Published on January 14, 2008
Graduate Centre in the Humanities: Graduate Centre in the Humanities Writing the MA Dissertation Assessment requirements for the MA: Assessment requirements for the MA For most MA programes you are required to write a term paper (normally 5,000 words) for each course you take at the end of the course and a dissertation (normally 20,000 words) over the summer. These guidance notes are generic: more specific advice may be obtained from your programme convenor and/or course tutor, or your department may organise advice sessions. Dissertation word lengths may differ from the 20,000 word norm - this is the case for example for Philosophy and ELT & IELT MAs. Check in your Programme Handbook and/or with your Convenor. This presentation is directed at students submitting the dissertation this year. First-year part-time students are however encouraged to think about initial preparation of their dissertation and to complete the form emailed to them for this purpose. Assessment rules and procedures: Assessment rules and procedures Full details of the examining process, rules for submission etc are provided in the Assessment Handbook for Postgraduate Students, 2006/7. The handbook can be accessed online at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/academicoffice/1-3-2-2.html The Assessment Handbook is authoritative. Ignore conflicting information or advice supplied elsewhere. Further advice and information: Further advice and information Consult the general Humanities Graduate Centre Handbook, section 3. Access the Humanities Graduate Centre website, specifically the FAQ section linked to the Teaching page: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/gchums/1-3-19.html This presentation will be available on the Teaching page. Dissertation - definition: Dissertation - definition A connected researched essay or study written on a given subject It must have: a title; bibliography of sources consulted; properly organised notes (footnotes or endnotes) and references. It must be: written in English (unless permission is given to write in another language); word processed; double or 1.5 spaced on A4 paper (one side only); normally 20,000 words maximum. You may be penalised if your dissertation is overlong. References are included in the word count; bibliography and appendices are not. An appendix should not serve merely to increase the word length, and should only be supplied when its content is not properly part of the dissertation itself. For example: provision of a text or data germane to the dissertation but unpublished or not generally available is acceptable. Other examples are: interview data, statistical data obtained by primary research. Choosing a dissertation topic: Choosing a dissertation topic Focus – the first and most important concern is to find a focus for the dissertation, to ensure it has shape and definition. The dissertation may be the longest written exercise you have embarked on, but it’s not as long as you may think, and you need to consider carefully how to make best use of the word length. Approaches: Approaches There are various ways you may conceive of the dissertation. As a means to explore an idea – As an opportunity to probe an issue – As the articulation of an argument – As the solution of a problem – Or as a combination of some or all of these. Extent and scale: Extent and scale Think carefully about how much material your dissertation can encompass, both primary and secondary. Consider the time scale – how much time will you need to access and digest material? Discuss the range and type of material with your supervisor. A common tendency is to try to cover too much – consider how you may reduce the quantity of material you deal with. Purpose and originality: Purpose and originality Consider the purpose of your dissertation: what essentially are you trying to say? Your purpose should not be simply to review or summarise existing work on the topic, but to build on this and develop the topic further, extending knowledge and understanding. A degree of originality is called for – putting forward your own ideas, or finding a new perspective on already known material or treatments, or finding new evidence, or investigating neglected topics. If you are planning to continue with research, then consider how your dissertation may serve to prepare for doctoral work, without merely repeating material. Pace – organising your time: Pace – organising your time Plan a schedule of work, bearing in mind the time scale and word limit. See further for a suggested schedule. Consider how much time is needed to select and access sources and materials. Take time to deliberate about the topic, and to rethink it, especially in the early stages. Discuss initial plans and any early problems with your supervisor. Research: useful books: Research: useful books J. Barzin and H.F. Graff, The Modern Researcher W.C. Booth, G.C. Colomb & J.M. Williams, The Craft of Research S. Greenbaum and J. Whitcut, Longman Guide To English. 4th ed. R.L. Peters, Getting what you came for. The smart student's guide to earning a Masters or PhD Primary research: Sussex resources : Primary research: Sussex resources Sussex Library holds a number of Special Collections: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/library/speccoll/ The Mass-Observation Archive - British social and cultural history 1937-1950s and 1981 to the present day. The Manuscript Collections - 20th Century literary, political, and social history: Monks House Papers (Virginia and Leonard Woolf), Leonard Woolf Papers, Rudyard Kipling Papers, New Statesman Archive, Common Wealth Party Papers (World War 2), Matusow Papers (USA un-American activities), May '68 boxes Rare Books - several valuable collections, some books 500 years old, interesting bindings, print, and illustrations. Includes Baker books, Travers books, and the Paris Commune Collection. University of Sussex Collection - Sussex's own archives. Includes papers on the founding of Sussex, student newspapers from the 1960s and 1970s, landscape and architectural history, and some oral history. Sussex resources: Sussex resources Physical access to the Special Collections is by appointment only so that Library staff have time to prepare for the visit. see the library web site – http://www.sussex.ac.uk/library/speccoll/ - or contact Dorothy Sheridan, Head of Special Collections and Mass-Observation Archivist: [email protected] (01273) 678157 Details of the Special Collections (descriptions, catalogues etc) can be accessed electronically via the website. For details of the University's art collections contact Simon Lane (the History of Art Image Librarian in Arts B 270. [email protected] British Library: British Library For published sources in English (and other languages) the British Library is the best place to start. As a copyright library it holds copies of all books published in Britain in recent years as well as many older items. It also holds a large manuscript collection. The British Library is situated on the Euston Road in London - next door to St. Pancras station. The nearest tube stations are Euston and King's Cross/St. Pancras. The ThamesLink station is also nearby. See http://www.bl.uk/services/reading/admissions.html for information on how to gain access to the British Library. A form needs to be completed by you and the University of Sussex librarian before you go. You also need to take with you personal ID with a signature and proof of home address. Within the library, you work in the reading rooms - Humanities I, Humanities II, Rare Books, or Manuscripts Other libraries: Other libraries You may also need to use other libraries: for example, other university libraries or specialist libraries (such as the Women's Library which specialises in books relating to Women’s Studies or the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum). Most university and specialist libraries should be fairly easy to gain access to. Ask your dissertation supervisor for advice on libraries relevant to your topic. Other research resources: Other research resources You may also need to look at unpublished sources: Public Record Office - national archives for England and Wales. Situated at Kew. Very easy to gain access to and use. Historical Manuscripts Commission - useful starting point for research into British topics. See the National Archives website for details of the above. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/default.htm In identifying relevant source material do make use of the websites of these organisations and in particular the NRA and A2A databases. Secondary research: Secondary research Consult your supervisor for information on relevant secondary sources but also use some of the on-line databases that are available: Sussex Library catalogue. Search using the keyword facility. COPAC - useful in searching for books. COPAC offers free access to the merged catalogues of University libraries in the UK and Ireland. Web of Science - good for journal articles. Search the Arts and Humanities Citation Index for core journals within the area from 1981 to present. Accessible via Sussex Library web site but requires an Athens Account number: ask at the Enquiries/help desk in the Library or at the reception in the Computing Centre. BHI (British Humanities Index) Archive Plus. Another option when searching for journal articles. 600,000 bibliographic records from UK humanities and social science journals and newspapers 1962-1997. A printed copy is in the Library (X 6956 Bri). See also the Library Website under Information Databases. Research: links and addresses: Research: links and addresses A summary of useful addresses: Sussex University Special Collections: Dorothy Sheridan (01273) 678157 D.E. Sheridan @sussex.ac.uk www.sussex.ac.uk/library/speccolls History of Art Image Librarian: Simon Lane - Arts B 270 [email protected] The British Library: http://www.bl.uk British Library on-line catalogue: http://catalogue.bl.uk The Public Record Office: http://www.pro.gov.uk A2A (Access to Archives): http://www.pro.gov.uk/catalogues/a2a.htm Historical Manuscripts Commission: http://www.hmc.gov.uk National Register of Archives (NRA): http://www.hmc.gov.uk/nra COPAC: http://copac.ac.uk/copac/ Web of Science: http://wos.mimas.ac.uk Supervision: Supervision You are entitled to supervision by a member of permanent faculty in the department to which your MA programme is affiliated. Your department or programme convenor may organise a meeting to arrrange supervision, but it is your responsibility to locate and engage a supervisor - be proactive! The amount of supervision is 2 hours total: which may be divided into 4 ½-hour sessions, or otherwise. This amount may seem small, but faculty have very many other calls on their time. You should prepare thoroughly for a supervision to make the most effective use of it. Supervision is guaranteed only through the summer term. Your supervisor will normally read and comment on up to 5,000 words of draft text, but only within the timeframe above. You are strongly advised to seek a supervisor and consult with him/her early in the summer term. Discussion with your supervisor: Discussion with your supervisor You must agree your dissertation title with your supervisor. You should discuss the relevance of your chosen topic to the programme you’re following - And the specificity and academic soundness of your title – And the validity of the argument you propose to make - And the availability of the main sources and materials. Title registration and outline: Title registration and outline You will have received a dissertation pack, including cover sheets, Certificate of Approval form, and guidance Notice from the Postgraduate Office via the Graduate Centre. The deadline for completion of the form is Friday 25 May 2007. Early selection of and consultation with your supervisor is vital – the first month of dissertation research and preparation (May) is crucial. Later change of title is possible, but requires formal notification. It’s better to devote time and concentration to producing an appropriate title and effective outline at this first stage. Schedule: Schedule There is not normally any formal schedule for preparing, researching, drafting, and writing up your dissertation. However, it is useful to provide yourself with a schedule, and you may find the following 4-part division helpful: 1 - May: selection of supervisor, initial research, preparation of outline, choice of title; 2 - June: further research, initial drafting under supervision; 3 – July: final research, redrafting; 4 – August: writing up, revision, text checking. Things to avoid: Things to avoid Overlap between your dissertation and term papers. Bear this in mind when choosing your dissertation topic, and speak to your supervisor or programme convenor if in doubt. Plagiarism – unacknowledged and deceitful use of others’ intellectual work as your own. See the guidance on plagiarism accessible from the Graduate Centre website Teaching page: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/academicoffice/1-4-1.html Collusion – your work must be your own and any collaboration must be acknowledged. Fabrication – of results or evidence. There will be penalties, which can be severe, associated with these offences. See section 7 (Academic Misconduct) of the Assessment Handbook for further information and a link to the University plagiarism website. Recommendations: Recommendations Write more than one draft of the dissertation before submission – allow time for this. Your supervisor will normally be prepared to read and comment on up to 5,000 words of text. Make the best use of this input. Read through your work before submitting – if possible find a reader for it. Check carefully for errors – especially quotations and footnotes. You must produce a brief outline of your intended subject and treatment at the outset. Give this very careful consideration and consult your supervisor. References and bibliography: References and bibliography The dissertation must be fully and properly referenced. There are various conventions – MLA, Chicago, Harvard, etc – you may choose among them, but should use a recognised convention appropriate to your area of study consistently throughout your text. Check to see what conventions are adopted in your field. In general, the most concise mode consistent with clarity is preferable. Avoid putting information into a footnote or endnote that can appropriately be put into the text of your paper. If in doubt, consult your supervisor or programme convenor. See also Appendix 2 of the Assessment Handbook. Style manuals: Style manuals You may wish to refer to style manuals such as: The Handbook for Writing Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations, New York: MLA, 1977 A.C.Winkler and J.R.McCuen, Writing the Research Paper: A Handbook, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979 Presentation: Presentation Clear clean text makes a good impression; over-elaborate typography does not. Presentation requirements are given in the Assessment Handbook, section 3 and Appendix 2. Images should be used only when they are necessary to your argument. Think carefully about the disposition of your text, which should if possible enhance and not obstruct your argument. Accordingly, use paragraphs or sections appropriately. Italicise (or underline) foreign words or phrases, except for quotations or complete sentences. Submission: Submission The dissertation must be submitted by 4.00 p.m. on Monday 3 September 2007 to the Postgraduate Office, Sussex House. There are penalties for late submission: subtraction of 5 % points for up to 7 days lateness, 10% points for up to 14 days, a zero mark for submission thereafter. Contact Vicky or Katherine in the MA GC Office if you think any of your assessed work may be late. Consult a Hums student advisor if you need to discuss reasons for late submission. Evidence of impairment should be submitted to the Hums School Office via student advisors as soon as possible and be as specific as possible (medical certificates should specify dates and duration of illness). For further information see section 6 of the Assessment Handbook and the Humanities School Student Support webpage: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/hums/1-4-3.html Submission – advice and rules: Submission – advice and rules Don’t leave it to the last minute, or even hours. Always save your work regularly and back up files and disks or other storage hardware. Submitted work should carry your candidate number NOT your name. You must submit three copies of the dissertation. This is to prevent any delays with marking. You’re strongly advised to keep a further copy yourself. You should have received your dissertation pack from the Postgraduate Office. Contact Vicky or Katherine if you’ve not received it. Marking and feedback: Marking and feedback Dissertations are assessed by two internal examiners (double blind marking). All marks of 85 or above and all low grades of 40 or below are sent to the external examiner, together with a sample range of scripts (normally about 20% of the total) for moderation. Internally disagreed marks are sent to the external examiner for adjudication. Marks remain provisional until ratified by the Humanities Postgraduate Examination Board which meets in early November. Dissertations are normally marked within 3 weeks of receipt of scripts by the internal examiners. Written feedback will be provided. Marking scale and description: Marking scale and description A percentage marking scale operates, based on an alphabetic scale The conversion and accompanying general description are provided in the following table > Results: Results Your degree results are published within 7 days of the Examination Board meeting in late October or early November following submission of your dissertation Your result depends on the accumulation of assessment marks. The dissertation mark is normally double weighted. A Distinction is awarded for an overall weighted mark of 85+ with at least one mark of 85% (see Clarification of Criteria notice in your dissertation pack). Failure results if more than one E or F mark is obtained on term papers, or an E or F mark for the dissertation. Winter Graduation is in January 2008.