Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module CHNS3031: Dissertation in Chinese Studies (20 Credits)

Department: Modern Language and Cultures (Chinese)

CHNS3031: Dissertation in Chinese Studies (20 Credits)

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Chinese Language 2B (MELA2012) + Year Abroad


  • Chinese Language 4B (MELA3012)

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to develop data collection, analysis and presentation skills, to develop critical faculties in relation to existing literature on the topic area, to understand the importance of using appropriate methodology in approaching a research project, and to conduct self-directed learning.


  • The dissertation involves researching and writing an extended piece of work in English on an aspect of China for which MLaC can offer research supervision. It is a requirement that the dissertation is based, in part, on the use of Chinese language sources. Its precise contents are to be determined by negotiation with the supervisor, subject to approval by LTC.
  • Preparation for the dissertation will begin at the end of the second year, when students should approach the head of the Chinese section, who will then direct them to the appropriate supervisor. Supervisors will suggest possible subjects, and a preliminary bibliography, so that students can pursue a guided course of reading during their year abroad.
  • In the light of this reading, and discussion with their supervisor when students return to Durham in their final year, their subject will be defined and the dissertation title approved by the Board of Studies early in the Michaelmas term. Students will work independently, with some further advice from their supervisor, and will submit their dissertation by the last day of Epiphany term.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Specialist knowledge of China demonstrated through the writing of a dissertation on some aspect of Chinese culture or society
  • Familiarity with both primary and secondary sources of the specialist subject, and with the wider debates surrounding the topic that forms the main subject of the dissertation.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to describe, explain and evaluate significant elements in the history, literature, culture, and sociology of China, and the ability to make effective intercultural connections and comparisons.
  • The ability to use discipline-specific methodology to carry out independent research on a field relating to China, based on the use of appropriate primary and secondary sources in Chinese, and to present the research appropriately in written and spoken form.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ the sophisticated reading skills acquired to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, aural, other audio-visual)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The self-discipline and self-direction necessary to pursue independent research, working on ones own initiative for an extended period of time on complex subjects
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology

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

  • The topic of the dissertation will be chosen in conjunction with the student’s supervisor, and the student will follow an agreed programme of reading. Students will be given two seminars on research skills, and will have an additional six individual supervisions over the course of the academic year, written records of which will be kept.
  • By the end of the second week of the Michaelmas term, students must submit to their supervisor a title, together with a programme of study for the dissertation. By the end of Teaching week 6, students should submit 300-word outline plan in English of the dissertation to their supervisor.
  • By the first Friday of Epiphany term, they should submit a 1000-word extract in English to their supervisor. The supervisor will comment in writing on both plan and extract, and these will be discussed in tutorials and further advice will be given.
  • Assessment of the dissertation will evaluate students’ ability to assimilate, understand and analyse critically the primary and secondary material associated with their dissertation topic, including material in Chinese, also their ability to present a sustained argument with suitable evidence, and to express themselves fluently and accurately in English, paying due attention to the relevant conventions of academic writing. Students will also be expected to produce a full and appropriate bibliography.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminar 2 In Michaelmas Term 1 hour 2
Tutorial Split between Michaelmas & Epiphany Terms 6
Student preparation and reading time 192
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 90%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation 8000 words 100%
Component: Presentation Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Oral Presentation 15 minutes (10 + 5) 100%

Formative Assessment:

300 word summary in English to be submitted by the end of Michaelmas term: 1000-word extract in English to be submitted during Epiphany term.

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