Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module ENGL51060: Dissertation

Department: English Studies

ENGL51060: Dissertation

Type Open Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To allow a student to make an in-depth study of a particular topic, author, or genre at a complex level, and permitting a student to write at substantial length.
  • To encourage the development of sophisticated argument, the marshalling of evidence, the reading of the relevant criticism and contextual material, and the appropriate high level of bibliographical and presentational skills.
  • To provide a foundation for training in higher research at, e.g., doctoral level.


  • The dissertation permits a student to present the result of individual and individually supervised work.
  • It allows the development of a specific research interest to a high level, and trains skills of evidence, argument, writing, and presentation.
  • In preparation for the MA dissertation, each student is entitled to four 45-minute individual consultations with a nominated supervisor. Each student is entitled to individual feedback from his or her supervisor on one complete draft version of the dissertation.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • expertise in, and in-depth knowledge of, an area of literature in English or literary theory from the medieval to the modern period that may be related to a chosen pathway
  • sophisticated appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation
  • knowledge of a linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-historical context in which literature is written
  • detailed knowledge of useful and precise critical terminology
  • conversance with the range and variety of approaches to literary study
  • advanced knowledge of a chosen field of independent research
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • informed and sophisticated awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts
  • sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • skill in articulating and substantiating at a high level an imaginative response to literature
  • the ability to articulate advanced knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary studies
  • advanced skills of effective communication and argument
  • expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation, and bibliographic skills including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of scholarly conventions of presentation
  • command of a broad and specialised range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
Key Skills:
  • advanced capacity to analyse critically
  • advanced ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • high degree of competence in the planning and execution of written work
  • capacity to initiate and frame an appropriate topic for independent study
  • capacity for independent thought and judgement, and acute ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning
  • advanced ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • professional organisation and time-management skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students choose their own dissertation titles, subject to the approval of the Board of Examiners, and must submit a brief synopsis of their proposed topic (c. 250 words) to the Board.
  • Individual supervision sessions provide students with carefully guided advice on shaping arguments and developing bibliographic skills without jeopardising the student's capacity for independent learning.
  • The dissertation tests the student's ability to argue, respond and interpret, whilst demonstrating subject-specific knowledge and skills such as appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation and the close reading and analysis of texts. Dissertation supervision encourages students to work at an advanced and sophisticated level on an independently conceived piece of work (12,000 words), with appropriate support and advice about the shape of an argument, organisation of material, quality of execution (drafts are read), the importance of assessing the critical ideas of others, and need for bibliographical accuracy and observing scholarly conventions

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Individual consultations 4 Easter and Summer vacations 45 minutes 3
Preparation and Reading 597
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation 12,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University