M.Sc. in Computer Applications for Education

Dissertation Guidelines

Academic year 2001/2

(Last updated April, 2001)

Co-ordinator: Dr. Heather Ruskin

E-Mail: hruskin@compapp.dcu.ie

Web site for Dissertation documentation and information: http://www.compapp.dcu.ie/~roconnor/mce/mce.html

Phone (secretary): 700 5237

Phone (direct): 700 5513

Fax: 700 5442

1. Preface

To satisfy the examination requirements of the dissertation phase of the degree, candidates are required to submit two copies of their research dissertations, together with a brief technical report (working paper). The working paper should outline methods and main findings of the research. Students should note that working papers are not optional and students who do not submit a satisfactory working paper will not be allowed to graduate. For more information on working papers please consult the following web sites:

Submission of working papers is directly to Dr. Mark Humphrys (humphrys@compapp.dcu.ie). Full instructions appear at


The focus of the dissertation should be on technical innovation or the development / demonstration of good practice. While the dissertation is about research on the overall theme of integrating information technology into the curriculum, it is also meant to demonstrate that the author has mastered the scientific method of investigation. The scientific method of investigation typically consists of a number of phases:

2. Research Proposals

A detailed research plan must be drawn up and agreed before the research work is commenced. The dissertation co-ordinator will co-ordinate all proposals, bringing them to the research panel of the School of Computer Applications for approval. Students will then be advised of the required revisions, prior to final ratification by the Programme Board.

Proposals must be submitted to the dissertation co-ordinator no later than 4pm on November 21st 2001. Proposals received after that date will not be processed until the next meeting of the Programme Board.

Research proposals should address issues relating to integrating information technology into the curriculum, i.e. technical innovation or the development / demonstration of good practice, as above. The proposals and the dissertation itself should seek to make a significant contribution to research in this area and to be capable of extension in the future. Topics relating to school administration are not encouraged.

Students need to be clear on expectations. In general they do not have a background in developing software, so that proposals that require extensive coding should be advanced with caution. Where the emphasis is on developing software prototypes, students should be mindful of the standard of computers used in schools and the requirement to test code. Where the emphasis is on an aspect of good practice, a pilot study is usual and students should be clear, when planning the work, of the technical requirement and need for scientific

rigour in methods and evaluation. While many pieces of research may have time for only empirical evaluation, within the confines of the research component, this must be present, and all projects will be expected to consider more detailed evaluation. Note: anecdotal evidence does not constitute evaluation.

3. Proposal Submission

All research proposals must be submitted to the MCE dissertation co-ordinator on or before November 21st 2001. The proposal may be submitted via the School Secretary in the School Office (L121) and should be in an envelope marked for the attention of Heather Ruskin, MCE dissertation co-ordinator. The proposal must include the attached submission form. The remainder of the proposal must be typed (in accordance with regulations outlined in section 5 below) and will normally be 2 - 3 pages in length. The proposal must include the following headings:


  1. Description: A full description of your proposal, including motivation, proposed methods, etc. (maximum 2 pages)
  2. Pedagogic and other objectives. Outline the objectives of your proposed research
  3. 3. Products / Techniques. What special products / techniques will you require to master
  4. Resources. What resources do you require,(do you have them?
  5. Innovation / Contribution. What will be your major innovations / contributions to research in your chosen field.
  6. Evaluation. How will you evaluate the effectiveness of your work
  7. Research plan. Details of tasks and sub tasks and likely completion date of same. Use exact dates. This must also include an implementation plan.

4. Research Timetable

Date Event / Action

Summer vacation period and Semester I

November 21 4pm Last day for submission of research proposals.

December 6 Feedback to students on proposals (notice board / email)

December 12 Last day for submission of revised research proposal (if required)

December 21Feedback to students on revised proposals (notice board / email)

January Consult with supervisor and agree research plan and timetable

March Literature review should be completed around this time

April Pilot study / questionnaire / prototype system (as appropriate) should be completed around this time

Early May Data gathering finished / software complete

June 26 Submission of working paper

June / JulyInternal examination and moderation

July / AugustExternal examination

Early September Examination and progression and awards board meetings

Mid September Publication of results

September 27 4pm Submission of 2 hardbound copies.

October / November Graduation

Exact dates and information from Office for Academic Affairs

5. Physical Format

This section give an overview of the physical format and structure of a dissertation. All students must consult section 7 of the booklet Academic Regulations for Postgraduate Degrees by Research & Thesis, available from the Office for Academic Affairs and also the booklet Citing and Referencing: A Guide for Students, available from the DCU Library.

All students should note that a dissertation (soft or hard copy) which is not submitted in the appropriate format or without a signed declaration will not be accepted for examination by the University. Hard-bound copies must be in university blue.

Brief overview of physical formatting:

The dissertations are normally expected to be approximately 50 pages in length, excluding appendices. It is envisaged in general that an oral examination will not be required.

Referencing and citation guidelines are available from the DCU Library booklet Citing and Referencing: A Guide for Students. It is important that students adhere to the standard. Excessive quotation from published work, together with an informal or 'chatty' style must be avoided in any scientific report. Instead, cited work should be summarised and assessed in the context of forming a background to, or platform for, the research undertaken.

The following gives an overview of the layout of a dissertation. This is not intended to be prescriptive, and will depend to some extend on the nature of the research.

Introduction - This chapter will provide background, significance and purpose of the study and prior research in the area. The majority of this information will be obtained from a literature search.

The introduction and the main chapters should have their own title, together with sub-headings, listed in the table of contents. It is very helpful if each chapter is briefly linked to the preceding one within the text, so that the reader can follow the development of your thought and argument.

How many chapters in a dissertation? This depends largely on the material and the kind of subdivision to which it lends itself.

Main Chapters - The type of dissertation and project will determine these main chapters. This is a guide only. Each chapter should have its own title, and they do not have to be called Methods, Results etc.

A methods chapter - describing the methods used in the investigation and why those methods were chosen. (Please note the difference between Methods and Methodology (the study of methods). If you did not study 'methods', this chapter should be called Methods, not Methodology.)

The results chapter is the main body, detailing your findings.

A discussion chapter can be separate from the results, or the two can be written together, similar to a long essay. This depends on the type of results and style of dissertation/project. It is also a personal choice.

A conclusion should put the results into context. This final chapter must serve to round off the whole thesis by picking up the various threads from the previous chapters and show how they all hang together. This is also the chapter

to make recommendations. This chapter should not just be a summary of results and discussion.

Appendices - This section contains any important extra material you need to include, to be placed after the conclusion but before the Bibliography. For example, additional survey data, computer program listings, computer screens, additional graphs, etc.

Bibliography/References -Students must consult the Citing and Referencing: A Guide for Students, available from the DCU Library and adhere to the standard.

Students are required to take special note of section 7.4.5 of the Academic Regulations for Postgraduate Degrees by Research & Thesis and related university regulations. The following declaration must be signed.

I hereby certify that this material, which I now submit for assessment on the programme of study leading to the award of M.Sc. in Computer Applications for Education is entirely my own work and has not been taken from the work of others save and to the extent that such work has been cited and acknowledged within the text of my work.

Signed: __________________ ID Number: __________

Type name here

Date: _____________


6. The Supervision Process

The following are some notes on the student-supervisor relationship

7. Deferrals

Students should note that the dissertation deferral system is for use in exceptional circumstances only, such as serious illness, bereavement, etc. Deferrals are not automatically granted and applications for same must be substantiated. Circumstances such as pressure of work, moving house, etc. are not acceptable grounds for deferral.Any student wishing to make an application for deferral of the dissertation should do so immediately, as deferrals will have to be processed prior to the November 21st proposals deadline.


M.Sc. in Computer Applications for Education

Research Proposal Submission Form

Student Name

Student ID Number

Date of submission

Contact E-mail address during write-up period

Contact phone(day time) during write-up period

Home address during write-up period



Research Title






I hereby certify that this material, which I now submit for assessment on the programme of study leading to the award of M.Sc. in Computer Applications for Education is entirely my own work and has not been taken from the work of others save and to the extent that such work has been cited and acknowledged within the text of my work. I also certify that my work will represent new research undertaken by me from January 2002 and will not have been presented in any other context.


Signed: ___________________________