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Unit information: Dissertation in 2018/19

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Unit name Dissertation
Unit code ENGL30112
Credit points 40
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Harris
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The aim of this unit is to support students to produce a high-quality research-based dissertation that represents their own work. The unit is designed to allow students to identify a topic or research question which interests them, and follow that interest through independently by studying extensively and over a sustained period an author (or group of authors), a theme, and/or a literary period, and to develop their skills in detailed, self-motivated independent research. Students undertake supervised research to produce a written project of up to 10,000 words on a particular aspect of their study in English Literature.

Students work with a supervisor to identify research questions or concerns, to determine appropriate research methods, formulate their argument and structure a dissertation. This offers students the opportunity to demonstrate their command of academic research and writing skills on a large-scale project, and to develop skills transferable for other working environments, as well as for postgraduate study in a variety of disciplinary and vocational areas.

Around weeks 8-9 of TB1 of their final year, students must submit a short writing sample (1000 words max.) and bibliography so that the supervisor can assess the student’s progress.

In addition to one-to-one meetings with a supervisor, they will attend at least two lectures in TB1 supporting them to begin to research a topic of their own choosing, and they will attend a series of five seminars across TB1 and TB2 where they will be able to discuss and present aspects of their research with peers and with academic staff.

The project may develop and analyse a chosen theme related to another unit. Where the chosen research project is related to a taught unit, the student must develop the area beyond coverage in the taught unit and must not duplicate work required for this or any other assessed unit in their programme of study at Bristol.

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
  • 2 Supervised Writing Retreats

Assessment Details

10,000-word summative dissertation, excluding bibliography. (100%) ILOs 1-8.

This must include a 300-word Abstract, which outlines the research questions, concerns and methodology, and summarises the dissertation.


Short writing sample (1000 words max.) and bibliography due during Teaching Block 1, weeks 8/9.

Reading and References

Reading and references will vary according to the topic chosen and the student will be responsible for assembling a bibliography including both primary and secondary sources. The student will be expected to show initiative in devising the bibliography and may, where appropriate, include non-conventional sources (visual, film, electronic).

All students will be directed towards reference works relevant to study skills and the writing of a dissertation:

Da Sousa Correa, Delia, and W.R. Owens, eds, The handbook to literary research, 2nd edn. London: Routledge/ Open University, 2010)

Fabb, Nigel, and Alan Durant, How to Write Essays and Dissertations: A Guide for English Literature Students 2nd edition (Longman, 2005)

Greetham, Bryan, How to write your undergraduate dissertation (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Harner, James L., Literary research guide: an annotated listing of reference sources in English literary studies, 5th edn. (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008)