MG479 Information systems for the public sector

For this course we expect essays on a topic relevant to the syllabus of MG479 and based on theories and perspectives that are discussed in the course lectures/seminars and classes. It is limited to 5000 words (abstracts, appendices, bibliographies/reference lists are not included in the word count. Footnotes that include substantive text are included in the word limit.) but can in addition include well-judged appendices to contain subsidiary materials or relevant data. A full bibliography is required, and referencing should be done in Harvard style (see departmental guidelines and procedures for essays and reports).

This essay is an individual assignment which is intended to allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the current state of the art.  Whilst you may choose to discuss your work with other people to ensure that you have understood it properly you may not collaborate with other people when it comes to preparing the detail of the assignment and drafting your essay.  You may not share, with any other student, any graphics, text or data files that form part of your assignment.

You are advised to pay particular attention to the way you reference other people’s ideas in your essay.  You should follow the Department’s guidelines for referencing, which should be read in conjunction with the School’s information on this matter.  In case of ambiguity, please contact the MISDI course tutor for clarification.

The essay must have an abstract of around 150 words, be properly referenced and include a full bibliography. The abstract does not account for the final word count. The essay must be word processed and securely bound and any graphics, images etc. should be prepared using suitable drawing packages.  Part of the assessment will be based on the presentation of the report.

Essay Focus

We expect essays to be based on current e-government debates, projects, and initiatives, drawing mostly from academic literature and based on secondary sources. You may choose to study a specific national or international e-government project or initiative. Alternatively, you might discuss social, political, or technical issues relating to e-government policies. 

As help defining your research focus, you should try to address one of the following broad questions:

  1. What are the main impacts of the e-government policy on the values delivered by the government to the citizens? What are the main values affected by the specific e-government policy you discuss?
  2. What are the organizational impacts of the e-government policy? What are the broader consequences of the changes brought about by ICT in the organization of public sector organizations?
  3. How can public sector organizations plan ahead for the future paths of ICT changes? What scenarios for future ICT use currently make sense given the state of IS in the public sector?


  1. What is the impact of open source /open data / open government in setting the path of transformation in the public sector? How do these innovations impact public sector reforms? 

To help you in starting out with the assignment we are asking for a 1000 words outline (the formative essay) of your proposed topic, the research question, the kind of argument you expect to be able to make, and indication of relevant literature. 

Essay Structure

There is no hard and fast structure for your essay, but what follows is intended as a guide to good practice and may help you to organize your essay.

Introduction and Context

As you think about your choice of essay topic you need to work to understand what question you will be addressing (your research question) and what kind of answers you might offer that will be of interest to a reader (your contribution). Remember that any particular IT initiative in the public sector will almost certainly allow alternative questions and issues to be addressed. You must also ask yourself what perspective you will be taking (what theory or framework of analysis you will be using), as well as what empirical data you may use.

You need to be specific about what you will write about – not e-government in Italy (far too broad), but a specific case (the e-procurement initiative in the region of …) and contextualise the case within the question you have decided to address. You might want to consider a country (or region), and a particular (type of) organisation in the public sector, and then a particular application or project etc. to address the question you will answer.

The overall answers to these questions can form the basis for the Introduction to your essay, setting out the topic and signposting the approach that will be taken.


Literature review

You need to contextualise the problem within the specific literature of IT in the public sector and probably some other fields (organisation theory, information systems, public administration etc.). In general, we would expect about ~1000 words of literature review containing a preponderance of academic material.

Discussion and argument

A main section of your essay will structure and present your argument to answer the question you have chosen to address. It will draw from the literature review and, ideally, it will be informed by a theory or conceptual framework. If possible, this section is supported by (secondary) empirical data.


In this final section you need to explain ‘what this all means’, or what lessons you draw from the topic you researched. You might also want to explore the contrast of what you expected to emerge from the research and what you actually found – the strengths and weaknesses of the combination of theory, context, and research issue. Remember that conclusions are important and will often make the difference between an OK and a good essay- take the time to make them substantial and distinctive.



Students must keep a backup copy of the assignment (either on disk or on paper) should it be required by the examiners. There have been occasions in the past where the submitted copies of essays were lost and those students who did not have a suitable backup had significant problems. 

No extensions will be given for this work unless a compelling case is made in writing and after consideration by the course tutor, and the examinations board chair. The penalties for late submission are severe.

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