Desk-based research guidelines

Word Count

  • The word count of the dissertation does not include the Reference List and Appendices.
  • Convention allows you up to 800 words on either side of the stipulated 8,000 words.
  • More or less, a penalty is applied or may constitute a fail.
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.


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


Title Pages:
Front Cover

The front cover of your report must display:

  • The title of the project

(The title is important and, therefore, must be agreed with your supervisor.

  • 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)
  • The module code and title (ED6015: Education Studies)
  • Your Student ID
  • The Programme (BA Education Studies), the School (Cass School of Education and Communities) and the title of the University (University of East London)
Table of Contents
  • The titles of each section should be listed in chronological order and the page references provided.
  • Appendices are listed A, B, C etc., but pages do not have to be numbered.

Introduction/Purpose and Aims (Approximately 800 words)

  • This provides the reasons for the AREA of research, which you have selected. It should present the overall 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 Conclusion to gain a continuous understanding of the whole work and to be directed to different sections for additional information.
  • What do you want to find out and why (referenced to literature)?
  • Why did you choose this area for research (referenced to literature but also to personal experience if appropriate)?
  • How is your proposed research important; identify key issues and debates (referenced to literature)?
  • Briefly define specific terminology in relation to your research (referenced to literature)
  • What are the specific research questions?