Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module MELA40112: Dissertation

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA40112: Dissertation

Type Open Level 4 Credits 120 Availability Not available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • None.


  • Theorising History , Historicising Theory: An Introduction to Photography Studies, Research Methods and Resources

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To allow students to explore in considerable detail an aspect of photographic theory, history, and/or practice
  • To enable students to undertake the sustained analysis and interpretation of photographic images
  • To enable students to conduct extensive individual research.
  • To support students in the production of a piece of well-presented scholarly writing that demonstrates familiarity with a substantial body of historical knowledge and theoretical/critical thought.


  • The content of the dissertation will be a research project on an aspect of photography, its history, or its theory. The subject area and eventual title will be agreed by the student and supervisor, subject to approval by the board of examiners for the programme.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should:
  • Be able to demonstrate in-depth familiarity with a specialised aspect of photography, its history or theory;
  • Be able to contextualise this knowledge within a broader history of photography theory, history, and criticism;
  • Be able to demonstrate knowledge of and critical engagement with the key literature in the field and with current research trends
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Conduct independent research on a photography-related subject;
  • Undertake sustained critical analysis of photographic images drawing on a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives
  • Formulate complex arguments in lucid and well-organised English, within the discursive conventions of academic writing within visual culture studies.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to demonstrate
  • A capacity for independent learning
  • Competence in sophisticated techniques of information retrieval using an array of print and digital resources
  • The ability to formulate coherent and persuasive arguments
  • The ability to present written work to professional editorial standards.

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

  • The dissertation will be taught exclusively through the medium of group and individual supervisions.
  • Regular supervision by a scholar actively engaged in research in visual culture will ensure that the plan of study is adhered to, whilst allowing scope for independent research.
  • Discussion of work with the supervisor and with other students will allow students to test and revise hypotheses as the research progresses.
  • Students will be required to submit draft chapters as the dissertation progresses, and oral feedback will be given on these.
  • Each supervision will conclude with agreed action points, to be carried out by the student in advance of the next supervision.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Supervisions 1 As required, up to a maximum of 8 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 592
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation Up to 30,000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Drafts of the dissertation, submitted at times agreed with the supervisor. Oral and written feedback will be provided.

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