The dissertation is an independent piece of academic work. The dissertation must be recognisably 'joint', reflecting each of the two disciplines in the case of bipartite degree students, and at least two of the PEP disciplines in the case of PPE students. Dissertations may have either a theoretical or an empirical focus. Generally, whatever the topic, the dissertation should be distinct from a long essay in the sense that it must reflect your ideas or research rather than simply drawing on that of others. It is a self-standing piece of work.
Students will work on their dissertation during Terms 7-9. The dissertation is supported by a dissertation supervisor. Supervision takes the form of at least 3 half-hour tutorials, which students have to arrange with their dissertation supervisor according to their own needs. In one of these tutorials a draft of your dissertation should be discussed.
In addition, the dissertation is supported by student-led dissertation workshops during the year.
The Dissertation option is NOT an automatic choice. During term 6, Year Two Summer Term, prospective dissertation students submit a formal dissertation proposal to the School.
You will be notified when and how to submit this. This proposal must include the following:
Only clearly defined dissertations that meet academic requirements and the requirement of being interdisciplinary will be approved by the PEP Board at its meeting that takes place in Week 7 of Term 6. If the Board does not endorse the proposal, students need to replace the dissertation module with a 20 credit taught module. If the Board endorses the proposal, students will be allocated a dissertation supervisor at the start of the following Autumn Term.
The dissertation must be between 4,000 and 5,000 words. It must be submitted to the PEP Office on Thursday, Week 6 of Term 9.
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At the end of the module, students should:
Thus a good PEP dissertation will comprise interdisciplinarity, independence, insight and intelligibility:
What this means specifically can vary widely from one dissertation to another. But in general terms it means that the dissertation recognisably reflects at least two of the three PEP disciplines, in its subject matter and/or its analytical methods and concepts, drawing on an academic background broader than that of the typical single-subject student.
Your dissertation supervisor will give guidance, especially at the outset, in framing suitable research questions and identifying useful sources. But this is an independent study, so you are expected to take the initiative in developing, refining and addressing those questions, identifying and obtaining further relevant sources, gaining an understanding of key literature, collecting and analysing data where appropriate, etc.
You are expected to show critical insight in the research, going beyond simply assembling a survey of relevant literature. This does not require you to make an original contribution. Neither does it mean gratuitously taking a view and defending it. Instead, it means expressing your thoughts, and your grasp of the issues, drawing your own connections and conclusions, through your own reflective analysis. What in your view are the important questions, and how close can we come to answering them? And where they can’t be clearly answered, why not?
Your research should be presented as clearly and straightforwardly as possible. This requires careful planning of the structure of the dissertation, making sure that the reader can see each relevant step of the analysis, in an appropriate sequence. And it requires clarity and precision of expression.
It is envisaged that you will work on your Dissertation during Terms 7-9. You are entitled to at least 3 half-hour tutorials which you should arrange with your dissertation supervisor according to your own needs. In one of these tutorials a draft of your dissertation should be discussed.
You have until Friday Week 3 Summer Term to submit any drafts to your supervisor for feedback. Work submitted after this deadline will not be read.
Dissertation supervisors will read up to 5,000 words during the course of the module. They will provide written feedback on the draft, but they will not provide any kind of mark for the draft.
There will be a short programme of student-led and staff supported workshops through Year 3.
If you are planning to carry out primary research using human participants (e.g. interviews, surveys, focus groups etc) you will need to complete an Ethics Form and submit it to the appropriate departmental ethics committee/coordinator.
Students who require ethical approval for their dissertation project will follow the procedures used by their dissertation supervisor’s home department (e.g. if your dissertation supervisor is a member her of the Politics Department then you follow the Department of Politics procedures; if s/he is a member of the Economics Department then you follow the Department of Economics procedures; if s/he is a member of the Department of Philosophy then you follow the Department of Philosophy procedures). Students using data collected elsewhere may also need to consider whether the data they are proposing to use were collected in a way that does not contradict the University Ethics Code.
If you do need to obtain ethics approval then it is vital that students MUST NOT commence the primary research until they have received final approval from the Ethics Committee.
In cases where interviews, focus groups, and other forms of direct interaction with human participants are undertaken, students must obtain signed copies of informed consent forms from their subjects, as well as provide them with an ‘Information Sheet’ about the nature of your research project.Examples of each of these are to be found below.
Full details of the procedure to be followed, please check the Ethics information and links on the Dissertation VLE site.
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