Research Design and Dissertation in Development Studies, Development Management, African Development and International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Duncan Green CON.8.03


This course is compulsory on the MSc in African Development, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Development Studies (Research) and MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course combines a dissertation with supporting lectures on research methods and the use of research in development practice. Students will initially submit a dissertation title with a 150-250 word abstract in the first half of Lent Term. They then go on to write a more detailed research proposal towards the dissertation on a topic within Development Studies / Management / IDHE / African Development. This will be conducted under the supervision of a member of the International Development staff, through individual tutorials. The student research proposals will form the basis for discussion and debate in dissertation workshops. The research proposal will identify a key question for investigation, the theoretical and methodological framework to be employed in the work and a justification for why the topic is theoretically and empirically important, with reference to the literature. A tentative outline and preliminary bibliography will be included.

The course lectures aim to equip students to critically use research by learning how to evaluate and critique the quality of research; understanding and appreciating a range of research methodologies, exploring what constitutes analytical rigour and the choice of particular methodologies for particular problems and contexts. Lectures will discuss how different methodologies are used in practice, for example to inform policy and practice, or as the basis for advocacy by NGOs and others.

Faculty and guest lecturers will also introduce a range of new/cutting edge areas in research, including launches of relevant new books and hot topics such as the results agenda, theories of change, the data revolution, or complexity and systems thinking.


40 hours of lectures in the MT. 20 hours of lectures in the LT.

Dissertation workshops / surgeries in MT, LT and ST.

Students will attend individual tutorial sessions with either Academic Advisers or other members of International Development staff, as relevant to the topic, during Michaelmas Term and Lent Term to identify a research topic and to design research proposals. The proposal must be approved by the assigned Academic Adviser. Dissertation preparation will also be addressed in the context of the DV410 lectures. Proposals will be evaluated, commented upon and approved by staff. Students will present their research proposals during dissertation workshops/surgeries in all three terms. 


Dissertation (100%, 10000 words) in the ST.

Students will submit a research proposal of not more than 2,000 words at the start of ST. This will be evaluated, commented upon and must be approved before proceeding to write the dissertation. Students will submit a dissertation of not more than 10,000 words by midday on the last Thursday in August.

Students will also take tests, which are run electronically. These will be made available in MT. All students are expected to pass these tests. They can be attempted many times. However, they do not count towards the final mark. They are intended to assist in dissertation preparation.

Students additionally have the option to take an additional half unit that is assessed by a research essay (DV445). Details of the DV445 assessment are explained in the DV445 course guide. 

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 14.5
Merit 59.2
Pass 25
Fail 1.3

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2014/15: 252

Average class size 2014/15: 252

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills