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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Information for students considering a placement

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 (advertised-placements). Students can propose their own student-led placements, following consultation with their Programme Director and the Work Placement Advisor. 

Advertised Placements 

In December, the Work Placement Advisor will release a list of pre-arranged placements. Students meeting the entry criteria will be invited to apply 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.

Note: students apply for placements on a competitive basis, and a project is not guaranteed for every student. 

Student-led Placements 

Students may choose to organise their placement. The student will approach organisations in the first instance if there are no existing School links with the organisations, but the Work Placement Advisor can provide institutional support. Input from Programme Directors will be necessary to confirm that the scope of the proposed research is suitable for a placement-based dissertation. Students will put submit their project proposals to the Work Placement Advisor in March for approval.

 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.

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

Students are also expected to produce a 2 page executive summary of their findings and create a research poster for the end-of-year Showcase


Students must meet the eligibility criteria to be considered for a placement:

• Achieve an average mark of at least 60% in the first semester.

• Attend the research ethics and pre-departure information sessions 

• Provide evidence of their suitability to work with vulnerable groups if the project involves working with vulnerable groups

Placements must not be located in areas that the FCO advise against travel. Please check with the Work Placement Advisor 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. For example, those funded by US student loans are not usually allowed to undertake a placement in the US.

Additional work while on placement

Students should consider the following before deciding to apply for a placement: undertaking a placement requires significant time commitment. While on placement, organisations may ask students to complete additional tasks related to the research project. Students will need to manage their time effectively to ensure they can complete all tasks allocated to them.

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