Following interview will be asked to the employees of Nivea in the Chinese market at different positions to determine their views and opinions on the importance of corporate marketing and branding in influencing the consumer buying behavior and attitude. All the questions provided in the interview are authentic because these questions are based on the research topic related to significance of corporate marketing and branding in a firm reflecting a range of aspects of corporate marketing and branding. For this, 8 employees will be selected from the marketing department of Nivea as they are the most knowledgeable person and can provide the best knowledge regarding the research issue. Among them, there are 4 sales persons, 1 marketing manager, 1 marketing executive, 1 advertising manager, and 1 business developer. In these research participants, 6 are males and 2 are females. Age of the research participants is between 25 and 50.
Gender: Male/ Female
The interview questions are as below:
- What is your title in the company?
- How long have you worked within the company?
- What makes L’Oreal stand out as compared to other cosmetic companies?
- How does your company execute the corporate values to the employees?
- Which communication channels are used by your company to market your products?
- What are some of your successful marketing campaigns?
- How these successful marketing campaigns helped the firm to grow its business?
- How the brand development is essential for attracting customers and increasing business performance?
- How brand development is effective to enhance the customer loyalty and repetitive purchasing to your brand?
- What are the importance of corporate marketing efforts in promoting the brand and getting success in the market?
- What are the challenges which you face in corporate marketing and branding of the firm?
- How the corporate marketing and branding practices can be improved by the company to persuade the buying behavior?
Structure and contents of the dissertation
The diagram below provides an illustration of how a dissertation can be structured. The arrangement of content in sections (1 to 6) should logically flow from chapter to chapter, but a cohesive work also requires the integration of your research with what’s already known about the topic. It might help you to think of this as a pairing of ‘question’ and ‘answer’ (indicated by the arrows). You propose a research aim at the beginning – you say to what extent you’ve achieved it at the end, in the conclusion; the literature provides theory and evidence – you compare your result and state whether it confirms or contradicts the theory; the ‘data’ is a direct response to the research questions or hypotheses you have posed and the ‘method’ adopted. This structure in your dissertation project report enables the ‘vertical thread’ mentioned earlier to be demonstrated in your writing and is further supported by the research design framework provided in appendix K.
This is a summary of the whole work and should be around 250–300 words. This is usually written after the dissertation is completed and is in the past tense. It must be a concise summary of the rationale for your research, what you have found out, your conclusions and recommendations as it guides the reader as to what to expect. It is not sufficient to write a vague statement such as “results were obtained and recommendations reached”. A clear and focused abstract is essential.
For further guidance on this, please see examples of abstracts in academic journal articles.
This is an important section which introduces your dissertation. It should include the aims/objectives; the rationale for your study (why it is an important problem); its links with your taught programme; the context for the study; and a summary of the structure of your dissertation. If the context is elaborate, as in a case study, then the context should be a main sub-section in the literature review or a separate chapter in its own right.
You may also wish to include a section on what motivated you personally to undertake the field of research chosen.
The purpose of a literature review is to provide you with two things: the theory you need to address your research aims in an academically valid and rigorous manner; and as a potential source to justify the research method you intend to apply to achieve your research aims. The former will normally come from a variety of journal articles in your field of research, as most textbooks don’t have the focused depth necessary. Unless you are undertaking an entirely conceptual work, the latter will come from empirical studies in your field of research. See section 7 on how to read journal articles quickly.
The review will need to critically evaluate what you have read, and therefore you should go beyond descriptions of general findings. There should be a clear attempt to relate this material to the research aims of your study, and therefore it might be structured to reflect your aims. It should not be structured by author or by source.
‘Grey’ literature – that is non-academic but authoritative sources – such as government, regulators, industry trade bodies, etc and formal case study documentation such as previous market research results, reports of policy, etc, as well as academic literature, should be reviewed in this chapter. Please make sure you clearly reference all the literature you look at, both academic and grey.
The literature review is fundamental to producing an integrated research report. Low marks are associated with reviews that are purely descriptive or disconnected from the rest of your study. Show the linkage to the existing literature by converting your research aims into three or four research questions or specific and testable hypotheses (if you are using a quantitative methodology). Pose these questions/hypotheses either at the end of sections addressing the aims or draw your argument together into a conclusion and pose them there.
You may also provide your conclusions on methodological practice from the literature as this logically leads on to the research methodology chapter and can help you to justify the methods and models you intend to use.
This should include a critical appraisal of all the methods that you have employed in your study, demonstrating both their strengths and limitations as methods, and an insight into how the way that they are used has implications for the interpretation of results. You should make reference to methodological considerations including the philosophical assumptions influencing your choice of methods, but don’t over-generalise (this is not a summation of what you learnt in your research methods module). The key thing is to keep it relevant to your research aims, question, and literature.
You should also explain carefully how you collected your data, the challenges that you faced, and how these were overcome. For example, you should give evidence of who you interviewed, when and where, as well as evidence of those you contacted who did not reply. Detailed evidence can be presented in an appendix (but take care with confidentiality and anonymise emails where appropriate). If you are using secondary data, explain your choice of database or source. Give full details of the rationale for the selection of the research sample (e.g. those interviewed/ those who were given a questionnaire), sample size and information about the administration of the questionnaire/ interviews.
You must also include a paragraph where you set out any ethical issues you encountered, including consent, confidentiality and anonymity, and explain how you handled these.
Data Analysis and Discussion
You can present findings either in one chapter and discuss them in another or combine your findings and their interpretation within the same chapter. During the research process you may have collected a significant amount of data which might be difficult to analyse. Structuring the findings/discussion according to the research questions/hypotheses is normally a good idea because you can clearly demonstrate you’ve answered the questions and readily relate your findings back to published findings in the literature review.
The discussion of results should include references to the literature that you reviewed earlier drawing attention to similarities and differences, and explaining, if relevant, how your findings develop knowledge in a certain area. This is essential in an academic piece of work.
Statistical testing of results should be reported clearly. Use tables and graphs where these help you to present and explain your findings.
A commentary on the findings that simply describe them will get low marks – in particular, it should not simply repeat the data in the tables/figures presented. Discuss why they are important, how they are related to your research questions, and to the relevant concepts in the literature.
Results should be reported selectively. Only the findings that are relevant to your dissertation’s aims should be reported in the chapter; supporting or more detailed evidence can be in an appendix, as long as it is referred to in the main text. Unexplained results can be discussed; however, they must be put into the context of the overall aims of the research and must not detract from the focus that had been previously identified.
There are three main aspects to a conclusion which answer the following:-
- Have you achieved your research aims?
- What were the limitations of the research process adopted?
- Have you suggestions for further research?
Conclusions should not just be a summary of your findings but should place them in a broader context of your original aims, and show their significance in relation to published work on the same topic.
A self-reflection on the research process should be included in this chapter. Explain the challenges that you have faced, how these have been overcome, and what you would have done differently – that is, what are the limitations of your research?
A conventional dissertation requires an academic conclusion and not recommendations for practice. If you do include them, they must be justified by your research findings. If you have undertaken an HRM/MBA/company project, recommendations for the client organisation are expected but this does not avoid you reaching academic conclusions as well.
Your list of references should appear in an alphabetical list (by author name) at the end of the dissertation, but before any appendices.
All sources that have been referred to in the text should be listed in the references – not just academic sources, but any source; not just theory or opinion, but ‘facts’ as well; not just text, but statistics, tables, graphs, images, and audio-visual clips. These should only be the actual sources that you have looked at or listened to. You should note that:-
- Internet references should also cite the author/organisation, the website address and the date the website was accessed.
- Fully reference any cut and pasted diagram or text, and put the latter in quotations marks or fully paraphrase it in your own words – don’t amend the occasional word
- If you read a textbook which refers to a previous text you need to reference the textbook as well as the previous source. This is called secondary referencing. Make sure you are clear about how to do this.
- Make sure that you self-reference any models, tables, pictures, etc that you have devised yourself and any previous work that you have done that you refer to in the text.
You should adopt the conventions specified by the Management School using the Harvard System – https://librarydevelopment.group.shef.ac.uk/shef-only/referencing/management_harvard.html
The purpose of appendices is to stop the text from appearing cluttered and broken up by supplementary and minor materials.
Appendices are presented immediately after the list of references and must be referred to in the text if you are to be given credit for them.
Do not include an appendix of all printouts of results – only include those that are relevant and referred to in the main text.
If using interviews, you should include a copy of your interview schedule (i.e. the questions that you asked) in the appendices. Transcripts of one or two of your interviews can be used to illustrate details of your data collection.
Make sure you do not break any agreements you made regarding confidentiality or the anonymity of participants.
You do not need to provide transcriptions of all the interviews you undertake or the quantitative data sets that you use but you must be prepared to supply them if asked.
If using a questionaire you should include a blank copy of your questionnaire in your appendices.
Please note that although appendices are not included in the word count, large numbers of appendices will suggest that you are not able to focus your work. The use of appendices should be limited to information that is essential to supplement the text. Over-use of appendices, and the use of irrelevant information, will be penalised.
General guidance on research methods
Each dissertation is unique so the guidance given here is only general.
The size of an appropriate sample can be determined by applying the confidence level you seek to the estimated size of the population. There are many on-line ‘sample size calculators’ which make this assessment easy for you. If you are conducting a questionnaire survey, you should also allow for the response rate, which can often be disappointingly low, and enlarge your sample accordingly. You should also make sure you have enough time to collect your data and/or think about alternative research strategies if you struggle to get enough responses. Your supervisor may be able to advise you on this.
A quantitative survey can be analysed using a generic data package (e.g. SPSS) but this is not essential.
Pilot and final questionnaires would usually be included as an appendix.
There should also be full details of sampling methods, sample frame, size and administration in your research methods section.
Where cross tabulations are employed, appropriate statistical testing should be conducted to identify significant differences.
If you are using in-depth qualitative interviews, the number required will depend on the relevance and credibility of the source. A single interview with the CEO of a major corporation may be more valid than 10 interviews with junior managers! Your supervisor may be able to advise you on this. The detail with which interviews are recorded will determine the quality of qualitative analysis. Full transcripts will allow a more detailed analysis of subjective meanings. In situations where the emphasis of the interview is more on collecting factual data, summary notes may be sufficient.
You should include a copy of your interview schedule as an appendix. You may also want to include at least one full interview transcript or summary notes to illustrate the quality of data collected and the application of your interview technique, unless this is considered too difficult due to confidentiality.
These usually refer to research with a single organisation. Access is a key consideration and ‘cold-calling’ is very unlikely to yield a positive response. However if, through past employment or family connection, you can gain access to senior managers to present your proposal, this can be an excellent research setting. An organisation is often a rich source of data enabling you to explore causation, particularly when due to human interaction. Mixed methods prevail here, with group observation, interview, documentary review, and systemic data analysis common.
Research can be an impartial and objective test of a theory (see Yin, 2013) or can require your active engagement in problem solving. The latter is appropriate in MBA projects and MSc company projects arranged through SUMS (see later section).
For more detailed guidance on these and other methods you should refer to your research methods lectures and the recommended research methods texts, as well as discussing your individual project with your supervisor.
Useful research methods texts include the following:
Bryan, A. & Bell, E. (2007) Business Research Methods (2nd edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Denscombe, M. (2014) The good research guide: for small-scale social research projects. (5th Ed). Maidenhead: Open University Press
Easterly-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. & Lowe, A. (2002) Management Research: an Introduction, (2nd edition), Sage: London
Eden & Huxham (1996) Action Research for Management Research, British Journal of Management Vol 7, p75-86
Gill, J & Johnson, P. (2010) Research Methods for Managers (3rd edition), London: Sage.
Rudestam, K. & Newton, R. (2001) Surviving your dissertation: a comprehensive guide, London: Sage
Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students, Harlow: Pearson Ltd.
Veal, A. (2006) Research methods for leisure and tourism (3rd edition), Harlow: Prentice Hall
Yin, R. (2013) Case Study Research: Design and Methods (5th edition). London: Sage
The Module Leader for your Research Methods course will also refer you to additional useful sources.
Speed-reading journal articles
Articles in academic journals are the most important source of literature for dissertations but the length and use of sophisticated expression can discourage students. You need articles for three things: theory; findings and focusing your research ideas. Key tips for effective searching selection and reading of journals are given below.
If your supervisor advises you that your research aims are too broad, then a good way to gain greater focus is to review the conclusions of articles in your general field of interest for the suggestions most contain for further research.
If you can’t find articles relating to your specific field of research, then you are probably searching using the wrong phrase or keyword. Play around with the phrase until you find an abstract which, is in your chosen area, and then check the ‘key words’ it cites and modify yours. For example, you could be searching for ‘feedback on performance’ and find the literature uses ‘performance monitoring’.
You need theory on your chosen field. In a conventionally structured article, you will find this in the second section of the article – make a note of the author, year. Then repeat the process on other articles in your field – are some of the names the same? These will indicate seminal articles upon which you can concentrate.
You have the theory, but you need a methodology or, at least, justification for the methodology you intend to adopt. Select articles that have undertaken the sort of research (e.g. quantitative; case study; interview) that you intend – you can usually tell this from the abstract. Every author has to explain the methodology they have adopted and this will be contained in a separate third or fourth section. Here you will be able to note the model used; data sources; sample construction, etc.
In your literature review, you will also need the findings from published studies with which you can compare your own findings in the chapter on interpretation. Go back to your portfolio of articles and in the conclusion section, you will find their key findings – if any are particularly important to your research, track back through the article until you reach the sub-section which explains it in detail.
Obviously, you can combine many of these activities into a single review of the article.
Finally, build up your list of references as you undertake research. You can order, refine, and transfer this list into the dissertation itself – there’s nothing more frustrating than reading something and, discarding it, only to find later that it is highly relevant to an unexpected direction in your research. Using a specific software app like ‘Endnote’ makes this process really easy.
(i) Standard of English
The dissertation as an academic piece of work requires the use of professionally-expressed English of reasonable standard. You will not be given credit for work where the meaning is not clear, and you should always use a spelling and grammar check. If you think that you need help to express yourself clearly in English, you should think about getting your work proof-read. It is not the role of your supervisor to proof read your work.
The dissertation should always be referred to as a ‘dissertation’, not a ‘report’ or a ‘paper’.
Write using the passive voice (the ‘third person’) and using the past tense. For example:
Correct: “The research was carried out using the following methods”
Incorrect: “I carried out my research using the following methods”
Use headings and sub-headings to sign-post your arguments.
Avoid paragraphs that are too lengthy or are too short.
Get someone else to read through your work to help you ensure fluency and the consistent application of the above principles.
(ii) Word count
The suggested word count is a minimum of 12,000 words and you are advised not to exceed 15,000 words.
The word count should include everything except the list of references and appendices. This includes the title page, acknowledgements and contents pages as well as the text of your dissertation
Submitting work that is below the minimum of 12,000 words would suggest that you have not fully made use of the opportunity to develop your work, whilst going beyond 15,000 words would suggest that you have not focused your work adequately.
(i) Detailed specifications
The dissertation should be word processed on A4 paper (standard 80g/m squared is fine). Typing should be double spaced or 1.5 spaced on A4 paper, single sided, with margins of at least 25mms
Use Times New Roman font, 12 point, for the main body of the text.
(ii) Parts of the dissertation
The title page should include: your name, your student registration number, your supervisor’s name, your dissertation title in full and the following statement:
“Dissertation submitted in part requirement for the Degree of MSc [insert your programme name] /MBA of the University of Sheffield”
This statement should be followed by the month and year of submission.
You should also include a word count of your dissertation (excluding references and appendices)
There is an example of how a Title Page might look in Appendix E so you are clear about what to include.
If you want to include acknowledgements, they should appear on a separate sheet following the abstract and preceding the contents page. They should be brief and should not identify persons or organisations otherwise kept anonymous in the body of the dissertation.
The list of contents should be typed separately and should include the pages on which each chapter and sections begin.
Separate lists should be given of tables, maps and illustrations; such items should be numbered consecutively within the dissertation.
The contents of each appendix should be listed on the contents page and appendices should be paginated in Roman numerals. Each appendix should begin on a separate page and is designated A, B, C etc. in the order in which it is first mentioned in the text. Appendices are placed at the end of the dissertation after the reference list.
If longer than two lines of typescript, quotations should be indented and single spaced, and should include quotation marks. The page number should be included with the reference, for example (Smith, 1985, p22).
Generally, statistics, especially in the main body of a dissertation, should be presented in the form of tables. Graphs and diagrams, correctly constructed, can also be effective in presenting results. Do not use a pie diagram with less than four segments. Where tables are used they should be clear. Above all, it is vital that computations should be accurate, but excessive decimal places can disrupt reading and so it is suggested that you specify an appropriate number of places. All graphs, diagrams and tables should be given a separate heading and the source of the data should be clearly indicated.
These should be numbered consecutively in a chapter, e.g. in Chapter 3, tables would be numbers 3.1, 3.2 etc. Each table should contain all the information necessary for someone to re-work the data. The raw data and details of the calculations should be presented in appendices. If the same statistical procedure has been used for several tables, only a sample calculation need be given.
Number the main body of your dissertation at the bottom of the page. It is usual to use a different numbering system for the appendices – such as roman numerals.
These should be written in full the first time they are used, e.g. Central Council for Physical Recreation (CCPR). If several acronyms are used you may need to list them after the content page. Make sure that you use acronyms consistently.