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MA in English Literature Dissertation

The MA dissertation requires students to undertake and complete a sustained research project of 16,000 words on a topic of special interest.

TERM 1: Writing your proposal

Dissertation proposals – of 500-words in length – must be submitted to the department by noon on Friday 30th December 2018 (week 9 of term 1). Please send your proposal directly to the MA convener Dr. Stephen Purcell (

As part of your Introduction to Research Methods course you will take part in a dissertation proposal writing workshop. This will help you to think about how to frame your proposal. You are also encouraged to look at the areas of expertise covered by our staff and to use staff office hours to discuss ideas with relevant specialists and potential supervisors before finalizing your proposal.

TERM 2: Starting research

You will be assigned a supervisor by the end of week 1 of term 2, and in this term you are strongly advised to begin work on your dissertation research.

In term 2 you will hold two meetings with your supervisor: the first will be an introductory meeting and the second should take placed before your dissertation progress report is due.

The Dissertation Progress Report includes the following:

This Dissertation Progress Report must be submitted to the Postgraduate Programmes Officer by the end of week 9 of term 2.*

The progress reports will be reviewed by the MA Convenor. If there are concerns about progress, the MA Convenor will contact you.

TERM 3: Research and writing

During term 3 you should be hard at work on your dissertation. During this should meet with your supervisor on three occasions (spread evenly across the term). Your supervisor is permitted to read one rough draft of your dissertation, which must be sent to them by the end of term 3.

Number of supervisions

Students receive five supervisions for their MA dissertations, two in term 2 and three in term 3. Supervisions are generally around 45-60 minutes in length, but the initial two meetings may be shorter.

Email contact with your supervisor

You are welcome to contact your supervisor by email. As with all the department's staff, you can usually expect a supervisor to respond within about 24 hours (excluding weekends) if your query is straightforward. For more complex requests, supervisors will need more time to respond and you need to keep in mind that an email exchange is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Face-to-face supervision of dissertations concludes at the end of term 3. Over the summer months of July and August, when staff undertake their own research activities, email contact is at the supervisor's discretion and it will very likely take longer for them to respond to any message you send.


Dissertations are due on 1st September.

The following reminders may be useful:

  • You must be consistent in the style convention used (preferably either MLA, MHRA, Chicago or Harvard)
  • 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

Dissertation calendar


  • Week 6: dissertation proposal writing workshop
  • End of week 9 (30 Dec. 2018): proposal due


  • 2 meetings with your supervisor
  • End of week 9 (8 March 2019): Dissertation progress report due


  • 3 meetings with your supervisor
  • End of term 3: deadline for sending a draft to your supervisor.