Module ED3000 Independent Research Project

Module ED3000 Independent Research Project

Role and Purpose

• The project is designed to give you an opportunity to present evidence of scholarship in a field related to education.

• It must demonstrate familiarity with relevant literature, the use of research skills and systematic analysis of evidence.

• It must seek to improve personal knowledge and understanding of professional practices in a defined area associated with education.

• Above all, a research report should present new perspectives on professional knowledge and practices. It should, at minimum, confirm validity of continuing accepted practice of the known, in a contemporary context. At best, investigation should result in progress from the known to the unknown, and it should demonstrate the boldness of original thought, defended by sound debate.

Criteria for a successful dissertation:

• Competent reporting of an investigation focused on a succinctly-defined problem or focus area;

• Critical discussion of previous research in the field, research paradigms and methods;

• Evidence of personal investigation, including data collection, report and analysis of findings and a statement of further questions for immediate and/or future action resulting from your enquiry, perceptions and consequent thoughts;

• Proposals for future development or research both in the immediate practical situation and more widely;

• Statements of what you have learned as a result of the investigative process and how the work has, or should, improve your professional knowledge, understanding and skills.

The Research Project is designed to enable you to select a field of study which is of personal interest to you and of future value to you as someone with interests in the professional, working field of Education. Within this chosen area, you should select a topic for investigation which focuses on the quality of provision associated with your programme of study.

The Research Project will usually follow the conventions and practices of action enquiry and will normally include some enquiry related to first-hand information (data) gathering in settings such as schools, colleges, training organisations, youth organisations and their associated staff or student groups.

It is part of the rationale of dissertation work that you conduct a good deal of this work under your own guidance and initiative. However, you will be allocated a supervisor who will:

• help you focus down on the topic;
• determine exactly what you are investigating and the key questions for research;
• how you intend to expand your review of literature for the section in the dissertation;
• and monitor your research tools and that your research meets the required ethical standards.

Each supervisor has limited time per student, therefore, it is important that you are fully prepared for your supervision sessions. Your tutor will support your initiative and provide feedback about your work progress.

A supervising tutor cannot give advice on your final draft submission, nor can they read endless drafts. You need to make good use of your supervision sessions well before the time of final draft so that you know that you are moving along the right lines. You should remain in close contact with your supervising tutor and keep them up dated of your progress.


Stage 1: Preparation

This process precedes allocation of a research supervisor.

• Reflect on your knowledge and understandings gained from your programme of study and your reading and identify an area in which greater knowledge and understanding might improve your knowledge base on a selected topic.

• Before proceeding further you will need to complete an Ethics form for approval by your assigned research supervisor.

Stage 2: Statement of Intent and Purpose

• Using the feedback given on your ED2000 assessed work, draft an introduction to your project, which should make clear the focus, question to be addressed and the rationale for the work.

• This will need review at a later point in the investigation, but will help to direct earlier activities towards a desired outcome.

• The introductory statement leads to specific questions or hypotheses, which will guide a literature search and review and lead to a proposal for personal investigation. Again, use the feedback you received for your ED2000 to fine-tune this.

Stage 3: Literature Search and Review

• Undertake a literature search and review aiming to answer your questions and identify the focus of subsequent investigation to be undertaken.

• This provides a framework from which to proceed to a personal investigation and leads into an investigation which will increase knowledge and understanding of the issue beyond that discovered in available literature. It provides the ‘known’ and leads into the, as yet, ‘unknown’.

• Read relevant papers, books, chapters, news articles, other dissertations and see how far you can get in answering your questions. Identify keywords in your questions and go to journals and the internet for possible links.

• Identify points of interest for further investigation and note where there appears to be consensus in answers to your questions and where there is conflicting opinion or no answers. As a consequence decide what you would like to do next. The focus might be on:

o seeking answers to a question which is still around after your literature search;
o testing out an author’s ideas in a contemporary context to see if the answer is the same.

• Complete a draft of the literature review concluding with a statement of personal research intentions. You now will be in a position to draft a personal research plan which you can share with your supervisor. The following framework will help.

• Name
• Student ID
• Programme
• Supervisor
Chosen Area of investigation
Question which initiated the project
Personal need for the investigation
Professional value attributed
Literature Review
Main Findings from literature search
Texts explored
Consequent focus of personal investigation
Reasons for the choice of direction
Investigation Methodology
New question to be addressed and to guide a personal investigation
Data needed for progress
Data collection modes proposed
Proposed Settings (school; LEA; specialist centres) for data collection
Target individuals/groups

Stage 4: Personal Research

Use the Dissertation Structure Guidelines to guide your activities, which will be assisted by your allocated research supervisor.

• The work must include data collection through a variety of methodologies, which will have to be reported and critically appraised for their appropriateness. Do not worry if the methodology selected in some phases was inappropriate – report on why it was not. This is a valid process in the world of research.

• You must analyse the data in relation to the questions you are addressing. Be prepared for the unexpected to emerge.

• You must show ability to report on findings in ways, which make your thoughts accessible to others.

Research Supervision

To help you gain maximum benefit from your supervisor the following should be observed:

• Responsibility for your own work is expected; no one will chase you to meet the requirements.

• Supervisors can take no responsibility for the quality of your work, if you do not take advantage of their expertise during the allocated time.

• If progress is inhibited through illness or other personal difficulties, seek advice from your Research supervisor or the Programme Leader.

• For the supervision sessions, arrive with a carefully prepared progress report and notes of issues you wish to raise. An abstract of your work to date is good practice and may save you time at the end of the whole process. It is your responsibility to bring your Supervision log which you must fill in at each session. The supervisor will note your attendance and sign accordingly.

• If your supervisor is willing to read a draft, remember that they will only comment on one draft. It is not the supervisor’s responsibility to proof-read the work, nor to re-draft sections for you. The supervisor advises modifications, additions and potential for further investigation lines.

• Discuss and set realistic targets for your work, and keep to them.

• Keep meticulous records of all references used or cited. (This will save hours of time in the final stages). It is wise to maintain this record electronically and as a hard copy.

• Consider what the supervisor has to say in a positive manner. Try to keep an open mind and be prepared to consider a range of viewpoints. If all you are doing is reporting someone else’s ideas, without offering something of your own, the dissertation will lack the element of originality and academic rigour, which it should contain.

• You must accept the academic conventions for writing dissertations, so be prepared to accept the supervisor’s guidance in this aspect of your work.

• At the end of a tutorial, the supervisor will sign your supervision log, record the advice given to you and arrange the next tutorial time. You must make a target entry on your form and date it. This action plan will be reviewed at your next tutorial. You are given a proforma to assist. Keep this safe, as you will need to present it with your dissertation report.

Stage 5: Presentation of the Dissertation Report

• You will be required to submit, for approval, a title for your work, within 3 weeks of the start of ED3000.

• There must be strict adherence to the conventions of presentation; failure to do so may affect the mark you will be given.

• You may draw upon your own personal and professional experience, hence you could write in the first person singular, and in past tense for all Chapters, except the findings and analyses and conclusions and recommendations which, generally, are, for the most part, in the present and future tenses, respectively (but beware of becoming anecdotal).

• Protect confidentiality of identities by using pseudonyms, initials or numbers.

• Use a thesaurus or synonym dictionary to extend your vocabulary.

• The script should be font 12 point and consistent in style; lines must be double-spaced.

• Margins need to be a minimum 3 cms.

• Pagination is essential

• Each Chapter starts on a right hand page

• Ensure that the work, data collection and statements are professionally and ethically defensible and that the prevailing Data Protection Act is rigorously observed in collecting and presenting material.

• Avoid sexism in Language

– If the person being discussed is unknown or could be male or female, use: she or he, s/he or use the plural where sense permits

– Males should not always be first in order of mention. Alternate the order, but never in the same sentence

• All references must be accurately documented using the following guidelines:

– Avoid footnotes

– Make explicit reference within your text to all sources, using the Cite Them Right method. These should indicate the surname of the author, publication date and page in brackets, in the text e.g. Tomlinson, (2001:205) postulates…

– An author who has more than one reference in the same year is shown as, Smith, (2012a) suggests…… Smith, (2012b) hypothesises….

– Authors with the same surname showing the same publication date may be distinguished by the inclusion of initials as Adams, P., (2011) notes… and Adams, E., (2011) contends…

– Official reports may be referred to using the name of the chairperson e.g. Tomlinson et al. (2004 present….

The authors are listed in your List of References in alphabetical order. When the same author has several texts, list them in chronological order.

• Web-site references should be acknowledged by site, date of access and whenever possible the author and date of article included.

• Tables, photographs and diagrams must be numbered and titled and listed on the Contents page, with location directions.

Completion Schedule

• The schedule for writing a dissertation is very demanding. If you miss a deadline you could find yourself in difficulties by the submission time. Be disciplined in your approach, write a research plan with time allocations.

• Computer spell-checks should be used, but English spelling conventions must be maintained, rather than American. You will need to check that all words are correctly spelt and used eg. Have/of; practice/practise; there/their; our/are; won/one. Check that grammar and punctuation are correct.

• It is not your supervisor’s responsibility to correct the final draft. Ask a friend to read it out loud to you and to comment on its coherence and content.

Never submit work for examination without reading it first. Read it out loud to yourself or ask a friend to proof-read. Mistakes are more easily identified by such practice. Do a final check from the last to first page – this is good proof-reading practice.

• Keep a personal copy of all work submitted.

Problems do sometimes occur. You can insure against some by keeping back-up electronic copies and maintaining an up-to-date hard copy of work (this can be scanned in an emergency). Have an on-going hard copy available for reference. If you experience a problem, let your research supervisor know.


This is a ‘model’ structure for Education Research dissertations. Individual dissertations may vary in organisation following negotiations between student and their supervisors. However, it is unlikely that a successful dissertation will deviate widely from this overall strategy.


• The title is important and, therefore, must be agreed with your tutor.
• The initial title should allow you to address one fundamental question and a minimum of three related ones.
• The final title should be short, focused and invite attention

Front Cover

The front cover of your dissertation must display:

• The title of the University (University of East London) and of the School (Cass School of Education and Communities)
• Your Student ID
• The title of the work
• Your supervisor’s name

If a cover with window is used, please ensure that the ID and Title are visible.

Title Page

This must include

• Student ID
• Title
• This dissertation report is presented in part fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree in (Programme title)


This is a brief outline of the focus and nature of your study. It should consist of no more than 150 words and be written in the present tense. It describes the structure, purposes, methods, results and overall significance of the work.

Key Words

Detail the words or phrases that give clear indication of the focus of the work. These appear on the same page as the Abstract.


Thank anyone who has assisted you in providing data or help with your investigation. You can refer to tutors and relations by name, but protect the identity of individuals and schools used in the investigations (particularly if sensitive data is presented). Dedications are permitted.


• The titles of each Chapter/section should be listed in chronological order and the page references provided.

• Arabic numerals are used on the pages of text; Roman numerals are use for any Preface.

• Appendices are listed either A, B, C etc. or 1, 2, 3 but pages do not have to be numbered.

• List Tables, diagrams, graphs and photographs, with Titles and pages on which they can be found.

Introduction (Purpose and Aims – Approximately 500 words)

• This provides the reasons for the area of research, which you have selected. It should present the first question, which you set out to address.

• The introduction provides a reference point for all subsequent writing and will be written mostly in the past tense, with occasional reference to the present.

• It should be possible to read this section and to go straight to the Conclusions and Recommendations, to gain a continuous understanding of the whole work and to be directed to different Chapters for additional information.

o What do you want to find out, with whom, where, and why (referenced to literature)?
o Why did you choose this area for research (referenced to literature)?
o How is your proposed research important; identify key issues and debates (referenced to literature)?
o Briefly define specific terminology in relation to your research (referenced to literature)
o Who might be a potential user of this research?
o What are the specific research questions?

Chapter 1: Literature Review (Approximately 2075 words)

• This should start by identifying and discussing the specific question or problem, both with reference to relevant literature and with regard to professional practice.

• It should flow in a discussion about the topic selected and show an attempt at answering the questions you set out to answer.

• Do not read every book and journal there is on the subject rather, draft the issues you wish to address in trying to answer the initial question and read in accordance with what you need to find out.

• You must demonstrate critical engagement with a wide range of literature:

o Present the literature reviewed as a body rather than itemised individual pieces, incorporating a thematic approach.

o Interrogate academic literature from a range of sources (e.g., books, chapters in edited books, journal articles, conference papers).

o Elaborate on specific terminology/definitions in relation to your research (referenced to literature).

o Engage critically with the literature by exploring, for example, gaps, weaknesses, strengths, contradictions, agreements and disagreements.

• There is never a case of there being no relevant literature on the subject. Think ‘outside the box’ and search journals and media reports for related items. Your tutor will give you some guidance, but become a researcher and engage in an ‘archaeological dig’.

• It is expected to have a concluding paragraph in your literature review in which you state how your research will attempt to build upon/develop/extend what is already known. How does it influence your own research?

Chapter 2: Methodology (Approximately 1300 words)

• This chapter, written in the past tense, should identify the processes by which you set out and followed through the next stages of investigation.

• State what methodological approach (paradigm) you used and why.

• State where you went to collect it (the setting), the time frame used and the successes, limitations and problems experienced. Cohen et al. (2007) Research Methods in Education, and lecture notes will help your analysis of process and tools used for investigation.

• Be sure to report the size and characteristics of the sample of participants (gender; age; faith, socio-economic status of parents-as applicable) and note how they were selected probability or non-probability sampling, and why?

• What did you do to ensure that your research was valid and reliable? Triangulation (the use of two or more research methods / collection of data from different sources / engagement with a wide range of literature) is said to maximise the validity of qualitative research, but some researchers place more importance on integrity, honesty and comprehensiveness of coverage than on other validity criteria. Whilst the use of a minimum of two research methods to collect data is recommended, you must seek the approval of your tutor if your particular methodological approach does not necessarily require this, e.g. Discourse analysis where the corpus of data is limited to a few newspaper articles or other textual data.

• Never approach a school or other institution without knowing what you want to find out. You will be given an introductory letter by your supervisor when s/he is satisfied with your Ethics Form.

• Agree, with your tutor, the content of any further letters going to an external body and your research tools.

Ethical Considerations (Approximately 500 words)

• Demonstrate your understanding of ethical procedures and how they were applied in your research.

• Your discussion in this section must be supported with relevant literature on ethics.
• The key word in this section is application. It is not just a question of stating, for example, what informed consent/assent is, but how it will be applied in your research.

• What is informed consent? How did you gain informed consent in your research? Make reference to gate keeping.

• What is meant by confidentiality and anonymity? How did you guarantee that confidentiality and anonymity were observed in your research?

• What are the benefits of your research?

• Discuss any possible risks in your research. How has your researcher identity and positioning had an impact on your research. Consider power relations in your role as researcher

Chapter 3: Discussion of Findings and Conclusions (Approx. 2075 words)

• In this section you should analyse your data. However, remember that the aim of your analysis is to answer your research questions! It might be useful to use a thematic approach to structure your analysis. Think about presenting your findings in different ways – this needs, however, to tie in with your research paradigm.

• How did you sort, choose and make sense of your data?

• How does your data support and/or contradict the literature on your topic?

• Anonymised raw data (e.g. charts) should be presented in Appendices. The structure of questionnaires / interview schedules should be presented and report of the responses to each question, but do not include every questionnaire.

• Whenever possible data should be tabulated and accompanied by commentary. Reference to relevant appendices should be made in the text.

• Take care not to indulge in assertions and assumptions. Take the available evidence and work with it, rather than engineering it to confirm a personal hypothesis.

• If data from video, tape recordings or interviews are used, be careful to note the conditions and any possible impact on the outcome; you can report statements made, to illustrate points. Anecdotal evidence must be acknowledged as such.

• Remember, most work involves too small a sample for results to ‘prove’ anything. The data provides indications and possible trends for further investigation. In education there are not truths – truth is transitory and relative to the criteria to which it applies at a specific time in history.

• Refer back to your introduction and note the intentions at the outset of your work and summarise your subsequent discoveries. Provide guides to the chapters and pages where supporting evidence can be found.

• Follow through with a statement of what value you would place on the work for yourself, for other professionals in the field and indicate areas of need for future research, with reasons.

A reader should be able to read your Introduction and this Chapter and gain a comprehensive, but succinct picture of what the whole dissertation is about.


• The overall purposes of the reference list are:

o to allow the reader to verify all sources used in the text
o to indicate the range of literature consulted.

• The list should be alphabetical, by author’s names, and for a given author, chronological.

• Use the format:

– Surname, Initials (date of work) Title, Publisher, Place.
– Articles – state the author of the text from which it came, then add in italics the article author (do not underline the article name).
– Website – note the location and whenever possible the author and date given – otherwise Anon.
– Main Texts are followed by Government Reports and Acts then by websites.

Do not include any text not explicitly mentioned in your text. There must be discernible evidence of having made reference to a work.


• Include here material necessary for the reader’s fuller understanding of the text.

• This may include statistical data where appropriate.

• They should not include ‘padding’ or other extraneous material. If you have acquired a plethora of questionnaires or samples of work, synthesise the material by charting the results of analysed data or provide an example of the range of responses.

• A reader does not necessarily refer to the appendices, so do not include material that is essential for understanding when reading the main body of your work.

Research Supervision Log

The record of your tutorials and personal action plans must be included in your appendices,

Word Count

• The word count of a dissertation does not include the Abstract, Keywords, Bibliography, nor Appendices or notes.

• Convention allows you to 700 words on either side of the stipulated 7,000 words.

• More or less, a penalty is applied.

Criteria for marking Dissertations

Statement of research focus

o Is the focus succinctly defined?
o Is the focus a recognised educational problematic area?
o Is a rationale for undertaking the particular study provided?
o Is there an element of originality to the focus?
o Are the aims of the research set out clearly?
o Is the area of focus valid and useful to Education or related area of study?

Analysis and integration of relevant literature

o Is there evidence of wide reading?
o Are cited readings appropriate to the focus?
o Do the readings cited show a range of opinions / previous findings?
o Does the literature provide a suitable educational backdrop for the research?
o How up-to-date are the references made?

Use of appropriate research techniques

o Are the research methods clearly defined and discussed?
o Is the choice of methodology justified?
o Are other forms of methodology considered?
o Does the methodology produce data and evidence pertinent to the focus?
o Is a clear account of the various stages of the investigation given?
o Are the research findings presented appropriately and accurately?

Evidence of a critical & analytical approach & synthesis of theory & findings

o Is there evidence of a greater understanding?
o Is the synthesis of theory and findings achieved?
o Are the findings presented in a critical form?
o Are their significance and limitations considered?
o Is the argument well reasoned, considered, informed and developed?
o Is the analysis substantiated by the findings and theory – does it address the focus?

Conclusion and suitable recommendations for action

o Does it draw on learning from findings and theory?
o Does it relate back to the focus?
o Are the judgments and recommendations appropriate and meaningful?
o Are they relevant to the immediate practical situation and more widely?
o Are areas for future research recognised?

Presentation and structure

o Spelling
o Punctuation
o Grammatical structure of writing
o Referencing
o Specific acknowledgements of sources
o Clearly indicated sections