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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Approaching the dissertation

The nature of the task

Whether this is your first or second experience of writing a dissertation, take some time to make sure you understand the nature of the exercise you are about to embark on and how it will be assessed. Many of the skills you have learned in writing supervision essays will be very helpful, but you will also need to develop some new ones, particularly in the areas of conducting primary research, structuring ideas, drafting, referencing and polishing.

What is a dissertation?

  • an extended piece of academic writing, often divided into chapters and following a clear structure in the presentation of ideas
  • a detailed investigation of a topic which presents evidence to support its points
  • work which advances a clear thesis (or argument) in respect of the material studied
  • a polished piece of scholarship, demonstrating careful research and conforming to high standards of presentation (style, layout, referencing)

To refresh your familiarity with the general principles of academic writing, check through the online course on ‘Literature essay writing’.


How dissertations are assessed

As part of your initial preparation, study the Faculty marking criteria for the Year Abroad Dissertation or the Optional Dissertation. They will give you a clear idea of what to aim for in your work.