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Dissertation Guidelines for the Summer Term

The summer term projects provide students with the opportunity to apply the techniques and knowledge they have acquired from the rest of the programme. The dissertation should provide an in depth analysis of a specific financial issue. Students either perform a statistical or numerical analysis or, less commonly, examine a question using a theoretical model.

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Students should:

  • show that they have a good knowledge of the relevant literature on their chosen topic;
  • identify an interesting question associated with that topic and analyse this question either in a new way or with new data;
  • demonstrate they have a good grasp of techniques (statistical, numerical or theoretical) relevant for analysing the question;
  • show they can exposit the results of their analysis in a clear and convincing manner.

Course Assessment
The dissertations are marked in September.

Guidance Notes

Choosing a topic

As a general rule, it is very important that the project contain an interesting question or issue to be analysed. Simply applying a well-known statistical technique to a new dataset will not generally earn a good mark. Any subject which relates to material covered in the course is admissible, but it is generally sensible to stick to projects which contain some substantial element of statistical or numerical analysis.

Theoretical projects are difficult although occasionally students have produced good work of this type. Purely institutional topics are not permitted.

On data, it is important not to be too ambitious. Often students spend inordinate amounts of time collecting large datasets and then find they have no time to perform analysis. Interesting analysis motivated by some genuine, substantive question earns high marks.  A good source of financial data is Datastream, which can be accessed using a computer in the Library. The principal databases cover equities, bonds, company accounts, economic series, international market indices, interest and exchange rates and financial and commodity futures and traded options.

Submitting a proposal

The deadline for submission of project proposal: 1st March 2015. Submit the proposal to Naomi in room 720 ( or 020 7631 6429).  Submission via email is the preferred option.

Before submitting the proposal, you might find it useful to talk to potential supervisors (any department member who teaches on the MSc Finance/Financial Engineering/Finance & Commodities programmes). If you discuss your proposal with a dept. member and he/she informally agrees to be your supervisor, you should mention this in your proposal. This is in your interest, as this ensures a good supervisory match.

Your proposal should have:
- a title,
- a brief description of what you would like to do
- what data and computing facilities you expect to use, and if they are readily available a possible work schedule

The Supervision Process

The School will then match your proposal to a supervisor. Once that is done, it is your responsibility to establish contact and arrange meetings

  • Typically an initial meeting to obtain advice on data, techniques and overall direction is useful. It is also important to agree a schedule for subsequent meetings. Many supervisors are able to communicate via email too.
  • In addition, students should aim to see their supervisor a few times, even briefly, to discuss their progress. You should aim to do this during the summer term. There is a natural tendency to postpone research till after the June exams: as much as possible you should avoid falling into this trap. Supervisors are more likely to be available during the summer term rather than after the end of term (6th July)
  • The period after term is meant to put the finishing touches to your research and to write up the results. You should not expect active supervision at this stage. Going away on holiday and expecting to be able to complete in the last fortnight before the deadline is a recipe for trouble. If you are unfamiliar with econometric packages (as most of you will be) then everything takes longer than you expect.

Submission deadline

The project word limit is 6000 words. (Please note the amendment – some handbooks state 8000 words)

  • Proposal submission deadline and the project submission deadline are outlined in the handbook and will be confirmed nearer the time.

Two bound copies are required, (binding services are available at ULU) an electronic submission should also be made to