5 tips for a successful MBA dissertation

Posted by MMU on 31-May-2016 16:30:00

Writing your dissertation is likely to be one of the biggest challenges you’ll face during your MBA course. Our 5 tips will help you approach the task.


Your dissertation is vital to the success of your MBA, as it’s worth a third of your overall credits.

Naturally, that brings a certain amount of pressure, so that’s what we’re going to help you out with today.

Our five tips will help ensure you’ve got the basics covered when it comes to creating and presenting your final MBA dissertation.

1)     Plan ahead

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. This is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects for MBA students, as it’s often difficult to plan ahead when you have potentially unpredictable work and family commitments to deal with.

This is one reason why you should start as early as possible. In addition to factoring in any potential urgent issues in other areas of your life, you are also prepared if you hit any snags during your research.

Setting yourself realistic deadlines is key. If you complete the work in stages and ensure each stage is complete by a certain date, you will hopefully avoid having to rush things as the final submission deadline looms.

2)     Think about the question you want to answer

One of the most common mistakes MBA dissertation writers fall foul of is making their central question too broad. If the title of your thesis allows you to go off on tangents, and doesn’t hone in on a particular issue, you are likely to end up with a conclusion that is too general and fails to offer anything especially new or insightful.

These dissertations aren’t necessarily incorrect, they just won’t score as highly as ones with a focused topic.

Consider also that your chosen topic should be something you can easily gather evidence around. Don’t make life more difficult for yourself than you need to, and do a bit of pre-research to make sure you’ll have enough material to play with for a full dissertation. A focused question also makes it less likely that you’ll waste time gathering irrelevant research.

3)     Make sure the dissertation is structured correctly

No matter how insightful your findings are, if you don’t present them properly, they may get lost in the chaos and you won’t achieve the results all your hard work deserves.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to avoid this, as there is a generally agreed structure for MBA dissertations.

Your final document should feature the following sections:

  • Executive summary - A brief summary of what you’ve studied and what you’ve found.
  • Introduction - This should answer the key questions: what, why, where and how. It should also make it clear which question(s) you will answer in your conclusion.
  • Literature and theoretical background - An analysis of existing work on your subject. Don’t treat this as a bibliography and leave it until the end, as people who do this are often disappointed to discover that their clever conclusions have already been drawn by someone else!
  • Research hypotheses - Use the literature you’ve consulted to clearly outline for the reader your central arguments that you will seek to prove or disprove.
  • Methodology - Tell the reader how you gathered your data and why you chose that method. Explain how the data will be used and show you are aware of the potential limitations of your chosen method of obtaining data.
  • Results - Your results should be presented in a structured way that is linked to your hypotheses.
  • Discussion - Here, you will show why your results are useful and how they have helped to support or challenge your hypotheses.
  • Recommendations - Make data-driven recommendations as to how businesses could use your data, taking care to refer back to your original questions.
  • Conclusions - An honest appraisal of your findings, including the positives and negatives of what you’ve learned. You can also assess your methodology and suggest what you might have done differently based on what you’ve discovered.
  • References - This is vital, as it shows where you got all your information from and avoids the possibility of plagiarism accusations. Ensure you use a recognised referencing system to ensure consistency. You’ll find it much easier to complete this section if you compile your references as you go, rather than leaving it until the end.
  • Appendices - Rather than cram more detailed data and full interview transcripts into your main dissertation, place them here so that a reader can reference them if they so wish. This brings us nicely to our next point.

4)     Don’t try and include everything

If you’ve put a lot of work into compiling a large amount of research, it can be tempting to make sure the reader knows that by cramming as much as you can into the dissertation.

You should resist this urge. If a section of your data does nothing to answer your questions or address your central hypotheses, it’s a waste of time to include it. Worse still, it might distract from some genuinely interesting data you’ve included elsewhere.

Even your appendix should only contain relevant material; it should not be treated as a storage facility for all the things you didn’t get round to using.

5)     End on a high

As we’ve already said, your conclusion is more than just a rehash of everything you’ve said so far. The key thing to remember about your MBA dissertation is that it must be both an academic and practical study of the issues.

Offering a theoretical conclusion is fine, but you must also provide something that a business person could use on a practical level if they were to read your dissertation.

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Topics: MBA