Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module ARCH40360: Dissertation (MSc Archaeological Science)

Department: Archaeology

ARCH40360: Dissertation (MSc Archaeological Science)

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap None.
Tied to F4KA09


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To enable students to:
  • develop and demonstrate a range of skills learnt as part of the MSc in Archaeological Science
  • investigate in depth the approved topic using an appropriate range of library-based, practical, laboratory and/or field techniques
  • produce a research design for an independent piece of work, performing the proposed work, analysing and presenting the evidence and providing clear arguments leading to clearly-expressed conclusions.


  • The dissertation enables students to develop and execute an extended piece of research on a specialised topic in archaeological science. It is chosen in consultation with a specialist supervisor, who will be an expert in one of the four main areas of expertise in bioarchaeological research in the Department including a) biomolecular archaeology, b) zooarchaeology, c) archaeobotany and d) geoarchaeology. The topic will be approved by the Director of the MSc. Detailed guidelines on format and procedures are provided in the overall MSc handbook.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • All students gaining the award will possess a thorough and critical understanding of:
  • a range of approaches, techniques, key terms, concepts, themes and debates relating to the study of archaeological science;
  • a specialised area in archaeological science, including theory, method and application of specific scientific techniques;
  • data analysis in the appropriate sub-discipline of archaeological science in which they have conducted their research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • All students gaining the award will be able to:
  • collect, examine, record, analyse, interpret critcally, draw justifiable conclusions from, synthesise, present and acknowledge archaeology-related research information (including both quantitative and qualitative information from publications, collections, databases, subject specialists and tutors);
  • select and apply appropriate methods carefully and accurately, in line with the aims and objectives of an archaeological science research plan.
Key Skills:
  • All students gaining the award will possess direct experience in and a competent ability to:
  • use computer and information technology (e.g. word processing, databases, graphing and image processing);
  • access library, museum, archive and World Wide Web resources;
  • undertake advanced independent study, research and problem solving;
  • communicate information and arguments effectively, in written, visual and computerised form, to specialist audiences;
  • take responsibility for personal, professional and ethical development within the archaeological contract and cultural heritage sector or within academia, responding actively to critical feedback;
  • manage time effectively, working to timetables and meeting deadlines;
  • and contribute to the advancement of knowledge and understanding in a research field.

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

  • The double-module dissertation is assessed on the content and presentation of the dissertation with specific reference to its originality, its independence of thought, clarity of arguments, and its mapping to acceptable standards of presentation appropriate to Level 4, as defined by the Board of Examiners of the Department of Archaeology.
  • Teaching support is provided in the form of advice provided through individual tutorials and laboratory supervision (if appropriate), with a member (or members) of staff assigned as dissertation supervisor(s). Tutorials are intended to:
  • help define the project and clarify objectives;
  • discuss introductory reading;
  • discuss progress;
  • comment on chapter plan;
  • comment on a particular chapter or section;
  • advise on technical questions or presentation.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 10 Minimum 1 10
Oral presentation 1 2 2
Laboratory research, preparation and reading 588
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Double Module Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Double Module Dissertation 15000 100%

Formative Assessment:

Research design of 1,500 words following oral presentation and a single chapter of up to 2,000 words.

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