Working independently on the dissertation proposal: experiences of international Master’s students

Gayle Pringle Barnes*, Ming Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
142 Downloads (Pure)


This article explores the experiences of international students as they engage in independent learning through formulating dissertation proposals. It contributes new insights by focusing on the ‘pre-supervision’ stage, where students formulate a research project and write a proposal independently. The analysis draws on questionnaire and focus group data from a large cohort of international taught postgraduates in business disciplines at a UK university. Two types of experience become apparent: one in which students work through the challenges presented by more independent learning, and the other where difficulties in ‘getting started’ present a barrier to progress. The article concludes by proposing a scaffolding approach, through which students can practise and complete key independent learning tasks involved in writing a dissertation proposal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1132
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number8
Early online date11 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • dissertation proposals
  • Independent learning
  • international students
  • postgraduates
  • scaffolding


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