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ENGL3162: 40-credit dissertation in English

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run in each academic year. Each module description relates to the year indicated in the module availability box, and this may change from year to year, due to, for example: changing staff expertise, disciplinary developments, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Current modules are subject to change in light of the ongoing disruption caused by Covid-19.

Type Tied
Level 3
Credits 40
Availability Available in 2023/24
Module Cap
Location Durham
Department English Studies


  • 40 credits in English at Level 2 (to include either ENGL2021 Shakespeare or ENGL2011 Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism).


  • None, except for Combined Honours students, where a total of at least five modules of English must be studied across Parts I and II of the Final Honours Examination. The Dissertation will count as two of the 5 modules and must not be the only English module taken during the final year.

Excluded Combinations of Modules

  • Level 2 English seminar modules.


  • To allow a student to make an in-depth study of a particular topic, author, or genre.
  • To undertake extensive independent research and to write at length on their chosen subject.
  • To encourage the development of argument and analysis, the marshalling of evidence, the reading of the relevant criticism, and the appropriate bibliographical and presentational skills.
  • To encourage original thought and analysis.


  • The dissertation permits a student to present the result of individual and independent work.
  • It allows the development of a specific research interest, and trains skills of argument, writing, research and presentation.
  • These are all discussed in an introductory lecture, which deals with: (1) Choice of subject; (2) Ways of treating it: argument, structure, analysis; (3) Research methods; (4) Presentation, bibliography, etc.
  • Following the introductory lecture, students will consult an assigned supervisor in Easter term, who will give advice on background and specific reading, critical approaches, the possible argument and structure, and on the limits of enquiry possible within the prescribed length. In Epiphany Term, students are permitted to submit a draft of up to 3000 words for discussion with their supervisor, who will also provide annotations to the text by way of feedback.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:

  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • expertise in, and knowledge of an area of literature from the medieval to the modern period
  • knowledge of a substantial number of authors and texts from different periods of literary history
  • appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation
  • knowledge and understanding of the distinctive character of texts written in the principal literary genres, the novel, poetry and drama
  • knowledge of linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-historical contexts in which literature is written
  • knowledge of useful and precise critical terminology
  • awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study

Subject-specific Skills:

  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts
  • sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to literature
  • ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary studies
  • skills of effective communication and argument
  • awareness of conventions of scholarly presentation, and bibliographic skills including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of scholarly conventions of presentation
  • command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated

Key Skills:

  • capacity to analyse critically
  • ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • capacity to initiate and frame an appropriate topic for independent study
  • capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning
  • ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • organisation and time-management skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • One-to-one consultation sessions (including feedback on up to 3000 words of the dissertation in Epiphany Term): provide students with carefully guided advice on general subject areas, research, shaping arguments and developing bibliographic skills without undermining the student's capacity for independent learning.
  • Plenary lecture: the plenary lecture, given in the Easter term of the second year, deals with: choice of subject; ways of treating the subject in terms of argument and structure; research methods; presentation and bibliography.
  • Three further lectures and a final workshop are intended to cover essential skills and allow students to bring specific issues along for discussion. These might include: questions about good practice, research methods, presentation, structuring an argument, using footnotes. The lectures are scheduled in Michaelmas Term and early in Epiphany Term and are intended to reinforce advice given in supervision sessions. The final workshop focuses specifically on presentation, referencing, and bibliography. The lectures and workshop also provide a forum where students can engage with and learn from each other and share and discuss commonly experienced challenges and problems in writing a piece of work of this length.
  • Dissertation: tests the student's ability to argue, respond and interpret, whilst demonstrating subject-specific knowledge and skills such as appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation and the close reading and analysis of texts. The dissertation also tests the student's capacity for independent thought and judgement, an ability to assess the critical ideas of others, and the ability to present word-processed work, observing scholarly conventions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Lecture1Easter term of penultimate year1 Hour1 
Individual consultations5Easter Term (x 1); Michaelmas Term (x 2); Epiphany Term (x 2)30 Minutes2.5 
Lecture/Workshops4Michaelmas and Epiphany Term1 Hour4 
Preparation and Reading392.5 

Summative Assessment

Component: DissertationComponent Weighting: 100%
ElementLength / DurationElement WeightingResit Opportunity
Dissertation10,000 words100

Formative Assessment

The convenor will formalise submission of an outline up to 1,000 words for second Michaelmas Term meeting, and 2,500 word sample submitted ahead of the third meeting in Epiphany Term.

More information

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