• Assessment


In the second semester the first step for the student is to decide upon a subject area. Students should discuss this with your director of studies and/ or one of the lecturers teaching on the programme. Such discussions will focus on the merit of the suggested dissertation and on the choice of a supervisor. The agreement of a potential supervisor should be sought, and a form completed by the student and signed by your director of studies should be handed in to the Senior Examinations Administrator.


In the summer, following the June examinations, under the guidance of their supervisor, students commence work on the dissertation.


Dissertation Topic


After choosing your dissertation topic, you will have to undertake a literature review of the main articles relating to the issue under investigation. For the first meeting with your supervisor you should have a quite detailed proposed outline.

As far as the presentation of the dissertation is concerned, you must follow the guidelines on presentation set out below. Failure to follow these presentation guidelines may lead to a lower mark since marks are allocated for presentation.


The Outline and Research Plan

The outline that you prepare should cover the following:


  • Topic to be investigated. You cannot just research in a general area. You need to have a short list of well defined questions to investigate.


  • Methodology to be adopted. This includes some indications of the techniques (econometric, mathematical, statistical etc.) that you plan to use in order to answer the question(s) identified and the package(s) that you intend to use (Eviews, Maple etc.)


  • Data to be employed. This means that you should undertake some investigation of the actual data you need and the likely availability of this data. Please note that it is not the job of your supervisor to tell you what data you should use. Your supervisor should be able to help if you are unsure as to the availability of data from such sources as DataStream, for example. If the data you require is not available from a database subscribed to by the Department, it is your responsibility to collect it.


The outline does not formally carry any marks and clearly some details may change. However, it is in your best interests to map out a clear plan for the dissertation at an early stage: your supervisor cannot help and advise about content, feasibility of the study etc. if you yourself have little idea about what you are doing and what you need advice on.



Some Do’s and Don’ts


  • Do have a clear aim for each chapter; keep it in the front of your mind as you write in order to avoid irrelevant material and thus assist with keeping to the word limit (15,000-20,000 words).


  • Do explain/discuss/draw conclusions from all diagrams, tables, graphs etc, presented in the text.


  • Do not reproduce, in the text, masses of information contained in tables or charts: be selective.


  • Do relegate to an appendix material that is not essential to the main argument.


  • Do not make unsubstantiated statements or assertions.


  • Do make sensible use of referencing. There is rarely any need to reproduce details of standard textbook-type analysis: refer freely to where such analysis can be found.


  • Do ensure that time series data is expressed in real (volume) terms where applicable.


  • Do identify and state gaps/shortcomings/future research questions (these could be brought together in a section headed ‘Limitations of the Research’ in the final chapter). Dissertations at this level and undertaken in the time available will almost invariably have gaps in the analysis and/or coverage compared to an MPhil or PhD thesis. Indicate what further analysis you would have undertaken if you had, for example, a particular set of data or more time: this conveys to the examiner some command over the subject.


  • Do draw conclusions together in the final chapter that should not be a summary. Write your conclusions with the overall aim of the dissertation in mind.


  • Do present your work neatly.


  • Do proof-read the ‘final’ version thoroughly and make any necessary corrections.


  • Do make a back-up copy as you proceed if you word process your dissertation as a precaution against loss or damage to your disk.


  • Do, above all, act on the advice of your supervisor.



Structure of the Dissertation


The examiners will want to see a beginning, middle and an end to the dissertation. The beginning will be a brief survey and clear exposition of the issue(s) and question(s) that you are going to address and why you are going to address them. The idea here is to get the reader interested in the work, so it is important that you explain clearly why the issue is worthy of investigation. The middle should contain a discussion of the issue(s) in more detail, the models to be estimated and the hypotheses to be tested, a discussion and review of the data to be used and a review of the techniques to be used in estimating the model. The end should present the results with an interpretation and explanation of them, focussing on how they enable you to answer the question(s) set at the start of the dissertation.


Presentation of the Dissertation


Dissertations should be in the range of 15,000 to 20,000 words of main text. Graphs and tables count as word-equivalent although references and relevant appendices are not included in this figure. Examiners will penalise students who significantly exceed the upper limit: dissertations exceeding 20,000 words will have 5 marks deducted per each additional 1000 words.


Dissertations should be typed on one side of the paper (A4 size) and should be double-spaced with a 1.5″ left margin, a 1″ right margin and 2″ margins at the top and at the bottom. Pages, including appendices but excluding photographs and/or diagrams, which are not embodied in the text, should be numbered consecutively throughout the dissertation. Page numbers should be located centrally at the bottom of the page.

The order of pages in the dissertation should be as follows:


  1. Title page. The title page should give the following information in the order listed: the full title of the dissertation and the sub-title, if any, the title should be followed by ‘Submitted in part fulfilment of the MSc Finance, September 2009, your full name; the name of your supervisor; the name of the University; the name of the School; and the name of the Division. The title should describe the contents of the dissertation accurately and concisely. This page should not be numbered.


  1. Acknowledgements. Acknowledgements, if included, should be on the page following the title page. This page should be numbered in Roman numerals.


  1. Contents page. This page should list the main headings and the pages on which they can be found. This page should be numbered in Roman numerals.


  1. List of Appendices, Tables, Graphs etc. A List of Tables, Graphs etc. should follow the table of contents page and should list all tables, diagrams, etc., with their corresponding page number in the order in which they occur in the text. This page should be numbered in Roman numerals.



  1. Abstract. This should be a concise (no more than 300 words) summary of what the dissertation is about and what the principal findings are. This page should be numbered in Roman numerals.


  1. Main text of the dissertation. The main text of the dissertation starts on the page following the abstract. Start page numbering here; use Arabic numerals.


  1. Bibliography. Alphabetically list all the references (books, journals, newspaper and internet sources) used.


  1. Any Appendices or Indexes.


Style Guidelines


The dissertation should be organised according to chapters and sections. The main chapters of the dissertation should correspond to the beginning, middle and end discussed earlier and will be the introduction, the literature review, the data and methodology chapter, the results and interpretation chapter and the conclusion (please note that the chapters do not necessarily have these titles),. Where appropriate, chapters can be divided into sections and subsections. Headings for main chapters, sections and subsections should be numbered consecutively and should have the following format:

  1. Chapter Heading

1.1. Section Heading for Chapter 1

1.1.1. Sub Section Heading for Chapter 1


And so forth…


Footnotes should be single-spaced, numbered consecutively throughout the dissertation in the body of the script and should appear at the foot of the page to which the footnote relates.


Equations should be centred and should be numbered consecutively using Arabic numerals, the equation number being aligned to the right of the page.


Should you need to use graphs or tables, then they should be numbered consecutively throughout the dissertation, the title should be informative and a brief description of the graph or table should appear underneath the title.


The reference section/bibliography should be located after the conclusion of the dissertation but before appendices. References should be listed alphabetically by author. An example containing a journal article, a book and a working paper are listed below. For more information on writing style go to:


Example References:


Fama, E.F., (1970), “Efficient capital markets: a review of theory and empirical work”, Journal of Finance, vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 383-417.


Neal, R., (1992), “Direct tests of index arbitrage models”, working paper, Washington University.


Hull, J.C., (2003), Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives, 5th edition, Prentice Hall: International Edition.

When you refer to other people work in the body of your dissertation, you should use the following format:


Direct quote. If you are quoting verbatim from a source, you should put the author’s name followed by the year of publication of the article/book/working paper etc. and the page number the quote is from in brackets, followed by the direct quote in inverted commas, e.g. Fama (1970, p. 393) argues that, “direct quote”.


General point. If you are using the argument of another author but are phrasing them in your own words then just refer to the author and the year of publication e.g. Fama (1970) argues that it is possible to…


Appendices should follow the references section. They may consist of supporting materials or of lists, documents, commentaries, table or other evidence which, if included in the main text, would interrupt its flow. Appendices should be numbered consecutively and should have a title that indicates the contents of that particular appendix.