Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module SGIA49860: Dissertation

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA49860: Dissertation

Type Open Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to provide an opportunity for MA students to engage in a substantial piece of scholarship into an appropriate area of their choice and under suitable supervisory guidance. The dissertation is the culmination of the MA programme.


  • Students will produce a dissertation of no more than 10,000 words. The content of the dissertation is dependent upon the field chosen by the student in consultation with their supervisor.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Through the dissertation students gain:
  • • Advanced and in-depth knowledge of an appropriate field of study of their choice.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Through the dissertation process students should develop the use of highly specialised and advanced technical, professional and scholastic skills including the ability to:
  • • analyse critically advanced academic literature in their chosen field and make appropriate use of selected primary texts;
  • • appropriately structure their work to sustain and advance analytical arguments effectively, commenting upon key points of academic dispute and controversy;
  • • critically review specialised knowledge of the subject with appropriate recognition of relevant contextual influences on this knowledge;
  • • identify and utlise appropriately relevant sources of information and data;
  • • utilise the relevant research methods and demonstrate their ability to conduct their research accordingly.
Key Skills:
  • Through the dissertation, student should enhance key skills, including:
  • • Self-reliance in conducting research;
  • • A self-critical approach to research and the effective utilisation of resources;
  • • Organisational skills in managing time in order to produce a substantial piece of work on time and to length with limited supervisory guidance;
  • • Skills of effective and appropriate presentation of academic work.

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

  • The dissertation stands as the opportunity for students to undertake a largely independent piece of research and as such 'teaching', in the sense of imparting knowledge, is minimal. Instead, supervisors serve as a source of advice and guidance on issues such as: developing an appropriate overall structure for the dissertation; advising on possible sources of literature and other data; offering critical feedback on a limited amount of draft material; and providing support and advice on overcoming problems, in accordance with the learning outcomes. Learning is therefore principally self-directed, with students taking the lead in devising the research project, identifying appropriate resources, developing their ideas and planning how best to conduct and present their work. This serves the learning outcomes through encouraging students to work effectively, in a self-reliant and self-critical manner to develop their knowledge and understanding and hone their analytical and other relevant subject skills.
  • One lecture will in Michaelmas will provide students with an overview of what is expected in a dissertation. The lecture will cover such topics as, for example, what is a research question, how to formulate a research question, what purpose does a literature review serve, and how to structure a dissertation.
  • To further guide students in the formulation of their dissertation one seminar of two hours will be run in Epiphany term. These seminars will be more closely aligned with the relevant methodological direction of the dissertation and will address, for example, research design, methodologies and/or methods used in the dissertations, selecting and applying the right methods, the role and application of theory, dissertation structure.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 1 Michaelmas term 1 hour 1
Seminar 1 Epiphany term 2 hours 2
Other Typically 6 x one hour supervisory meetings, but maybe more if appropriate Between Novermber and September Variable 6
Preparation and Reading 591
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Word Dissertation 10,000 100%

Formative Assessment:

None formally required, although students are encouraged to submit and discuss a draft plan of the dissertation and may submit 1 draft chapter/section of approximately 2500 words upon which comments will be offered by the supervisor.

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