1. Introduction 1. 1General The MBA project, worth 30 credits, provides the final test of your ability to achieve Masters level status. The project is a piece of real world applied research, undertaken for a client, which offers you the chance to put into practice leadership and strategic thinking skills developed during the course of your studies. All projects are strategic in nature and focus on a real, contemporary issue facing an organisation. MBA projects are designed to enhance career options for all students by developing and enhancing your research, analytical, communication and personal skills at the highest levels of an organisation.
The project thus provides a basic grounding in the process and methods which underpin consultancy. Completing a project requires the collection, analysis, interpretation and presentation of information and observations. It is an orderly and practical exercise for which there are common criteria for evaluation. Students are therefore advised to proceed according to a practical plan in a systematic manner. Remember a project is NOT a “big essay.
” It should be regarded as a proper piece of applied research, undertaken for a client (usually someone within your organisation). If you think of your project as an essay, it will almost certainly be well below what you are capable of producing. 1. 2 The difference between a consultancy project and a dissertation There are significant differences between a consultancy project and dissertation: • The project is worth 30 credits, while a dissertation is worth 60. However, students have less time to deliver consultancy project.
• The dissertation is a more academic piece of work. There is more emphasis on the literature review and the methodology and justification of research methods and it essentially written for an academic audience. • The project is a piece of relevant applied research produced for a client. The work is therefore more applied in nature, there is less reliance on academic literature (although key theories underpinning the work should be fully acknowledged and references), and the outputs should be written as reports for a client.
• Assessment is also slightly different. In the dissertation there are two components, in the project three outputs are assessed; o the inception report o the final report to the client (which should be accompanied by a presentation to the client and which forms 50% of the assessment) o an individual reflective report on the learning experience. These are discussed in more detail below. • The dissertation is always undertaken as an individual exercise, with a significant input from a supervisor who is an academic subject specialist.
• Students can work on the consultancy project in groups (this is the modus operandi for students on the full time MBA course), but it is less common – although not unheard of – for part-time and distance learning students to undertake a collaborative project. • Furthermore, a group project should not be considered an easy option. A four person project is a substantial 120 credit piece of work and will be assessed accordingly. • The reflective report is always an individual exercise and is assessed accordingly (even when students complete the project in a group there should be no intra group collaboration on the reflective report).
• Depending on the nature of the project, the project supervisor will not necessarily be a subject specialist. Primarily, this is because students are often carrying out a project in their own organisation or sector. It is therefore more important for the supervisor to advise on procedure and provide general feedback on reports and outputs. To assist students reflect on what is involved in carrying out applied research, there is some background information on the role of a management consultant in part 2 of this handbook. 1. 3Purpose of the Handbook.
This handbook has been produced to help provide you with some of the basic information that you will require to complete the project. The handbook is divided into three parts: • Part 1 – Background and Important Information • Part 2 – About Management Consulting • Part 3 – general advice on style, referencing & formatting You should consult each part of the handbook at the appropriate juncture of the dissertation process. 2. THE PROJECT PROCESS 2. 1 Project: getting started The first part of the project will involve identifying a topic.
There are four common pathways: • Many students will currently be working for an organisation and may already have a topic or area of interest in mind. You should then identify someone (usually your line manager) to act as a client for the project • You may not currently be employed or might be a DL or part time student who is unable to carry out a project in your own organisation. In these circumstances, you should try to identify an organisation that you would like to carry out a project on, and an individual within it to act as your client.
• As noted above, it is also possible for distance learning and part time MBA students to undertake a group project, although it is advisable that you are either located in the same place or working for the same organisation. If you intend to work in a group, please get in touch with either David Gray or Allan Scott, as you will require additional guidance. Individuals and teams and should listen to the introductory podcast and PowerPoint presentation and familiarise themselves with the e-Book on research methods which is also available on the support module.
You might also find it useful to read part 2 of this handbook, which provides you with some information on management consultancy. Students working in teams are also advised to assign and clarify the roles, responsibilities and expectations of individuals within the teams at an early stage to ensure that all team members make a full and equal contribution. 2. 2 Submitting a topic Students undertaking individual projects are required to prepare and submit a topic, which has been agreed with the client. This will allow us to allocate you an academic supervisor.
A template for submitting the project topic is included in Appendix 1 below. Those undertaken the project as a group will be required to prepare a more detailed research brief. As requested above, please get in touch with Allan Scott or David Gray. Arrangements will then be made to send out additional information and a seperate template relating to the preparation of the group project brief. It might be appropriate for students to sign a confidentiality clause (especially when they are dealing with commercially sensitive material or data).
Teams/individuals should establish whether an agreement is required with the client (and with the supervisor). A sample confidentiality agreement has been included in Appendix 2, below. Again this should be tailored to the needs of the project, where appropriate. The topic template should be submitted electronically via a drop box on the support module. 2. 3 The Project Research Proposal (or Inception Report) The next stage of the project is to produce a project research proposal (also known as an inception report) for the client.
In order to prepare an effective research proposal, consultant teams and individuals should refer to the introductory podcast and accompanying PowerPoint presentation, to the e-Book on research methods and to part 2 of this handbook; all of which are available on the support module. The purpose of the research proposal is to set out a plan for the research, how it will be carried out and how the aims and objectives will be realised in the time available. The research methods to be used should be set out, justified and discussed along with elements identified as important to the research.
These might include: • Details of stakeholders/ contacts, etc. who are to be interviewed, • Key literature, published reports, secondary sources, and databases that will underpin the project research There should also be some indication of how any data collected will be analysed. The Research methods proposed for the project should be approved by the client before the inception report is submitted. The inception report might contain the following: • An introduction and background including a general discussion of the key issues.
• The project aim, objectives and/or research questions • An outline of the key management and business theories that underpin the research (properly referenced). • Details of the proposed research (including details and justification for the methods to be used) and how the data will be analysed and written up. • An update of key project milestones and outputs. • An assessment of (i) any risk and potential problems associated with the research; and (ii) how it will be managed and mitigated. • A gant chart timetabling the delivery of key tasks, project milestones and outputs.
Students should ask the project supervisor to review a draft of the research proposal before it is sent to the client for approval. The research proposal should then be submitted electronically via a drop box on the support module. Please note that the proposal is assessed and is worth 20% of the total mark for the Project module (see the section on assessment on the support module). The report will be assessed by the project supervisor. 2. 4 Data collection and write up The main part of the Consultancy Project will involve collecting and analysing data.
Again, you should refer to the e-Book on research methods and part 2 of this handbook and which are available on the support module. Students are also advised to refer back to the project aims and objectives/research questions, to ensure that the data collected and analysed allows aims and objectives to be addressed. The client should not be ‘surprised’ by any omissions in the final report. If students are having difficulties in gathering data that may compromise their ability to address their aims and objectives (or if any other circumstances arise that represent a risk that students will have difficulty mitigating) then they should inform the client and supervisor at the earliest opportunity so that any contingencies can be agreed by all parties.
Any such difficulties should also be fully discussed in the final report. Similarly, students are strongly advised to gauge their progress in relation to the gant chart set out in the inception report. If students are in danger of missing a key milestone, they should alert the client and supervisor so that a new deadline can be agreed. Good communication with the client (and the supervisor) is essential; the students should ensure that all aims and objectives are addressed.
To reiterate: the client should not be ‘surprised’ by any emissions or changes to the research agreed in the proposal. 2. 5 The final report In preparing the final report, students are advised to look at the examples uploaded on the support modules as a guide for what is required in terms of content, report structure and style. Students should also refer back to the introductory podcast and PowerPoint presentation. Some additional tips on style, formatting, etc. are also available in part 3 of this handbook.
Although this resource is primarily aimed at students undertaking dissertations, students may find some of the advice useful, particularly the content on referencing. Students should ask the project supervisor to review a draft of the final report before it is sent to the client for approval. Please note that the Final Report is assessed and represents 50% of the total mark for the Consultancy Project module (see the section on assessment on the support module). The report will be assessed by the project supervisor.
The key criteria for assessing the final report will be the extent to which it meets the needs of the client. Projects which do not address all the objectives or do which have only made a very limited or superficial attempt at addressing the aims and objectives will be marked down. The final report should be submitted electronically via a drop box on the support module. 2. 6 Final Report Presentation Once the final report has been submitted, students will be required to make a presentation to the client. The project supervisor should also be present (either in person or by video or telephone conference), as might other invited stakeholders and members of the MBA management team.
Participants attending by teleconference should be emailed a copy of the PowerPoint presentation in advance. It is the student’s responsibility to organise the presentation. Clients will often be asked for feedback on the project management, the final report and the presentation. Any feedback provided can assist the project supervisor in assessing the project. 2. 7 The reflective report To conclude the project, individual students are required to produce a report, reflecting on their impressions of the project ‘journey and their learning experience. Please note that the reflective report is assessed, and is worth 30% of the total mark.
As noted above, this is an individual piece of work and intra group collaboration on this element of the project is strongly discouraged. Examples of reflective reports have been uploaded onto the support module. 4. PROJECT: ASSESSMENT GUIDANCE THE ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY, Aberdeen Business School STUDENT NAME: Final Overall ………………… % MASTERS DEGREE DISSERTATIONS – GRADING GRID FOR BSM 2050 Markers please shade in the appropriate sections and submit a hard copy of this grid along with 1st and 2nd markers combined word-processed feedback.
|GRADE |RESEARCH PROBLEM – AIMS |LITERATURE SEARCH AND REVIEW |RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DATA|DATA ANALYSIS, REPORTING, AND |CRITICAL DISCUSSION AND |CREATIVITY AND ORIGINALITY |ORGANISATION AND | | |AND OBJECTIVES |15% |COLLECTION TECHNIQUES |DISCUSSION |CONCLUSIONS |5% |PRESENTATION | | |5% | |20% |20% |30% | |5% | |Excellent – |The research problem is |All the key theories which |An appropriate method has |The results are presented |The results and significance |Distinctive work showing |Well organised, | |outstanding |clearly stated, and the |contextualise the project |been described which will |clearly.
Excellent analysis of|of the research are |independent and outstanding |professional presentation | |performance |aim is extremely well |have been identified and |allow the aims and objectives|the evidence, data set and |critically discussed, and the|thought and critical |and structure. Excellently| | |focused and clearly |discussed coherently and |to be fully addressed. |coherent and logically |conclusions drawn are soundly|engagement with alternative |written work with a high | | |attainable. The objectives|concisely. The literature |There is a clear |structured argument, resulting |underpinned.
Attention is |and cogent views. |level of competence in the| |70% and above |are specific, and |sources describing these key |understanding of why the |in clear and illuminating |drawn to comparable and |Consistently makes |use of language and | | |identified precisely how |theories have been referenced|method is appropriate, and it|conclusions. Clear |contrasting opinion and |significantly creative use of|terminology, and | | |the aim was to be |accurately. |has been justified in |demonstration of a variety of |research results found in the|appropriate arguments and/or |completely free from | | |achieved.
| |relation to other approaches. |analytical techniques. |literature. |theoretical model(s). |spelling, grammatical and | | | | |It is clear how data and | | | |typographical errors. | | | | |Information was gathered and | | | |Referencing and citations | | | | |how it will be analysed. | | | |are completely correct. | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Commendable: very |The research problem is |Most of the key theories |An appropriate method has |The results are presented |
The results of the research |Contains distinctive/ |Good presentation and | |good performance |clearly stated, but the |which contextualise the |been described which will |clearly. Coherent and |are used to underpin the |independent thinking: |structure. Very | | |aim is indicative rather |project have been identified |allow almost most of the aims|logically structured, using |conclusions drawn. Some |attempts to formulate an |Well-written, with | | |than specific. The |and discussed coherently and |and objectives to be |appropriate modes of argument |attention is drawn to |independent position.|competent use of language | |60-69% |objectives provide some |concisely.
The literature |addressed. |and/or theoretical model(s). |comparable and contrasting | |and standard terminology, | | |indication of how the aim |sources describing these key |There is clear understanding |Very good analysis using a |opinion and research results | |and generally free from | | |was to be achieved. |theories have been referenced|of why the method is |variety of approaches on the |found in the literature. | |spelling, grammatical and | | | |accurately. |appropriate, with some |data set and demonstrating some| | |typographical errors.
| | | | |justification in relation to |very good criticality. | | |Referencing and citations | | | | |other approaches. | | | |are completely correct. | | | | |It is generally clear how | | | | | | | | |data and Information was | | | | | | | | |gathered and how it will be | | | | | | | | |analysed. | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Good: competent |A research problem is |Some effort has been made to|An appropriate method has |The results are presented |The results of the research |Sound work, which expresses |
Satisfactory structure.| |performance |identified, but the aim is |identify theories with |been described which will |clearly. Good analytical |are discussed, and |a personal but objective |Competently written, with | | |indicative rather than specific. |relate to, and contextualise|allow most of the aims and |treatment of the data set, and|conclusions drawn with |position in broad terms and |acceptable format, use of | |50-59% |
The objectives tend to focus on |the project, although there |objectives to be addressed. |showing adequate criticality.|limited attention is to |shows a degree of |language and standard | | |the process rather than the |may be obvious omissions and|There is some understanding |Adequate evidence of coherent |comparable and contrasting |criticality. |terminology, but some | | |specific attainment of the aim. |some of the theories |of why the method is |argument and/or issue analysis|opinion and research results| |spelling, grammatical and | | | |presented might be of |appropriate, but little or |and/or structure.|found in the literature. | |typographical errors. | | | |limited relevance.
The |no attempt to justify the | | | |Referencing and citations | | | |literature sources |approach in relation to | | | |are generally correct. | | | |describing these key |alternatives. | | | | | | | |theories have been |Some effort has been made to| | | | | | | |referenced reasonably |describe how data and | | | | | | | |accurately. |Information was gathered and| | | | | | | | |how it will be analysed.
| | | | | |Satisfactory |A research problem is |The student has made a very |A method has been described |The results are generally |The results of the research |Largely derivative, although|Acceptable format, but with | |performance |identified, but there is a lack |limited or token attempt to |which will allow some, but |clear. Occasionally |are discussed, with little |some personal view is |some problems in structure | | |of focus and far too broad an |contextualise the project |not all, of the aims and |descriptive or narrative, but |attention drawn to |appropriately formulated.
|and layout. Written with | | |aim. The objectives demonstrate|within wider theory. There |objectives to be addressed. |demonstrates a reasonable |significant literature. | |only minor lapses from | |40-49% |only a marginal link to |may also be shortcomings in |There is limited |analytical treatment of the |Conclusions drawn are | |standard syntax, terminology| | |achievement of the aim |the existence or accuracy of|understanding of why the |data set. Some attempt to |limited and insecure. | |and some spelling, | | |indicated. |referencing.
|method is appropriate. |construct coherent | | |grammatical and | | | | |Limited effort has been made|argument(s), but issues at | | |typographical errors. | | | | |to describe how data and |stake stated only vaguely, or | | |Referencing and citations | | | | |Information was gathered and|couched in simplistic terms. | | |are generally correct. | | | | |how it will be analysed. | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Borderline fail |No research problem is |No attempt has been made to |The method is inappropriate |The results are ambiguous.
|The results of the research |Little evidence of personal |Serious problems in | |30-35% |identified. There are multiple |introduce theory to |for the aims and objectives |Largely descriptive and/or |are described, but there is |thought; cursory paraphrase |structure and/or format, | | |aims and many spurious |contextualise the project. |of the project. |inaccurate and/or narrative, |no critical evaluation or |or quotation of others and |with some deficiencies in | | |objectives. The research was | |There is little or no |with little evidence of |reference to significant |lacks synthesis.
|expression, or use of | | |not realistic and do-able. | |understanding of why this is|analytical ability or |literature to underpin the | |terminology that may pose | | | | |the case and little or no |criticality. Basic ideas |conclusions drawn. | |obstacles for the reader, | | | | |attempt to describe how data|evident but supported by | | |and many spelling, | | | | |and Information was gathered|assertion only. | | |grammatical and | | | | |and how it will be analysed. | | | |typographical errors. | | | | | | | | |Referencing is incomplete | | | | | | | | |and citations frequently | | | | | | | | |incorrect.
| |Unsatisfactory | | | | | | | | |fail – | | | | | | | | |34% or less | | | | | | | | This information is provided for guidance only and does not replace the requirements of the University’s Academic Regulations, which are available for consultation on the University Appendix 1: Topic template [pic] THE ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY ABERDEEN MBA (Oil and Gas) Project Topic submission Name: Matriculation Number: Degree: Module Title and Number: Submission date: Project title: Project client (name and organisation): Brief description of research project: Approximately 400 words.
(Briefly discuss the proposed research and how it addresses an important issue for the client. Briefly touch on the key MBA theories (strategic management, leadership, business, operations, etc) that will underpin the research) Are there any issues regarding Confidentiality? : If so discuss briefly and confirm whether or not the client requires a confidentiality agreement. Ethical considerations: You will need to explain here that you have considered any potential ethical problems and their possible implications and limitations. Supervisor allocated: To be completed by admin/academic staff. Second Marker:
APPENDIX 2 CONFIDENTIALLITY AGREEMENT This is a confidentiality agreement made between prior to discussion of a project / consultancy in detail WHEREAS: The parties have agreed to provide each other with information which they consider to be confidential in nature (the “Confidential Information”) to (the “Purpose”;).
IT IS AGREED AS FOLLOWS: 1. In consideration of each of the parties disclosing to the other Confidential Information for the Purpose the parties hereby undertake that they shall: i. not communicate, disclose or make available all or any part of the Confidential Information to any third party; ii. not directly or indirectly use, or permit others to use, the Confidential Information other than for the Purpose; iii. not make any announcement or disclosure in connection with the Confidential Information or the Purpose without the prior written consent of the other party.
2. The obligations of confidentiality and non-use will not apply with respect to any of the following: i. information which is generally available to the public at the date of this agreement; ii. information already known to the party at the time of disclosure; iii. information which is subsequently disclosed by third parties having no obligations of confidentiality; iv. information which is or becomes generally available to the public in printed publications in general circulation in the United Kingdom through no act or default on the part of the parties or their agents, employees or professional advisers.
3. Without prejudice to the generality of clause 2 information shall not be deemed to be generally available to the public by reason only that it is known to only a few of those people to whom it may be of commercial interest and a combination of two or more parts of the Confidential Information shall not be deemed to be generally available to the public by reason only of each separate part being so available.
4. The parties shall each ensure that all measures necessary are taken to secure the confidentiality of the other party’s Confidential Information including but not limited to: i. keeping separate all Confidential Information and all information generated based on the Confidential Information from all other documents and records; ii.
keeping all documents and any other material bearing or incorporating any of the Confidential Information at the party’s usual place of business in the United Kingdom; iii. not using, reproducing, transforming or storing any of the Confidential Information in an externally accessible computer or electronic information retrieval system, not transmitting it in any form or by any means whatsoever outside the party’s usual place of business and not copying all or any part of the Confidential Information without the prior written consent of the Company and then only to the extent that the same is required for the Purpose; iv.
allowing access to the Confidential Information only to those employees and/or to the professional advisers who have reasonable need to see or use it for the Purpose and informing each of the said employees and professional advisers of the confidential nature of the Confidential Information and of the obligations in respect of the Confidential Information and ensuring such employees and professional advisers comply with the confidentiality and nondisclosure obligations contained in this agreement;
v. obtaining from employees having access to the Confidential Information their undertakings to maintain the same as confidential and taking such steps as may be reasonably desirable to enforce such obligations; vi. delivering all documents and other materials in the possession, custody or control of the party, its agents, employees or professional advisers that bear or incorporate any part of the Confidential Information of the other party. 5.
The failure by either party to enforce at any time any one or more of the terms or conditions of this agreement shall not be a waiver of them or of the right at any time subsequently to enforce all terms and conditions of this agreement. 6. The parties agree that damages might not be a sufficient remedy to any breach of the terms of this agreement and that as a result injunctive or other equitable relief may be obtained in respect of any breach or anticipated breach. 7.
All rights in the Confidential Information are reserved by the party to which it belongs and no rights or obligations other than those expressly set out in this agreement are granted or to be implied from this agreement. In particular no licence is granted directly or indirectly by this agreement relating to any invention, discovery, patent, copyright or other industrial or intellectual property right now or in the future held, made, obtained or licensable by either party.
8. The rights, duties and obligations of the parties and the validity, interpretation, performance and legal effect of this agreement shall be governed and determined by the laws of England and the parties hereby submit to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts. AGREED by the parties: SIGNED by _____________________________________ Name (print) _____________________________________ Position _____________________________________
Authorised signatory for and on behalf of _____________________________________ Date (Day / Month / Year) _____ / _____ / _____ SIGNED by _____________________________________ Name (print) _____________________________________ Position _____________________________________ Authorised signatory for and on behalf of _____________________________________ Date (Day / Month / Year) ———————– Aberdeen Business School.