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1. Primary criteria.

These criteria form the main basis on which the final mark will be determined. Tutors will profile performance on a number of dimensions within each grouping. This will then help them to derive a mark that could in turn be influenced by the secondary criteria. However, the final mark will be based on an assessment of the whole piece of work.

Assessment criteria indicate the dimensions against which markers will assess your work. It is important to realise that your work will be assessed as a whole, not as a simple summation of these categories. In this section, we break down the major categories into sub-sections that indicate the continuum along which your work will be placed. The a?requirementsa section of this book then gives some detailed comments on each section. However, you might find it useful to consider the following outline of the qualities we expect of work in the different degree classifications. These are based round an expectation that good work is the average, that is, a lower second. Each category assumes that the requirements of the previous grade have been met.

Theories and concepts

From your chosen topic you will need to develop a research question (or a series of related questions). Your question(s) will develop a particular aspect of the overall topic. This aspect might reflect your particular interests, a facet of practice or a gap in the literature on the subject. This demands that you engage with the literature on the subject. In such an engagement you should be concerned with both content, i.e., what various authors can tell you about the subject, and process, i.e., the way in which they have investigated the subject.

Our requirement that you pay particular attention to their theoretical assumptions means that your literature search should focus on areas where such assumptions are generally more explicit, that is, on academic journals and research monographs. You should not simply list different approaches, but provide a critical evaluation. This might consider how well the theory deals with the available evidence or how well it raises questions for investigation. You might want to point out areas of contradiction or overlap between different authors.

You might also want to consider areas that, in your view, have been ignored or poorly developed. Sometimes this is because the approach has not covered a particular area. In other cases, this is because the approach has been applied to a variety of circumstances but not to the one in which you are interested. It is unlikely that you will develop a totally new approach, but there can be value in developing ideas by seeing if they apply in novel contexts. You are expected to develop a conceptual framework through which to apply your research questions to the process of gathering evidence. This may include, for example, the application or adaption of an existing theory or model or a more inductive approach.


Evidence

The resources available to you in conducting your research ought to be considered along a number of dimensions:

a? Time: you ought to be able to complete the process with a time allowance of approximately eight hours a week over a six-month period.
a? Physical and financial: elaborate research methods that require extensive physical resources (e.g. large scale surveys) are unlikely to be feasible. Of course, you may have access to work organisations that allow you to use their facilities a such as the use of internal mail to distribute questionnaires a but you need to assess the feasibility of resource usage.

Therefore you will assessed on the feasibility of your chosen research approach and how well you have managed to operationalise this approach and gather evidence.

We are looking for evidence of your ability to consider what evidence, from both secondary and primary sources, you need to answer your research questions. We want to see your justification for the methods that you use to obtain this evidence. We are then interested in how you use this evidence. We are looking for the way in which you interpret it, using means that are related to the nature of the evidence to hand.

Evidence can take a variety of forms. Sometimes evidence which we might regard as secondary in some contexts becomes primary in others. For example, you might visit a Web site to gather content, in which case you would be using secondary material. However, if your prime focus was on the design of Web sites, then the same site can be a source of primary evidence. Evidence can be gathered in many forms; we expect you to justify your evidence and your methods for gathering it.

In most cases you will want to engage with some primary data. This is because it is unlikely that you will be in a position to say something new based entirely on the re-interpretation of the works of others. However, the balance of the use of secondary and primary data, and of the types of both that you use, ought to be determined by the questions that you ask. In some cases the evidence that you would like to gather is not available, but we expect you to analyse the reasons why this is so.

Your search for evidence will be conditioned by the questions you have asked. In some cases these may demand evidence that can easily be gathered by more quantitative measures. Where your question is dealing more with perceptions, then you might want to consider whether evidence gathered through such measures is relevant. This is not to rule out such methods, but to make it clear that the questions determine the methods used, not vice-versa.

Once gathered, evidence needs to be interpreted in the light of your question and the theoretical approach that you have taken. This means that you should assess the reliability and validity of your evidence. You should use appropriate methods to derive meaning from your evidence, methods which can range from statistical analysis to careful reading and interpretation.


Argument

We expect you not only to find material that is valid and relevant, but also to use it to support an argument that is developed throughout your work. Such an argument is likely to have several inter-related themes. We are looking to you to develop these themes in a sustained and coherent manner.

You should not simply to reproduce material, from whatever source, but to consider it in a critical fashion. a?Criticala in this case does not mean a?finding faulta. It does mean weighing arguments and evidence carefully before making a considered judgement on the value of both.

Your dissertation should have a a?thought througha quality. This means that you need to be clear about what you think about the topic and then convey this in writing. To do this, you will have to be careful about what goes in paragraphs, sections and chapters. You will need to link this material so that it forms a coherent whole.

Conclusions and reflection

Just as we have expected your argument to have been developed and sustained throughout the dissertation, so too we will expect the conclusions to carry your themes through. We will be looking for your consideration of the extent to which you have been able to find answers to your research questions. These answers will be based on the evidence you have been able to present, so your conclusions will need to take into account the relative merits of different parts of this. In your conclusions you should address the extent to which you met your initial objectives and what contribution to knowledge your evidence and analysis provides (an overview).

We recognise that research is a continuing process, which often throws up new questions. The search for evidence often indicates problems with the evidence that we have and ways in which we might search for new evidence. Your conclusions ought to reflect this provisional and revisable state of affairs. It ought to indicate how others might take your research forward or how existing research programmes (such as those presented in your literature review