Project and Dissertation Guide for Staff

  • A Dissertation is an extended study of a topic agreed as appropriate for a subject. Nevertheless it should demonstrate the student's ability to argue coherently, to marshal evidence, to evaluate critically and synthesise the disparate sources used and to identify and work with appropriate theoretical methods. It does not necessarily involve original research or the study of unpublished or primary material.

    A Project is also an extended study of a topic, but usually also involves data collection through experimental work or other primary investigation. As such, it should demonstrate similar abilities to those listed for a dissertation and in addition the ability to plan experiments or data collection and interpret and analyse data.

    In some subjects, such as management subjects, most submissions contain elements of both the project/dissertation perspectives. Fuller briefing on the approach expected is included in the specific subject guidelines

    An Interdisciplinary Project or Dissertation is a project/dissertation in which, provided the topic is relevant to each of the two subjects there is no need for a quantitative measure of the proportion contributed by each. As such, criteria for acceptability of a topic are different from those used for a project/dissertation set wholly within one subject. The topic should be formulated so that the project/dissertation may demonstrate those skills; knowledge and understanding acquired in both subjects have been appropriately used. An interdisciplinary topic is seen as a desirable option, not a requirement for single subject students. Not all subjects offer both Projects and Dissertations. Single Honours subjects do not offer interdisciplinary Projects/Dissertations.

    These guidelines are designed to be included in Subject Guides to Project and Dissertations. In some sections, therefore, there are pointers (*) to indicate the need for Subject Specific Guidelines. These should be inserted after appropriate consideration of the Notes for Project/Dissertation Module Leaders, which are normally in italic text in square brackets. These would not normally be included in Subject Guides.

    Subject Guides for Project and Dissertations should include the following:

    1. A Subject Guide needs to make clear the UMP regulations and guidelines with subject-specific items included where they are appropriate.
    2. A guide will usually include academic advice, administrative rules and assessment regulations.
    3. Sections normally included will cover:
      • Choosing a topic and registering it
      • Arrangements for Supervision and responsibility of supervisors and of students
      • Guidance for writing the project/dissertation report, including structure and conventions
      • Assessment criteria and feedback arrangements

    It may be useful to include the M144 Project and Dissertation Guidelines for Students (PDF) in your Module Guide.

    Year 1

    • Semester 2: Students should include the Project/Dissertation when registering their Stage II programme in Week 5 of Semester 2 via PIP or by using an M199 form.

    Year 2

    • Semester 2: Students should start thinking about their topic and a supervisor.
      Register with supervisor & agree a schedule. Submit form M199T to register the dissertation title (Week 12).
    • Summer Vacation: You may collect data for your project/dissertation.

    Final Year

    • Semester 1: Students should meet with supervisor to discuss summer progress and arrange future meetings.
      Students admitted with credit to a one-year programme may need to register their dissertation soon after enrolment in Semester 1 by submitting M199/M199T forms.
      Part-time students would normally register not later than two semesters before their expected completion date.
    • By early Semester 2: Students should complete any field work, research & primary analysis.
      Review progress with supervisor. Check date of final supervision.
    • Mid Semester: Students should complete first draft.
    • By Week 8: Students should complete final revision and print.
    • Friday of Week 8: Deadline for submission of Projects/Dissertations.
    • Week 13/14: Internal assessment completed and forwarded to External Examiner.
    • Week 17: SEC approves marks. If the project /dissertation is being assessed in Semester 1 the SEC will be in Week 16.

    To achieve an Honours degree all students who enter stage II of the programme from September 2011 will have to complete 6 'Level 6 Honours' credits. This must include at least one double (30 credit) level 6 honours module, or two 15 credit level 6 honours interdisciplinary project/dissertation modules.

    For students on two single subjects registered for a joint award at least seven acceptable module credits including at least two level 6 honours credits must be passed for each Subject.

    For those registered for Major/Minor awards at least two level 6 honours credits must be passed in the Major Subject.

    Project/dissertation and synoptic modules are level 6 honours modules. Study on these modules should demonstrate that honours students can successfully collect data and select appropriate knowledge from the range that he or she has acquired can propose solutions for appropriate problems and communicate the results, and that the student can work independently.

    1. When the student first submits a Stage II programme, a project/dissertation module can be registered along with other Level 6 honours modules via PIP or by submitting an M199 form (see above). The registration of the project/dissertation title for the appropriate Subject(s) specific module(s) is carried out at the end of the second academic year once the actual topic to be investigated has been identified and a supervisor allocated, by submitting an M199T form (see above).
    2. One year before their final semester [or for Single Honours and Major Subjects, at a time publicised in the Subject Guide], students will be briefed by the project/dissertation Module Leaders in their subject(s) on the specific subject requirements and supervision arrangements available.
    3. Subjects will insert their specific arrangements, which should include advice to those students (e.g. those admitted with credit or studying part-time) who may wish to submit their work at the start of Semester 1 of the following year rather than Semester 2. However, this may have cost implications that need to be considered.
    4. [At a time specified by the subject] the student will negotiate with a supervisor and agree provisional topic and supervision arrangements. The student will draw up an action plan and discuss it with the supervisor who will, when satisfied, sign form M199T that specifies the project/dissertation title. The student must then also obtain the signature(s) of the Module Leader(s) or delegated authority for the project/dissertation module(s) who will assign the appropriate module number.

      Only Official forms M199T obtainable from Student Central should be used.

      The M199T also requires ethical issues to be addressed if human participants are part of the project/dissertation to be undertaken. Please download the ethics review forms relevant to your Faculty.

      The student must then submit the completed form to Student Central as early as possible and by Week 12 of Semester 2 in Year 2, except in special cases where the student is not in the university in their penultimate year. The M199T should in these cases be submitted not later than Friday, Week -1 of the semester before that in which the project/dissertation is due to be assessed. e.g. Friday Week -1 Semester 1 for submission in Week 8 of Semester 2.

      Note: students can also register dissertations that run from January to December. The module must be registered on PIP and the M199T should be submitted by the end of Week 12 of the semester prior to the dissertation start date.

      If a student has not registered for a project/dissertation by the end of the year before they are due to graduate, then an error/warning message will be generated on their student record.

      Where a Subject has a non-standard submission date the Subject Guide should formally specify appropriate dates in the paragraphs above. Special arrangements may then need to be made with Student Central to circulate the lists referred to above at other times.
    5. The assignment of the correct module number is crucial if proper allocation of resources is to occur and appropriate supervision and assessment is to take place. Where the project/dissertation is set wholly within one subject then clearly the module number for that subject is used.

      The arrangement for an interdisciplinary project/dissertation is different. Only one subject will have the responsibility for the administration of the project/dissertation so that, as far as possible, module leaders can easily identify those students for whom they are responsible. It is assumed that both subjects will be involved in the assessment process. Ticking the box on form M199 will identify the subject with administrative responsibility. The administering subject will be flagged on the student record. Marksheets will only include students for whom a mark needs to beinserted. eCSIS will automatically record this mark for the interdisciplinary dissertation in the other subject. The administering subject will submit the work to the authority of its SEC.
    A student failing to complete this Registration process shall not be allowed to submit a project/dissertation until he or she has properly registered, with the regulation interval between registration and submission. Registration after the deadline (Week 0 for new students and Week 7 of the previous semester for continuing students) will be at the module leader's discretion and will not be accepted as grounds for late submission of the project/dissertation if they fail to complete it on time.
    It is a student's responsibility to ensure that he or she meets the subject rules for the contact with and submission of work to supervisors.
    1. The project/dissertation module has a Module Leader(s) who is responsible for ensuring that each student has a supervisor, and for the administration of the module. This is why the registration procedure is important.
    2. "Supervision" is used to cover a number of learning and teaching activities including 1:1 tutorial, small group tutorial, and commentary on drafts. A Subject may decide to institute a cut-off date after which supervision or comment from supervisors is not available. A student may expect a minimum of 4 [or as specified by the Faculty provided it is not less than this] hours supervision per credit for a project/dissertation, some of which may be in small group tutorials.

      (A Faculty may also specify a maximum entitlement if it believes this can be monitored or enforced.)
    3. Students are encouraged to calculate the time and effort spent on project/dissertation modules on the same basis as all other modules; i.e. approximately 300 hours for double modules.
    4. The following guidelines make clear:

      The reasonable expectations of students in their work with a supervisor(s) including what happens if a supervisor is absent through sickness or other commitments;
      1. Obligations of students;
      2. The timetable and milestones for students from registration to submission including, the cut-off point beyond which supervision ceases.
      3. Arrangements for supervision of interdisciplinary project/s/dissertations.

    (For the interdisciplinary project/dissertations the Module Leaders may decide, in consultation with the student, to assign two supervisors. However, it is not a requirement that interdisciplinary projects/dissertations should have one supervisor from each contributing discipline and each case should be considered on its merits. For interdisciplinary projects/dissertations whether or not more than one supervisor is appointed it is essential that form M199T is agreed and signed by supervisor(s) and Module Leaders for both subjects.

    If there is a supervisor from each subject, the two Module Leaders will agree for which subject the primary registration will be and thus to which External Examiner it will be sent. If the supervision is expected to be primarily in one subject, the External Examiner will normally be from the same subject.)

    Subject specific material should be inserted under these headings.

    The student must submit two copies his or her completed project/dissertation to the location specified by the subject at the latest by 4.00 p.m. on Friday of Week 8 in the semester in which the module is to be assessed.

    One copy of an interdisciplinary project/dissertation should be submitted to both Module Leaders. Please see the M144C (PDF) for details of the submission, deposit and use of projects and dissertations.

    The University has approved a way in which circumstances that may have affected your performance in an assessment will be considered – these are called 'mitigating circumstances'.

    Mitigating circumstances are circumstances which were beyond your control and which could not be reasonably accommodated by you and which seriously impaired your performance in assessment. All three parts of this definition must be met for the University to agree you were affected by mitigating circumstances. For example, these circumstances could be medical or personal. In all cases you will be required to provide satisfactory documentary evidence to support your claim – if you fail to supply satisfactory documentary evidence your request will be turned down. The only exception is for very short extensions to an assessment deadline (up to one week), where you may be allowed to self-certify your difficulties if there is a valid reason why you cannot provide evidence.

    In all cases, you should submit your claim and your evidence as soon as possible and in any case always before an assessment deadline or exam. If you miss a deadline you will not only need to demonstrate that you were affected by mitigating circumstances but you will need to provide evidence that you were unable to submit your claim by the deadline. So don't delay if you wish to claim mitigating circumstances. If you miss an assessment deadline or an exam without approval for valid mitigating circumstances you will receive zero for that assessment. You must not miss deadlines.

    If your claim for mitigating circumstances is approved then you will be granted an extension to your submission deadline of up to four weeks or allowed to re-sit your examination (or, in certain situations only, an entire module). The University does not increase marks on the basis of mitigating circumstances. This is because the University wants you to demonstrate your full potential in assessments – if it is agreed you were affected by mitigating circumstances then we will give you an extension or a re-sit so you can demonstrate your potential unaffected by such circumstances. Mitigating Circumstances Forms can be found on your PIP.

    For more information please see the University Regulations A3.5 Consideration of Mitigating Circumstances.

    The appropriate length or style of a project report or dissertation will vary according to the topic chosen. As a guide, a written dissertation for a double module should normally be of the order of 8,000 words with a maximum of 10,000 words. Reports or dissertations exceeding the maximum length will normally be given fewer marks than work of similar quality that is below the maximum length. The length for the report or dissertation should be related to the assessment criteria. The report of this length must include all the necessary evidence and argument.

    Additional material may only be submitted in appendices where the Subject Guide gives explicit permission. This would normally only be appropriate for data obtained by students from experiments or interviews, for example. Such data could be submitted in a separate laboratory book or portfolio. Subjects may specify a smaller word count where either a different type of report is required or assessment of something in addition to the report (e.g. an artefact) is specified.

    Subjects should indicate clearly in their subject dissertation guides, what the penalties are for work that is in excess of the stipulated limit.

    Project/s/Dissertations are normally assessed by two internal examiners. The external examiner for an interdisciplinary project/dissertation is normally the External Examiner for the subject responsible for the administration of the project/dissertation. If another External Examiner is to be used, he or she should be chosen no later than Week 8 of the semester in which it is submitted. The External Examiner will be supplied with written comments from the internal assessors.

    The interdisciplinary paragraph is not normally relevant to Double Subjects.

    (Subjects may wish to specify other assessment components such as a viva voce examination or a special exhibition.)

    Module leaders need to submit marks online via PIP by the appropriate deadline specified in the Examination Committee Schedule.

    A sample of projects/dissertations is sent to External Examiners in Week 12 of the semester in which assessment takes place. This sample will normally include:

    1. all those with a proposed A grade;
    2. all those with a proposed F or R grade;
    3. any for which the internal assessors have not come to a common decision;
    4. other unusual or problem cases.
    5. others to make at least a 10% sample;
    6. In addition, all, of the Assessor's Reports for subject-based project/s/dissertations should be available to the External Examiner

    Late Coursework will receive no marks. This penalty is imposed so that students who submit work on time even though it is not good as they would like are not at a disadvantage when compared with students who choose to miss the deadline and spend longer on their work so that they may do better. In fairness then, to all students, module leaders are required to impose this penalty for late coursework except where students have negotiated extensions in advance through mitigating circumstances for reasons outside their control.

    Both internal assessors (one of whom will normally be the supervisor) will submit a written report for assessment purposes. Indication of the input given by the supervisor and the general approach of the student during the productionof the project/dissertation will be included. In the case ofinterdisciplinaryprojects/dissertations, one assessor will normally be drawn from each of the two subjects.

    The Assessors' report will be in two parts:

    • a commentary which will be used for feedback to the student
    • a summary, including a mark and grade recommendation for the Module Leader, External Examiner and Examinations Committee.

    If the project/dissertation is not assessed as a pass grade, a fail grade or a ‘resit (=resubmission) coursework’ (RC) grade will be given. Resits will be automatic for marks between 30 and 39%. If a student has been found to have mitigating circumstances, the SEC can award a ‘resit through mitigation’ (DC) grade regardless of whether the mark is above or below 40%. The SEC can award a DR grade (‘module take disregarded due to mitigation’) if the resit is subject to mitigation.

    If a resit grade is awarded, the Module Leader will inform the student and make sure that the Assessors' commentary and the specification of the additional work is sent to him or her in a formal letter:

    • Either after assessment in Semester 1, by Week 0 of Semester 2
    • Or after assessment in Semester 2, by the end of June

    This is one reason why a student should make sure their contact details on PIP are correct. Resubmitted project/dissertations must be handed to the Module Leader at the normal resit deadline. If a resubmitted project/dissertation is passed, the result will be 40 P unless it was a resit through mitigation for which full marks are awarded. If it is failed the grade will be FR and the marks will be as previously recorded or higher.

    A student who wishes to withdraw from a fully registered project or dissertation module must do so before the end of Week 2 of the semester in which the project or dissertation is to be assessed. Withdrawal from a project or dissertation module and subsequent re-registration implies re-negotiation of the project or dissertation from scratch with a different title. This procedure means no student can withdraw from a module at a late stage and hence achieve a one-semester extension. Re-registration requires a student to register the module on PIP and complete a new M199T.
    A student or supervisor may consider a project/dissertation has changed direction during work on it and wish to transfer the Registration from one (set of) module number(s) to another, or from one Subject to another. The Module Leaders must approve the change on a form M199T and the form submitted by the end of Week 8 in the semester in which the work is assessed.
    If students find that the requirements for style, format or content from the two subjects are incompatible or otherwise appear to inhibit the appropriate investigation of an approved topic, they should consult the Module Leaders immediately, who should resolve the problem as a matter of urgency. In cases of difficulty Student Central should be consulted. SEC must therefore have delegated to the Module Leader responsibility for agreeing modifications to the Subject Requirements for Interdisciplinary project/dissertation in appropriate circumstances.
    Only one of the module leaders for an interdisciplinary project/dissertation has the administrative responsibility for the mark sheet and moderation process. This is specified using form M199 and may be changed up to the end of Week 8 in the semester in which the work is assessed. (If an M199 is submitted after this date there can be no guarantee that it will be implemented before the mark sheets are printed.)
    1. If a double project/dissertation is set wholly within a single subject, both credits will count towards the minimum required for that subject.
    2. For an interdisciplinary project/dissertation one credit will count for each of the subjects for which it is acceptable.
    Students going on exchange are expected to make arrangement with their supervisor before they leave the UK and it is their responsibility to keep in touch with the supervisor and to keep them apprised of any developments or changes of direction whilst they are away.