Dissertation (HRM)

In the final module to the MSc Human Resource Management programme, you’ll have the exciting opportunity to be guided through independent research into an HRM topic of interest to you, culminating in a 15,000 word dissertation. You’ll be supported every step of the way: learning about what research is; selecting a topic and a research question; reviewing the relevant literature; designing an appropriate methodology to collect data; and analysing those data. You’ll also be able to develop your academic writing skills.

Vocational relevance

This module gives you the opportunity to study a real-life HRM problem, issue or change in depth. This will allow you to generate recommendations for professional practice in HR as well as for future academic research.


B894 is a compulsory module in our:


Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module is divided into five stages, which correspond to the stages of doing research for a Masters level dissertation. These stages are equivalent to the units you have studied in previous MSc HRM modules.

In Stage 1, Preparing for your dissertation and starting your research, you’ll begin by examining what is required of a Masters student and a Masters dissertation. You’ll be able to examine previous OU MSc HRM dissertations to get a better feel for what is required. Then you’ll consider what it’s like to do research, and the important things to reflect on as you embark on your own research. This will enable you to select a topic and a research question/objective and think about what kind of data you’ll need to collect to address it. Finally you'll spend some time learning about the importance of writing for your dissertation and how to do it well. Stage 1 will prepare you for the first tutor-marked assignment (TMA), which is an outline of your research question/objective and a rationale for this.

Stage 2, Reviewing the literature and refining your research ideas and question(s), covers the literature review, a crucial element of any Masters dissertation. In this stage you’ll develop your skills in finding the relevant literature, reading it critically and writing the review itself. This stage of B894 will also support you in deciding exactly what your research gap is – i.e., something that isn’t already well travelled in the literature – and therefore to revisit your research question/objective if necessary as well as to think ahead to your methodology. Stage 2 will prepare you for the second TMA, which is a draft of the literature review chapter of your dissertation.

Stage 3, Designing your research, prepares you for the third TMA, which is a draft of the research methodology chapter of your dissertation. This stage is divided into five parts. However, you’ll only study three of these parts, as follows:

  • Part 1 is called Developing your research philosophy. This is compulsory for all students. Here you’ll learn about philosophy as it pertains to research – i.e. the different assumptions researchers make about social reality and about knowledge of that reality, as well as the values that underpin research such as the extent to which they see objectivity as important. This leads into material about research approaches, for example whether to test a theory or to develop one as a result of your research. You’ll also learn about research strategy – in other words, the overall process you’ll use to gather your data. This part concludes with material about the overall time needed to plan and undertake your data gathering, negotiating access to those data and research ethics.
  • Part 2 is called Qualitative methodology. This and Part 3 are compulsory for students who want to undertake qualitative research, and you’ll be equipped to make that choice by the time you reach this part. Part 2 discusses various research designs – i.e. plans or blueprints for qualitative research. You’ll also learn about the key qualitative methods you are likely to use in an MSc HRM dissertation – less structured interviews, focus groups and qualitative secondary data (i.e., data which have been gathered by other people).  Finally, you’ll learn about ways to record qualitative data, as well as revisiting research ethics as they specifically pertain to qualitative research and exploring how to plan qualitative research.
  • Part 3 is called Qualitative data analysis. Here you’ll learn about when to begin the analysis of your qualitative data as well as how to do it. Although there are a variety of ways to undertake such analysis, here we focus on two which we believe are the most straightforward and relevant for you as MSc HRM students: reflexive thematic analysis and grounded theory. You’ll also cover material about writing up qualitative data analysis, and in particular different ways to discuss such data, linking them to your research question/objective and the existing literature in your topic area.
  • Part 4 is called Quantitative methodology. Parts 4 and 5 are compulsory for students who want to undertake quantitative research, and again you'll be equipped to make that choice by the time you reach this part. This part offers a general overview of quantitative research, as well as revisiting how to formulate a research question for this kind of enquiry. It will also introduce you to developing hypotheses, measuring variables, sampling and designing and using self-completion questionnaires which are the most commonly used quantitative research method for MSc HRM dissertations.
  • Part 5 is called Quantitative data analysis. Here you’ll review the types of variable which you learned about in Part 4 as well as exploring basic statistical techniques for the analysis of quantitative data. These techniques will equip you to undertake both univariate analysis, where only one variable is analysed, but also bivariate analysis where two variables are considered together to identify the relationship between them.

Stage 4, Carrying out your research and analysing your data, is the time when you will be collecting and analysing data, discussing your findings, and preparing to draw out conclusions. You will also be refining the drafts of your literature review and your research methodology chapters. As such the learning material for this stage is very light compared to previous stages. However, some is provided to steer you through this vital period in your dissertation research, and to enable you to continue to connect with your tutor and your peers for help and support. Stage 4 prepares you for your final TMA.

Stage 5, Completing your dissertation, is the last stage of the module when you will finalise your dissertation (end-of-module assessment) for submission. It will guide you through the process of writing the introduction and conclusion chapters as well as providing useful guidance on revising the other chapters to ensure the finished product is as strong as possible. Again the learning material here is fairly light to give you the necessary time and space for this work.

You will learn

By studying this module you'll learn how to:

  • identify and justify a suitable topic for research and related research question(s)/objective(s)
  • carry out a literature search and write a critical review of the literature relevant to your chosen topic
  • develop a methodology for carrying out your research
  • carry out your empirical research by collecting or accessing the data you need
  • analyse your data to arrive at findings and draw conclusions which address your research question(s)/conclusion(s)
  • write up your research in the form of a dissertation.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor, who will act as your dissertation supervisor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between you and your fellow students in the dedicated tutor group forums
  • providing feedback to the tutor group on tutor group forum discussions

You'll be able to contact your tutor by email, phone, via your tutor group forum on the module website, Skype, MS Teams or Adobe Connect.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box.

There is a compulsory day school. Further details will be made available at the start of the module.

Professional recognition

Completion of this module is essential to achieving the MSc HRM but also to achieve an upgrade in your Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development membership to Associate level.

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Dissertation (HRM) starts once a year, in November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in November 2031.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

To study B894 you must have studied the following modules as pre-requisites:

  • The human resource professional (B810)
  • Human resource management in context (B811)
  • Creating evidence-based value in people management (B812)

And one of the following modules:

  • Employment relations and employee engagement (B813)
  • Learning and development at work (B814)

Preparatory work

You may wish to revisit Creating evidence-based value in people management (B812), specifically Session 3 of Unit 2 (Evaluating different sources of evidence) and Session 1 of Unit 4 (Literature reviews for evidence-based practice). Both of these sessions cover material which will be developed and expanded upon in B894. However, be aware that B812 focuses on evidence-based practice in HRM whereas B894 focuses on academic research in HRM. As such the angles taken in each module are different.


Start End England fee Register
02 Nov 2024 Oct 2025 £3730.00

Registration closes 10/10/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2031.

Future availability

Dissertation (HRM) starts once a year, in November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in November 2031.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You will have access to a module website with an extensive variety of specially created resources designed exclusively for this module by a team of academic experts. This includes:

  • audio and video content
  • multi-media based activities
  • published articles
  • an electronic textbook
  • a week-by-week study planner
  • online tutorial access
  • access to The Open University library.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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