English Literature

Teaching and assessment

This programme consists of taught elements and a dissertation.


The MSc consists of three parts:

  • taught courses that take place in the university’s two teaching semesters from September to March
  • the dissertation which students research and write between March and August (although preparation for the dissertation is in train throughout semester 2).
  • a research methods course which students take during the teaching semesters. This course will equip them with all the necessary skills to pursue postgraduate study, and help prepare them for the dissertation.


Assessment for the MSc Programme is based on two elements:

  • grades for the four 4,000-word essays (‘coursework’) written by students during the taught element of the course (i.e. two essays for the core course, and one for each of the two chosen options)
  • the dissertation

A pass is also required in each of the Research Methods courses.

The four coursework essay assessments are weighted at 25% each. Students must gain an overall coursework pass of 50% or above in order to proceed to the dissertation.

The MSc degree is awarded on the basis of the mark gained for the dissertation (but note the information given below on the award of Distinctions).


Students with coursework marks between 40% and 49% may at this stage be awarded the lesser degree of Postgraduate Diploma and will not then proceed with the dissertation.

Masters candidates failing to achieve an adequate standard in the dissertation (i.e. 50% or above) will also be awarded the Diploma (if marked at 40-49%).

The dissertation

The dissertation is a piece of independent research, no more than 15,000 words long (including footnotes, excluding bibliography), researched and written over the spring/summer.

During semester two, the postgraduate English Literature director allocates each student a dissertation supervisor: not necessarily an expert in the field of the dissertation (depending on the topic chosen), but an adviser to assist with planning, ideas and structure as your work progresses.

In the second semester, students will work with their dissertation supervisors towards a research scheme, in conjunction with a subject-specific course of lecture and seminars. At the end of the fifth week of semester two, students submit an outline of the dissertation they propose to write, a proposed scheme of work, and an annotated bibliography (approx. 4000 words).

This will be assessed by your dissertation supervisor on a pass/fail basis for the Research Themes and Methods component of the programme.