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Types of assignments

This guide will explain the types of assignment required at USW. Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn a Gymraeg

General dissertation books


A Library guide to the
literature review process.


A short guide from USW Study
Skills on dissertations.

General advice

The structure and approach largerly depend on the type of dissertations: in this guide, we have divided dissertations into empirical (or those where students collect the data), desk-based (based on data or documents by other people) and practice-based.


Empirical dissertations

With empirical  research (also called scientific or primary research), the researchers collect and analyse the data themselves. The different tabs give more information about different types of empirical dissertations and research projects.

>>Ethics is a fundamental component of empirical research. USW's research ethics policy can be found here.

Qualitative research seeks to find qualitative data, such as perceptions, past experiences, feedback or opinions.

The aim is not to achieve statistical significance, but to find illustrative experiences, points of view or feedback. Usually, these types of projects are informed by participants' interpretation of an event or experience.

Common methods in qualitative data include interviews and focus groups.

Some useful resources:

     Video: Doing Focus Groups 


With this type of research, the aim is to reach statistically-significant findings. Findings will need to be replicable and applicable to other contexts.

This means that the research product will need a robust sample and statistical analysis.

Common quantitative methods include scientific experiments, clinical trials, quantitative surveys and statistical analysis.

Some useful resources:

      Which stats test from Sage Research Methods

      Scientific method: Tales of the unexpected
      Firestein, Stuart


With this type of research, qualitative and quantitative methods are combined in a robust and systematic way.

There are several ways to combine methods: explanatory designs start with quantitative methods and then select some participants to explore their feelings and opinions further; exploratory designs, on the other hand, start with the qualitative element first; finally, some studies might gather qualitative and quantitative data at the same time.

Some useful resources

       Mixed methods research: a research paradigm whose time has come
       Educational researcher
       Johnson, R. Burke ; Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J.

       A typology of mixed methods research designs
       Quality & quantity
       Leech, Nancy L ; Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J


Dissertations can take many forms, but an empirical dissertation is usually structured as shown below. This guide from USW Study Skills explores this structure further with examples of what to include under each section:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Findings
  • Discussion or analysis
  • Conclusions and recommendations
  • End matter: appendices and references

Desk-based dissertations

Desk-based research projects (sometimes called library-based) are those where researchers analyse existing data, such as historical documents, articles, newspaper articles, reports, scientific data collected by other people or statistics.

Some disciplines, like law and English, have their own conventions.


Some dissertations are long literature reviews.

There are many types of literature reviews: for example, a narrative literature is the most loose form with the aim of  finding themes from several sources; at the other end of the spectrum, systematic reviews are literature reviews with very strict guidelines and appraisal criteria.

This article gives an excellent overview of different types of literature reviews: A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies.

The library guide on literature reviews gives more information on the process and structure of literature reviews.

Some useful resources:


Document analysis is a  type of qualitative methods whereby documents (for example, reports, interview transcripts, historical sources, newspapers articles) are analysed in a systematic way.

There several types of document analysis: for example, a discourse analysis attempts to find how language has been used differently by disparate groups and content analysis is a more detailed review of the forms and patterns in a document.

Conversation and visual analysis is useful for students working in journalism and the creative industries.

Some useful resources:

Secondary data analysis entails using the information that another researcher has gathered for his or her own purposes.

Some useful resources:

Practice based projects

Live projects or briefs are projects carried out in collaborations with industry partners. Besides the outcome of the project, students are also expected to reflect on the process and on several aspects such as group working, liaising with clients and project management. 

Below are some examples of live briefs:

Live brief for Little Man Coffee
Live Brief with Gwent Police


Some useful resources:

Generic research databases

Dissertation examples

Undergraduate dissertations are not available in the library. We are currently working on selecting and digitising a selection of USW undergraduate dissertations.

You will find our postgraduate dissertations in our research repository USW Pure.

Ask your supervisor if they have any good examples of past dissertations that you can have a look at.

For reference, below are some examples of undergraduate dissertations from some other UK universities.