Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Liberal Arts


Type Open Level 3 Credits 40 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham
Tied to LA01
Tied to LA02
Tied to LA03


  • At least 20 credits at Level 2 in each of the two subjects combined in the dissertation. Both subjects must be taught by departments in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Students must also secure the approval of the Deputy Director of Liberal Arts, who serves as the convenor of the module, on the basis of an application normally submitted by the end of Epiphany term of the preceding academic year proposing a specific research question and explaining why it is sufficiently interdisciplinary to warrant co-supervision by two members of academic staff, each from a different department.


  • At least 20 credits in each of the two subjects combined in the dissertation.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • Any other dissertation module.


  • To allow students in Liberal Arts to pursue an original, individual interdisciplinary research project in their final year of study, bringing together theories, concepts, and material from two subjects in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities that they have studied and are continuing to study as part of their degree programme in Liberal Arts.


  • Interdisciplinary dissertation addressing a research question chosen by the student, in consultation with the Deputy Director of Liberal Arts, as well as two co-supervisors, each from a different department, bringing together theories, concepts, material and methods from two subjects within the Faculty of the Arts and Humanities.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • a clear grasp of the conceptual frameworks and practices of interpretation necessary to address a chosen research question.
  • informed awareness of debates about method relevant to the chosen area of research, including especially the relation between the two subjects brought together in the dissertation.
  • detailed knowledge of primary and secondary sources related to the chosen topic, including specialist literature in both of the subjects brought together in the dissertation.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • an ability to formulate an original and compelling interdisciplinary research question relating to a chosen topic.
  • an ability to combine skills, methods, and knowledge from two different disciplines within the arts and humanities.
  • critical skills in analysis and interpretation of cultural artifacts and historical evidence, drawing on methods and materials from two distinct disciplines within the humanities.
  • research skills in identifying and securing access to relevant sources.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity for independent research in secondary sources.
  • independent thought and judgement, evaluating arguments proposed in secondary sources and formulating original arguments in response.
  • competence in the planning and execution of a substantial individual research project.
  • competence in time-management.
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access.

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

  • Plenary workshops: students interested in applying to register for the interdisciplinary dissertation in Liberal Arts will be invited to attend a plenary workshop on the module early in Epiphany term of the preceding academic year, where they will receive guidance on how to formulate an original, compelling, and appropriate interdisciplinary research question and how to select relevant primary and secondary sources, as well as detailed instructions on how to apply. Students who receive approval to register for the module will be encouraged to begin substantial preparatory reading over the summer before they begin their final year, following an initial consultation with their supervisors towards the end of Easter term. A second plenary workshop in early Michaelmas will address research methods, presentation, structuring an argument, referencing, presentation, and time management, as well as allow students to pose questions for discussion.
  • Joint supervisions (30 minutes): students will meet with both of their co-supervisors together twice for one half-hour each. The first such meeting will occur at the beginning of Michaelmas and the second at the end of Michaelmas, after both supervisors have reviewed the student’s formative outline.
  • Individual supervisions (30 minutes): students will meet with each of their supervisors separately for two supervisions of one half-hour each, once in Easter term of the preceding academic year, or, if necessary, over the summer, and once in Michaelmas.
  • Formative outline: students will submit a summary of their proposed dissertation (1500-2000 words), a list of 3-4 proposed chapters with working titles and abstracts (250-500 words), and a draft bibliography by no later than the end of the sixth week of Michaelmas, which will be returned to the student with feedback from both supervisors .
  • Formative writing sample: students will submit an excerpt of their dissertation of no more than 3000 words (including footnotes, excluding bibliography) early in the Epiphany term, which will be returned to the student with feedback from both supervisors .
  • Feedback tutorial on formative writing sample (15 minutes): students will receive granular feedback from each of their supervisors individually on the prose style, argumentation, and references to primary and secondary sources in their formative writing sample.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Plenary workshops 2 1 in Epiphany of the preceding academic year 1 in early Michaelmas 1 hour 2
Joint supervisions 3 2 in Michaelmas, and 1 in Epiphany 1 hour 3
Individual supervisions 8 4 per co-supervisor (1 in Easter of the preceding academic year, and 1 in Michaelmas, and 2 in Epiphany) 30 minutes 4
Preparation and Reading 391
Total 400

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Interdisciplinary dissertation 12,000 words, including footnotes but excluding bibliography 100%

Formative Assessment:


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