Skip to main content

School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Information for students considering a placement

All students interested in undertaking a placement MUST read the 2018-19 Placement-Based Dissertation Handbook, as this contains essential information.

What is a placement-based dissertation?

Selected postgraduate Masters students can undertake an eight-week research project in collaboration with external host organisations, as an alternative to a standard dissertation. Students can choose from projects that have been organized by the University of Edinburgh or, following consultation with their Programme Director and the Student Development Office, can propose their own student-led placements. 

Please not that placements are applied to on a competitive basis and a project is not guaranteed for every student. All students must achieve 120 credits before progressing to dissertation (this includes part time students).

What is the output of a placement-based dissertation? 

Using data collected during the placement, and based on the research question posed by the organisation, the resulting paper will be a substantial piece of academic work of 12,000 words. Previous placements have seen students produce briefing papers, literature reviews, project evaluation reports, and policy reports. Not all research paper formats will be appropriate for each Programme area, so students should seek guidance from their Programme Director. 

Students will also submit a 3,000 word project diary; this diary along with the research paper, comprises the placement-based dissertation. 

The paper will address a real-world need within the host organisation and will improve the employability of graduates by giving them experience of research in the field. 

To see examples of previous dissertations, please visit the dissertation library.

Advertised projects vs student-led projects

In December, the Student Development Office will release a list of pre-arranged placements.  Students meeting the entry criteria will be invited to submit an application to the project/s of their choice.  A selection panel will meet in early February and confirm which student has been provisionally selected for each project.

Alternatively, students may choose to organise their own placement.  Please see 'Student-led placements' for further information.


Students must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the 2018-19 Placement-Based Dissertation Handbook.

Placements must not be located in areas that the FCO advise against travelling to. Please check with the Student Development Office if you are thinking of undertaking a placement near these areas - you may not be permitted to travel.

Students are responsible for checking that their travel plans meet the requirements of their funders/sponsors, e.g. those funded by US student loans are not usually allowed to undertake a placement in the US.

Additional work while on placement

Aside from the research paper, the host organisation may request a student’s involvement in other non-research related activities. Students should manage their time carefully to ensure that they are able to meet commitments to both the host organisation and the University. 

While the host organisation provides a project contact who will support and may act as gatekeeper to further contacts, students are responsible for directing their research (in line with the agreed research question) and analysing any data fairly autonomously. 

However, it is worth noting that many students also found that the amount of work involved with a placement-based dissertation was higher than they had anticipated. It is important to bear this in mind when deciding whether a placement is right for you. 

white image