Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)


Department: Management and Marketing


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap
Tied to N1KB17 Executive MBA


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with the opportunity to conduct an in-depth investigation at an advanced level of an issue which is applicable and relevant to business and/or management. The positioning at the end of the programme is intended to promote integration of material covered in the core and elective phases.
  • To equip students with the appropriate research methods knowledge and skills to enable them to undertake a research project at Masters level.
  • The strategic business project should be theoretically underpinned and should normally involve undertaking empirical research, but may be a critical essay that draws upon academic literature.


  • The nature of the Strategic Business Project.
  • How to use databases to identify the important literature.
  • How to write an evaluative literature review.
  • Introduction to empirical research in the management context.
  • Types of research and types of data.
  • Experiments and quasi-experiments.
  • Questionnaire design.
  • Interviews and focus groups.
  • Ethical issues in business and management research.
  • How to infer relationships between measurements; practical tips on using statistical methods.
  • How to manage a research project.
  • Writing up your work; what makes a good strategic business project.
  • Students can choose to pursue a Strategic Business Project in two ways, either by working with a host organisation, or an issue-led investigation which is not focused on just one organisation but instead examines a specific management issue.
  • The topic (which is formally approved by the Board of Examiners) should be one that is suitable for in-depth investigation.
  • MBA projects of this nature have typically been based in a wide variety of organisations, including: profit-seeking companies in both manufacturing and the service sector; nationalised industries; public agencies and local authorities; non-profit seeking organisations; global multinationals; and owner-managed small firms.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students should:
  • have a critical appreciation of how empirical research is conducted in a business and management context.
  • have a critical appreciation of ethical issues in business and management research.
  • be able to critically analyse a specific issue or area of business or management in depth and to explore its significance in practice.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • be able to conduct advanced literature searches to identify important literature and outstanding research questions in business and management;
  • be able to write an evaluative review of the relevant literature;
  • be able to conduct a Masters-level research project from beginning to end. This involves the following: identifying an interesting and practical research question at an appropriate advanced level; developing a method for answering the question; conducting the research, including managing all aspects of the research project; interpreting the results; being able to identify and manage any ethical issues that might arise.
  • be able to critically apply knowledge and different forms of reasoning to form a discriminating analysis of issues currently being experienced in specific organisational and business contexts;
  • produce a substantial piece of written work demonstrating critical analysis of a specific issue.
Key Skills:
  • Written communication; planning, organising and time management; problem solving and analysis; using initiative; computer literacy.
  • Skills of self-organization and motivation in managing time and activities in working to a deadline.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Learning outcomes will be met in part through a taught component, delivered in blocks comprising a mix of lectures, groupwork, case studies and discussion, supported by guided reading.
  • Additionally, students have individual meetings with their appointed supervisor, up to 8 but normally 5-6. These enable monitoring of progress towards achieving the learning outcomes.
  • The summative assessment will comprise a 2500-word Research Proposal (20%), the purpose of which is to assist students in preparing for the Strategic Business Project. The Strategic Business Project is a 15,000-word document (80%) that tests students’ acquisition of relevant subject-specific knowledge and skills and their ability to apply these, and appropriate key skills, in the context of a Masters-level research project.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Teaching blocks - combination of lectures and personal supervision from a supervisor 24
Individual supervisions Normally 5-6 3
Research, preparation, reading and writing up 573
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Strategic Business Project Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Strategic Business Project 15,000 words (max) 100% Same

Formative Assessment:

Students will receive formative feedback on a draft of one chapter of the strategic business project.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University