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MSc Dissertations

Mathematics Dissertations

The MSc dissertation counts for 90 CATS - that is, half of the total MSc load.

A dissertation is usually expository, collecting together results from several research papers into a coherent whole. Sometimes dissertations contain original research, and this is encouraged where appropriate. The general framework of a dissertation must be approved by the supervisor. This page may help to find staff members with interesting topics.

The appropriate length for a dissertation will vary with the topic, the formatting, and whether or not it includes figures, etc. As a guide, most MSc dissertations are between 30 and 50 A4 pages, double spaced, with normal font size and margins. Longer dissertations are not necessarily better, and the marks obtained depend much more on the quality of the content (especially the mathematics) than on the number of words. It is essential that the dissertation is well presented.

The dissertation should normally be produced in TEX or LaTEX. The package here is intended for PhD theses, but it can also be used for MSc dissertations. Suitable past dissertations are available for inspection. If you are in any doubt, please consult your supervisor or the Director of the MSc.

Interdisciplinary Mathematics Dissertations

For MSc Interdisciplinary Mathematics candidates the above holds, although these dissertations may be longer if they contain many diagrams, data or programs for example. The level of sophistication of the mathematics used in the dissertation may be lower than that expected in a straight Mathematics MSc provided that the dissertation demonstrates a compensating degree of understanding of the role or appropriate use of the mathematics described. The mathematics in the dissertation should be correct, appropriate for the interdisciplinary topic under discussion, and should say something of scientific value. This page may help to find staff members in the math dept with interesting topics.

Dissertation Marks

The dissertation is read by two internal examiners (including a supervisor) who report to the Examination Board. For MSc Interdisciplinary Mathematics dissertations, reports are generally requested from an internal examiner in each of the relevant departments to ensure sufficient interdisciplinary quality.

Examiners are asked to discuss the dissertation under the headings: Accuracy and depth of understanding (40%); Level of difficulty and degree of originality (40%); Exposition (10%); Context/Literature Bibliography (10%). The marks are passed to the Examination Board. The external examiner reviews the dissertations and marks prior to the Examination Board meeting.

The dissertation pass mark is 50% and students must pass the dissertation in order to pass the MSc.

Submitting your Dissertation or Postgraduate Diploma Project

The submission deadline is 2nd September 2024. Submissions will be made via Moodle. Further details will be provided closer to the deadline.


The name of the candidate's supervisor must be stated on the title page of the dissertation. The introduction to the dissertation should state clearly all sources used, and should pinpoint clearly any original passages claimed. The candidate should briefly describe how the sources were used and their relation to the dissertation. Acknowledgements should also appear, where appropriate, in the body of the dissertation. References with precise bibliographic details should be included. A dissertation will not be accepted if any reader (including one unfamiliar with the contents of the references cited) could gain a mistaken impression that expository material is the candidate's own original work.

Good English style, with correct grammar and spelling, is expected. The books Writing Mathematics Well by L. Gillman, and How to Write Mathematics by N.E. Steenrod et al. (AMS 1973) are recommended. (Both can be found in the Library catalogue.) In addition, supervisors can often help by suggesting which published mathematical papers are good models of exposition, and which are not.

Postgraduate Diploma Project

The expected standard in a Postgraduate Diploma is less than that for an MSc degree. If a candidate is recommended to transfer to the Postgraduate Diploma as a result of their examination results, the candidate will need to write a (Diploma) project rather than a dissertation. Students on the 2 year MSc course will submit a project at the end of their first year

The Diploma project counts for 24 CATS (rather than 90 CATS for an MSc dissertation). It is usually an expository work describing a piece of mathematics (which may be related to material covered in lectures). Sometimes a project may involve numerical work or a guided exploration of some particular problem. The project should normally be about 10-20 pages long and should show that the candidate is capable of writing about mathematics in a coherent fashion. The general framework of the project must be approved by the supervisor. The project is marked against these criteria and not against that for the MSc.


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