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Dissertation Tips Advice For Interviewing

Hello everyone. I’m back, and now that my studies are over I thought it would be of some value to share with you some hints and tips regarding the dissertation process.

This blog is divided into a number of areas. It is however of importance to explain the context of my dissertation because, with this in mind, some of the hints and tips that follow may not be relevant to your dissertation.

  • The research was undertaken at one company – a company that was not my employer.
  • The research sample comprised participants located in different countries.
  • The literature on the subject under investigation was limited.
  • I implemented three research methods – analysing company documentation, conducting interviews and a focus group.

Fine-tuning your research enquiry

Start to think about your dissertation as early as possible. I recall indicating on my course application the topic I was interested in researching; you may need to do (have done) the same. It is therefore probable that you will be thinking about your research when you choose which course you will study. Furthermore, as you work through each module you will continue to generate further ideas. On the matter of idea generation:

At the end of each module, write down what you liked about the module; what interested you the most?

Ask yourself…….

  • What is happening locally, nationally and/or internationally within HR?
  • What is the current literature focusing on?
  • What would add value to the organisation I work for?

Share your ideas with others and seek their feedback:

  • Contact other students on blackboard or speak to them at the teaching weekends.
  • Post your ideas on the CLMS’s LinkedIn and Facebook pages to get other student input.
  • Speak with a member of the CLMS team.
  • Talk to your employer, if appropriate.
  • Talk to your family and friends.

When you have shortlisted a few topic areas ask yourself:

  • Does the topic interest me and will this interest be maintained for six months?
  • Is the topic linked with the course material within my course – is it academically sound? (It must be).
  • Will the topic assist me with my career development?

I found that by talking to people my research idea became more fine-tuned.

Be realistic

You will be reviewing literature on your chosen topic, conducting research, analysing the results of this research, critiquing your own work and making recommendations for future research; you will be writing up to three times more words than for any previous assignment. Take a look at some sample dissertations on blackboard to give you an idea of what the finished product looks like. With this in mind it is vital to consider the resources available to you.

  • Is what I am proposing achievable in the time-scale available to me?
  • Will I need to invest financially and if so how much?

Your supervisor

You may have gotten to know some of the CLMS employees at teaching weekends and when obtaining feedback from your assignments. There is no harm in asking if one of them would be interested in supervising your dissertation. As they say, if you don’t ask – you don’t get!

  • Once you have been assigned your supervisor, make contact with him/her as soon as possible to discuss your proposal – module 4 assignment.
  • Agree with him/her how you will communicate with each other – maintaining a regular and open dialogue is crucial.
  • Before each meeting send an email detailing what you would like to cover in your discussion.
  • When you submit a chapter of your dissertation or the whole dissertation to your supervisor, allow sufficient time for him/her to read it and respond (build this time into your plan (see below)).
  • Above all else, listen to his/her feedback and take it on board.

Plan, plan, plan

I viewed the dissertation as a project. You would not start any project without a plan would you? The good news is that module 4 requires you to present such a plan (timetable). Do make sure that you really think this through; your plan may need to change and if it does, update your plan. In addition, take a look at the earlier blog on recommended reading: http://studentblogs.le.ac.uk/labour-market-studies/2012/04/30/recommended-reading-for-module-4-and-the-dissertation/ I found that writing a checklist from these books and the readings in module 4 really helped me to remain focus and ensure that I covered everything when writing the dissertation.

Do build in extra time for delays.

  • As you complete your module 4 assignment your dissertation planning will already be underway. You will definitely need to be clear about who will make up your research sample.
  • Make your plan (timetable) visible. Mine faced me every day for 6 months so I could check where I was and what still needed to be done. It enabled me to remain focused and in effect motivated me by reminding me of what still needed to be undertaken.
  • If you get behind at any time tell your supervisor and consider what else you can be doing. For example, if your interviews are due to end today but there has been a setback due to participants withdrawing from the process, look to your timetable and start working on something else. Remember to update your timetable.
  • Open up a document that covers each chapter of your dissertation. As you read material, take notes within the respective chapter document. You will find this not only saves time later but enables you to structure your chapters as you start to write.


I wrote the introduction chapter after writing all the other chapters. This was a mistake. I therefore suggest that you write a draft when you start your dissertation, not towards the end.

  • The introduction is in effect a structure of what your dissertation entails; it is therefore a working plan to refer to as you progress.
  • It is highly likely that changes / amendments will be necessary, however that will be easier than having to write the introduction when all other chapters are completed.

Literature Review

Unlike all other modules you are not provided with literature to read – instead you have to source the material.

  • Dissect your research question to identify the literature subject areas you need to explore.
  • Start to gather literature appropriate to your research topic during module 4.
  • It sounds obvious but only read and analyse literature that is aligned to your research question; it is so easy to drift away when you become interested in other readings. Don’t do it; you’ll be wasting time.
  • Make sure you file your readings in order – you will find it so much easier later to locate the document when searching for a quote, etc.
  • Read the articles and take notes appropriate to your dissertation title – just as you have with your other assignments.
  • If you are not able to source material on your chosen subject speak to a member of the CLMS team and speak with a member of the library team. In addition think broader, for example I researched Norwegian cultural values and their existence in international human resource management (IHRM). I quickly found that such literature was limited and so I widened my search to include Scandinavia and Europe.
  • Like previous assignments, end this chapter with your conclusion of what the literature is indicating in relation to your research question.

Choosing the research sample

Think very carefully about your choice of organisation / research sample. If you don’t have access to the right research pool you will not be able to answer your research question; you will have problems completing module 4 as well as your dissertation. You must be able to extract sufficient data to answer your dissertation question from your research sample.

  • Start early – while you are completing module 4 obtain tentative confirmation(s) from your research sample.
  • When selecting an organisation, ask your network, ask your family and friends and consider organisations where you would like to work. Some companies openly seek students to undertake their research with them; the company may have an application process so do allow sufficient time for your application to be processed.
  • If the organisation is not your employer, be prepared to present yourself, your studies and a clear outline of what you intend to research.
  • Keep your options open. Don’t just rely on one organisation saying yes because you may be disappointed and you will have wasted valuable time.
  • Be flexible if an organisation wishes you to take a different approach, just make sure that any changes to your research are academically sound. If changes need to occur after you have submitted your module 4 assignment you must notify the CLMS or your supervisor.
  • Remember to maintain professional communications with organisations including informing them politely that you have selected another company to undertake your research.
  • It sounds obvious however do ensure that you will be able to gain access to the research pool – clarify how with your company contact.


Having selected your topic you will probably have some idea of which research methods to use to extract the data you require to answer your research question. This will become much clearer as you progress through module 4. If, like me, you choose more than one research method be very clear about how the data extracted will be integrated and presented in your results chapter.

When reading literature related to your chosen topic:

  • be aware of the research methods used and take a note of these including the authors own critique of the methodology utilised.
  • be aware that what is recommended by researchers may not be what is used in practice. This I discovered. I chose to implement the recommended methods detailing  my justifications for rejecting the most used methods.

When writing questions for a questionnaire or for interviews, check that each and every question will provide you with answers that will enable you to answer your  research question. If not, remove or amend the question. To ensure this I conducted a pilot:

  • I asked myself the questions and wrote down answers.
  • I asked my friends and network, who were aligned to my research sample, the questions and wrote down their answers.
  • I shared the research questions with the company contact and my supervisor for comment.

If you conduct a focus group allow sufficient time – whatever time you think you will need, allow at least half as much time again. When people start talking it  eats time, especially in a group forum.

Conducting the research

Your reputation and that of the university is at stake when you conduct your research.

  • Remember that you are bound by the University ethics agreement and the agreement you have created to undertake the research (this is covered in module 4).
  • You may also be bound by the organisation’s ethics agreement or other document that sets out the terms of how you conduct your research.
  • Be professional at all times.
  • Be prepared for people to withdraw from the research. If they do, contact your CLMS supervisor and your contact within the organisation. Remember to delete all records of that participant.
  • If you conduct telephone interviews be aware that any poor quality of connection can lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities.
  • If your research sample comprises participants who are not fluent in English be aware of misunderstandings and missed opportunities.
  • Conducting a one-hour interview took me 8 hours of typing; to ensure accuracy of transcripts I listened to each recording 3 times.
  • When your participants read the transcript of the interviews give them sufficient time to comment, make amendments, deletions and additions.
  • Remember that in conducting your research you are costing the organisation and the participant time and time often = money.

Your Research Results

Your research results should confirm:

  • That your choice of research method was appropriate.
  • The disadvantages of your research method(s).

Prior to undertaking the research and analysing the results you are likely to have an idea of what the outcome may be. It is vital however to be open to alternative findings and therefore to steer away from influencing the outcome with your opinions.

How you present the results will vary. Do:

  • remember to present the characteristics of your research sample.
  • ensure the data you present is aligned to answering your research question. You will likely obtain data that is superfluous to requirements; ignore it.
  • not disclose the identity of any respondent and if there is any possibility of doing so, discard the information.
  • tie your findings back to your literature review.
  • remember to highlight any difficulties that you encountered and how these were tackled (you may choose to integrate this into your methodology chapter).

Conclusion and Recommendations

When concluding refer back to all the previous chapters.

  • What have I found?
  • Do the findings support or reject what the literature states?
  • Was the methodology appropriate to collect the data required to answer the research question?
  • Remember not to generalise your findings if your philosophical and methodological choices do not support this possibility.

It is of vital importance that you critique your own work and present recommendations based on this.

  • What are the weaknesses within my research; turn these into recommendations of how similar research can be done differently in future.
  • Where do gaps still remain in the literature and in my research that requires exploration?

When to start writing

…….as soon as possible.

  • The dissertation is between 16,000 and 20,000 words. You cannot leave the writing until the last few weeks.
  • Start the bibliography as soon as you start to write.


When you undertake your proof-reading, you will be looking for a number of things. It is likely therefore that you will proof-read a number of times. As you read keep asking yourself:

Am I answering the research question?

Is what I am writing aligned to the research enquiry?

Of key importance when proof-reading is to make sure the whole document is integrated; that each chapter does not stand-alone. Furthermore and importantly, that you regularly refer your reader back to your research question within each and every chapter of the dissertation.

  • Allow up to two weeks to do one final proof-read of your dissertation. This does not include the proof-reading you undertake along the way.
  • Ask others to proof-read your dissertation.
  • If you are fortunate to have more than one proof-reader get each person to look for different things for example, one to focus on spelling and grammar, another to focus on ease of reading, another to ensure that your total document is integrated and another to comment on whether they understand what is written even though they may know nothing about the subject matter.
  • Check each and every quotation you have written for accuracy. As you write you will change things and this may mean that you inadvertently alter a quotation.
    In terms of time this took me three days, approx. 24 hours.
  • Revisit the plagiarism tutorial and/or contact your supervisor if you have any doubts at all about referencing.
  • Check each and every entry in your bibliography to make sure it is accurate. This took me two days, 16 hours.

Finished? Hurrah, you made it…..

  • Submit your dissertation on time.
  • Congratulate yourself on your achievement.
  • Reflect on what you have achieved, not about what you believe you could have done better.
  • Wait for your results.

Oh yes, and prepare a report and/or presentation to the company where you have undertaken the research, if applicable.

Final words

Your dissertation should not be viewed as another assignment; it is much more than that. It is a critical part of your studies and it is potentially of vital importance for your career prospects.

Undertaking the dissertation, I viewed as a rollercoaster ride. However, you will find that it will have more highs than lows if you choose the right topic that is academically sound, that will retain your interest for 6 months and that you seek support from your supervisor along the way.


I wish you every success. Enjoy!


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About Sue

Sue has now graduated from the University of Leicester. I'm Sue, a British expat living in Oslo, Norway. I have over 20 years’ experience in Human Resources (HR) and have recently, successfully completed studying the MSc International Human Resources (HR) and Globalisation course by distance learning with the University of Leicester. Sue has now graduated from the University of Leicester.

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General Guidelines for Conducting Research Interviews

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development.

Sections of This Topic Include

Preparation for Interview
Types of Interviews
Types of Topics in Questions
Sequence of Questions
Wording of Questions
Carrying Out Interview
Immediately After Interview
Other Resources

General Information and Resources
Ethics and Conducting Research

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Doing Research Interviews

In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Doing Research Interviews. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Library's Business Planning Blog
Library's Building a Business Blog
Library's Strategic Planning Blog


Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant's experiences. The interviewer can pursue in-depth information around a topic. Interviews may be useful as follow-up to certain respondents to questionnaires, e.g., to further investigate their responses. Usually open-ended questions are asked during interviews.

Before you start to design your interview questions and process, clearly articulate to yourself what problem or need is to be addressed using the information to be gathered by the interviews. This helps you keep clear focus on the intent of each question.

Preparation for Interview

  1. Choose a setting with little distraction. Avoid loud lights or noises, ensure the interviewee is comfortable (you might ask them if they are), etc. Often, they may feel more comfortable at their own places of work or homes.
  2. Explain the purpose of the interview.
  3. Address terms of confidentiality. Note any terms of confidentiality. (Be careful here. Rarely can you absolutely promise anything. Courts may get access to information, in certain circumstances.) Explain who will get access to their answers and how their answers will be analyzed. If their comments are to be used as quotes, get their written permission to do so. See getting informed consent.
  4. Explain the format of the interview. Explain the type of interview you are conducting and its nature. If you want them to ask questions, specify if they're to do so as they have them or wait until the end of the interview.
  5. Indicate how long the interview usually takes.
  6. Tell them how to get in touch with you later if they want to.
  7. Ask them if they have any questions before you both get started with the interview.
  8. Don't count on your memory to recall their answers. Ask for permission to record the interview or bring along someone to take notes.

Types of Interviews

  1. Informal, conversational interview - no predetermined questions are asked, in order to remain as open and adaptable as possible to the interviewee's nature and priorities; during the interview, the interviewer "goes with the flow".
  2. General interview guide approach - the guide approach is intended to ensure that the same general areas of information are collected from each interviewee; this provides more focus than the conversational approach, but still allows a degree of freedom and adaptability in getting information from the interviewee.
  3. Standardized, open-ended interview - here, the same open-ended questions are asked to all interviewees (an open-ended question is where respondents are free to choose how to answer the question, i.e., they don't select "yes" or "no" or provide a numeric rating, etc.); this approach facilitates faster interviews that can be more easily analyzed and compared.
  4. Closed, fixed-response interview - where all interviewees are asked the same questions and asked to choose answers from among the same set of alternatives. This format is useful for those not practiced in interviewing.

Types of Topics in Questions

Patton notes six kinds of questions. One can ask questions about:
  1. Behaviors - about what a person has done or is doing
  2. Opinions/values - about what a person thinks about a topic
  3. Feelings - note that respondents sometimes respond with "I think ..." so be careful to note that you're looking for feelings
  4. Knowledge - to get facts about a topic
  5. Sensory - about what people have seen, touched, heard, tasted or smelled
  6. Background/demographics - standard background questions, such as age, education, etc.

Note that the above questions can be asked in terms of past, present or future.

Sequence of Questions

  1. Get the respondents involved in the interview as soon as possible.
  2. Before asking about controversial matters (such as feelings and conclusions), first ask about some facts. With this approach, respondents can more easily engage in the interview before warming up to more personal matters.
  3. Intersperse fact-based questions throughout the interview to avoid long lists of fact-based questions, which tends to leave respondents disengaged.
  4. Ask questions about the present before questions about the past or future. It's usually easier for them to talk about the present and then work into the past or future.
  5. The last questions might be to allow respondents to provide any other information they prefer to add and their impressions of the interview.

Wording of Questions

  1. Wording should be open-ended. Respondents should be able to choose their own terms when answering questions.
  2. Questions should be as neutral as possible. Avoid wording that might influence answers, e.g., evocative, judgmental wording.
  3. Questions should be asked one at a time.
  4. Questions should be worded clearly. This includes knowing any terms particular to the program or the respondents' culture.
  5. Be careful asking "why" questions. This type of question infers a cause-effect relationship that may not truly exist. These questions may also cause respondents to feel defensive, e.g., that they have to justify their response, which may inhibit their responses to this and future questions.

Conducting Interview

  1. Occasionally verify the tape recorder (if used) is working.
  2. Ask one question at a time.
  3. Attempt to remain as neutral as possible. That is, don't show strong emotional reactions to their responses. Patton suggests to act as if "you've heard it all before."
  4. Encourage responses with occasional nods of the head, "uh huh"s, etc.
  5. Be careful about the appearance when note taking. That is, if you jump to take a note, it may appear as if you're surprised or very pleased about an answer, which may influence answers to future questions.
  6. Provide transition between major topics, e.g., "we've been talking about (some topic) and now I'd like to move on to (another topic)."
  7. Don't lose control of the interview. This can occur when respondents stray to another topic, take so long to answer a question that times begins to run out, or even begin asking questions to the interviewer.

Immediately After Interview

  1. Verify if the tape recorder, if used, worked throughout the interview.
  2. Make any notes on your written notes, e.g., to clarify any scratchings, ensure pages are numbered, fill out any notes that don't make senses, etc.
  3. Write down any observations made during the interview. For example, where did the interview occur and when, was the respondent particularly nervous at any time? Were there any surprises during the interview? Did the tape recorder break?

Other Resources

CASAnet's overview of interviewing principles
Competency-based Interviewing

For the Category of Evaluations (Many Kinds):

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

Evaluation (General)

Program Evaluation

Evaluation (General)

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.

Program Evaluation

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.

Field Guide to Nonprofit Program Design, Marketing and Evaluation
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. There are few books, if any, that explain how to carefully plan, organize, develop and evaluate a nonprofit program. Also, too many books completely separate the highly integrated activities of planning, marketing and evaluating programs. This book integrates all three into a comprehensive, straightforward approach that anyone can follow in order to provide high-quality programs with strong appeal to funders. Includes many online forms that can be downloaded. Many materials in this Library topic are adapted from this book.

Also see

Business Research -- Recommended Books

Supervision (Evaluating Employees) -- Recommended Books

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