Postgraduate study


Guidance on dissertation supervision, formatting and submission for MSc students within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

The Dissertation Component

Masters taught degree programmes include submission of a dissertation which may be the written output of a practical or investigational project. Students should make full use of the experience and guidance of staff members, and plan their progress through the dissertation with the help of staff, especially the supervisor.

The dissertation is distinguishable from assessed course work by the greater depth of investigation, analysis, comprehension and critique demonstrated. Masters students are not expected to research their work as exhaustively as is typical of a higher research degree. Students, supervisors and examiners should be aware that the masters dissertation is primarily a teaching, learning and examining medium, not a medium for the presentation of research outcomes to public and peers. The dissertation may vary in the breadth of coverage, but it must have a clear focus with definable objectives and boundaries, achievable in the time and word limit available. The Comparative Literature dissertation must have a fundamentally comparative topic, bringing together texts from two distinct cultures (though these may both be studied in translation). The comparison may be intermedial in nature (e.g. text/film). The relative importance of theoretical and investigational content also varies. Some programmes require students to conduct primary empirical work; others do not. Investigational work should add something to the study which is not available in the literature, and be manageable given the time and resources available.

If you have questions or concerns about the dissertation process, about the allocation of supervision, or about the level of support you are receiving during the writing of your supervision you should contact your Programme Director.


Dissertation Supervision

Supervisors are normally selected on the basis that they have expertise in the field or topic chosen for the dissertation, and are available and willing to support the student during the period of study. Specific expertise may not always be available for all dissertation topics; but general expertise in the broad area of the dissertation is usually adequate for a Masters dissertation. Students and supervisors are expected to agree a timetable in writing; this will specify at what points student and supervisor will be in contact.  There should be a minimum of 3 supervision meetings held during the dissertation period.

A short written proposal or concept note should be prepared, indicating the aims and justification of the dissertation, specific research questions, literature and investigative work to be covered and a provisional outline of chapter titles and sub-headings. There should also be a written plan or timetable indicating how the work is going to be undertaken and identifying critical points when the supervisor and student should meet or otherwise be in contact with each other.

Students have responsibilities to meet their supervisors regularly and to hand in material at agreed times. Students experiencing difficulties in meeting with supervisors, or other staff members, should contact the Programme Director without delay.

Supervisors have responsibilities to respond promptly and appropriately, by making constructive suggestions both at the planning stage and in response to the material submitted. The responsibility for the academic quality of the dissertation is ultimately the student's alone.

Students should be made aware that approval by a supervisor, and the following of the advice and guidance of the supervisor carries no guarantee of success at examination. Any such approving or guiding comments cannot constitute grounds for subsequent appeal.

Students should be aware of the particular importance of acknowledging the work of others and of avoiding plagiarism.

Students should always get in touch with their dissertation supervisor and/or Programme Director as soon as any problems emerge.

Supervisors may not review the full, final draft of the dissertation. Students should speak to their Department or Supervisor for details on what percentage of the final dissertation the supervisor will be able to review and on which they will be able to provide feedback before submission.


Dissertation Submission

Printed copies of the dissertation are not required. Students must submit their dissertation electronically ONLY via Learn no later than 4pm on Thursday 11th August 2022, unless you have received confirmation of an alternative deadline from your programme director. You should check the Learn site and the relevant page in your programme handbook to confirm your deadline and any guidance specific to your programme. You should submit the dissertation to the relevant drop box in Learn. Please ensure that you include your examination number in the name of the document that you upload to Learn. You will need to complete a Declaration of Own Work on Learn before you will be able to access the dissertation drop box, so be sure to allow time for this before the deadline.

Every effort should be made to adhere to deadlines. In the event of late submission, the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures upholds the University's standard penalty for late submission of coursework.

If exceptional circumstances prevent you meeting the deadline, you should apply before your deadline online for an extension of up to 7 days.



Dissertation Abstract

Most programmes also require you to provide an Abstract; if one is required, you will see a separate drop box for submission. The Abstract should be submitted at the same time as the dissertation on Learn. This document will be approximately half a page (ca. 250 words). It is not included in the word count for the overall dissertation. The Abstract it will not be marked, and is only required for reference.


Word Count

The Dissertation will be 15,000 words for most programmes; however, some programmes  have variations in word counts so you must follow the directions of your Programme Director/Supervisor if you have been given a dissertation length other than 15,000 words. The word count for dissertations does not include the bibliography, cover sheet, abstract (if required) or appendices; the word count includes: in-text references, tables of contents, quotations, footnotes, list of figures, captions and all other elements of your submitted dissertation.

Word Count


Dissertation Formatting

Because the dissertations are marked anonymously, it is essential that you ensure that your name does not appear anywhere in the dissertation.

  1. You must not include any acknowledgements as these might compromise the anonymity of the marking process.
  2. For your document setttings, use A4 paper size with standard margins and a 12-point font, preferably Times or Garamond; double space and page number the entire document.  It is essential that line spacing is at least 1.5, except for poems, which should be single spaced.  
  3. You should include a cover sheet (provided on Learn).
  4. In-text quotes less than 40 words have to appear in inverted commas followed by their reference. Any quote more than 40 words should be presented as indented quotes, without inverted commas, in font 11, followed by the reference.
  5. If you rephrased a scholar’s concept, you still need to give the reference in brackets in-text.
  6. If translations are used: In order to ease cross-referencing within your dissertation, please number the lines on your ST and TT if you chose to do translation and commentary.
  7. Spell-check and grammar-check the dissertation. If this is not sufficient to produce readable and accurate English, have your dissertation proofread. If you have chosen to write a translation and commentary, only the commentary can be proofread.
  8. Unless you are given specific instruction otherwise, you are welcome to use British or American spelling as long as the chosen spelling is applied systematically and consistently throughout your work.
  9. A programme may have a required referencing style; please consult your supervisor or personal tutor to see if a particular referencing style is required. Otherwise, the generally recommended referencing system is Harvard; however, you are allowed and are free to use another system (such as MLA) as long as it is applied systematically and consistently throughout your Dissertation.