It’s been a few months since my last blog post, as I have been busy working on the final stage of my MBA, the Project & Dissertation. In the middle of last year I posted about my decision to defer starting my P&D until after I had completed all 13 modules, so that I could focus 100% on the P&D, and review my project topic given that I had recently moved into a new job. Since then I have chosen a new topic, completed the literature review and undertaken my research; I am now in the process of completing the analysis and writing up my dissertation.
The focus of my project is the topic of Strategic Alliances. The primary reason for choosing this was that it gave me the opportunity to get involved in and contribute to an activity currently underway at work, as opposed to it just being for academic purposes; for some of the other reasons see my previous post on choosing an MBA project. Although strategic alliances did not receive much attention in the MBA modules I studied, it has been fascinating to learn about a new area of business management – especially one that potentially has such a strategic impact. For anyone who is interested in knowing more, here are a few articles to whet your appetite (and feel free to get in touch if you’d like a more comprehensive list – I have collated plenty of sources!):
- When to Ally and When to Acquire – HBR
- Strategic Partnerships – Wharton@Work
- Simple Rules for Making Alliances Work – HBR
Planning the P&D
Once I had finalised the subject area for my P&D, I decided to develop a step-by-step plan to get from choosing my research topic to submitting the final dissertation. There are a number of resources on the WBS Intranet that explain how to do this, but after reviewing a former student’s presentation on how they approached their P&D, I made the decision to invest in a book dedicated to the process. There were lots to choose from, including a recommendation from WBS to use Real World Research. However, after reviewing the synopsis of this and many others, I opted to buy Research Methods for Business Students – it also received strong reviews, is slightly more recent, and is focussed specifically on those undertaking a research project in business. For anyone at the start of their P&D, I would strongly recommend buying a book on the topic before going too far – there was lots of advice in the book that has helped guide me on every step of my P&D. Also, the methodology section of the dissertation typically expects you to justify the decisions you make regarding any research, and this book will provide lots of material for this.
The plan I produced involved a number of different stages:
- Identify my research objectives
- Search for relevant literature that would guide my research
- Develop a research methodology based on the project requirements and current literature
- Review the literature in more detail, to ensure that the research is consistent with, and builds on this
- Undertake the research
- Analyse the literature and draw conclusions
- Produce the project deliverable (if required)
- Write the dissertation
- Review the dissertation (based on project supervisor feedback)
- Final review and submit the dissertation
However, there are lots of different ways of approaching the P&D, with some of the following changes:
- It may be more appropriate to undertake the full literature review before even considering the research methodology
- The requirement for and timing of the project deliverable depends on if the P&D is in place to support a live business requirement, and if so, what the expectations are of the project sponsor
- Writing the dissertation can be undertaken alongside each of the steps rather than at the end (ie. write the introduction in step 1, methodology in step 3, etc) – this approach is commonly encouraged, but unfortunately I was not able to follow this due to time constraints on when my research had to take place
Another invaluable piece of advice that was given to me is to speak regularly with your project supervisor as you begin to scope out your project idea, develop your research methodology, and plan your dissertation; they may have specific guidance on the best approach to follow. I have found the discussions with my supervisor very beneficial, both because they helped provide clarity around what was expected of me when undertaking the research & analysis, and also ensuring that my dissertation will be consistent with what they expect (after all, they are the ones first-marking it).
That’s just a quick introduction to getting started with the P&D – in future posts I’ll share my thoughts about undertaking the literature review, completing the research and writing the dissertation.