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Unit information: Dissertation (English) in 2018/19

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Unit name Dissertation (English)
Unit code ENGL39024
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Harris
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


A dissertation is an essay of 6,000 words on a subject of a student's choice. In order to write a dissertation, the student needs to have an in principle agreement from a member of staff to act as supervisor. This needs to be arranged by the end of the period during which choices of Special Subject are made. (It would be wise to begin discussing the dissertation project with a potential supervisor before that period.) Students choosing to write a dissertation will receive three hours of individual consultation with their supervisor; supervision typically involves discussion of preparatory reading and research, scrutiny of a rough plan of the work, feedback on draft material and advice on writing up. Students are also free to consult other academic staff with relevant expertise. Their individual study will also be supported by occasion workshops and peer-mentoring.


This dissertation unit is designed to allow students to study extensively and over a sustained period an author (or group of authors), a theme and/or a literary period that interests them, and by building on interests and research and writing skills developed in preceding years of the degree, to produce a extended essay.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit a successful student will be able to:

  1. identify a viable area of independent study with a clear rationale and focus;
  2. develop methods and materials by which to broaden the student’s knowledge of the field and deepen understanding of research methods and of relevant disciplines;
  3. critically assess a body of material, including primary and secondary literature, texts, other sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and argument;
  4. demonstrate skills of analysis and synthesis appropriate to level H/6 and beyond the level achieved in taught final-year seminar-based options;
  5. demonstrate advanced skills in independent research, textual analysis, and time management;
  6. demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of one or more significant literary, cultural, historical, theoretical, critical, or linguistic contexts related to the text(s) and/or author(s) they are studying;
  7. respond to questions or problems by presenting independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an advanced level of complexity;
  8. demonstrate the ability to work largely independently to produce an extended piece of research, understand the process of independent learning and research, and appreciate their own capabilities in these areas.

Teaching details

  • One-to-one tuition with the designated dissertation supervisor (up to 3 hours)
  • Access to tutorial consultation with academic staff in consultation hours
  • Fortnightly lectures
  • Fortnightly workshops
  • 1 Supervised Writing Retreat

Assessment Details

One dissertation of 6,000 words.

The summative dissertation maps 100% onto ILOs 1-8.

Reading and References

Reading references will depend on the topic chosen and the student will be responsible for assembling a bibliography that includes both primary and secondary sources.

Delia Da Sousa Correa and W.R. Owens, eds, The Handbook to Literary Research, 2nd edn. London: Routledge/Open University, 2010).
Nigel Fabb and Alan Durant, How to Write Essays and Dissertations: A Guide for English Literature Students, 2nd edition (Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2005).