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ST955: Dissertation

The MSc dissertation is worth 60 credit points and is compulsory for MSc candidates.

Candidates for the MSc are required to write a dissertation on a relevant subject approved by the Course Co-ordinator. An average mark of at least 50% in exams is required in order to proceed to dissertation. In addition, in order to proceed to dissertation, the student may not have module marks lower than 50% in modules that are worth 60 or more credits, including the Core modules. A mark of 50% on the dissertation is then required for the award of the Master's degree.

Aims and Objectives

The dissertation is a piece of work independently executed by the researcher. It will be assessed on its academic merit and intellectual content and also on the quality of presentation. Dissertations are examined in the Department and then sent to the external examiner for his/her assessment. The MSc degree is awarded subject to a satisfactory standard on the dissertation. MSc students who do outstandingly well on both the examination and the dissertation may be awarded the MSc with distinction or with merit. The dissertation is an important part of your MSc degree programme. Some of the objectives of requiring a dissertation for the MSc are given below. These may help you understand what is expected of you in writing a dissertation. The objectives of writing a dissertation are to allow a student to demonstrate the ability

  • to complete a major and worthwhile piece of research work, with some guidance, but largely self-motivated;
  • to write an academic paper that is well-organised and which clearly and concisely communicates its contents to its readers;
  • to apply knowledge of statistics and probability theory gained through coursework to a specific area of study, to demonstrate ability to acquire further knowledge of additional statistical methodologies as required by the topic, and to show ability to acquire a good understanding of the underlying scientific problem.
  • to identify and formulate a scientific problem and to show evidence of skills of inquiry, logical reasoning, probabilistic modelling and statistical analysis in addressing that problem.

The dissertation is your responsibility and is a means of demonstrating your ability to complete independently a major piece of work. The end product must be your work (not that of your supervisor) and it is your responsibility to determine what needs to be done within the available time frame. It is stressed that the aim of the dissertation is to assess your ability to undertake independent research.

2018-2019 Dissertation Topics

You are asked to nominate your 3 best choices to the Postgraduate Support Officer (email:

MSc students can contact and visit members of staff whose topic they are interested in. Please liaise with all other students interested in the topic to visit the lecturer jointly (usually MSc students organise this by posting lists on the noticeboard in the MSc workroom). Topics will be assigned by the course tutor taking into consideration your choices as well as your performance in the core modules (as far as marks are available) and the opinion of the potential supervisor about your suitability to his/her suggested topic.

Guidelines for the Dissertation

Please note that this is provisional guidance only and may be subject to change. Below are important facts stated in the MSc course guide (handbook).

Try to make your dissertation interesting to read and reflect your own motivation. Use tools of analysis (theoretical, analytical, and empirical) that you have learned during your course or which reflect the literature in the area. Write as a professional to a learned audience. Explain the nature of the models referred to, make any arguments of your own transparently clear, integrate any figures into your discussion, and define all notation when or before it is first used. Make sure that you reference clearly all sources of literature and internet that you have used. A failure to do so will be considered as cheating.

The standard of English, style and overall presentation of the dissertation is your responsibility. Your supervisor will not be responsible for proof-reading your work or correcting English grammar and spelling. If you think you may have some problems with grammatical structure or presentation, then you ought to seek feedback on your writing from colleagues or friends before presenting work to your supervisor.

Role of the dissertation supervisor

The supervisor’s main concerns will be to advise on the identification and refinement of a suitable topic and provide some references to the general methodology to be used to assist you to identify deficiencies in your work, comment on presentation, findings and reporting of the conclusions. You should not expect your supervisor to read every word in your drafts nor to provide detailed and comprehensive comments on each chapter.

The frequency of contact and methods of working are matters for you to arrange between yourself and your supervisor. In general, each student has only one supervisor and you should agree (a timetable of) contact meetings with her/him. This should be agreed during term 3 and may be in the form of a sequence of supervision appointments at intervals over the summer or a more flexible arrangement. Students can reasonably expect 5 - 8 hours of supervision during the preparation of their dissertation and before final submission. Note that this is a guide and that some students might benefit from having supervision in small groups. Your supervisor may require you to prepare summary reports of all meetings to ensure there is a record of ‘actions’ to enable monitoring of progress.

You should note that many supervisors have their own research, conferences and other commitments, including dissertation supervision of students during the period from June to September, and are therefore not usually available for the whole of this period. Your meetings/contact with the supervisor will therefore need to be scheduled keeping the supervisor’s availability in view.

Should you have difficulties with your dissertation, always discuss these with your supervisor in the first instance. Where a problem is unresolved, please then contact your Personal Tutor or the MSc tutor who will try to address the particular issues as soon as possible.

Please ensure that you always inform your supervisor when you will be away from your normal address over the summer for more than two weeks, just in case your supervisor wishes to make urgent contact with you. You should also inform the Postgraduate Supoprt Officer.

Presentation of your work

General format information:

  • Dissertations vary in length according to the topic, but are normally 40-80 sides long (in total). Pages must be numbered.
  • The thesis must be on A4 size paper, and must be word processed (most common choices are Word or LaTeX). A LaTeX template is provided below.
  • Hard copies for submission must be soft bound. Either single-sided or double-sided printing is acceptable.
  • Lines should be at least 1.5 spaced to make it easier for the markers to read. Size of margins should be minimum 1 inch all round.
  • The principal font used should be at least 11pt, and of an easily legible serif or sans serif font

Required components of the dissertation:

  • The first page should include the title, your name, your Warwick student ID number and the date of submission.
  • The report must have an abstract of no more than 200 words.
  • A list of references cited in the dissertation must be collected at the back.
  • For tables, references etc, you should follow the style guidelines of any of the Journals of the Royal Statistical Society (look at any recent issue). Enumerate all tables and figures and refer to them in the text using their number. All figures and tables should have a caption explaining (but not interpreting) the content.
  • Programming codes need to be provided in an appendix or electronically.

LaTeX Template

PDF Template

Please contact the postgraduate secretary if you wish to see examples of good practise from previous dissertations.

Deadline of submission: Dissertation must be handed in by 3:30pm on Friday 6th September 2019.

Two copies of the soft bound dissertation must be submitted for assessment. Please note that problems with printers and other problems of that kind are not regarded as a valid reason for late submission. A dissertation that is not submitted by the deadline date will fail.

Both copies of your dissertation should be given to the Postgraduate Support Officer on or before the deadline date. The electronic copy of the dissertation should be uploaded to Tabula by 12 noon on the deadline date.

Scheme for marking Dissertations

All dissertations are marked by two members of staff and the process is verified independently by an external examiner. Results are usually available from personal tutor at the end of November. Recent projects in the Statistics Department have ranged from the review/synthesis of a theoretical topic, to a practical project in data analysis. The marking scheme guideline followed by the department divide the mark across a number of general headings, but with weights reflecting whether the project is predominantly theoretical or predominantly practical. The breakdown of the mark scheme is as follows:

1. Content: 25%

2. Understanding: 25%

3. Originality: 25%

4. Presentation: 25%

Total 100 / 100

Plagiarism in dissertations and other written project work

In writing dissertations or any other piece of research project work it is necessary at all times to acknowledge the work of others. Ways of doing this are usually through referencing to other published or unpublished work, creating footnotes which state other sources, and including a paragraph on general acknowledgment on any help or any other input you have received from others. Any idea, fact, formula etc in your work which is not your own creation needs to be clearly linked to the source by means of a reference.

Plagiarism arises when one is submitting work which is sourced (in part or in its entirety) from the work of others without such acknowledgement. Examples of plagiarism include copying using another person's language and/or ideas, by:

  • quoting other work without acknowledgement;
  • changing some of the words, or the order of the words, without acknowledgement;
  • using ideas and mathematical formulae without reference;
  • cutting and pasting from the Internet without reference;
  • submitting someone else's work (for example, buying or commissioning work, or not attributing research contributed by others to a joint project).

Plagiarism might also arise from collaborating with or receiving help from another person without acknowledgement. A candidate should include a general acknowledgement where he or she has received substantial help. This includes help with the language and style of a piece of written work. Plagiarism refers to all types of sources and media: text, illustrations, mathematical derivations, computer code, material downloaded from websites or drawn from manuscripts or other media, published and unpublished material, including lecture handouts and other students' work. Plagiarism is cheating (see course guide book for further info on cheating) as it constitutes a breach of academic integrity. If plagiarism is detected (this is relatively easy) then this will be reported to the Head of Department. A consequence of plagiarism may be failure of the entire piece of work with no further right to resubmit.