MODULE HANDBOOK 2019-20
VERSION 4: MAY 2020
Energy and Sustainable Building Design
Energy and Sustainable Development
Mark Lemon: firstname.lastname@example.org +44(0)116 207 8492
Birgit Painter: email@example.com +44(0)116 257 7957
Table of Contents
1 INTRODUCTION 3
1.1 REGULATIONS 3
1.2 HELP IS AVAILABLE 3
2 TOPIC SELECTION 3
3 SUPERVISOR ALLOCATION 4
4 DISSERTATION PROCESS AND TIMETABLE 4
4.1 SUPERVISION AND KEEPING A MEETINGS LOG 6
4.2 DOING THE RESEARCH 6
4.3 RESEARCH INTEGRITY 7
4.3.1 HUMAN RESEARCH ETHICS 7
4.3.2 CONTACTING EXTERNAL ORGANISATIONS 8
4.3.3 CONFIDENTIALITY 8
4.3.4 PLAGIARISM 9
5 WRITING THE DISSERTATION 9
5.1 TENSE AND VOICE 9
5.2 ENGLISH AND GRAMMAR 10
5.3 REFERENCING 10
5.3.1 BIBLIOGRAPHIC DATABASES 10
5.4 SOURCES OF INFORMATION 11
5.5 AUTOMATIC NUMBERING 11
6 STRUCTURE 11
6.1 TITLE PAGE 12
6.2 ABSTRACT 12
6.3 CONTENTS PAGES 13
6.4 INTRODUCTION 13
6.5 BACKGROUND & LITERATURE REVIEW 13
6.6 METHODOLOGY 13
6.7 RESEARCH ACTIVITY: SURVEY / EXPERIMENT / MODELLING 14
6.8 RESULTS & ANALYSIS 14
6.9 DISCUSSION 14
6.10 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 15
7 SUBMISSION OF DISSERTATION 15
7.1 SUMMARY 15
7.1.1 MARGINS 16
7.1.2 PARAGRAPHS 16
7.1.3 FONTS 16
7.2 DISSERTATION HAND-IN 17
8 ASSESSMENT 17
8.1 MARKING SCHEDULE 17
9 CONCLUDING REMARKS 18
APPENDIX A: DISSERTATION MODULE SPECIFICATIONS (ENGT5304) 19
APPENDIX B: TITLE PAGE EXAMPLE 22
APPENDIX C: POST-GRADUATE DISSERTATION ASSESSMENT CRITERIA 23
This handbook explains what your dissertation is, how to run your project, how to prepare and submit
your report, and the assessment process. The formal module specification is given in Appendix A.
Your dissertation is an important piece of individual and independent work. It can be the most
exciting and challenging piece of work you do at university, since you are able to research a topic of
interest to you in some depth.
Your dissertation will normally be around 15,000 in length (excluding appendices, table and
references) though this will vary with topic, and will be undertaken in accordance with your
programme’s assessment schedule. You may lose up to 10% of marks if you are outside this word
range by a long margin.
The dissertation is different from coursework, because it is a much larger piece of work, and you have
a lot more freedom about the topic and approach. You will be assessed on how you manage your
dissertation project, as well as on the report and presentation to examiners. It counts for 60 credits,
equivalent to four 15 credit modules.
A dissertation allows you to demonstrate your ability to propose and solve problems. It requires you
to become familiar with the research process, as well as developing and presenting a detailed
academic argument. The work associated with a dissertation will generally call on you to decide on
a research problem, thoroughly review relevant work in the area (mainly but not exclusively the
academic literature), carry out the research (which can take many forms) and analysis, and draw
The regulations applying to postgraduate taught programmes, which include the dissertation can be
1.2 Help is available
Support for writing, maths, referencing etc. is available from the library and the Centre for Learning
and Study Support (CLaSS) http://libguides.library.dmu.ac.uk/class/. This includes support for
2 Topic selection
Most students will have already selected and developed a topic through Assignment B of the Study
Skills and Study Skills and Research Methods (SSRM) module. For those who have not (or perhaps
have changed their mind about their Assignment B topic), there are the following options.
1. Select an area of your own interest. It can take a significant amount of time for students to
identify a suitable area of appropriate scope. It is best to choose an area you are already familiar
with or is related to the work you do. Discuss your area of project idea with your supervisor and
agree aims and objectives.
2. If you are working, it is a good idea to select a topic that has value to the organisation you work
for. This is a good route for part-time and distance learning students. The topic needs to of
appropriate scope and content for an MSc dissertation. Check that the organisation gives
permission and can provide sufficient data for the project. You must agree the research question
and research aim with your supervisor. It must not simply shadow or reproduce a work project;
it must be separate and include an element of your own research, although it could certainly use
data from your work.
Please note: It is important that your dissertation topic is suitable for the course you are studying.
Throughout your taught modules you will have learnt about a wide range of subjects and issues. It is
expected that this informs your topic choice and focus of your dissertation project.
For example, for the MSc Engineering Management programme, the dissertation project must enable
students to gain experience at working at the interface of technology and management, taking into
account sustainability where appropriate. This can take various forms – the project could look at the
sustainability and business demands associated with the implementation of a new technology, or
investigate the impact/implementation of engineering aspects in a business or societal context, e.g.
manufacturing, energy use.
Many students start out with a project idea which is too broad ranging and ambitious. Have a look at
previous examples (provided on Blackboard) and make sure your idea focuses on a specific area.
Remember it is not simply a review, but an investigation, often involving data collection, experiments,
development of a model etc. A good dissertation will lead to new insights and may be suitable to
develop into an academic paper with your supervisor.
If you are in any doubt, please discuss this with your dissertation supervisor.
3 Supervisor allocation
You will be allocated a supervisor at the start of your dissertation period. You are then expected to
meet with your supervisor to discuss and develop your project idea.
You will meet with your supervisor on a regular basis throughout your dissertation period. It is your
responsibility to seek their advice and to record your meetings (see 4.1). There should be at least
three recorded meetings, but more regular contact is strongly recommended.
If you are doing a work-based project, it may be useful to find someone at work – perhaps your
manager or an experienced colleague – to act as informal industrial supervisor/mentor, in addition
to the DMU supervisor. It is very important to identify a topic as early as you can.
4 Dissertation process and timetable
The process is typically as follows, for full time students starting in September:
1. An outline of the dissertation is usually developed in Assignment B of the Study Skills and
Research Methods Module. However you can change the topic if you find it’s not suitable.
2. Supervisor allocated via Dissertation Module Leader at start of the semester.
3. Regular correspondence with your supervisor throughout the project.
4. Regular supervision meetings (face-to-face or remotely where appropriate). You are expected to
keep a record of the meetings – after each meeting summarising your progress and plans for next
5. Submission of ethics form once methodology has been agreed with the supervisor.
6. Submission of final dissertation document (electronically via Turnitin on Blackboard shell). The
dates for this in general terms will be:
a. For most students starting in September, submission is in early September in the following
or later year depending on study mode (module ENGT5304_1920_519).
b. For some students with deferrals, or other reasons, early January (module
c. For most students starting in January, submission is in mid-May in the following or later
year depending on study mode (module ENGT5304_1920_502).
d. Distance learners and part-time students, if in doubt, please contact the Dissertation
module leader to confirm start and submission dates.
7. Oral examination, which takes one of the following forms (further details in section 8
a) Presenting at the MSc Conference, normally for September and May submissions.
b) A viva voce examination, in person at DMU with two examiners, one of whom is the
supervisor, on a mutually agreed date, following submission.
c) A viva voce examination, by video web link for students unable to come to DMU at reasonable
cost etc. (usually overseas students) on a mutually agreed date, following submission.
We encourage students to come to the conference if they can, or come to DMU for a viva in person,
but remote vivas are permitted if it would be very expensive or difficult to travel to DMU.
Students who started in September studying part time, including distance learners, will normally have
decided on a topic and worked on it well before May of the year of submission – topic selection will
be part of the Study Skills & Research Methods module that may be in an earlier year.
Table 1: Key dates for dissertation submission.
|Events/actions||Date due (end of day)|
|Semester 1 ||Semester 2 ||Summer Semester |
|Supervisor allocation||Start of semester – early
|Start of semester – 27th
|Start of semester – 27th
|Meetings log||After each supervision
|After each supervision
|After each supervision
|Ethics form submission||As soon as methodology is
|As soon as methodology
|As soon as methodology
(latest; can submit earlier)
|10th January 2020||15th May 2020||31st August 2020*|
|Masters’ conference to
|No conference for this
submission; vivas only
|No conference for this
submission; vivas only
|25th September 2020*|
|Viva (if not presenting at
|January-February 2020||May/June 2020, date to
|September 2020, by
*Arrangements may be subject to change due to Covid-19 response. Any changes will be communicated through the
4.1 Supervision and keeping a meetings log
Supervision is really important. It is recommended that you have regular meetings with your
supervisor, either in person if possible, or by phone or web link. A minimum of once a month is
suggested, but frequency may vary, often with more meetings near the beginning and towards the
end. At least six contacts – e-mail discussions; telephone calls; face-to-face meetings – should be
achieved throughout the period, but of course there may be more. Share your plan of work and
decide on some review points and milestones. Supervisors will be willing to comment on draft
dissertations, but don’t expect them to read and comment on several versions of the same material.
Remember that academic staff are very likely to take some holiday over the summer, particularly
during school holidays from mid-July to the end of August, and you may do yourself. So consider this
in your planning with your supervisor.
It is important that you take the initiative to keep in touch with your supervisor to manage your
project. Supervisors usually have several project students, and many other things to do, so you
cannot expect them to organize everything for you. Make sure you keep to appointments or inform
your supervisor in good time if you have to rearrange a supervision meeting.
The meeting log is an important part of the process. Students are expected to keep a record of their
meetings using the ‘Supervision meeting log’ on Blackboard. Notes should include date, issues
discussed, next steps. Keeping of the log is intended to provide a record of engagement with
supervision and will contribute to the ‘Research Activity’ component of the dissertation mark (see
8.1 Marking schedule). Details on how to use the supervision meeting log are provided on Blackboard
(select ‘Supervision’ on the main menu on the left).
4.2 Doing the research
The whole research/dissertation process usually takes a few months of concentrated full-time effort,
or the equivalent spread over a longer period. It does after all account for 60 credits out of 180 for a
Master’s degree, equivalent to four taught modules or a third of the course. So don’t underestimate
the amount of work involved. Time management and good project planning are essential. You should
have a detailed (divided say into weeks) Gantt chart with tasks and milestones.
Writing the dissertation should not be considered the last task ‘after all the work is done’. It is far
more efficient, and less stressful, to write as you go along. It is best to have a rough plan of the
dissertation from the start, and to use this for a developing draft. For example, the literature review
becomes a draft chapter, rather than some scribbled notes. The final ‘writing’ phase then becomes a
matter of editing, checking and formatting your existing draft.
Doing research is usually not a smooth, linear process. It switches and loops between literature,
research, writing up, developing hypotheses or models, and so on. Often you will pursue something
and find it’s not useful, or unexpectedly find a new line to investigate. It’s important to remain
flexible, but not to go so far off track that you lose sight of your original aims, your work plan falls
apart or you run out of time.
Common mistakes to avoid:
• Choosing a topic not well suited to you.
• Choosing a topic which is too general (e.g. ‘solar energy’; ‘sustainable business’).
• An approach without any primary research (data collection, experiments, modelling) relying
mainly on literature; this is unlikely to achieve a good mark.
• Not allowing sufficient time to achieve tasks.
• Not making use of what you have been taught in the Study Skills & Research Methods module.
• Trying to do too much, collect more data than you need etc.
• Not collecting enough data – usually due to poor planning or approach.
• Not leaving enough time for finishing the writing.
Finally, make sure you keep regular backups of your work electronically. Almost every year at least
one student loses some of their work due to a computer crash or theft, accidental deletion of files,
etc. Ideally, use an automated backup of some kind; if it’s manual do it frequently and regularly
(ideally every day). It’s much better to backup to the ‘cloud’ or a university network drive, than
another piece of your own hardware. Network storage is more secure and has the further advantage
that you can access it from anywhere.
4.3 Research Integrity
There are a number of important things to consider in order to ensure the research is done in a proper
manner, and does not adversely affect others, or compromise the project. While there is no universal
definition of research integrity, most of it is common sense and includes:
• Excellence – in carrying out research to a high standard
• Honesty – with results, with other people involved
• Integrity – comply with all legal and ethical requirements
• Safety – dignity, rights, safety and wellbeing of all involved in research
For further details there is information on the DMU website, see following link and submenus for
guidance, policies and forms: ‘Ethics and governance’: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/ethics-andgovernance/research-integrity-and-ethics.aspx
More general guidance is provided by the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) http://ukrio.org/
4.3.1 Human research ethics
Ethical research is an important part of research integrity. De Montfort University has adopted a
policy regarding the protection of individuals who are the subjects of research including student
projects. According to University regulations all research projects need to undergo ethical review, so
this includes postgraduate dissertation projects. Ethical issues arise when the conduct of a student
project involves the interests and rights of others. This includes confidentiality, privacy, convenience,
comfort or safety of others.
An ethical review must be undertaken as part of the drawing up terms of reference for the project.
This review uses a simple form comprising a checklist of ethical issues and an outcomes section. It is
in line with the guidelines provided by the University Human Research Ethics Committee. For many
technical projects, there are no ethical issues so this will be a very simple process.
All students must complete the ethics form with their supervisors at the start of a research project.
Ethics forms are on the Blackboard shell and also available at the link below.
The ethics procedures are faculty specific; for CEM a training video can be found at
You will be given information about completing ethics forms. Please also check the ‘Ethics’ tab on the
4.3.2 Contacting external organisations
Before attempting to collect any data from an external organisation you must ask yourself why you
wish to collect such data and how you will use it – firstly establish exactly what you think you want to
find out. You must contact your dissertation supervisor before contacting any external
organisation(s) and agree the purpose, format, wording and presentation standard of any material
that you intend to send to any external organisation by post. It will be necessary for you keep records
In contacting external organisations please remember that you are representing and conveying an
impression not only of yourself, but also of the university. It is often better to write in the first
instance rather than telephone or email unless you have the name of the person that you wish to
speak to. It is advisable in your letter of introduction to give a brief summary of the nature and
purpose of your work, indicating that it is in connection with a postgraduate dissertation. If you
promise to provide a summary of the results of your work as a way of encouraging participation then
you must always ensure that such promises are kept. If you do not keep your promises then you
could well blight the chances of another student wishing to obtain similar co-operation. Any
assistance provided by an external organisation should be acknowledged in the dissertation.
Completed dissertations are not routinely put into the public domain. However, they will be seen by
examiners and may be presented at the MSc conference, or shown to future students as examples.
Some very good dissertations may be made available on public areas of the DMU website, with
permission of the student and supervisor. Therefore it should be assumed that a dissertation could
go into the public domain unless specified otherwise.
If you have told participants in a survey, interview etc. that the data will be anonymous, make sure
this promise is kept. Omit any information which would enable them to be identified as individuals
or organisations; this does not just mean not naming them directly. For example, if you were doing a
survey of houses, don’t put in the address; just give labels such as house 1, house 2 etc. although you
should give the approximate location or main postcode (e.g. LE3). In other cases, organisations may
be happy for them to be identified, but it is advisable to get a signed consent form to do so. Consult
your supervisor and the DMU web page.
If you know that what somebody tells you is ‘confidential’ information, is actually publicly available,
then it is all right to cite or quote it as long as you reference the published source. If in doubt consult
Occasionally, students do research for organisations, which do not want the research put into the
public domain immediately. It is possible to put an ‘embargo’ on the dissertation to ensure that it
does not go into the public domain, usually for a fixed period of time, for example 2 years from
submission date. This may enable you to do something really interesting that would not otherwise
be possible. Include such information prominently on the title page, for example ‘Embargoed until 1
September 2017’ in large font.
Always request permission before recording an interview and ensure that you have the permission
of the person and/or organisation concerned to use the data generated. One option is to produce a
transcript of such tapes and acquire evidence that the person interviewed has agreed that the
transcript provided is a faithful representation of the views and comments made. The demonstration
of this process adds to the rigour of the research undertaken, but transcription takes a great deal of
time and is not usually necessary or useful.
This dissertation must be your own unaided work and as such you must maintain the highest
standards of integrity. The university has an established policy on academic impropriety and takes a
serious view of collusion, plagiarism and cheating. Any student suspected of submitting a
dissertation that is not their own unaided work will be subject to the full investigative procedures set
down by the university. If you have been found to have acted in an inappropriate manner you could
risk having penalties imposed on your work that would prevent you from receiving your degree.
The university uses the same Turnitin software for dissertations as used in assignments, which is very
effective at identifying content from other sources which a student tries to pass off as their own
work, without attribution. All dissertations are checked on Turnitin for any sign of plagiarism.
• Turnitin can find matches to student projects, dissertations etc. submitted previously at DMU
and other universities – the work does not have to be available through public internet sites.
• Turnitin can also identify external content even if it has been paraphrased.
In short, if you try to plagiarise content you run a very high risk of this being identified, with serious
consequences for your dissertation mark and whole degree. See also
5 Writing the dissertation
This section gives you guidance on referencing, numbering and structure. For details of physical
presentation, binding etc. see Submission of Dissertation
5.1 Tense and voice
The dissertation must be written in the passive voice (as this guide is), avoiding ‘I’*, ‘we’ throughout
(so for example ‘energy is often used inefficiently’, rather than ‘we often use energy inefficiently’. If
you have to refer to yourself, say use ‘the author’ rather than ‘I’ – as in ‘the site was visited by the
author…’ Most of the dissertation is written in the past tense, certainly in relation to your
(completed) research, but some parts such as the literature review may be in the present tense,
describing things as they are ‘now’. Most of this comes naturally, but if in doubt consult your
* Except of course in Acknowledgments, which is a personal statement.
5.2 English and grammar
The dissertation must of course be in English. Spelling should be British English by default, but if you
are used to American spelling, that is acceptable. Examiners recognise that English is not the first
language of many students, and will make allowances for this. However, incomprehensible or very
poor writing will inevitably lead to a lower mark. Students are strongly advised to set up Word
processors to show spelling and grammatical errors (marked by coloured underlining in Word) for
the dissertation, after setting† the language/dictionary to English; right click to see suggested
corrections. The library’s Centre for Learning & Study Support (ClaSS) can provide help with writing.