This blog will examine the expectations of Master’s level study. It will take as its basis the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Quality Code for Higher Education. This will lay down the expectations of Masters Levels Qualifications.
Here is a short video clip on the subject.
What do you have to Demonstrate at Masters Level?
The QAA code outlines the achievement represented by Master’s level study. This will apply to all Master’s level study in the UK. Essentially there are three elements that have to be demonstrated.
Knowledge at Masters Level
A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice.
Essentially this means that you have to demonstrate knowledge (Mastery) in your subject area. You Know Stuff. Not only that, you know who the subject experts are, and what they are saying, and also the current issues and developments in your field of study.
For assignments at Master’s level this is why you have to “read around” and add citation (references) to your work to demonstrate that you know what the current state of research is.
In a Masters Dissertation, this is essentially covered and demonstrated in a literature review chapter. Often chapter 2 of a dissertation, following the introduction, it establishes that you have the required knowledge about your subject area.
A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.
This means that research methods you use for your research are correct, current, justified, and ethical. You have to demonstrate that you understand different research methods, and that you have selected (and justified) the best method for your research project. This is why your dissertation will have a Research Methodology chapter – often chapter 3. All Master’s levels qualifications have to meet this requirement, it is not an option!
Critical Evaluation and Discussion
An originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline.
Essentially this means that you must question and critically evaluate what others are saying regarding your research topic. Do authors agree with each other. Why? Why might authors select different words to define the same thing? What do you think the definition of something should be, after reading 3 or 4 different authors versions?
Why are you using the proposed research methods, and why are you not using other research methods.
How does the application of knowledge differ from the theory? How does the application of knowledge differ between two case studies? and why?
This QAA requirement means that your research dissertation will need to contain an evaluation of the literature. The Literature Review chapter is not just a statement of knowledge, but a critical evaluation on if that knowledge is correct, or changing, or incorrect. This is why the research dissertation requires a discussion chapter. This is your opportunity to show originality of thought in the application of established knowledge.
At Masters Level you are an Expert
So this needs to be demonstrated in your assignments and projects. Typically via a Literature Review. You understand the current status of knowledge regaring the topic of your research project.
At Masters Level you can Critically Evaluate
So this needs to be demonstrated throughout the assignments and in the project dissertation. You need to always ask “why?”, “why not?”, and justify your statements, and this applies all the way through the Literature Review, the Research Methodology and the Discussion chapters. You need to include your own opinions whilst, evaluating, assessing, and analysing the literature, case studies or data collected, and especially so in the discussion chapter.
The three main areas that you need in a Masters Qualification. Demonstration of Knowledge, Appropriate use of Research Methods, and Critical Evaluation of everything.