Research Project Handbook - MSc in Occupational Health and Safety

Research Project Handbook
A research project is a substantial piece of work managed by the student with the support of the academic staff. The expectation is that a topic will be chosen by the student; that is then researched through a process of literature review, gathering and analysis of data, the discovery of findings, the drawing of conclusions and the writing up of the exercise. There are few boundaries upon the topics that can be contemplated, provided that the project has relevance to health and safety management. The research project serves a number of purposes:
  1. To provide an opportunity for students to do an independent detailed piece of work in an area of personal or corporate interest.
  2. To increase research skills.
  3. To increase skills of critical analysis: to articulate and challenge assumptions, methods, and evidence.
  4. To increase report-writing skills.
  5. To develop, integrate and apply learning from previous training and experiences.
Books on research methods:
In addition to the taught sessions, students are encouraged to read around the topic of research. Books are plentiful, and a number can be found in University Library. A list of recommended titles is presented in Appendix A. The remainder of this handbook details the processes that are to be observed during each of the five phases and gives some useful guidelines as given below by a PhD dissertation writing service.

Report Format:
Dissertations must be typed one and a half spaced, with 2.5cm margins on the top, bottom and right-hand side and 3.8cm on the left-hand side. All page numbers should be centred at the bottom of each page; the pages should be numbered consecutively. The Abstract, Acknowledgments and Contents should be numbered in lower case Roman numerals and the remaining text should be numbered in Arabic numerals. All Tables, Figures and Appendices presented must be referred to in the main text. Tables and Appendices should include a caption ABOVE whilst Figures should include a caption BELOW. The title page must be in the form shown in Appendix C.

Dissertations should be formally presented, this includes title page, abstract, contents list(s), and main body made up of chapters with section numbers, page numbers, and appropriate forms of expression. The detailed requirements are outlined on the following page. You will be given several opportunities to examine past, successful dissertations during the taught sessions.

The main body of the dissertation, i.e. excluding any appendices, should not exceed 20,000 words. Think of this word limit as a maximum, not a target to be aimed for: It is possible to produce an exceptional report in 15,000 words. Consider laying out your chapter headings at an early stage of writing up, and to create a word count “ration” for each chapter, totalling no more than the word limit. Be brief!

Appendices may be included but will not be subjected to the same scrutiny as the main body of the report. Appendices should be relevant and concise and provide supporting documentation. No credit is given for the content of appendices. If you have many repetitive items, you might want to offer one or two examples, rather than the whole stack.

The content/sections of each research project will vary depending on the particular topic or approach. However, the dissertation should include the following elements:
  • A title page
  • Statement of originality
  • Acknowledgements, if you wish
  • Abstract (about 250 words)
  • Table(s) of content

An introduction to the research, including:
  • Background: A general description of the project and its objectives. This will probably constitute the main part of the introduction. It should include a definite statement of purpose of the study. The topic or problem should be clearly explained and an outline of what is to be achieved should be provided. It may include a summary of your organisation or its sector.
  • Literature review: Previous, relevant work should be reviewed critically, showing an ability to use theory in an appropriate manner and demonstrating an awareness of the research carried out in related areas. Specific research questions should be developed towards the end.
  • Methodology: The methodology and its appropriateness to the problem should be outlined. Techniques used for collection and analysis of the data should be explained. Ethical considerations should also be included.
  • Results: Presentation and analysis of the data collected.
  • Discussion: This should be based on the evidence and the preceding analysis of the initial problem and subsequent findings. Limitations of the methodology should be included.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations: The conclusion draws together the discussion. Recommendations are optional but should be appropriate and practicable.
  • Reference list
  • Appendices, if required
Detailed guidelines on how you might approach writing up your dissertation will be given in the last of the taught sessions. For a checklist see appendix E.

Page numbering
  • Title page (use template, electronic version on LEARN) – no page number
  • Statement of Originality – no page number
  • Acknowledgments (if applicable) – Roman numerals in lower case i, ii, iii, iv, etc.
  • Abstract – Roman numerals
  • Table of contents – Roman numerals
  • List of tables (if applicable) – Roman numerals
  • List of Figures (if applicable) – Roman numerals
  • Introduction, Methodology, etc. – Arabic numerals starting with the introduction on page 1
  • Appendices – no numbering of pages required but pages can be numbered. Appendices should be named themselves as ‘Appendix 1’, ‘Appendix 2’, etc. and referred to as such.
Good dissertations are likely to exhibit the following:
  • Readily understood and clearly expressed purpose
  • Coherent conceptual analysis
  • Assumptions clearly articulated and evaluated, and alternative explanations explored
  • Skilful use of relevant literature
  • Sound methodological design, clearly presented and justified
  • Sound data collection techniques
  • Carefully discussed conclusions which refer back to the foundations laid down earlier
  • Rigorous discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the study and the approach taken
  • Good referencing
  • Clear expression, brevity, and good presentation
Bad dissertations:
  • Are likely to fall down on one or more of the above
  • May be purely descriptive, with little attempt at analysis or discussion
  • May attempt to mask lack of quality with complex but meaningless jargon
  • May try to hide lack of substance by the use of excessive “padding” material

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