About the dissertation

The dissertation is a key component of our programme. For some, this is the first experience of hands-on research, and for others, it's an opportunity to extend existing skills or learn new research skills.

The dissertation project gives you the opportunity to gain research experience and skills while undertaking an extended piece of scholarship. You are expected to demonstrate the ability to engage critically and analytically with literature in the field, building upon relevant concepts and theory learned during the course to identify and address a clearly defined public health question and produce a clear and coherent report. You are also expected to demonstrate autonomous practice, planning and taking responsibility for your own progress, solving problems as they arise with the support of your supervisor.  

You will need to demonstrate the following specific learning outcomes: 

  • a critical understanding of their chosen public health topic and the relevant literature 

  • application of appropriate research methods to address the research question 

  • critical analysis, interpretation and evaluation of the research results 

  • an ability to present research as a well-structured, clear and coherent dissertation, in line with expected standards of academic writing 

High-level structure

Students who wish to continue their learning and achieve a Masters degree will submit a research proposal as part of the Research Design course in February. Before this, the MPH team will have used the topic and method you have indicated a preference for in November to allocate supervisors with methodological (and often topical) expertise. You will have discussed your ideas further with your supervisor(s) and it is understood that the topic and/or methodology may change after the initial meeting. 

Once allocated a supervisor, you will be able to shape your ideas into a summative project proposal under their guidance, to be submitted as per the dates and process they advise. Full details of this will be made available to you closer to the time, including details of ethical considerations & approvals to be made, depending on the nature of your project.  

You can expect to meet with your dissertation supervisor for between 6-10 hours during the course of their your dissertation. Supervision meetings are intended to guide research and provide comments on ongoing work. The timing of these meetings will be agreed between you and your supervisor. 

Link to further details about the dissertation

Types of projects 

Students typically undertake one of three main project types: data analysis (quantitative) project, qualitative project or a systematic review. This is not an exhaustive list, and other projects, such as policy analysis, media analysis or mixed methods projects may be conducted.  

Our programme has core courses on qualitative methods, epidemiology and statistics and elective courses on more advanced methods and systematic reviews which students would be encouraged to opt for depending on the methodology of their dissertation. There are also specific workbooks on Learn (the e-learning platform we use) for policy briefs. 

Full details on the expected structure of all project reports, irrespective of type, will be made available to you closer to the time. 

We have provided brief summaries of the types of projects that students typically carry out. 

1. Data analysis (quantitative) project 

Quantitative dissertation projects may involve (secondary data) analysis of an existing dataset, which is either an open-access data resource, or primary or secondary data analysis of a dataset to which your supervisor can facilitate your access. It is also possible (although uncommon because of the time limitations) to carry out projects in which primary quantitative data are collected (e.g. surveys) and analysed. It is important that the dataset to be used does not require extensive ‘cleaning’ prior to when you begin creating and/or coding variables (e.g. creating BMI index from height and weight measures before then categorising BMI, if appropriate) and analysing the data. 

2. Systematic literature review 

This should be a comprehensive and critical review of a clearly defined topic. Such reviews must adopt a systematic approach to identifying, critiquing and concisely synthesising relevant literature. Systematic reviews generally take one of two forms:  

  1. A review of primary research studies (e.g. randomised controlled trials, cohort studies, qualitative research etc.), or 

  1. An ‘umbrella’ review, which entails the systematic review of review-level literature (as opposed to primary literature). 

If you are undertaking reviews, you will be expected to design the electronic search strategy (support for which is available from library staff with expertise in literature searching), screen titles and abstracts of retrieved articles, select relevant articles, extract information, assess and critique study quality and synthesise findings. Systematic reviews can involve a narrative synthesis of results from individual studies/reviews or a meta-analysis, as appropriate. It is not generally considered sufficient to simply update a previous well-conducted systematic review. 

3. Qualitative project 

You may undertake a small primary qualitative study or secondary analysis of preexisting qualitative data to which your supervisor can facilitate your access. To be feasible within the timeframe, a primary study should explore a non-sensitive topic with participants not considered vulnerable (vulnerable participants include, for example, children). There may be exceptions to these rules if you have prior experience of qualitative research and/or with the participant group you wish to involve. A full ethics process and approval must always be sought and obtained for studies involving human participants. 

Past project examples 

Examples of project reports from previous students will be available for you to read on Learn after you become a student with us. 


A number of University resources will be made available to help you achieve your degree, such as the library, the Institute for Academic Development’s dissertation session for MPH students, and other online resources.  

Other services are available to all students, such as the Chaplaincy, the Student Counselling Service, Student Disability Service, Wellbeing Advisor, Student Advisor, Student Health Services, IT support and peer proofreading. 

Link to A-Z student services list