The MA Dissertation offers students the chance to undertake and complete a sustained research project (approximately 16,000 words or 20,000 words depending on the MA route you are taking) on a topic of special interest. If you wish to write a dissertation, you should identify the broad area of interest before you arrive at Warwick. Students are asked in September to indicate their wish to write a dissertation along with their provisional option choices and to submit a short 500 word proposal of their proposed project, together with a bibliography. Note that the topic of the dissertation does not have to be directly related to any of the taught modules. Students intending to apply for funding for doctoral work are strongly advised to apply to write a dissertation.
Term 1: Getting support for your proposal
Any student registered for the MA may apply to write a dissertation. But only projects deemed viable will be allowed to proceed, so it’s important to get the proposal right. To be accepted, a proposal should meet the following criteria:
- Is intellectually viable
- Is achievable within the stipulated time and word limits
- Is feasible given the resources
- Falls within the expertise of members of academic staff
Please note that your proposal will be considered in the light of the topic and availability of a potential supervisor. The successful candidates will be notified by the end of Week 1. They will then have to attend a compulsory dissertation training workshop in Week 2 on Wednesday morning. All part-time students wanting to write a dissertation must get their proposal approved and attend the dissertation workshop in their first year to avoid doing extra modules (in case their proposal is rejected) in T2 of their final year. Final decisions on approved dissertations will be notified by the end of Week 4. Students whose initial dissertation proposal has not been approved should continue with their chosen option modules. For those students whose dissertation is approved, they will be required to ‘drop’ a Term 2 option module.
Note that students taking three modules plus the dissertation will normally take two modules in term 1 and one module in term 2. They will write one 6000 word essay for the Foundation module and two 8000 word essays for the other modules.
Students taking four modules plus the dissertation normally will take two modules in each term. They will write one 6000 word essay for the Foundation module plus three 6000 word essays for the other modules.
You are strongly discouraged from taking more than two modules in one term (aside from the critical theory module).
Term 2: Starting research
Students whose proposals are accepted are strongly advised to begin work on their dissertation research in term 2. It can take time to work out exactly how to focus the work and decide on what you need to look at and read, so it’s best to start early.
In term 2 you must submit a Progress Report. The report consists of a Dissertation plan, which must include the following:
- Progress Report form (available from the Graduate Secretary)
- title and chapter breakdown
- an abstract of 1000 words
- a bibliography
The form and supporting documents must be given to your supervisor by the end of Week 7 of term 2. Your supervisor will submit it, along with a report on your work. The progress reports will be reviewed by the MA Convenor. If there are concerns about progress, the MA Convenor will contact you.
Thereafter, you should see your supervisor on a basis agreed between the two of you. Your supervisor will normally require you to submit written work regularly and will recommend reading as well as assisting you in structuring your project.
Term 3: Researching and writing
Supervision for the MA dissertation takes place during term 3. While you will also be working on essays due during this term, it’s important to keep working regularly on your dissertation, and especially to make the most of your contact with your supervisor. Because of staff research commitments, direct dissertation supervision finishes in week 11 of Term 3. By this time you should have completed much of your research, finalized your structure and written drafts of the majority of chapters. The writing up period is undertaken during the summer with final submission at the start of September.
You must submit the Dissertation in line with the formatting recommendations given in Introduction to Research Methods. The following reminders may be useful:
- You must be consistent in the style convention used (preferably either MLA, MHRA or Chicago)
- Footnotes/Endnotes are included in the final word count; the 'Bibliography' is not included in the final word count
- An abstract is not required in the final submission
- A margin of up to 10% over or under length is allowed, but dissertations that are between 10-24% over-length will incur a penalty of 3 marks
- Work that is more than 25% over-length will be refused