Research Design and Dissertation in International Development

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ernestina Coast OLD M. 2.24


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

Course content

The course introduces students to a selection of research methods used in development research.  The objective is to enable students to conduct independent research, to assess the methods used to generate evidence, and to critically assess the quality and validity of research analysis and findings in development research and policy.  Students will learn about: the challenges of conducting research; about research design, including how to generate a research question, how to select research methods, how to analyse data, and analytic rigour; what constitutes knowledge; the relative strengths and weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative research; some of the practical and ethical dos and don’ts of doing fieldwork; and, preparing for the dissertation.


30 hours of lectures in the MT. 9 hours of workshops in the ST.

The course combines a dissertation with lectures on research design, methods and use. Each student is assigned an Academic Advisor. The development of the dissertation is conducted under the supervision of a member of the International Development staff, through individual advice and feedback meetings in MT, LT and ST. Students are expected to submit a draft dissertation title and abstract (150-250 words) in the first half of Lent Term.  This is followed by a more detailed dissertation proposal on a topic within Development Studies / Management / IDHE / African Development / Health and International Development. The proposal must be approved by the assigned Academic Adviser. The research proposal forms the basis for discussion, debate and feedback in the compulsory ST dissertation workshops, at which students present their research proposals, led by International Development staff. 


Formative coursework

Students will take formative online Moodle tests, which will be made available in MT. All students are expected to pass these tests. They can be attempted multiple times. 


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

Students are required to submit a research proposal of not more than 2,000 words the week before the start of ST.

Students will submit a dissertation of not more than 10,000 words, not including references, by midday on the date specified by the Department towards the end of August.

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 14.9
Merit 61.7
Pass 21.6
Fail 1.8

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2016/17: 285

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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