Understanding the role of social networks on consumer buying decision process: A revisit of traditional 5-stage consumer decision making model


Elements of the dissertation Required / optional Standard form Size
1 Title page Required 1 page
2 Table of contents Required As necessary
3 Acknowledgements Optional No standard form No longer than 1 page
4 Executive summary Required No standard form No longer than 1 page
5 Chapter 1. Introduction Required No standard form ~10% of the total word count
6 Chapter 2. Literature review and theory Required No standard form ~30% of the total word count
7 Chapter 3. Data and methods Required No standard form ~10% of the total word count
8 Chapter 4. Analysis and results Required No standard form ~30% of the total word count
9 Chapter 5. Discussion and conclusions Required No standard form ~20% of the total word count
10 References Required   As necessary
11 Appendices Required No standard form As necessary. (You must insert your proposal within the Appendices).


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The literature review for and theoretical framework of your dissertation expand upon the preliminary literature review and the tentative theoretical framework you have presented in the Dissertation Research Proposal.

In terms of the research process, the purpose of this stage is essentially two–‐fold:

  • to gain the knowledge of the state of art in your research topic area,
  • to develop your own tentative theoretical answer to your research question.

Therefore the two interrelated activities that this stage involves are (1) identifying, reading and evaluating the relevant literature and (2) designing your theoretical framework, grounded in the literature.

In terms of the write–‐up, the outcome of this stage is Chapter 2 Literature Review and Theory. This chapter should be broadly structured as follows:

  1. identify the main concepts and theories relevant to the research question and the empirical findings pertaining to these theories and discuss the key differences between the theories, their strengths and weaknesses, contribution to knowledge, the extent to which they are supported by empirical findings, and/or current debates in your research topic area.

Please note that this part of the chapter is a review of the literature, not an annotated bibliography.  Therefore, do not structure your presentation by author(s)/study.   Do organise your presentation thematically, e.g., by different aspects of a phenomenon studied, by different perspectives on a phenomenon.

  1. Outline the potential contribution of your study to the knowledge in your research topic area. 3. Present your own theoretical framework.

The following subsections provide more details.


The literature review should be based on a thorough and systematic survey of the prior research relevant to your research question.

To identify the prior research, follow the guidance on finding the literature provided in the Foundations of Knowledge and Professional Skills and the Research Methods modules.  In addition, read previous literature reviews, which could be found in the following sources:

  1. a) the literature review/theory sections of the recent (e.g., published in the past five years) academic articles on your research topic/question; b) articles explicitly dedicated to reviewing the literature on your research topic/question (e.g., those with the word “review” or “meta–‐analysis” in the title); c)  articles on your research topic/question in the academic journals explicitly dedicated to reviewing prior research and developing theory, such as (for general management, organisational behaviour and theory topics) Academy of Management Review and International Journal of Management Reviews.

These previous literature reviews will introduce you to the main theories, issues and debates in your topic area and help to generate references to prior studies.  They can also serve as models of structuring and presenting a literature review and of developing a theoretical framework.

Before you undertake a literature search remember to clearly define the subject you are researching. For example, if you are researching the role of advertising in reducing nicotine consumption amongst teenage females you will need to examine the literature in the pertinent areas of advertising, communications, social marketing, consumer behaviour and healthcare marketing.

During the search and reading, please remember to record the information you find.  This should include the FULL reference i.e. author(s), year, article title, journal title, dates, volume/issue, publisher, publication location. You should also make a note of the page numbers of any quotations you record.


The literature review provides the foundation for your theoretical framework.  As noted earlier in the section on Dissertation Research Proposal, the extent to which you can specify your theoretical framework before conducting your empirical study will depend on your research objectives:

If your empirical study is primarily deductive, i.e. intended to further develop, elaborate, integrate and/or test the existing theories, then you should be able to present your theoretical framework in a fairly detailed and specific manner upfront, before you conducted your empirical study.  In such case your theoretical framework may be presented as a set of hypotheses stating the expected relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable.

If your empirical study is primarily inductive, i.e. intended to describe, categorise, uncover the meaning of and/or develop explanations for particular phenomena, then your theoretical framework at this stage can only be defined in rather general terms and will be built as a result of your empirical investigation.  In such case your theoretical framework may be presented as a set of propositions that will guide your empirical investigation, e.g., focusing your attention on particular aspects of the phenomena of interest.

Your theoretical framework is, effectively, a narrative/story of what happens and why.

To illustrate using the example referenced earlier, Nadkarni and Hermann’s (2010) study focused on the impact of CEO personality on firm performance.  Their theoretical narrative ran as follows: Personality of CEOs influences their strategic choices, which shape their firms’ strategic flexibility (i.e. the ability to adapt to environmental changes) and hence affect the firm performance.  They further specified how particular personality traits (based on the five–‐factor model of personality) affected strategic flexibility.  For instance, they hypothesised that “CEO conscientiousness is negatively related to strategic flexibility”.

Your theoretical narrative should be supported by a clear and convincing argument.  Your aim is to persuade your readers that your story -‐‐   and the claims you make in your hypotheses or propositions – are plausible (Sparrowe and Mayer, 2011: 1099).  Your argument needs to be (a) based on logic and (b) grounded in the literature.

Following with the above illustration, to support their hypothesis that CEO conscientiousness is negatively related to strategic flexibility, Nadkarni and Hermann (2010) provided several arguments.  One of their arguments in support of this hypothesis was that conscientiousness reflects dependability.  Dependable individuals tend to prefer “tried–‐and–‐true” strategies.  This narrows their field of vision and creates a barrier to strategic flexibility.  To bolster this hypothesis the authors also used the evidence from prior studies.  For instance, they cited the findings of an experimental study by Lepine, Colquitt and Erez (2001) showing that “participants with low conscientiousness adapted better to changing task contexts” (Nadkarni and Hermann, 2010: 1054).

To gain a better understanding of how to construct and present your theoretical framework, it is advisable to examine the studies on your research topic and see how their authors develop their claims, provide supporting logical arguments and engage with the prior research.


It is assumed here that you have already chosen the methods of collecting and analysing the data, identified the relevant data sources and how to access those, and developed any necessary instruments (e.g., a survey questionnaire, an interview schedule) for data collection in your Dissertation Research Proposal.

Therefore, in terms of the research process, the current stage of your dissertation entails the actual collection of the data, e.g., administering a survey, conducting interviews, undertaking observation, gathering documents, etc.

Note that collecting data is an extremely time consuming process. Be realistic about the effects of time and resource limitations on your data collection objectives.  It surprises everyone who starts a research project just how long it can take to achieve such simple things as making appointments, designing and testing questionnaires, etc. Sometimes it is necessary to re–‐visit early respondents for further clarification or extend the survey sample beyond the original expectations all of these activities can and do take a considerable amount of time to consider, evaluate, organise and complete

In terms of the write–‐up, the outcome of this stage is Chapter 3 Data and Methods. This chapter should provide a detailed account of (a) how you obtained the data and why and (b) what analyses you conducted and why.

Please note that there is no need to provide a general discussion of qualitative and/or quantitative methods or to compare various methods of collecting and analysing data here.  The purpose of this chapter is not to summarise all you have learnt in the Research Methods module, but to document and justify the specific methods you have employed in your study.

In particular, you ought to describe in detail how you obtained the data and why you have chosen to gather the data in this way.

For example, if you have obtained the data from individuals (e.g., employees of a particular organisation), you need to explain what was the relevant population, what sampling technique you used and why, how you contacted prospective participants, why you chose a particular technique to collect the data (e.g., interview, self–‐administered questionnaire), how you measured your constructs and why (e.g., if your study focused on job satisfaction, how assessed whether an individual was satisfied with their job), and how you designed and administered your research schedule.  You need to report (as applicable) the sample size, the response rate, the length and location of interviews and how the responses were recorded. You need to provide (in appendices) a copy of your participant information sheet, and, as applicable, the copies of you survey questionnaire, interview schedule or observation schedule.

If you have obtained the data from archival sources (e.g., companies annual reports), you need to explain, similarly, what was the relevant population, what sampling technique you used and why, what sources you used and why, how you accessed the sources, etc.

You also ought to describe in detail what analytical techniques you used.

For example, if you used quantitative methods of analysis, you need to describe how you coded the data, what statistical procedures you used (e.g., regression analysis) and why.

If you used qualitative methods, you need to describe how you coded the texts and how you derived categories, themes and ideas from the texts.

Overall, in your Data and Methods chapter you should aim for “‘the three C’s’: completeness, clarity, and credibility” (Zhang and Shaw, 2012: 8).  Zhang and Shaw (2012) provide good advice on presenting the data and methods, and it is recommended that you read their article.

Zhang, Y., Shaw, J.D. 2012. Publishing in AMJ—part 5: Crafting the methods and results. Academy of Management Journal, 55 (1): 8–‐12.

Note that transparency throughout the research process is essential. You should seek to ensure that you are able to provide evidence of your data collection and analysis. It is good practice to keep and store diaries, correspondence with your client, completed questionnaires, video/audio tapes of all interviews, photographs etc. Markers can (and often do) ask students to provide evidence of the research.


This chapter analyses and evaluates your findings and is often combined with the actual description of the results. You should position your own results against the background of previous research covered in the literature review, and against your original research questions. The final paragraph of this section should point to the conclusions section.

During this phase of the dissertation you may become overwhelmed by the amount of data that you have collected. You will need to go back to your research objectives and decide what themes will be focused on and identify what data does not assist you in reaching your conclusions. How detailed will the analysis be? Will all categories be covered from the material collected? You are strongly encouraged to review the study book for further information on the issues you will need to consider

Similarly, with the Data and Methods chapter, the criteria for an effective Analysis and Results chapter are also “completeness, clarity, and credibility” (Zhang and Shaw, 2012: 8).  The Zhang and Shaw’s (2012) article referenced above provides sound advice on presenting the results (primarily focusing on the results of quantitative analysis) and is a recommended reading.


The Discussion and Conclusions chapter of the dissertation should include the following sections:


This section should summarise your key findings, drawing on the more detailed presentation of your results in Chapter 4 Analysis and Results, explain what these findings mean within your theoretical framework and derive your answer to your research question.

Theoretical implications

This section should discuss the contribution of your research project to the knowledge and understanding of the phenomena examined in your project.

Practical implications 

This section should present any implications and/or recommendations for practice that stem from your research project.


This section should identify any significant limitations that might constrain the generalizability of your findings.

Directions for future research 

This section should identify any questions that stem from your research project and deserve further research attention


This section should contain your analysis and evaluation of the research process.  The following questions may be useful to provide a framework for this section:

  • Has your dissertation fulfilled its objectives?
  • How do the research process and outcomes compare with your initial expectations?
  • What difficulties have you encountered in the research process and how these difficulties have been resolved?
  • What have you learned from your research project?
  • How would you improve the project in the light of your experiences?


Chapter 1 Introduction is the last main stage in your dissertation research and write–‐up.  Since this chapter should provide an overview of the whole dissertation, it can only be finalised after you have completed the other chapters of your dissertation.  It will, however, naturally build on the ideas from the introductory section of your Dissertation Research Proposal, and you may also wish to add notes to it as you progress through the previous stages.

An effective introduction should answer three sets of questions (Grant and Pollock, 2011: 873):

“(1) Who cares? What is the topic or research question, and why is it interesting and important in theory and practice?

(2) What do we know, what don’t we know, and so what? What key theoretical perspectives and empirical findings have already informed the topic or question? What major, unaddressed puzzle, controversy, or paradox does this study address, and why does it need to be addressed?

(3) What will we learn? How does your study fundamentally change, challenge, or advance scholars’ understanding?”

Grant and Pollock (2011) offer a detailed guidance on what an effective introduction entails and how to develop an effective introduction, with examples of “best practice”.  It is highly recommended that you read their article.

Grant, A. M., Pollock, T.G. 2011. Publishing in AMJ—Part 3: Setting the hook. Academy of Management Journal. 54 (5): 873– 879.


The executive summary is a brief statement that encapsulates your dissertation.  It should include a clear and succinct account of your dissertation objective, research question, theoretical framework, data collected, analysis undertaken, key findings, conclusions and recommendations.   This must be presented in a coherent narrative, not as a list of headings or topics.


After you have completed the first draft of your entire dissertation you should:

  • read and review the entire draft for the accuracy, clarity, logic, coherence and style, • proof–‐read it for any errors in grammar, sentence structure, word usage, and spelling, • check it for completeness and consistency in referencing (including the correspondence between the sources cited in the text and the sources documented in the list of references), • Ensure you have inserted your proposal within the appendices, • check it for the adherence with the format and structure requirements (these requirements are presented in Section 5 of these Guidelines).

You should then revise your first draft to address any issues you have identified in your review and then read your second draft again.


The following section specifies the requirements for the format, structure and submission of your dissertation


The dissertation should be word processed. The format requirements are as follows:

Paper size 

A4 (210 mm x 297 mm)

Paper quality 

Good quality and sufficient opacity

Page orientation 

Portrait throughout. Allowable exception: a table can be presented in landscape orientation, if the table otherwise will not fit on a single page


All borders 1.5cm.

Line spacing 

1.5 lines (with the exception of indented quotations where single spacing may be used)

Text alignment 

All text must be aligned with the left margin.  Do not use “justified” alignment (i.e. alignment with both the left and the right margins). The two exceptions are (1) first level headings, which should be centred on the page (as described below) and (2) text within tables and figures, which can be aligned in accordance with your preferences for better readability.

Font size 


Font type 

Arial or Times New Roman

Font colour 

Black throughout

Font style 

Do not use underline anywhere in the text.  Do not use italics for quotations, unless there are italics in the original.  For emphasis, only use italics (not bold face).  Do not emphasise more than a sentence fragment; do not overuse emphasis.  Use bold face only for headings (e.g., chapter, section, table, figure, or appendix heading)


Pages must be numbered consecutively throughout the text. Page numbers shall be located centrally at the bottom of each page.

Page breaks 

Each element of the dissertation must begin on a new page (e.g., each chapter and each appendix should begin on a new page)

Word count 

15,000 words, plus/minus 10% (i.e. between 13,500 and 16,500) Word count includes everything except for: (1) References (i.e. the list of references at the end of the dissertation) and (2) Appendices


Any abbreviations used should be those in normal use. You should decipher any abbreviation the first time you use it in the text. Where necessary a key to abbreviations should be provided






Acknowledgements                                                                                                       1

Executive Summary                                                                                                        2

  1. Introduction 3
  2. Literature Review 9

2.1.   Title of first section                                                                               10

2.2.   Title of second section                                                                        13

2.2.1.   Title of first sub–‐section

2.2.2.   Title of second sub–‐section

2.2.2.   Title of second sub–‐section

  1. Data and Methods 25

3.1.   Title of first section

3.2.   Title of second section

  1. Analysis and Results 45
  2. Discussion and Conclusions 65

References                                                                                                                         80

Appendix A Title of first appendix                                                                            90

Appendix B Title of second appendix

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