversations, e-mails and reading drafts with respect to the project. Students are entitled to have feedback on their draft from their supervisor before the final submission provided they organise a suitable time for this in advance. Supervisors are permitted to comment on one draft only. Any additional supervision must be strictly negotiated by supervisor and student, but if there is no justifiable reason for this, heavy dependency could undermine the achievement of independent working and therefore also the final mark will reflect this.

In addition to the supervisor meetings there will be one hour dissertation workshops throughout the year. That will cover topics related to the dissertation and the learning outcomes and will cover topics such as:

Ethics, academic misconduct and plagiarism, using the library sources, conducting literature reviews, writing in APA style, preparing the dissertation, research design and data analyses.

Your supervisor will provide feedback and guidance on all elements of the dissertation but he or she will not read your discussion. This will be an independent piece of work where students can demonstrate their own understanding and critical analyses of their work and the practical, theoretical and methodological implications of this work and their findings.

Your supervisor can be expected to offer advice and guidance at all stages of completing the dissertation and it is normally expected that supervisors will read through a single complete draft of the dissertation before submission (except for the discussion). The supervisor is not, however, responsible for the content of the dissertation nor can they be expected to correct typographical and grammatical errors. If you think you might have problems with presenting work in good English, you should discuss this with your supervisor early in the year so that appropriate help can be found.

The supervisor will nominate an independent marker (with sufficient knowledge of the field of research) who will mark the dissertation along with another member of staff.

Identifying a supervisor

Student projects and available supervisors are advertised on an MSc dissertation website on SurreyLearn in early October. Details on supervisor allocation procedures will be made available on SurreyLearn at the same time.

Learning and teaching methods include:

Independent research with a member of psychology academic staff; one-to-one facilitation and guidance, group supervision as appropriate (supervision time: 10 hours). Optional workshops and seminars (described above) and bespoke statistical support delivered one-to-one (for more information: see above).

In addition students are encouraged to attend departmental seminars to expose themselves to different types of academic research in psychology within and outside the department. 

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the ability to draw together the skills and knowledge they have achieved over the academic year. It gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to identify a viable research issue or question pertinent to the domain of psychology they are currently studying (in the introduction); to conduct and present a coherent literature review; to design a strategy for investigation (design, procedure, methods of data collection) that will address the research question (method section); to conduct appropriate statistical analyses that address the hypotheses and/or applying other more qualitative analytic method as appropriate to the research question (result section); to Interpret findings with reference to relevant theory and/or previous research (discussion); to coherently articulate the benefits and limitations of the research (introduction and discussion); to Identify the implications for future research (discussion); to present these findings in a potentially publishable format in accordance with APA guidelines (the whole dissertation); self-organisation and initiative (during the project); communicate with the supervisor in a constructive and proactive manner (during the project).

The dissertation will be marked by two independent markers in the psychology department and will then be sent to the External Examiner for comment and moderation of marks if necessary.

(addresses learning outcomes: 1 - 10) Submission: end of programme.

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will submit an initial draft of the dissertation for formative assessment.


Students will receive feedback on an initial draft of their dissertation and on the final submission.

Reading list

Reading list for DISSERTATION 8000-10000 WORDS : http://aspire.surrey.ac.uk/modules/psym034

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2017/8 academic year.