Desk Based Study Dissertation Sample

Your dissertation provides you with the opportunity to write a substantial piece of academic work on a topic of interest to you.  It is your chance to produce a work of scholarship, using the academic skills you have developed.  Regardless of topic, your dissertation will demonstrate the following skills:

  • defining and outlining a research topic
  • establishing a clear research question
  • identifying the salient issues
  • finding or generating the relevant information
  • evaluating its reliability and validity
  • weighing up the evidence on all sides of a debate
  • arriving at a well-argued conclusion
  • organising and presenting the results of your work critically, cogently, and coherently.

There are two major forms of dissertation:

  • A piece of empirical research, conducted on a topic or issue.
  • A literature-based long essay providing an analysis of a specific research question.


An Empirical Dissertation

This type of dissertation involves carrying out a piece of original research on a small scale. It entails planning a research study, collecting and analysing primary data, and presenting the results in a systematic way.

The Key Stages in Producing an Empirical Study

1. Identify a research topic within the scope of the project

2. Refine the project title and formulate your own research question. This will be by:

  • reading on the topic to see what aspects have been researched;
  • your observation of details of the topic in any work experience;
  • reflections on this experience;
  • and discussions with tutors and fellow students.

3. Determine the best research format so as to better understand the area/issue in question. This will be formed by:

  • research methodologies and research methods that others have tried. This will be discovered by reading in the substantive area and focusing on how others have researched the topic;
  • the nature of your topic area and what research methods are possible.


4. Formulate a research proposal within the scope of the project

5. Identify and select the location(s) where you will conduct the research, and your target group(s).

6. Consider carefully alternative groups/places you could approach in case permission is denied. Start at this stage to avoid panicking and making inappropriate choices.

7. Seek permission to access the places and groups.

8. Develop research tools and test these.

9. Further reading.

10. Refine your research tools.

11. Collect and analyse your data.

12. Review earlier reading and evaluate other research and conceptualisations in light of the data you have gathered.

13. Throughout the process, record the research progress and critical points in a research diary. This can be quite brief, but will be valuable when you write up your work.

14. As the writing process gets underway, you will need to:

  • draft outlines, synopses and chapters of the dissertation & discuss these with your supervisor and others;
  • discuss your findings and developing concepts with your supervisor and others;
  • work with the supervisor‟s and others‟ feedback to develop and refine the draft.

Empirical Dissertation Sample. Click Here


A-Library Based Dissertation

A library-based dissertation is probably best distinguished from an empirical study by regarding it as a piece of scholarship in which the work of others is placed under close scrutiny, rather than the gathering of new, primary data directly from observation or measurement. The data of a library-based study is the work of others. However, it is potentially highly valuable and important work, especially if you wish to conduct an in-depth study of an area and review the implications for your own professional concerns.

It is not the simply the describing of work that has been carried out in an area, although this will be part of the task. Library-based studies must contain research questions that are as carefully developed as any other type of study. The work can then be placed in a defined context and a critical judgment of the work can be made regarding its value, quality and contribution to theory and practical application. You also must consider the research methods used by the original researchers and evaluate these. You may also make judgments about the validity of the results in the context of your own professional practice.

The Key Stages in a Library-Based Study

1. Identify a research topic within the scope of the project.

2. Refine the project title and formulate your own research question. As with all dissertations you must have a clear question for which you wish to find answers. This will form the basis of the contract with your supervisor.

3. Clearly identify, discuss and clarify the key concepts being investigated. To do this you must read on your topic, advised initially by your supervisor.

4. Formulate a research proposal within the scope of the project. This may take several days.

5. Review the evidence available. This will include:

  • constructing sets of criteria against which to judge the materials reviewed. (at this point you should discuss your criteria with your supervisor);
  • a detailed literature review of the relevant books and journal articles. Note that this can also include other relevant materials, e.g. company or government reports, market research, newspaper articles, etc.

6. Sum up. This may be an overall analysis of statistical studies or some other analysis of the total evidence available.

7. Discuss how the literature survey answers the questions that you are exploring. Weigh up the pros and cons.

8. Make recommendations for further research studies, or draw out implications for practice.


It is important that a study sort adds additional material to the data that is being discussed, such as providing a summary of the weight of evidence for and against a particular position or theory, identifying key gaps in knowledge, or providing a new perspective from which to view an issue.  A  library based study can provide an excellent opportunity to consider how research done in a range of contexts relates to your own eventual work context.

Library Based Dissertation Sample Click Here


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The two most common types of secondary data sources are labelled as internal and external.

Internal sources of data are those that are internal to the organisation in question. For instance, if you are doing a research project for an organisation (or research institution) where you are an intern, and you want to reuse some of their past data, you would be using internal data sources.

The benefit of using these sources is that they are easily accessible and there is no associated financial cost of obtaining them.

External sources of data, on the other hand, are those that are external to an organisation or a research institution. This type of data has been collected by “somebody else”, in the literal sense of the term. The benefit of external sources of data is that they provide comprehensive data – however, you may sometimes need more effort (or money) to obtain it.

Let’s now focus on different types of internal and external secondary data sources.

There are several types of internal sources. For instance, if your research focuses on an organisation’s profitability, you might use their sales data. Each organisation keeps a track of its sales records, and thus your data may provide information on sales by geographical area, types of customer, product prices, types of product packaging, time of the year, and the like.

Alternatively, you may use an organisation’s financial data. The purpose of using this data could be to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and understand the economic opportunities or outcomes of hiring more people, buying more vehicles, investing in new products, and so on.

Another type of internal data is transport data. Here, you may focus on outlining the safest and most effective transportation routes or vehicles used by an organisation.

Alternatively, you may rely on marketing data, where your goal would be to assess the benefits and outcomes of different marketing operations and strategies.

Some other ideas would be to use customer data to ascertain the ideal type of customer, or to use safety data to explore the degree to which employees comply with an organisation’s safety regulations.

The list of the types of internal sources of secondary data can be extensive; the most important thing to remember is that this data comes from a particular organisation itself, in which you do your research in an internal manner.

The list of external secondary data sources can be just as extensive. One example is the data obtained through government sources. These can include social surveys, health data, agricultural statistics, energy expenditure statistics, population censuses, import/export data, production statistics, and the like. Government agencies tend to conduct a lot of research, therefore covering almost any kind of topic you can think of.

Another external source of secondary data are national and international institutions, including banks, trade unions, universities, health organisations, etc. As with government, such institutions dedicate a lot of effort to conducting up-to-date research, so you simply need to find an organisation that has collected the data on your own topic of interest.

Alternatively, you may obtain your secondary data from trade, business, and professional associations. These usually have data sets on business-related topics and are likely to be willing to provide you with secondary data if they understand the importance of your research. If your research is built on past academic studies, you may also rely on scientific journals as an external data source.

Once you have specified what kind of secondary data you need, you can contact the authors of the original study.

As a final example of a secondary data source, you can rely on data from commercial research organisations. These usually focus their research on media statistics and consumer information, which may be relevant if, for example, your research is within media studies or you are investigating consumer behaviour.

TABLE 5 summarises the two sources of secondary data and associated examples:


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