MPA Dissertation

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Babken Babajanian


This course is available on the MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact and Master of Public Administration. This course is not available as an outside option.

Students may not take this course and an MPA Policy Paper. This course is only available to MPA students in Year 2 of their programme.

Course content

The aim of this course is to enable students to plan, design and conduct independent substantial research in an area of public policy.  MPA students will write a dissertation of no more than 10,000 words on a topic of their choice to be agreed with their Academic Mentor  The dissertation involves an evidence-based assessment of a concrete policy issue or problem in a specific setting.  It must be concerned with the goal of policy improvement and, at the same time, it must contribute to a broader objective of knowledge-building.  The main body of the dissertation should include literature review, methodology, results of the analysis, discussion of findings, conclusions and implications for knowledge.  Dissertations can utilise quantitative and/or qualitative data and information and draw on primary and/or secondary sources. 


4 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of seminars in the LT.

Teaching comprises four seminars in the MT and LT.  These seminars provide academic and practical guidance on planning and designing the dissertation; developing a research topic and question; and framing the research. The student's Academic Mentor will provide advice and guidance on this piece of work.

Indicative reading

Writing conventions:

  • Inger Furseth, Euris Everett and Larry Everett, Doing Your Master's Dissertation: From Start to Finish (Sage Study Skills Series, 2013);
  • Stella Cottrell, Dissertations and Project Reports: A Step by Step Guide (Palgrave Study Skills, 2014);
  • Diana Ridley, The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students (SAGE Study Skills Series, 2008);
  • Christopher Hart, Doing a Literature Review (SAGE Study Skills Series, 2018);
  • Sharon M. Ravitch and J. Matthew Riggan, Reason and Rigor: How Conceptual Frameworks Guide Research (2nd edition, Sage Publications, 2016).

Research methods:

  • Catherine Hakim, Research Design: Successful Designs for Social Economics Research, 2nd ed. (Routledge, 2000);
  • Joseph A. Maxwell, Qualitative Research Design (3rd edition, Sage, 2013);
  • Alan Bryman, Social Research Methods, 5th ed. (Oxford University Press, 2015);
  • David Partington, Essential Skills for Management Research (Sage Publications, 2002).


Dissertation (90%, 10000 words) in the ST.
Dissertation proposal (10%) in the MT.

  • A 1,500 word dissertation proposal consisting of the title, abstract, research question, research justification, feasibility of the dissertation topic, choice of literature and an explanation of sources, proposed research design and methods, and provisional structure will count for 10% of the overall dissertation mark. Students may only change their topic thereafter with the agreement of their Academic Mentor. Students will be given feedback on their proposal.
  • The full dissertation of no more than 10,000 words will account for the remaining 90% of the overall mark.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2018/19: 26

Average class size 2018/19: 25

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information