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University of Exeter Business School

Masters Dissertation (HRM)

Module titleMasters Dissertation (HRM)
Module codeBEMM056
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Graham Perkins (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

During the MSc Human Resource Management programme you will embark on researching and writing a substantial dissertation of 15,000 – 20,000 words. This is an excellent opportunity for you to develop an area of expertise within the HR field by carrying out and writing up your own research project. The dissertation module will comprise elements of instruction in relation to research methods and data collection techniques, alongside contact time in the form of supervision meetings which may occur one-to-one or within small group formats. It is our intent to build your research skills so that you are well positioned to identify research problems with significance for HRM practice and conduct independent research, presenting your findings in a clear and compelling manner.

Please be aware that any form of primary data collection undertaken for your dissertation requires ethical approval from the University. In the event that primary research is conducted without appropriate ethical approval marks may be adjusted accordingly

Module aims - intentions of the module

Our aims in this module are threefold.  Our first aim is to help you to identify research problems which have relevance to HRM practice within organisations.  Our second aim, connected with this, is to build your skills and confidence in collecting and analysing relevant data related to your selected research problem.  Finally, we seek to develop your ability to derive clear conclusions and recommendations from your data together with your ability to present these to both an academic and practitioner audience.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss a variety of research methodologies, selecting and applying appropriate methods within the context of a research study
  • 2. Collect, analyse and interpret qualitative and/or quantitative data, using relevant software and analytical techniques;
  • 3. Relate theory to research findings, drawing relevant conclusions and considering the implications and limitations of the research which you have undertaken.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Conduct independent research using primary and/or secondary sources;
  • 5. Construct coherent and convincing arguments, using evidence as appropriate to defend positions taken.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Take responsibility for the direction and management of an independent and original research project from inception through to completion;
  • 7. Present written work to a high standard, adhering to conventions for academic writing and referencing.

Syllabus plan

The dissertation module within the MSc Human Resource Management degree essentially comprises two areas of focus. The first of these is the development of your knowledge and skill with respect to research methods, and the second is the research and construction of your final dissertation.

The research methods sessions will cover the following broad subject areas:

  • choosing a dissertation topic
  • writing a dissertation proposal
  • formulating research questions / hypotheses
  • undertaking a critical literature review
  • adhering to principles in research ethics; integrity and good practice in the conduct of research
  • introduction to quantitative research methods
  • introduction to qualitative research methods
  • analysing and presenting research findings
  • developing conclusions and recommendations

Alongside the research methods content you will also attend broader briefing sessions where the mechanics of the dissertation process will be explained in greater depth and you will have opportunities to discuss your emerging topic ideas with the module leader/tutor. While dissertations vary in terms of their structure and content, essential features include the following:

  • An introduction which sets out and justifies the research context
  • A literature review which is critical and analytical, and not simply descriptive in nature
  • A methodology section in which you set out and justify your choice of research methods
  • Sections which both set out and analyse your findings
  • Conclusions and recommendations which are clearly justified, and if appropriate, costed
  • A section reflecting on and critically reviewing your learning while completing your dissertation

Please note that all students collecting primary data will be required to obtain ethical clearance from the university in advance of data collection activities. Failing to adhere to ethical guidelines will mean you will not be permitted to collect primary data.


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities10Meetings and correspondence with your supervisor
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2Dissertation briefing sessions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities77 x 1 hour research methods lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities77 x 1 hour research methods workshops
Guided Independent Study574Researching and writing up your dissertation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft proposal750 words (approx.)1,4,5,7Verbal and/or written feedback
Draft chaptersVarious - as per the needs and requirements of the student1-7Verbal and/or written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research Proposal202,000 – 2,500 words1,4,5,7Written feedback
Dissertation8015,000 – 20,000 words1-7Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research ProposalResubmission of re-worked proposal (20%)1,4,5,7During the following re-assessment period
DissertationResubmission of re-worked dissertation (80%)1-7During the following re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Anderson, V. (2019). Research Methods in Human Resource Management: Investigating a Business Issue. Fourth Edition. CIPD/Kogan Page.
  • Bell, J. & Waters (2018). Doing Your Research Project: A Guide For First-Time Researchers. Seventh Edition. Open University Press
  • Bryman, A., Bell, E. & Harley, B. (2022). Business Research Methods. Sixth Edition. Oxford University Press.
  • Creswell, J. W. & Poth, C. N. (2017). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Fourth Edition. Sage.
  • Creswell, J.W. & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Fifth Edition. Sage.
  • Field, A. (2017). Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics. Fifth Edition. Sage.
  • Gray, D. (2019). Doing Research in the Business World. Second Edition. Sage.
  • Horn, R. (2012). Researching and Writing Dissertations: A Complete Guide for Business and Management Students. Second Edition. CIPD/Kogan Page.
  • Myers, M. D. (2019). Qualitative Research in Business and Management. Third Edition. Sage.
  • Pallant, J. (2020). SPSS Survival Manual: A Step by Step Guide to Data Analysis Using IBM SPSS. Seventh Edition. Open University Press.
  • Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2019). Research Methods for Business Students. Eighth Edition. Pearson.
  • Yin, R. (2018). Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods. Sixth Edition. Sage.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

You will have access to an online searchable and resources database, with links to several eBooks and our own bespoke online support content which will be available through a dedicated page on the Exeter Learning Environment (ELE). Within this environment, you will also be supported through online discussion forums and activities.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

As an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development you will also have access to the entirety of the Institute's website, including all published research reports, archived articles from 'People Management', fact sheets, discussion papers and briefings.  

Key words search

Human Resource Management, Research, Dissertation, HRM Dissertation

Credit value60
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date