Collaborative Dissertations

What is a collaborative dissertation?

The idea behind a collaborative dissertation is based on an awareness that many organisations are in need of good quality research and that master's students are often eager to conduct research which has immediate relevance to the world beyond academia.

It offers an opportunity for organisations to access academically rigorous, supervised research, tailored to a relevant need, through collaborative development of dissertations projects, on a range of Masters programmes across the College of Social Sciences.

Collaborative dissertations are conducted between a student and partner organisation, with academic guidance and support coming from an allocated supervisor. Project proposals can originate either from the student or organisation and should be ultimately agreed and approved by the dissertation supervisor. Collaborative dissertations require additional academic and administrative support from programme staff to quality control potential projects and manage the three-way relationship between student, academic supervisor and external organisation.

The organisation will provide access to information and resource but the University of Glasgow will provide academic dissertation supervisors as normal and will have overall responsibility for mentoring the student. The research is used to inform the dissertation.

The student is strongly encouraged to provide the organisation with a “output” after submitting their dissertation – for example an Executive Summary with key findings, potential solutions and next steps.

Collaborative dissertations are possible in any academic programme provided it is supported by the academic supervisor or programme convenor. The Work-related Learning Opportunities Coordinator can provide support and guidance to students in terms of approaching organisations and will work with organisations to identify suitable students to fit projects.

Organisations

What an organisation gets:

  • The opportunity to work with world class academic institutions
  • The conversion of the research in to a product that you can use
  • No financial implications

As a partner you need to provide:

  • Agreement to work with the programme convenor on your suggested research topic to ensure it meets necessary academic requirements
  • A mentor to work with the student and academic supervisor team to devise and refine the research project.
  • Access to resources – existing information/research, people to interview etc

Students

Why do a collaborative dissertation?

  • Increases employability
    • Demonstrates your ability to apply your academic learning to the real world
    • Experience of working with others inside and outside the University
    • Employers value work experience
  • You would be working on a“real world” project defined by an organisation's needs, making your research and dissertation relevant and adding real value to an organisation
  • Potentially provides easier access to research participants and other sources of evidence
  • Enhances specific skills –intellectual, expertise in field - and provides an opportunity to enhance generic skills – communication, team working, time management – transferable skills
  • Provides an insight into working practices and organisations
  • Provide project management experiences
  • Provides an opportunity to raise profile and to build networks which may be of use when securing future employment
  • Provides material for a CV and for interviews

Things for collaborative dissertation students to consider:

  • It is your responsibility to engage with your contact(s) at the organisation(s) with whom you engage to conduct your fieldwork, and your academic supervisor throughout the dissertation process.
  • Doing a collaborative dissertation is slightly different from doing a standard dissertation in that it requires you to communicate and build relationships with your partners to ensure that everyone’s expectations are being managed well.
  • You should act in a professional manner and be respectful of the culture and working practices of the external organisations with whom you are in touch whilst representing the University of Glasgow.
  • As with all dissertations you need to work closely with your academic supervisor to ensure you produce a dissertation that meets the academic requirements of the University of Glasgow. Dissertations need to include all the usual elements – introduction, research questions, engagement with theory, literature review, original research and analysis, bibliography and so on (refer to your course handbook).
  • Ethics – All dissertations that engage with human research subjects require ethics approval. It is your responsibility to work with your supervisor to complete this process. Details about ethics process can be found at: http://www.gla.ac.uk/colleges/socialsciences/students/ethics/forms/undergraduateandpostgraduatetaughtstudents/
  • In addition to completing and submitting your dissertation, with a collaborative dissertation you are expected to also produce a Lay Report summarising your findings for your contact(s) at the partner organisation and perhaps also to participants in your study. You will need to build in time towards the end of your dissertation to consider what information should be included in the Lay Report and write it in a more ‘plain English’ style than your dissertation. In the past, students have included their Lay Report as an appendix in their submitted dissertation, as well as producing a separate pdf to send directly to their organisation contacts. 

Roles & Responsibilities: Organisations

1. Responsibilities of the Organisation 

  • To provide an Organisation Mentor to act as the main point of contact for the student and who will facilitate data collection (introductions to candidates to interview, sharing of secondary data etc.) The mentor is NOT a supervisor and as such is NOT responsible for shaping the research.
  • To indicate which data sources and information provided are confidential and should be suppressed in the final report, allowing the Student time to amend the project output accordingly. Confidential data provided by the company should be marked as such when provided to the Student. 
  • Advise the students of any issues relating to Confidentiality, data protection and intellectual property rights. 
  •  To monitor the Student’s project inputs on an on-going basis, whilst ensuring that the project remains exclusively the work of the Student. 
  • To provide feedback to the university on the effectiveness of the process, quality of the project and engagement of the student during the project period. 
  • To contact the University Supervisor immediately, if there is a problem, complaint or grievance. 
  • To seek approval from the student for the wider publication/use of their research.

2. Responsibilities applicable to all parties 

2.1 Project Ownership, Intellectual Property and Confidentiality  

  • After discussion, it should be defined whether the ownership of the project, final report and any associated intellectual property will be held by the Student or the Organisation.  
  • Publication by either party in relation to the research shall be subject to the other party’s consent, and such consent should not be unreasonably withheld.  
  • If the Student relies upon any intellectual property rights that belong to the University as part of their dissertation, the Organisation may not use such rights without the consent of the University’s representative in writing. If use is permitted of any material then the Organisation uses such material at their own risk, all implied warranties are excluded. The Student and the University shall have no liability if such material is used by the Organisation. 
  • A separate confidentiality agreement is available if necessary.  

2.2 Liability 

  • It is recognised that there will be instances where the original project may change throughout the project life cycle.  Such delays and changes need to be discussed with the Student and, if required, the University Supervisor as soon as possible to avoid further delays and possible project failure.  Unforeseen and extenuating circumstances do happen, but it is essential that the Organisation and Student seek to avoid these where possible.  
  • The Organisation has a duty to manage the Student’s delivery to ensure they receive their intended outputs from the project as agreed in the initial project plan. If the project cannot be completed and following discussions a new project cannot be designed and undertaken in the time period, the Student and the University cannot be liable if the Organisation’s deadlines are not met. Conversely, the Organisation cannot be liable if the student’s deadline is not met and the idealised project outcome cannot be achieved due to reasons beyond their control.  

Any party may terminate the project if another party shall be in breach of their commitments. In such instances there is a mandatory one week notice period and it is necessary for either the Student or the Organisation Supervisor to notify the College of Social Sciences’ Employability Team, Dickon Copsey Dickon.Copsey@glasgow.ac.uk or Emma Smith, Emma.Smith.2@glasgow.ac.uk


Roles & Responsibilities: Students

1. Responsibilities of the Student  

  • In conjunction with the collaborative dissertation deadlines, the student MUST ensure they meet all the necessary academic deadlines associated with a dissertation.
  • Ensure that the research topic will allow them to meet the academic requirements of the dissertation.
  • The student MUST seek Ethics approval if the research will include the use human subjects. Support for this will be provided by the University of Glasgow Supervisor. 
  • To act in a professional manner and be respectful of the culture and working practices of the Organisation, whilst representing the University. 
  • The Student, in conjunction with the Organisation, will be responsible for appropriate sourcing and referencing of data, and handling commercially sensitive or confidential data in accordance with any required standard imposed by the Organisation.
  • Be aware of any issues relating to confidentiality, data protection, and intellectual property (IP) rights. 
  • Make the Organisation aware of any special requirements (e.g. relating to medical or additional support needs). 
  • Submit an Executive Summary to the organisation within 2 weeks of the submission of the dissertation.
  • Must make the University representative (academic supervisor or College Employability Office) aware of any issues or concerns at the earliest opportunity.
  • Seek approval from the organisation for the wider publication of the Executive Report (student’s LinkedIn Profile, UofG website etc).

2. Responsibilities applicable to all parties 

2.1 Project Ownership, Intellectual Property and Confidentiality  

  • After discussion, it should be defined whether the ownership of the project, final report and any associated intellectual property will be held by the Student or the Organisation.  
  • Publication by either party in relation to the research shall be subject to the other party’s consent, and such consent should not be unreasonably withheld.  
  • If the Student relies upon any intellectual property rights that belong to the University as part of their dissertation, the Organisation may not use such rights without the consent of the University’s representative in writing. If use is permitted of any material then the Organisation uses such material at their own risk, all implied warranties are excluded. The Student and the University shall have no liability if such material is used by the Organisation. 
  • A separate confidentiality agreement is available if necessary.  

2.2 Liability 

  • It is recognised that there will be instances where the original project may change throughout the project life cycle.  Such delays and changes need to be discussed with the Student and, if required, the University Supervisor as soon as possible to avoid further delays and possible project failure.  Unforeseen and extenuating circumstances do happen, but it is essential that the Organisation and Student seek to avoid these where possible.  
  • The Organisation has a duty to manage the Student’s delivery to ensure they receive their intended outputs from the project as agreed in the initial project plan. If the project cannot be completed and following discussions a new project cannot be designed and undertaken in the time period, the Student and the University cannot be liable if the Organisation’s deadlines are not met. Conversely, the Organisation cannot be liable if the student’s deadline is not met and the idealised project outcome cannot be achieved due to reasons beyond their control.  

Any party may terminate the project if another party shall be in breach of their commitments. In such instances there is a mandatory one week notice period and it is necessary for either the Student or the Organisation Supervisor to notify the College of Social Sciences’ Employability Team, Dickon Copsey Dickon.Copsey@glasgow.ac.uk or Emma Smith, Emma.Smith.2@glasgow.ac.uk


Roles & Responsibilities: University Project Supervisor

1. Responsibilities of the University Project Supervisor  

  • Review the project scope with the Organisation to ensure it meets academic requirements and learning outcomes. 
  • Work with the student to establish if Ethics approval is required. 
  • Engage with the Student during the project to offer appropriate guidance.  
  • Engage with the Organisation in the case of concerns, where issues have been brought to attention by the Student or Organisation.    

2. Responsibilities applicable to all parties 

2.1 Project Ownership, Intellectual Property and Confidentiality  

  • After discussion, it should be defined whether the ownership of the project, final report and any associated intellectual property will be held by the Student or the Organisation.  
  • Publication by either party in relation to the research shall be subject to the other party’s consent, and such consent should not be unreasonably withheld.  
  • If the Student relies upon any intellectual property rights that belong to the University as part of their dissertation, the Organisation may not use such rights without the consent of the University’s representative in writing. If use is permitted of any material then the Organisation uses such material at their own risk, all implied warranties are excluded. The Student and the University shall have no liability if such material is used by the Organisation. 
  • A separate confidentiality agreement is available if necessary.  

2.2 Liability 

  • It is recognised that there will be instances where the original project may change throughout the project life cycle.  Such delays and changes need to be discussed with the Student and, if required, the University Supervisor as soon as possible to avoid further delays and possible project failure.  Unforeseen and extenuating circumstances do happen, but it is essential that the Organisation and Student seek to avoid these where possible.  
  • The Organisation has a duty to manage the Student’s delivery to ensure they receive their intended outputs from the project as agreed in the initial project plan. If the project cannot be completed and following discussions a new project cannot be designed and undertaken in the time period, the Student and the University cannot be liable if the Organisation’s deadlines are not met. Conversely, the Organisation cannot be liable if the student’s deadline is not met and the idealised project outcome cannot be achieved due to reasons beyond their control.  

Any party may terminate the project if another party shall be in breach of their commitments. In such instances there is a mandatory one week notice period and it is necessary for either the Student or the Organisation Supervisor to notify the College of Social Sciences’ Employability Team, Dickon Copsey Dickon.Copsey@glasgow.ac.uk or Emma Smith, Emma.Smith.2@glasgow.ac.uk


Examples of collaborative dissertations

 Thriving Places is an initiative of Glasgow Community Planning Partnership to focus in new ways to try and improve outcomes for people living in the areas of highest multiple deprivation in Glasgow. The Thriving Places approach is based on the principle of public services working alongside people to try and improve community connections and capacities. In order to understand life in these communities and generate evidence of what works the Thriving Places team from Parkhead & Dalmarnock and Easterhouse were keen to engage with University of Glasgow students and so offered a range of collaborative dissertation opportunities for students at postgraduate level in health and social sciences. The inititaive first ran in 2015-16 (with 1 student participating) and again in 2016-17  where 5 students completed collaborative dissertations.

As with all collaborative dissertations the students are expected to provide a Lay Report, summarising their research, highlighting key findings and conclusions as well as any recommendations. Lay reports can be viewed here.

  • MSc Global Health - Thriving Places - Isabelle McLaren -  entitled "Thriving Places’ family meal and homework club: parents’ experiences of social capital". 
  • MSc City Planning and Real Estate - Thriving Places - Michael Downes‌  - entitled - "To what extent have recent sport and leisure town planning developments in Glasgow failed to address the “Glasgow Effect".
  • MRes in Equality & Human Rights -  Thriving Places - Linda Butterfield -  entitled "A sense of belonging at Thriving Places:Participant experiences of belonging at the Barrowfield Ball in Glasgow" 
  • MSc Public Policy & Management  - Thriving Places - Jennifer Sinclair - entitled "A case study of community participation within Easterhouse"
  • MSc Public & Urban Policy - Thriving Places - Daniela Ribeiro Guarieiro - entitled "Participatory Budgeting in Glasgow: Ananalysis of the Grant Scheme approach"
  • MSc Equality & Human Rights -Thriving Places - Francesca Gualco - entitled "How does working-class masculinity affect men's understanding of mental health issues? A qualitative study in the North East of Glasgow"
  • MSc Education, Public Policy & Equity - Thriving Places - Sheila Crowell‌ - entitled "refugee & Asylum Seeker Integration within Glasgow"