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LN400 Dissertation (Modern Languages and Cultures)

The dissertation is for fourth-year students who wish or are required to do an extended piece of guided, independent research. Doing a dissertation allows you to develop a research project autonomously, with the support of a supervisor and the Dissertation coordinator, and to write a substantive piece of work discussing the results of this research. It provides you with an opportunity to pursue a strong interest that you may have in a particular area, and to develop this through guided individual research on a relevant topic. Some conditions apply.

Who is it for?

The dissertation seeks to provide an excellent training for final-year students intending to undertake further academic study beyond the BA, and for those with specific areas of interest in Modern Languages and related disciplines which may not be represented in the taught curriculum but for which adequate, specialist supervision can be provided. (See also the prerequisites below).

What will you learn and how?

You will autonomously develop a research project within the field of Modern Languages and Cultures, with the support of a supervisor and the Dissertation coordinator, and write a substantive piece of work discussing the results of this research.

The dissertation thus aims:

  • to enhance skills in research, critical analysis and argumentation, creative thinking, and academic writing,
  • to foster the specific intellectual interests and aptitudes of individual students.

More specifically, you will be guided in locating a suitable research topic; mastering a relevant bibliography; immersing yourself in a wide variety of primary sources; and being able to sustain a coherent and logical argument.

The module thus allows you to:

  • Develop in-depth knowledge of the chosen subject;
  • Develop a capacity for independent study and self-directed inquiry and research;
  • Develop an ability to identify and pursue appropriate, subject-specific questions;
  • Develop the ability to reflect on research methodologies and to draft, revise, and edit written work accordingly;
  • Write a substantive piece of work which develops a research project;
  • Acquire transferable skills in research, critical analysis and argumentation, creative thinking, and academic writing.

Students planning to write a final-year dissertation should make preliminary contact with a relevant supervisor (and / or the LN400 module coordinator) in the summer term of the third year. You will be required to submit a formal proposal, in order for your choice to write a dissertation to be approved.

  • Download the proposal form here (Word Document) and email it to the Dissertation Coordinator ( [at]

At the start of the fourth year you will be assigned a supervisor who will give you individual guidance through the Autumn and Spring terms. General support is provided in group sessions, organised by the Dissertation coordinator and subject librarian for Modern Languages. (See the teaching schedule below).

Guidance and Feedback

Whilst this is a self-directed research exercise, you will receive guidance on defining and developing the research topic and on arguing and presenting your thesis.

Typically you will receive up to six half-hour tutorials spread over terms 1-2. Complemented by the general sessions, these meetings will normally focus on a draft bibliography, outline and draft sections of the dissertation submitted to the supervisors in advance (formative feedback).

Out of fairness to all, supervisors and/or the dissertation coordinator will only comment on outlines and draft sections (including sample bibliographies and/or literature reviews), but NOT on full drafts.

Written feedback on the final submission will be uploaded to Tabula (summative feedback).

Prerequisites and conditions

  • The module is aimed at final-year students only.
  • The dissertation can be taken in any area for which appropriate supervision can be provided in the relevant teaching year (subject to staff availability).
    • Note that most modules also offer the opportunity of developing your research and writing skills in long essays!
  • Students must normally have obtained an average of more than 65% in their intermediate-level non-language modules, before they will be permitted to pursue the option of a dissertation.
  • Students must also have relevant linguistic knowledge of at least an intermediate level enabling them to read and analyse sources and secondary material in the target language(s). This normally means a pre-requisite of a core language module relevant to the broad subject/linguistic area of the topic (e.g. second-year French [FR201] for a topic related to French Studies). Demonstrable multilingual skills will be required for comparative topics.
  • Students taking joint honours will normally be allowed to opt only for ONE dissertation in their overall final-year curriculum.
  • A capacity for self-motivation, planning, and meeting deadlines will be essential.

Assessment Method

The module is based on 100% assessed work, in the form of a dissertation of up to 10,000-11,000 words (excluding bibliography and footnotes). The dissertation is normally written in English (though quotations are usually in their original language).


The dissertation should be double-spaced like all other essays. Include a title-page (including the title of the dissertation, your student number, the date, and name of supervisor as in the example here (Word Document)), a table of contents, and--of course--a bibliography.

There is no obligation to include an abstract, but if you do so, place it on a separate page after the table of contents and limit it to 150 words.

Please submit one copy online and one in hardcopy (attach the electronic receipt to your physical copy).

The binding of the physical copy is entirely up to you.

Remember that the ability to achieve a neat presentation is a transferable skill!

Teaching schedule

Term 1: 4 Plenary sessions + typically 3 individually arranged supervisions (not noted on this schedule)
  • Wk 1. [no classes]
  • Wk 2. Introduction to the Undergraduate Dissertation: expectations - hurdles - opportunities - making a start - Thu 12 October 2017 10-11 am - H0.02
    • Need a reminder? Download a pdf of Ingrid De Smet's first Powerpoint presentation here (PDF Document) 
  • Wk 3. Defining and refining your topic: bibliographical research - databases - a proposal [in collaboration with the Subject Librarian] Library 371 (3rd floor, over the bridge, turn to the right - the room is not in the Wolfson Exchange)
    • Start your searches: download a pdf of Kate Courage's Powerpoint here (PDF Document).
    • Be organised: work with Kate's task sheet (PDF Document)to undertake systematic searches.
  • Wk 4. The conventions of academic writing: literature review - referencing - quotations - organising your argument - [Time and place TBC]
  • Wk 5. Planning your work: timetable - writing up - the finishing touches - proofreading - Thu 2 November 2017 - 10-11 am - H0.02
  • [Wk 10. If your supervisor judges your progress with the dissertation by December to be unsatisfactory, you will be advised to take 2 x 15 CATS taught optional modules in Term 2.]
    • Download the Progress report form here (Word Document) and return it to the dissertation supervisor by T1, wk 10, Monday 12 noon.
Term 2: 2 Plenary sessions + typically 3 individually arranged supervisions (not noted on this schedule)
Term 3: Submission of the dissertation via electronic portal.

Deadline: 12:00 on Wednesday, term 3 week 3.

Hard copy (in a binding of the student’s choice) to be submitted with receipt of electronic submission.

See also the Format description above.


Dissertation Coordinator

Prof. Ingrid De Smet

Rm H437

Links and Resources

Further Reading

University Rules on Plagiarism


Students from the 2016-17 LN400 Cohort presented their work in progress at the Undergraduate Dissertation Forum.