Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module CHNS3031: Dissertation in Chinese Studies (20 Credits)

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Chinese)

CHNS3031: Dissertation in Chinese Studies (20 Credits)

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Chinese Language 2A (CHNS2041) or Chinese Language 2B (CHNS2012) or equivalent


  • Chinese Language 4B (CHNS3062)

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • CHNS3042 Extended Dissertation


  • 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.
  • The process of dissertation allocation begins in the third week of June when students submit two 100-word proposals outlining topics on which they would like to work, having consulted the list of supervisors available for the next academic year.
  • The precise topic is to be determined by negotiation with the supervisor, and is subject to the approval of the Dissertation Coordinator and MLAC Undergraduate Education Committee
  • Students will submit their dissertation in the first week of the third 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 one's 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

  • Preparation for the Dissertation begins with Ongoing Induction lectures in years 1 and 2, covering research skills and critical methodology. There are four further lectures on Dissertation skills in the final year.
  • Students are entitled to a total of 3 hours of supervision time. This may include one or more group seminars, but will include a total of at least 2 hours of one-to-one supervision meetings. The length of each meeting may vary between 20 and 40 minutes, according to the needs of each student at different phases of the project. Students will see their supervisor at least twice in each of the first two terms.
  • After each supervision, it is the responsibility of the student to use the Dissertation Supervision Monitoring form to write a brief summary of the key points discussed and submit it electronically to the supervisor for possible further comment.
  • In the second half of Michaelmas term (week 6 or 7, deadline to be agreed between student and supervisor), students must submit to their supervisor a plan comprising: 1) the proposed title of the dissertation; 2) a draft abstract; 3) an outline of the proposed structure of the dissertation; 4) an annotated preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary sources. The total length should not exceed 3 A4 pages. Students whose projects may require vetting by the MLAC Ethics Committee (for example, if they plan to use surveys, interviews or potentially confidential data) are required to flag this up in the same submission, referring to the guidelines set out in the Dissertation Handbook.
  • Students are required to submit to their supervisor one or two extracts from their dissertation, totalling approximately 1500 words. The precise arrangements (number of submissions, length of each, time of submission) are to be agreed between the supervisor and the student, but the last instalment must be submitted in time for feedback to be given before the end of Epiphany term.
  • The supervisor will comment in writing on both the plan and the extracts within two weeks of submission. Submissions will also be discussed in supervision meetings.
  • Assessment of the dissertation will evaluate students’ ability to assimilate, understand, and analyse critically the primary and secondary material associated with their dissertation topic, 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 proper bibliography.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Individual Tutorials/Group Seminar* Inc. at least 2 hours of individual tutorials Variable Variable 3
Dissertation Skills Lectures* 4 4 in Michaelmas Term Variable 4
Student preparation and reading time 193
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation 8000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

* Attendance at all teaching 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. Plan to be submitted to the supervisor by a date in weeks 6-7 of Michaelmas term to be agreed in writing with the supervisor. A total of 1500 words of material extracted from the dissertation is to be submitted for formative assessment at times to be agreed with the supervisor. One single submission, comprising: i) An abstract; ii) An outline of the structure of the dissertation; iii) An annotated bibliography giving details of both corpus and methodological framework; iv) A paragraph outlining any potential ethical issues to be encountered in the research process, discussed in reference to guidelines given on the main dissertation webpage. The length of this submission should not exceed 3 pages of A4 print in standard marginal pagination and size 12 font. The deadline is not fixed, but should fall in the second half of Michaelmas term, by arrangement with individual supervisors.

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