Critical Dissertation

Module code: EN7033

Module co-ordinator: Dr Emma Parker

In this module, students undertake a substantial piece of original, independent work. They develop advanced research skills, analytical and communication skills, and expertise in one particular area or aspect of modern literature.

Students choose their own subject, which must be within the fields of modern literature, criticism, or theory. Subject and approach are then developed and revised with the help and advice of the dissertation supervisor.

The presentation

Proposals for the dissertation are presented at a special seminar in the summer term. The presentation should...

  • Not be any longer than five minutes
  • Give a general outline of the topic and address two or three specific issues relating to it
  • Comment on the appeal and potential of the project
  • Include a list of key research questions
  • Indicate methodology and, where appropriate, relevant theoretical frameworks
  • Consider how the material in the dissertation might be best organised
  • Identify gaps in knowledge and outline areas that require development
  • Comment on any problems that may be encountered
  • Be of a professional standard (including, for instance, the use of a handout and PowerPoint)
  • Demonstrate that students have developed good presentation skills

The written proposal

Students are required to submit a written proposal on the Dissertation Proposal form. The proposal must include a title, a brief outline of the subject (no more than 200 words), an account of its aims and methods (no more than 400 words), and a short bibliography featuring key primary and secondary sources.

The key questions a proposal should address are: what, why, and how? 

  • What is the topic? What questions will I be asking about this topic as I undertake research?
  • Why am I writing it? Why is this topic interesting and significant? What is the rationale? How will my work challenge or extend existing scholarship?
  • How am I going to do it? Which texts will I use? How will it be structured? What is my methodology and/or theoretical framework?


This is an independent project but at every stage, from conception through composition and revision to final submission, staff are available to offer support and feedback. With the help of the supervisor's advice and guidance, students plan, develop, revise, and improve their work through a series of drafts. They are provided with up to five hours of one-to-one supervision and must meet with their supervisor on a formal basis on at least three occasions during the process of writing the dissertation, which generally occurs between May and September. Supervisors may read and offer feedback on all of the rough draft but no more than one third of the final draft.


By the end of the module, students will have demonstrated the ability to...

  • Present an academic paper on their dissertation topic using appropriate handouts and audiovisual aids
  • Identify a research topic and formulate research questions
  • Formulate appropriate objectives for a substantial research project, together with a methodology for undertaking research
  • Carry out research of appropriate breadth and depth that is relevant to their research questions
  • Address their research questions through close analysis of texts and concepts
  • Think independently about issues raised by their research topic
  • Locate their research project in its literary, historical, and critical contexts
  • Identify and critically assess existing scholarship in their chosen field
  • Organise, structure, and present their work appropriately
  • Reflect on, and improve, their work through a process of drafting and revision
  • Make effective and accurate use of the referencing, bibliography, presentation, and writing skills covered by the EN7001 Bibliography, Research Methods, and Writing Skills module


  • A 15,000-word dissertation with bibliography, which does not repeat material submitted for marks in other modules. Students are required to submit three copies of the dissertation; see the course handbook for more information.