Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module MLAC3012: Extended Dissertation in Modern Languages and Cultures

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MLAC3012: Extended Dissertation in Modern Languages and Cultures

Type Open Level 3 Credits 40 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • A Level 2 core language module in the subject of your Dissertation AND at least two relevant cultural (non-language) modules at levels 1 and 2. This therefore excludes supplementary language modules such as Persian (ARAB2041) and Catalan Beginners (SPAN2061). This is to ensure that your dissertation is adequately supported in terms of background knowledge and/or suitable critical and theoretical approaches.


  • The Level 3 core language module in the subject of your Dissertation.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • Any other dissertation module in any other academic department.


  • To provide students with the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of one aspect of their studies by researching and writing an extensive piece of work in English in an area in which the department can offer research supervision.
  • To cultivate independent, research-led learning.
  • To provide project-management experience of planning, documenting, and writing an extended piece of work in English (12,000 words).
  • To increase students’ facility in expressing themselves in English fluently, accurately, and at a suitable academic level, and in presenting and referencing their work according to the conventions of academic writing.
  • To provide invaluable practice for those students wishing to progress to postgraduate study.
  • The Dissertation in Modern Languages and Cultures seeks to enhance the employability of students by allowing them to demonstrate their ability as independent learners and researchers in the context of an extended research project that dovetails with the University’s principles for the development of the taught curriculum. Skills will be developed specifically through an extended enquiry-led activity that will provide students with the competences to succeed in the world of work and the ability to manage their own intellectual and professional development. By focusing specifically on questions of relevant research interest, students will develop as international citizens so that they can make a positive contribution to an increasingly globalized society.


  • Students will identify a subject for research and will receive guidance from academic staff in order to formulate a manageable research question for their dissertation. Supervisors will approve the final form of the dissertation research question on behalf of the Boards of Studies and Examiners, who will be informed of the dissertation topics being pursued.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, the student will have greatly enhanced knowledge of a specialised subject. S/he will be familiar with both primary and secondary sources, and with the wider debates surrounding the texts, films, or other artefacts that form the main subject of the dissertation.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The student will have further developed their ability to express complex ideas in a suitable register.
  • The student will also develop a number of skills specific to the topic of their dissertation, which may include, by way of illustration:
  • The ability to offer sustained close reading and analysis of particular texts, films, or other cultural artefacts, including the ability to recognise and appreciate the significance of particular literary/technical devices and structures;
  • The ability to situate texts and/or other artefacts in relation to the context and circumstances of their production, plus the ability to appreciate their enduring ability to inform cultural studies;
  • The ability to draw on critical theoretical discourse to situate their research within the broader debates and methodologies of the critical humanities.
Key Skills:
  • The student will have acquired skill and practice in researching a subject using primary and secondary sources, planning a coherent argument with the evidence to support it, presenting these arguments clearly and cogently in a sustained piece of writing, conforming to the norms of academic referencing.
  • The student will have developed long-term project-management skills, including the ability to oversee the execution of a project from conception to completion.

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 4.5 hours of supervision time. This may include one or more group seminars, but will include a total of at least 3 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 up to three extracts from their dissertation, totalling approximately 2500 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
Tutorials Inc.at least 3 hours of individual tutorials variable variable 4.5
Dissertation Skills Lectures 4 4 in Michaelmas Term 1 hour 4
Student preparation and reading time 391.5
Total SLAT hours (20 credits 200, 40 credits 400) 400

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation 12,000 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

1. Plan to be submitted to the supervisor by a date in week 6 or 7 of Michaelmas term to be agreed with the supervisor. This should be a single document (no more than 3 pages of A4) comprising: i) draft abstract; ii) outline of the proposed structure of the dissertation; iii) annotated preliminary bibliography; iv) a paragraph outlining any potential ethical issues to be encountered in the research process. 2. A total of 1500 words of draft material extracted from the dissertation, presented as one or two submissions at times agreed with 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