Hi guys,

I’ve recently just completed my penultimate year of an accounting and finance degree, and have to decide whether or not to complete a dissertation (struggling to come up with an ‘interesting’ topic) as opposed to taking on 2 extra modules in my final year. I’m undecided at the moment, and was just wondering if all the graduates on the board (recent or otherwise) could give their advice and opinions regarding my dilemma. All thoughts and opinions would be greatly appreciated.


Are you good at exams, or do you prefer coursework?

I hate coursework (to the extent that I’d regularly not hand in course-works and just spend the extra time to learn & ace the exams), and the dissertation is the single most difficult thing I have ever done. Mentally, it took me to the verge of breakdown, despite dedicating a consistent and justified amount of time on it.

I ended up getting just 3rd in my dissertation, which was averaged out by a 1st overall in final year exams (2:1 degree). So my advice - if you hate c/w, don’t do a dissertation.


As Reg says, if you prefer exams to large-scale coursework then you might be better off with the 2 extra modules.
I had to do a dissertation, but was lucky enough to have done an industrial placement year so was able to use my experiences and contacts there for me to be able to formulate a topic that interested me.
I was lucky in that I was able to do a dissertation on anything ‘business-related’ even though I was doing an accounting + finance degree. I’d start by thinking about… what kind of subjects interest you… (although don’t do something on football, they have an impressive failure rate!!). Or maybe what topic you have studied that you found really interesting.
If you have a couple of weeks before deciding, you could then do a quick search for and read some relevant journal articles and see if you get engaged in any of them.
If you can’t come up with a good topic then go with the 2 extra modules. The dissertation takes a lot of work (reading time mostly) and at the start I really struggled with tackling it (not helped by not writing many essays in an accounting degree!).

What degree are you doing??
hope that was of some use, Ucayman.


Thanks for the reply guys. On the whole I tend to fare better in exams than coursework, but the main problem seems to be not having an interesting and engaging topic in mind. Ucayman, I’m doing an accounting and finance degree, and I did think briefly about maybe relating that to sport as a topic, but not sure how that would work. I’ve got a couple of other topics in mind but can’t say that I feel ‘engaged’ by them. I’m going to think about it a bit more, but it sounds like I may be better off not doing it. You both sound like you put a lot of effort into it and you still weren’t happy with the end result. Was this more to do with the fact that you prefer exams and HAD to do a dissertation or was it more to do with the choice of topic?

Ucayman , if you don’t mind me asking, what was your dissertation about and how well did you do on it? With the benefit of hindsight, if you were given the choice like me, would you definitely not have done one?

I also spoke to a lecturer of mine about this, and I was told that apparently employers are surprised by the fact that we can elect not to do a dissertation. Is there much truth to this? I always thought employers concentrate on your degree classification and not whether you did a dissertation or not. Is it only useful in terms of being able to talk about it interviews for example? Surely interviewers must be sick to death of listening to countless amounts of graduates talking about their dissertations or am I just being completely naive?!


Well a dissertation was compulsory on my course, so I’d put it down to having to do a dissertation. I spent a good 300-350 hours on it (The guideline was 400 hours for the 40 credit dissertation).

And keep in mind that you’re going to be looking at your dissertation topic day in and day out for at least a couple of hundred hours at minimum, and even something that seems “interesting” can become dull over this period of time. A good guideline would be to pick a topic that you think you would be happy researching in your own time recreatively, something that you’re passionate about.

The best thing about my dissertation was the look on my project tutors face on graduation day. He assumed I was a “dud” student, based on my dissertation work. He was impressed by my exam results, and said I could have got a 1st if I’d approached my dissertation with a positive mindset.

Also - don’t worry too much about dissertation topic. Some companies ask for an outline of what your topic involved, but it’s nothing major unless you’re specialising (i.e going for a coastal engineer job and your project was on coastal structure maintenance).


Hi Native,
I do fine in exams, but I do like the smaller scale courseworks, on interesting topics anyway. I had to do a dissertation, and as I was out on placement we were given no guidance prior to turning up in October and told that we had to submit a proposal by mid-December.

My dissertation was titled: “How worthwhile is Knowledge Management within an automotive development environment? A case study of XX{auto manuf}XX” [exciting… Ha ha :slight_smile: ]
I got a first, but only after silly amounts of reading and rewriting over the easter break. I am glad I did it actually, as it gave me the knowledge of the theoretical side of what I did for a year on placement which helped me to better articulate what I did for interviews etc.
But I was lucky, I had a topic and access to experiences and people to question, to create a case study which evaluated how what I was doing fitted in with the academic and business literature. And without a topic which you want to find out more, or know much about, then I think it is best not to do one. Although how big would your dissertation have to be? Mine was 12k word limit, I could have written much more!, I know some unis have smaller limits which obviously affects the amount of work needed.

re: employers being surprised… I can’t speak with any authority on this… they won’t care at the application stage, but some interviewers might ask you why you didn’t do a dissertation (as I think it is a good indicator of someone who can plan, research and execute a large project). Yes, I would get pretty bored of people telling me about their dissertations on budgets etc :slight_smile: but as they always say interview processes are completely objective.

If there is a tutor in charge of dissertations?, they might be able to give you some good guidance as to choosing a topic (I’m sure they have to do it alot!).


Hi Ucayman, my dissertation limit is also 12K. I spoke to a tutor and I just kept being directed towards topics that they find interesting but unfortunately I don’t!! Without really having anything solid in mind, I’ve opted not to do one. I would just like to say thanks to the both of you. You’ve been really helpful!


no problem…
yes these academic types tend to be a bit blinkered into the areas of research they are most interested!!


I was gonna reply there but realised its from 2008! lol

Just wanted to say looking back I’m really glad I done a dissertation


Hi Chris0288,

The thread is not from 2008 (that’s when I joined), it’s from about 3 months ago…You mentioned you were glad you did one. Care to elaborate please?


Good point I read the wrong part

I just feel looking back it was a very worthwhile experience. I learned alot about coping with pressure and working outwith university hours, researching at night and constantly being on the look out for things to learn.
The topic I chose to cover was extremely relevant to the whole banking crisis as it was unfolding, so I think that definetly helped alot; plus my supervisor was brilliant and I enjoyed going to mettings to discuss progress etc.
I basicly set up camp in the library 2 days a week after classes for around 4-5 hours with my laptop and used that time to actually type, while at night reading journals and carrying out other research.
Looking back I don’t feel it was THAT difficult (I got a high 2:1 mark, nearly a first, but a first overall in my degree) (Accountancy), but if I’m being truely honest and think hard there were times where I felt actually physically worried I wouldn’t be ready on time; or I wouldn’t think of a topic.
I think if you get a topic your really interested in it CAN be an enjoyable experience. Also in terms of things to use in an interview situation I think it really helps to be able to say I’ve done this, this is what I researched, this is how I went about it, this is the mark I got. I think that should be a massive positive in your favour committing to something for that long and putting that much effort into it.

All I know is looking back I’m really proud of taking it on and dealing with it, getting a good mark. It’s something you can show the grand kids if/when you have them anyway thats for sure lol

Might be talking rubbish mind you…and I haven’t looked at the screen at all when typing this, just rattled this reply out as I haven’t got much time, so sorry if grammar/spelling is all over the place!



I would go for the exams.

The dissertation is single handidly the worst thing I have ever done in my life.
I spent every day from the start of my fourth year to the hand in date on research and writing and I only managed to get 60% overall, I pretty much would have got a 1st had it not been for this.

I’m not sure about other universities but from my experience it is very hard to get a 1st on a dissertation despite the quality of them. Several people I know very first class students and only got in the 50s for theirs.

There is also the issue of your dissertation supervisor you will either get really lucky or not. I had a horrible supervisor who was completely disinterested in my topic and criticises every single minor problem.

Completing a dissertation has made me a much stronger and more disciplined person but if you are aiming for a 1st then avoid doing one especially if you do not even have a concrete title at this stage.


Hi Native Tongue (interesting username);

I have carried out two research reports during my final year; one in Accounting and one in Finance (total of 25,000 words). I also got a 1st. I completely agree that if you are good at exams do exams but if you are good at assignments go for the dissertation. One thing I can tell you for a fact is that I have learnt more about finance and accounting while researching for my research reports than I have learnt from my previous two years at Uni. I really enjoy accounting and finance so I had a broad range of interest in related topics. My accounting project looked into the effectiveness of Audit Committees and the informal influence of Big 4 on the committees. The finance project was based around competition law; it was titled ‘Efficacy of Merger Remedies in the EU’. I will suggest read as much as you can on particular topics. If you are going to carry out regression analysis; do not choose complex subjects. Finally, google ‘bura Brunel’ (from this website you can search and download all the dissertation and research papers carried out by Brunel students and academics) and also sign up to ethos.bl.uk (you can access/download over 200000 dissertations). Let me know which topic you are interested in and I will provide you with other links. All the best.


Chris0288, hellohello, and Aj thanks very much for your contributions! It was very interesting reading all your different perspectives on this, but I decided a while ago not to do one due to the fact that I struggled to come up with a topic I was passionate writing 12,000 words about, plus the fact that I’m more suited to exams, and like hellohello mentioned only a tiny percentage of past dissertations I’ve looked at seem to have been awarded a first. You are absolutely spot on about the issue of dissertation supervisor! A couple of friends of mine are currently very disappointed with the supervisors allocated to them and are trying desperately to get different supervisors.

Aj (thanks for the compliment), you mentioned having learnt more than in your previous two years, being in my final year and so far working a lot harder on my own (though not doing a dissertation) I can relate to that. I appreciate you trying to help me with all the links and advice, and if I had opted to do a dissertation, I would definitely have taken you up on the offer! Thanks again guys!


Hi guys,

I am doing my MBA currently and for final project I have to decide a research dissertation topic in investment banking area as I am doing my internship in jpmorgan. I am struggling to come up with an ‘interesting’ topic for my dissertation. If anyone on this forum can advice/suggest opinions regarding my dilemma then that would be of great help.

Arpit Sharda


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