How to Plan Dissertation Writing

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Published Date:12-07-2017
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Department of International Relations University of Malta M.A. in Humanitarian Action Students’ Guidelines to Dissertation Writing 1) Introduction: Students reading for an M.A. in Humanitarian Action with the Department of International Relations at the University of Malta are required to submit a dissertation – a thorough written report / thesis – in partial fulfilment of their degree. The dissertation must be research-based and holds particular weight (30 of a total of 90 ECTS Credits) in terms of establishing a student’s final, overall grade pertaining to his/her M.A. degree. The dissertation should focus on a particular sub-field of Humanitarian Action, which would enable the student to gain comprehensive, specialised knowledge of his/her chosen area, should be an original piece of research and should not exceed 25,000 words (exclusive of footnotes, references and appendices). Although it is not a compulsory requirement for a student to complete an internship or work placement related to his/her chosen sub-field, this is highly recommended by the department, both because such experience is sought for by employers in the sector, and because it serves to enrich the student’s dissertation. The aims behind the M.A. Dissertation, besides providing students with specialised knowledge in relation to their chosen sub-field, are to make students proficient in using some of the methodological tools that are habitually utilised to conduct research in the field of Humanitarian Action, as well as to bestow upon students the confidence and capacity to conduct a complex analysis of an issue in the field of humanitarian and development action. After having completed and handed in their dissertation report, students should be able to write complex, analytical pieces of work more clearly, succinctly and coherently, successfully tackle methodological, analytical and practical problems involved in research and writing, and defend their own analytical standpoints orally. 2) The Fundamentals: The M.A. Dissertation differs from other modules contained in the programme on many fronts, with a principal one being that it offers students the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning, undertaking largely independent research on a topic of their choosing. Researching for and writing a postgraduate dissertation is a drawn-out process, usually spanning a number of months and the depth and research-quality expected from M.A. students exceeds that expected of undergraduate students. It is therefore recommended that students opt to study a topic or issue that they find intriguing and interesting. 1 Finding a topic/area of interest: Full time students are expected to dedicate the third semester of their course to conducting research and writing their M.A. Dissertation, while part time students are allocated 2 semesters towards the same end (the first and second semesters of their third year). The programme is designed to give students a holistic understanding of the humanitarian sector, its basic principles, history, principal topics and the major issues associated with each prior to having them embark on this research process. Students are therefore advised to begin to ponder upon their dissertation topic or area of interest at the outset of their course and to continue to do so throughout. Some students might be motivated to embark on an M.A. in Humanitarian Action due to a particular sub-topic or issue of interest to them and might therefore be set on conducting research on that particular topic. However, it is not unusual for students to change their mind in this regard. Sometimes, students find upon further reading, that the research space pertaining to their area of interest is saturated. At others, students may simply lose interest in particular issues, or find new intriguing research questions during the taught part of the M.A. programme. In any event, it is strongly advised that students start to think about possible research topics early. Approaching – or even beginning – the part of their programme dedicated to dissertation writing without having decided on an area of interest is not ideal: it is stress-inducing and makes for a rushed piece of work. Once a student has decided upon a topic or area of interest, he/she should delve deeply into the chosen area in order to uncover the salient issues in and around that topic. Formulating a research question: Having made extensive preliminary readings on their chosen topic or area of interest, students must then formulate a workable, focused research question. Many students make the mistake of developing a title rather than a question. This often leads to “writing on a topic”, summarising the readings, rather than conducting focused, in-depth research. The research question focuses on a particular aspect of, or issue within, the broader research topic and can usefully take the form of a ‘why’ or ‘how’ question to ensure that the work produced in answering it is investigative and analytical in nature. Students are advised to avoid asking the alternative ‘what’ form of question. This may be a perfectly legitimate question to ask, but tends to lead to work of a purely descriptive nature. Another common mistake is to formulate a biased question or a question to which the answer is self-evident. Researchers conduct research in order to examine, explore or inspect a phenomenon and provide a viable answer to a question. Research should never be conducted with a pre-empted conclusion in mind. A workable question is a researchable question. When formulating a question within their area of interest, students must consider the ways in which that question may be researched. Some questions simply cannot be researched and there may be numerous reasons behind this. Pertinent information is sometimes lacking or concealed; key figures/interviewees may be unwilling or unable to allocate their time to a student’s research; a student’s research budget (or lack thereof) may be inadequate to explore many issues in sufficient detail; a student’s lack of mobility may make 2 researching particular issues unviable; etc. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that students concern themselves with these matters when determining a research question. Should a student’s chosen research question be too broad to cover fully, a way to narrow it down is to focus along geographical (by region, country…) or temporal lines, or investigate a particular case/s and apply the research question to that/those case/s. Students are advised to formulate a list of research questions as they delve into their area of interest while conducting preliminary research. As they do this, students will certainly discover quandaries and develop queries related to their chosen topic. They will then be in a position to choose the most appropriate research question in accordance with its workability, focus and appeal. Below is a list of questions that helps students to determine the quality of a research question and the ease with which it may be answered: a) Does the question deal with a topic or issue that interests me enough to spark my own thoughts and opinions? b) What is the importance of my research and why should anyone be interested? c) Is the question easily and fully researchable? d) What new knowledge will this research generate, and why is this important/needed? What will I do with my findings? e) What type of information do I need to answer the research question? For example, to answer the research question, "How did strategic interests affect the international humanitarian response to the Ukrainian conflict?" will require certain types of information, e.g.:  The strategic interest of the main donors towards the humanitarian response;  The mode of delivery of humanitarian aid (through IOs, NGOs, bilaterally);  Conditions by donors on the aid delivery;  Geographical area of delivery and reasons for this focus;  The profile of recipients of humanitarian aid f) Is the scope of this information reasonable (e.g., can I realistically find information on conditions put by donors on IOs and NGOs?) g) Given the type and scope of the information that I need, is my question too broad, too narrow or about right? h) What sources will be able to provide the information I need to answer my research question (journals, books, Internet, government documents, people)? i) Can I access these sources? j) Given my answers to the above questions, do I have a good-quality research question that I actually will be able to answer by conducting research? Students should keep in mind that a good, well defined research question will more often than not lead to a strong research paper. It will also help a great deal in terms of defining the paper’s structure by informing the student of what information should be included and what to leave out – on the basis of whether that information serves to answer the research question or not. 3) The Research Proposal As part of the assessment method for the MA study unit “Research Methods in International Relations” (IRL 5061), students are required to submit a research proposal (circa 4,000 words) 3 prepared in light of their M.A. Dissertation. The following is an outline of what is expected by the department in terms of a research proposal: a) Introduce your research area and the salient issues, themes and arguments in that area and narrow it down to your particular point of interest. b) Present your research question – students may opt to list one principal research question and, in addition, the research questions that derive directly from it – and a research hypothesis (if applicable). k) E.g. for the question "How did strategic interests affect the international humanitarian response to the Ukrainian conflict?" derived questions will include:  What were the strategic interests of the main humanitarian donors?  What, if any, (formal and informal) conditions did donors put up for the aid delivery?  On what recipients and in which geographical areas were aid deliveries focused? Why? c) Explain the rationale behind your research (why you think research on your particular point of interest is needed and important). d) Write an abridged literature review; a synopsis of the existent literature applicable to your research question(s). e) Contextualise your research question theoretically, i.e. what theoretical lens will you use to tackle your question? Given the multidisciplinary character of Humanitarian Action, you may end up using a theory more closely related to sociology, anthropology, international relations or law for example. f) Identify an appropriate methodology to tackle your research question. g) Prepare a condensed reference list of works cited in the research proposal (and in particular in your abridged literature review). Please note the following deadlines for handing in dissertation topics and research proposals: • Definition of research topic for beginning March 2016. Please send to Dr Anna Khakee and Joe Debono. • Fully-fledged research proposal for end of April 2016. Those students who, come mid-January 2016, do not have a topic in mind are advised to contact any one of the faculty members should they want to discuss possible research topics and questions. 4) Structure The following outline is indicative of the structure expected of an M.A. Dissertation by the Department of International Relations. Naturally, it will have to be adapted to the particular study carried out and may not have to be reproduced literally. Students are advised to consult their supervisor for guidance on an appropriate structure. i) Title Page; ii) Declaration of Authenticity; iii) Abstract; 4 iv) Acknowledgements; v) Table of Contents; vi) List of Tables; vii) List of Figures; viii) List of Appendices; viv) Acronyms and Abbreviations; Recommended Chapter List: Chapter 1 - Introduction; Chapter 2 - Literature Review; Chapter 3 - Theoretical Discussion; Chapter 4 - Methodology; Chapter 5 - Empirical/Theoretical Research Findings; Chapter 6 - Analysis; Chapter 7 - Conclusion and Recommendations; References; Appendices 5) Notes on Specific Sections a) The Abstract is the “business card” of the dissertation and should provide the reader with the summary of your study in all its aspects. It should be 250 words maximum and should answer the following questions:  What does this research set out to do and why? (i.e. research question)  How did it seek to do this? (theory and method)  What are the general findings and conclusions? b) Acknowledgements should express thanks to those who assisted in the research process in one way or another. c) The Introduction should introduce the reader to the background of the study and the nature of the problem being considered. It introduces clearly the research question, setting it in context, explaining why it is important. It also explains how the student is tackling the research question in the dissertation, thereby introducing the theory and methodology employed. If needed for the understanding of the research project, terms should be defined (even if they are more fully defined later on in the theory chapter).The introduction should also anticipate the rest of the dissertation by explaining how it is structured. 5 d) The Literature Review provides a critical review of the existing academic literature on the research topic being studied. This is not to say that students ought to indicate every book and/or article written about the topic under study, but students should be able to show that they have a thorough grasp of the existent academic literature pertaining to their research topic and/or particular research question. This chapter should indicate that the student has examined both current and past literature on his/her chosen topic and explored the related issues through multiple perspectives. The literature review must not be written like a narrative. It should rather bring out what other scholars have written and argued in studies related to the research question. It is advisable here to start by discussing the available literature in a broad sense and then working towards discussing those studies that closely resemble the research being undertaken in terms of the particular research question they tackle and the variables they discuss. Students are advised to group the studies, papers, books and other literature unearthed on the basis of how closely they relate to the research question which is at the heart of their own study. Once students have systematically categorised the literature they uncover, they are in a position to discuss it in groupings rather than one by one. This makes for a more analytical and also clearer literature review. The Literature Review must be: • Relevant – The literature used should highlight the arguments, claims and contentions made around the chosen research question and/or topic and must feed into the aims and objectives of the study. • Neoteric – The bulk of the literature used must consist of sources published within the five year period preceding the study. However, students must also include older seminal, incomparable and innovative sources in their literature review. • Structured – Students may opt to use a Concept Map in order to place ideas and the material surrounding those ideas in good structural order. Again, students are advised to consult their supervisors on matters of structure and presentation. The following is a list of common mistakes made by students when writing a literature review: • Discussing studies but falling short of discussing their findings; • Using the uncovered information to write a narrative about the chosen subject as opposed to discussing the studies themselves; • Discussing individual studies without providing a link between them; • Refraining from highlighting the commonalities within a group of studies; • Failing to identify the independent variables in each study, which in turn makes comparing studies problematic; • Including studies with little or no connection to the research being undertaken. e) The Theoretical Discussion (or Theory) chapter should consist of a theoretical contextualisation of the research question and the issues surrounding it. Considering the multidisciplinary nature of humanitarian action as a field of study, students may use theories 6 from a range of disciplines, including the Social and Medical Sciences, Psychology, Economics, Engineering, and a host of other areas. It is crucial that students use relevant theories in order to inform the empirical part of their dissertation. The theory or theories used should link strongly to the main arguments forwarded by the student, which will in turn indicate the suitability (or otherwise) of including a theory chapter in the first place. But this is not to say that students should hand-pick theories that buttress their favoured arguments while ignoring others. Because humanitarian action is not a natural science, most questions, topics and/or issues may often be perceived through different – and many times contradictory – perspectives. It is therefore sometimes appropriate to frame an issue holistically, by providing a theoretical interpretation using competing theories (e.g. Realism and Liberalism). f) The Methodology (or Methods) chapter should give a well-documented outline of the methods used in order for any other researcher to be able to understand - and perhaps even replicate - the research to assess its validity. This makes the Methods chapter a crucial one in any research project. The following elements must be considered for inclusion in the Methods chapter subject to the supervisor’s advice: • A discussion on the reasons behind choosing the methods used as well as on why other methods where refuted or where not applicable to the study. • An in-depth description of the primary data sources used, such as fieldwork, focus groups, document analysis, surveys (mail, face-to-face, phone or electronic), interviews (structured, un-structured or semi-structured), ethnography, desk research, Participative Rural Appraisals, etc. • A detailed description of the sampling method and why such method was chosen for the study. • A description of any pilot study undertaken and the changes made to the original research tool as a result. • A discussion of the methods of analysis used, such as SPSS, content analysis, deconstruction, textual analysis, semiotics, historical analysis, thematic analysis, etc. • A discussion of the limitations to the methods used, as well as the steps taken to overcome such limitations. g) The Results and Analysis chapter should present the results obtained from the application of the methods to the empirical material. These should be presented and discussed with reference to the theories and ideas outlined in the theory chapter. Students may opt to illustrate their results graphically in order to enhance clarity. Any graphs, diagrams or images must be properly numbered and referenced. h) The Conclusion and Recommendations should draw together all the issues of the research and link back to the aim and objectives outlined in the Introduction. Have the aims set at the beginning been met? If not, why? What are the implications arising from the findings? Students are advised to refrain from making broad generalisations here. All recommendations must be based on evidence provided in the dissertation. This chapter should also include any recommendations for further study in the chosen area. i) The References section must present the details of all the sources cited throughout the dissertation. A reader should be able to identify the exact source and refer to it directly. The 7 References section must NOT be categorised on any basis (many students tend to categorise the references on the basis of source type) and must consist of a single list in alphabetical order. The Department does not impose that students use any particular referencing system (APA, MLA, Harvard, are all acceptable). However, consistency is essential and students must therefore stick with a single referencing system throughout. More on referencing in the Annex to this document. j) The Appendices should include selective, supplementary material which is distracting when placed in the main body of text. Only material which is necessary for a full understanding of the study should be included. These include important forms, questionnaires or interview schedules, descriptions of equipment or settings, tables and data lists supportive of the study. Please do not include Appendices which can be found by a click of a mouse unless they are used extensively in the dissertation (e.g. an international convention will only be included if the aim of the dissertation is to analyse that particular convention). 6) Which Research Sources are appropriate? When conducting academic research, being able to critically evaluate the quality of information is crucial. Some sources are of better quality than others and some are categorically unacceptable. In order to evaluate whether a source is reliable and valid, it is important to look at a number of factors. Most of the time, a peer-reviewed, academic source is valid and reliable and may be counted on for quality information. a) Books and academic journals: In this type of sources, you will find theoretical arguments and historical background to the event/s or process/es that interest you. You will also get a good idea of how other scholars have tackled research questions similar to yours methodologically. At times, books and specialised journals will refer to primary sources of interest to your research. b) Primary sources: The following are considered primary sources: speeches, PVs, statistics, direct interviews, polling data, personal letters, diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, etc… Primary sources are those created in the time under study and offer an insider’s, first-hand account of an event. c) Newspaper articles: Newspaper articles should not be used as information sources unless primary sources (as per the above) are difficult to get hold of. However, newspaper articles are considered primary sources if your goal is to analyse their content. For example, if your goal is to examine how the media has created a certain image of humanitarian action in Libya, newspaper articles will be your primary source. It goes without saying that newspaper articles cannot replace secondary sources (books and scholarly articles). Students should note that Wikipedia is not considered an appropriate source and cannot be cited in an academic dissertation. This is because Wikipedia, like many other online information sources, operates on an open-source basis, meaning that anybody can contribute to the site without substantiating the information they upload. The internet is awash with information on just about 8 any topic imaginable, but much of that information is unsubstantiated and even false. Students are expected to possess good judgement on which sources are reliable and which are not. When using websites as information sources, it is advised that the websites used belong to transparent, reputable organisations or individuals and cannot be edited by anyone but the site’s administrator/s. When it comes to unearthing quality literature, reputable academic journals are a researcher’s best friend. The HyDi search gateway, available through the ‘Library’ section of the official website of the University of Malta, is a good place to start. Here, one may search through multiple academic journals simultaneously through a single search, as well as discover books and dissertations held within the University’s library. Google Scholar is another handy source for quality information. This is a freely accessible web search engine that specialises in scholarly literature. There are multiple academic journals of relevance to humanitarian action, not least due to the multidisciplinary character of the field of study. The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more prominent ones: • Disasters (ISSN: 1467-7717); • Humanitarian Exchange Magazine (ISSN: 1472-4847); • Journal of International Humanitarian Action (ISSN: 2364-3404); • Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (ISSN: 2042-6747); • Journal of Humanitarian Assistance (ISSN: 1360-0222); • Journal of Humanitarian Engineering (ISSN: 2200-4904); • Journal of Humanitarian Technology (ISSN: 2056-6557); • Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies (ISSN: 1878-1527); • International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction (ISSN: 2212-4209); • International Journal of Disaster Prevention and Management (ISSN: 0965-3562); • International Journal of Emergency Management (ISSN: 1741-5071); • International Review of the Red Cross (ISSN: 1816-3831); • Forced Migration Review (ISSN: 1460-9819); • European Journal of Migration and Law (ISSN: 1388-364X); • Human Rights Quarterly (ISSN: 0275-0392); • International Journal of Refugee Law (ISSN: 1464-3715); • International Migration (ISSN: 1468-2435); • Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (ISSN: 1368-183X); • Journal of International Migration and Integration (ISSN: 1488-3473); • Journal of Refugee Studies (ISSN: 1471-6925). The following is a list of books pertaining to general research methods for students’ reference: 9 • Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches by W. L. Neuman; • Researching Society and Culture by C. Seale; • Research and writing in International Relations by S. Spray and L. Roselle; • The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research by N. K. Denzin and Y. S Lincoln. • Models, numbers and cases: Methods for studying International Relations by D. F. Sprinz and Y. Wolinsky-Nahmias. 7) Research Ethics The University Senate has set up a Research Ethics Committee (REC) which has drawn up a set of guidelines that govern research within the University of Malta. The guidelines aim to safeguard both ethical standards and efficiency, while ensuring proper accountability. The guidelines state that each student undertaking research involving human subjects must fill in a proposal form and present it for approval to the Faculty of Arts Research Ethics Committee. The form clearly identifies the person taking responsibility for the research as well as for compliance with the regulations and Data Protection legislation. To download the full guidelines or proposal form, please visit: Please note that the process for obtaining ethics clearance usually takes several months, as the proposal needs to be approved both at the Faculty level and the University level (and prior to that, of course, by the student’s supervisor). This means that students that aim to conduct their empirical research directly after the end of the academic year in July, must start the process in the early spring. Clearance for vulnerable subjects, e.g. unaccompanied minors, is not easily obtained and the research design should take this into account. For a comprehensive, general text pertaining to ethics in Humanitarian Action, students are advised to obtain a copy of: Humanitarian Ethics: A guide to the morality of Aid in war and disaster by Hugo Slim. 8) Typing & Proofreading The dissertation is to be written in English. The highest level of grammar and syntax is expected. It is recommended that all dissertations are proof read. Tutors will NOT act as proof readers. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that a good piece of work is presented to the Examiners’ Board. Students are advised to proof read each chapter before handing it in for feedback from their tutor. Special attention should be given to the final version of the dissertation. 9) Plagiarism 10 Plagiarism is the representation of another person’s work as one’s own or the unacknowledged incorporation in a student’s work of material derived from the work of another. This is categorically unacceptable. Such practice will incur the penalty of failure. For guidance on how to avoid plagiarism, please consult: The student will have to run his/her dissertation through Turnitin. The tutor will advise the student as to the practical arrangements for doing so. 10) Failure A student can fail a dissertation if the standards set out in the Awards Criteria are not met: Extract from the General Regulations for Post Graduate Awards (2008): Examiners shall express the students’ performance in the assessment of all study-units, including the dissertation, as a percentage mark and grade as indicated in the table below. Both the percentage mark and the letter grade shall be recorded in the students’ academic record. The percentage mark only is used for the purpose of calculating the students’ progress and for the award classification. Descriptor Mark Range Grade Work of excellent quality. Superior performance showing a comprehensive understanding and 80%-100% A application of the subject matter. Evidence of considerable additional reading/research/work. Work of very good quality. 70%-79% B Performance is typified by a very good working knowledge of subject matter. Evidence of a considerable amount of reading/ research/work. Work of good quality. 55%-69% C Above average performance, with a good working knowledge of subject matter. Evidence of sufficient reading/research/work. Work of fair but below average quality. 50%- 54% D Considerable but incomplete understanding of the subject matter. Evidence of a fair amount of reading/research/work. Work of marginal quality. Minimal understanding of the subject matter, with no evidence of additional 45%-49% E reading/research/work, which must be compensated by higher marks in other units in order to be eligible for the Postgraduate Award. Pass - when assessment is based on a pass/fail basis. Not Applicable P Unsatisfactory, failing work in any study-unit other than the dissertation 0% - 44% F study-unit. Unsatisfactory, failing work in the dissertation study-unit. 0% - 49% F 11 Unjustified absence for an assessment, or failure to hand in assigned work in 0% F time, or ineligibility to take assessment due to unapproved absence from lectures. Shall be considered as F with 0 marks in the calculation of the average mark. Temporary grade for Incomplete work due to justifiable reasons (illness, approved absence, etc.) for which the assessment date has been postponed - I or the deadline for submission of work has been extended. The minimum pass mark for dissertations is 50%. 11) Typescript, Binding and Digitisation a) Font and font-size: The body of the script must be in 12pt Arial; Titles must be in 16pt Cambria. Footnotes must be in 9pt Arial. b) Spacing: All paragraphs must be indented by 0.5cm. The text must be double-spaced while footnotes (if any) must be single-spaced. c) Quotations: Quotations of more than 30 words must be single-spaced and form a distinct paragraph without indentation. Quotation marks must not be used in such cases. d) Margins: The left-hand margin must be of 3.5cm, while the top- and right-hand margins must be of 1.5cm. A top margin of 5cm is to be left on the first page of every section/division/chapter of the dissertation – e.g. Acknowledgements, Abstract, Introduction, References, etc. Footnotes (if any) must appear at the bottom of the relevant page (not at the end of each chapter or as a distinct section). e) Quotation marks: Single quotation marks must be used throughout, except when presenting a quote within a quote, in which case, double quotation marks must be used. No quotation marks should be used for quotes longer than 30 words. f) Dates: The day, month and year - without commas - must be used; e.g. 29 October 1983. For decades, both digits and text are accepted; e.g. 1980s or Eighties. When choosing between two accepted typescript options, students are advised to keep consistent throughout their work. g) Textual reference numbers: Textual reference numbers must be continuous for each chapter. Superscript must be used, without brackets and following – not preceding – punctuation. h) Alignment: The script should be left-aligned and not justified. i) Spelling: Students are advised to consult the Oxford English Dictionary and avoid Americanisms. j) Abbreviations: Acronyms should be used when they are generally understood and not when they represent esoteric terms, phrases, groups and organisations. Students are advised to consult their tutor on matters of acronyms and abbreviations. k) Pagination: The main text, including the Introduction, References and any appendices must be numbered in Arabic numerals (1,2,3,4,etc), while the Title, Page, Declaration of Authenticity, Abstract, Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, List of Tables, List of Figures, List of Appendices and Acronyms & Abbreviations must be numbered in Roman numerals (i,ii,iii,iv,etc). The Title Page must be considered as ‘Page i’ but should remain un-numbered. Roman numeral numbering must start from ‘ii’ on the Declaration of Authenticity. 12 l) Supplementary graphic illustrations: Maps, diagrams, graphs, printed material, etc. should be bound with the dissertation. When this is not possible, these must be numbered and presented in distinct folders or volumes. m) Binding: Three spiral-bound copies of the dissertation must be submitted. Binding services are offered by independent stores on and outside the University campus. Students are advised to allow up to five working days for binding. n) Digitisation: Students must create a digitised version of their dissertation, store it as a soft copy on CD and hand it in with their three spiral-bound hard copies for it to be stored by the university’s Library Services. For a step-by-step guide on how to create a digitised version of a dissertation, please visit: 12) Conclusion Writing an M.A. Dissertation is laborious but rewarding. Students are advised to use their time wisely and plan every step together with their assigned supervisor. Regular meetings between students and tutors are essential and it is up to the student to ensure that these take place consistently (at least once per month). Establishing a structured plan with deadlines for each section is highly recommended. For each meeting held with his/her tutor, the student should prepare a list of specific queries and send beforehand draft copies of chapters. The writing of the M.A. Dissertation remains, by definition, a self-directed process and self-discipline is vital for a desired result. Students are advised to take notes consistently while reading, as the abundance of information one may come across when carrying out research may serve to bewilder the student and lead him/her off course. It is always a good idea to keep one’s principal research question close at hand in order to be able to refer to it constantly so as not to lose sight of the main aims and objectives of the research. Finally, students are also advised to persist in trying to unearth relevant literature until the end of their research project. It is not uncommon to have literature relevant to one’s research published in between one’s writing of a literature review and his/her handing in of the final research paper. To acquire an example of a well written M.A. Dissertation, please send an email to For any queries regarding this guide, explanations/elaborations on its contents and/or any other questions regarding dissertation writing, citing, referencing, formatting, etc. please send an email to 13 Bibliography Duke University, 2014. What makes a good research question? pdf Durham. Available at: Accessed 14 October 2015. th Neuman, W. L., 2006. Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. 6 Ed. Boston: Pearson. nd Seale, C. ed., 2004. Researching society and culture. 2 Ed. London: Sage Publications. nd Spray, S. and Roselle, L., 2012. Research and writing in International Relations. 2 Ed. Boston: Pearson Longman. Sprinz, D. F. and Wolinsky-Nahmias, Y. eds., 2007. Models, numbers and cases: Methods for studying International Relations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Unglia Ruskin University, 2015. Guide to the Harvard style of referencing. pdf Cambridge. Available at: Accessed 16 November 2015. 14 Annex to the MA Dissertation Guidelines In-text Citations and References Students of the M.A. in Humanitarian Action are not compelled to use any particular system for citing and referencing and are free to choose any standard system (MLA / APA / Harvard, etc.) they are familiar and comfortable with. The following is a comprehensive guide to citing and referencing th in accordance with the Harvard referencing system (5 ed.) which students may use to ensure that their work is properly cited and referenced. The principal rule for any referencing system is to ensure consistency throughout. Proper citing and referencing will ensure that accusations of plagiarism are avoided. The University of Malta utilises Turnitin in order to assist students in identifying where they have used original material and check whether it is cited and referenced correctly. In the Harvard system, the author's last name and the year of publication are cited in the main body of text. The full details of the source are included in a reference list in the penultimate section of the dissertation (assuming that the dissertation contains a section for Appendices, which would follow the References section). The Harvard system does NOT use footnotes for referencing, so students are advised - when opting for the Harvard referencing system - to use footnotes to elaborate on statements and arguments made in the main text and provide supplementary, indirect information exclusively. The Department does not recommend the use of Latin phrases such as ‘ibid.’ The repetitive use of a single source should be avoided unless the circumstances require it and each source should be cited in full within the main body of text as many times as it is made reference to. The reference list should contain only the sources used by students in their dissertation, should be in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names and should contain all the different types of sources in a single sequence (do not sub-divide the reference list). The reference style, which will be elaborated on below, should denote the source type for each reference. The reference list must be in the same format (margins and spacing) as the rest of the paper, with the exception of applying a 0.5cm hanging indent to each entry. A sample reference list is provided below. In-text citations should always contain the source’s year of publication as a minimum.  Citing a) When the author’s name is cited in text When you are referring to the Author of a publication within your main text and citing his/her whole work, the year of publication is sufficient. E.g. According to Waltz (2013), ‘States must always adhere to… However, when referring to a particular section of the author’s work, a page reference must be included. E.g. Waltz (2013, p.29) or (2013, pp.129-31) states that ‘States must always… b) When the author’s name is not cited in text When the author is not referred to directly in the main text, the authorship must also be included within the citation. E.g. Seeing as ‘States must always adhere to customary international law, the general principles of law and treaties,’ (Waltz, 2013, pp.129-31) it should follow that… Or, when referring to the author’s work in general; E.g. One particular author (Waltz, 2013) refers to custom, established legal principles and treaties as the primary sources of international law. c) When more than one author (and source) is cited in text When making reference to multiple authors in the main body of text, all must be cited; E.g. Gilpin (2009) and Nye (2012) both assert that… d) When a source has two or three authors When a source has two or three authors that are mentioned in the main body of text, their last names must be separated by an ‘and’; E.g. Taylor and Francis (2014) state that… or Dunne, Kurki and Smith (2013) state that… When a source has two or three authors that are not mentioned in the main body of text, they must be cited in brackets and their last names separated by an ‘and’; E.g. Resent research (Taylor and Francis, 2014) states that… So, when there are two or three authors for a source, they should all be listed (in the order in which their names appear in the original publication), with the name listed last preceded by an ‘and’. e) When a source has four or more authors When a source has several authors (4 or more), only the first should be used, followed by ‘et al.’ meaning ‘and others’; E.g. Maunder, et al. (2003) found that most… or indirectly E.g. Fresh research (Maunder, et al., 2003) has found that most… Students ought to note that this does not apply when referencing. See the referencing section below for further details. f) When more than one author (and source) is not cited directly in the main body of text Where several publications from a number of authors are referred to, then the references should be cited in chronological order (i.e. earliest first); E.g. Further research in the late nineties (Smith, 1996; Jones, 1998) led to major developments… or E.g. Recent research (Collins, 2007; Brown, 2012; Davies, 2014) shows that… g) When using multiple sources by the same author When multiple sources by the same author forge the same argument and the works are published in different years, then the references should be cited in chronological order; E.g. As stated by Kissinger (1994; 2011; 2014)… or E.g. Research (Kissinger, 1994; 2011; 2014) shows that… When multiple sources by the same author forge the same argument and are published in the same year, they must be differentiated by means of a lower-case letter immediately following the year of publication; E.g. A speech by Jackson (2015a) suggested that… Later in the same year, Jackson (2015b) reiterated… If several works published in the same year are referred to on a single occasion, or an author has made the same point in several publications, they can all be referred to within a single citation by using lower-case letters; E.g. Jackson (2015a; 2015b) has repeatedly stated that… h) When citing a chapter of an edited work References to the work of an author that appears as a chapter, or part of a larger work, that is edited by someone else, should be cited using the name of the chapter contributor, not the book editor; E.g. In his work on the State, James Scott (1999) asserted that… It is then within the References section that the full details of the edited work are given. For more on the chapters of edited works, see the ‘Referencing’ section below. i) When citing corporate authors If the work is by a recognised organisation and has no personal author, it is usually cited under the body that commissioned the work. This applies to publications by International Organisations, NGOs, Multinational Corporations, government agencies, departments or committees, private enterprises, specially convened bodies or groups, etc. It is acceptable to use standard abbreviations for these bodies, e.g. OCHA, in your text, providing that the full name is given at the first citing with the abbreviation in brackets; st E.g. (1 Citation): Following a report published in 2013 by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the general consensus is… nd E.g. (2 Citation): According to OCHA (2013)… j) When a source has no listed author If the author cannot be identified, use ‘Anon.’ in place of the author’s last name. Every effort should be made to establish the authorship if you intend to use this work as supporting evidence in an academic submission; E.g. According to a practitioner (Anon., 2013), Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA) are underutilised in the sector. k) When a source has no listed publication date When a source has no listed publication date, ‘n.d.’ is used in place of the year of publication; E.g. Tabone (n.d.) had written that… or indirectly E.g. On a blog post (Tabone, n.d.) which appeared sometime after the incident… Every effort should be made to establish the year of publication if you intend to use this work as supporting evidence in an academic submission. l) Page numbers Including the page numbers of a reference will help readers trace your sources. This is particularly important for quotations and for paraphrasing specific paragraphs in the texts; E.g. Jackson and Sorensen (2010, p.12) state that ‘one is to expect… or indirectly E.g. It is expected that… (Jackson and Sorensen, 2010, p.12). Please note page numbers: preceded with ‘p.’ for a single page and ‘pp.’ for a range of pages; E.g. (2015, p.29) or E.g. (2015, pp.129-35) m) When using second-hand sources You may come across a summary of another author’s work in the source you are reading, which you would like to make reference to in your own document; this is called secondary referencing; E.g. (A direct reference): Research recently carried out by Michaels (2014 cited in Beakman, 2015, p.142) found that… In this example, Michaels is the work which you wish to refer to, but have not read directly for yourself. Beakman is the secondary source, where you found the summary of Michaels’ work. E.g. (An indirect reference): (Michaels, 2014 cited in Beakman, 2015, p.142) It is important to realise that Beakman may have taken Michaels’ ideas forward, and altered their original meaning. If you need to cite a secondary reference it is recommended that, where possible, you read the original source for yourself rather than rely on someone else’s interpretation of a work. For this reason it is best to avoid using secondary referencing. The reference list at the end of your document should only contain works that you have read. In the above example, you would only list the work by Beakman in your References list. n) Tables and Diagrams When using selected information from a table or diagram, or reproducing an entire table or diagram, a reference must be made to the source. In the following example, information is from a table found on p.267 of the book Management in the media: decision makers by Robert Brown, published in 2005. The original source of the data used in the table in Brown’s book was the National Statistics Office, 1985. If you quote from this table in the text of your essay, treat it as secondary referencing; E.g. Historical figures demonstrate that only sixty per cent of households had televisions in Britain by the 1970s (National Statistics Office, 1985 cited in Brown, 2005, p.267). If you reproduce the table in your essay: replicate the whole table, and add a citation below the table to acknowledge where the table was found; E.g. Television Ownership in England (Percentage of households) Source: National Statistics Office, 1985 Date 1970 1980 Percentage 60 70 National Statistics Office, 1985 cited in Brown, 2005, p.267 Finally include the full details of the book in your reference list. More on this within the ‘Referencing’ section below. o) Websites When citing material found on a website, you should identify the authorship of the website. This may be a corporate author, an organisation or a company; a guide to this can be found by looking at the URL or web address. To find the date of publication, reference to this might be found at the bottom of a web page relating to copyright, or from a date headline.  Referencing The purpose of a reference list is to enable sources to be easily traced by another reader. Different types of publications require different amounts of information but there are certain common elements such as authorship, year of publication and title, which should be included. The Harvard style lays down a standard for the order and content of information in the reference. Some variations of presentation are acceptable provided that they are used consistently. All items should be listed alphabetically by authorship, regardless of the format, i.e. whether books, websites, journal articles etc. Where there are several works from one author or source they should be listed together, in date order, with the earliest work listed first. The place of publication must be a town or city rather than a country and can generally be found on the back of the title page in the address of the publishing company. Where there are several locations, choose the UK one in preference to any other. For USA towns, include the State in abbreviated form e.g. Chicago, Illinois would be Chicago, IL. a) Referencing books with one author To obtain the reference details of a book, do not use the book cover, but the title page within. The book’s edition should only be stated within the reference if the book is not a first edition. When the edition is not specified on a book, it is normally a first edition. The following components are needed for a book reference (note the order, punctuation and the fonts used): Author, Initials., Year. Title of book. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher. E.g. Barnett, M., 2011. Empire of humanity: a history of humanitarianism. New York: Cornell University Press. Where there are two initials to the Author’s name as well as a specified edition: E.g. Peters, J. F., 2006. Disaster logistics. 4th ed. London: Sage Publications Ltd. b) Referencing books with multiple authors For books with multiple authors, all the names should be included in the order they appear in the source. Use an ‘and’ to link the last two authors. Should a source have an excessively long list of authors to it (more than 12), students are advised to consult their tutors to seek departmental approval for listing a reduced number of authors. E.g. Adams, R.J., Weiss, T.D. and Coatie, J.J., 2010. The World Health Organisation, its history and impact. 2nd ed. London: Perseus.

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