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SSEES MA/MRes Dissertation Preparation Programme (SEES0092)

SSEES MA/MRes Dissertation Preparation Programme

The SSEES MA/MRes Dissertation Preparation module (SEES0092) is compulsory for all students on a one-year (or two-year part-time) MA programme at SEEES and must be registered together with other course choices on Portico.

IMESS students and MRes students are also strongly encouraged and expected to attend the 2 library sessions and the 2 discipline specific dissertation meetings outlined below.

Separate introductory information sessions on dissertation preparation will be held for IMESS and MRes students.

Aims and objectives of the dissertation

The aims of the Dissertation are:

  • To provide an opportunity to pursue independent research on a subject of your choice
  • To provide experience in identifying a clearly focused research question and developing a thesis around it, over an extended period.
  • To enable you to test your skills in producing a substantial piece of written work of potentially publishable quality (high level of analysis, judgment and clarity of expression);
  • To develop and showcase your academic development achieved during the MA programme;
  • To contribute one third of the assessment for the MA degree (more for the MRes degree);
  • To prepare you for MPhil, PhD or any research project you might do in your future career.

The objectives of the Dissertation are:

  • To choose an original topic for your research and to identify a relevant and appropriate research question within that topic;
  • To search for and understand existing literature on the subject (including classic works, up-to-date publications, periodical and internet sources);
  • To demonstrate knowledge of secondary sources on the chosen subject as well as your ability to assess critically other authors' views and to structure your own argument;
  • To take into account, as appropriate, relevant historical background and theoretical frameworks;
  • To develop your organizational, analytical and stylistic skills;
  • To work towards making an independent contribution on a particular subject
Objectives of the Dissertation Preparation Module

The Dissertation Preparation module is designed to support and help you to fulfil the above aims and objectives to the highest standard. It will review and update your library and information management skills (essential for undertaking good research) and provide you with a detailed, subject specific dissertation briefing, as well as introduce you to ethical considerations within original research. As well as providing general guidance on the dissertation process, it will also clarify what you can expect by way of dissertation supervision.

Summary of the Dissertation Preparation Module

During this module you will receive specialist tuition in obtaining and managing sources and resources for research from a senior SSEES librarian and discipline specific guidance from highly qualified and experienced academic staff appointed as Programme Coordinators. During the course you will also be allocated a Dissertation Supervisor relevant to the area in which you wish to undertake your research. The supervisor will provide you with further qualified advice and guidance during the early stages of planning and designing your work.

NB – MRes students should note that supervision for MRes dissertations follows a different format from the supervision of MA dissertations.

MA/MRes Dissertation Schedule and Deadlines

Term 1

  • Attend the introductory meeting and the two Library Sessions, as detailed below (SEES0092).
  • Discuss your potential topic and ideas with your Personal Tutor during her/his office hours during Term 1.
  • After discussion with your personal tutor, complete the MA/MRes Dissertation Provisional Proposal questionnaire (available on the SEES0092 Moodle page), providing a draft title and reasoned description of your proposed topic. The description of your project should be a minimum of 100 words, maximum of 200 words.
  • MRes (one-year), submit electronically Dissertation Provisional Proposal Form via Moodle by December (check Moodle for exact date)
  • MA – submit electronically Dissertation Provisional Proposal Form via Moodle by December (check Moodle for exact date)

Term 2

  • Attend one Discipline Specific Session in Term 2, as detailed below
  • Arrange one meeting with your allocated Dissertation Supervisor (the list of allocated Dissertation Supervisors will be published on Moodle early in Term 2).
  • MRes (two-year), submit electronically MA Dissertation Provisional Proposal Form via Moodle by February (check Moodle for exact date)
  • IMESS - submit electronically MA Dissertation Provisional Proposal Form via Moodle by February (check Moodle for exact date)

Term 3

  • Arrange up to a maximum of two meetings with your allocated Dissertation Supervisor.
  • You may submit up to 4000 (max.) words summary of your dissertation by June (check Moodle for exact date) for comments by your Dissertation Supervisor
  • Submit electronically your dissertation by September (check Moodle for exact date)

Timetabled sessions

The module comprises timetabled sessions, involving one general introductory session, two library sessions (full group, for ALL students), and one programme specific meeting (smaller groups, divided by programme).

For dates, times and venue please check your timetable.

Initial Introductory Discipline Specific Meeting - Week 12

1st Library Dissertation Session: Planning your Research - Week 13

This session covers: What I need to know (useful tips about UCL Libraries and its services); Planning your research; Sources of information; Searching; Locating material at UCL; Access to material outside of UCL

2nd Library Dissertation Session: Managing resources - Week 14

This session covers: Evaluating information; Copyright and plagiarism; Referencing and citation styles; Reference management tools

Discipline Specific Dissertation Meeting* - Week 21

  • Economics and Business
  • History
  • Politics and Sociology
  • Literature and Culture

* MA students should attend the session relevant to the discipline in which they are writing their dissertation (e.g. a Russian Studies MA student writing a dissertation on Politics should go to the Politics session)

IMESS and MRes students should attend the session most relevant to the discipline track they are following, while noting that they will have their own tailored dissertation preparation briefings.

SSEES MA Dissertation Guidelines

The Topic of the Dissertation

It is essential for you to begin planning for the dissertation before the end of the first term, in order to locate appropriate literature, data and other documentary materials and in order to hold an informed discussion of your proposed topic with your Personal Tutor.

You will be taught by some of the staff working in your area in the first term, but you might not necessarily come into contact with all of them immediately. So you should consult the staff research profiles on the SSEES website in order to identify any member of the academic staff whom you might wish to consult in her/his office hours for additional advice.

Supervision (one year MA)

(Note: IMESS and MRes students will receive separate information on supervision arrangements)

Provided that you submit your proposal form by the deadline at the end of term 1, your supervisor will be allocated to you early in term 2. Due to demand we may not be able to place you with your favoured supervisor, but we will always do our very best to provide you with the one most appropriate to your area of study or topic.

Your dissertation has to be the result of independent effort. Your supervisor can provide general feedback (not detailed commentary on style and argument) on a draft of no more than 4000 words if submitted by June (check Moodle for exact date). The number of words might be different for Economics)

Students writing economics dissertations should provide a draft of their dissertation introduction, which should be in near final form by this date. Feedback will be provided within three weeks, either in person or by phone, Skype or email.

Advice may also include consultation in respect of research questions, design, research methods, the plan, structure and focus, and bibliography. Supervision will consist of a maximum of three meetings, so please ensure that you are well prepared for the meetings and use this time wisely. It is your responsibility to email your supervisor and arrange these meetings, which should take place during term-time over the second and third terms.

Students should not have expectations of unrestricted email access to academic staff during the long vacation. Staff availability at that time will depend on their commitments to research activity.

Finally, make sure you familiarise yourself in good time – before you start writing – with the relevant guidance on style, referencing and presentation as described in the ‘MA Style Guidelines for the Presentation of Dissertations and Assessed Essays’, available on the Moodle page for SEES0092.

Length of the Dissertation

For MA dissertations - 10,000-12,000 words (including all notes and appendices, but excluding the bibliography).

MRes in East European Studies (2 years) - 17,000 - 20,000 words (including all notes and appendices, but excluding the bibliography).

MRes in The Politics and Economics of Eastern Europe (1 year) - 15000 – 18000 (including all notes and appendices, but excluding the bibliography).

Any word count within these ranges is permissible (i.e. for an MA dissertation, 12,001 words is deemed to be over-length; for an MRes dissertation, 20,001 words is deemed to be over-length).

While the lower number of 10,000 (16,000) is only a guidance, work that is under-length is unlikely to have adequately addressed the research question(s) set out in the dissertation. Any word count within these ranges is permissible (i.e. for an MA dissertation, 12,001 words is deemed to be over-length; for an MRes dissertation, 18001 or 20,001 words is deemed to be over-length).

Included in word countNot included in word count
Main text of essayBibliography/list of references
Illustrative material such as tables and charts, either in the main part of the essay or in an appendixTitle of essay
Footnotes, endnotes and citationsStudent number
 Appendices containing information about a dissertation’s methodology, e.g. list of interviewees, interview schedule
 Abstract, translations of quotations (where required)

Transcripts of interviews do not need to be attached to dissertations, but they should be available for inspection if the marker requires them.

EXCEPTION: Students writing dissertations (typically in Economics and Business topics) which involve econometric analysis may include additional tables or graphs in an appendix with descriptive statistics, variable definitions, extra regression tables etc. These additional materials in the appendix will not count towards the word count. The main tables and graphs that are central to the argument being made in the dissertation should be included in the main body of the dissertation and will contribute to the word count.

Format of the Dissertation

MA Dissertations must follow the format detailed in the MA Style Guidelines. For guidance on style including references, bibliography and general points, please consult the ‘MA Style Guidelines for the Presentation of Dissertations and Assessed Essays’, available on the Moodle page for SEES0092.

Please ensure that:

  • your title-page is formatted so as to include:

Your student number and candidate number

Your title (preferably a one-liner) and subtitle

A declaration of the length of the dissertation (including all notes and appendices, but excluding the bibliography)

A declaration of authorship

  • an abstract (250-300 words)
  • a table of contents with page numbers (including subheadings) is included
  • all quotations, footnotes and references are organized in the format detailed in the MA Style Guidelines
  • your bibliography is presented in alphabetical order and in the format detailed in the MA Style Guidelines
Submission of the Dissertation

Please ensure that you submit two electronic copies via the SEES0092 Moodle page by September (check Moodle for exact date)

Meeting the Submission Deadline

Please note that the deadline for dissertations will be rigorously enforced and that the Penalties for Late submission (outlined below) will be applicable. It is therefore strongly suggested that you leave ample time to submit your work and that you make all adequate preparations to submit your work on, or before, the deadline where possible.

Please also be reminded that routine computer problems such as viruses, disk corruption, printer problems or printer queues, and short term network problems are *not* acceptable grounds for lateness or extension. You are expected to take proper precautions and make back-up copies of your data.

*IMPORTANT*: It is likely that certain SSEES resources, such as the SSEES Library Cluster Room will be in heavy demand at this time. Please therefore ensure that you are prepared to make appropriate use of other similar computer workrooms around UCL. A full list of public workrooms at UCL is available.

Penalties for Late Submission of Coursework

UCL Academic Regulations for Taught Programmes: Postgraduate Students (Masters and MRes Programmes) for 2018/19, 3.12.

Where coursework is not submitted by a published deadline, the following penalties will apply:

  • The marks for coursework received up to two working days after the published date and time will incur a 10 percentage point deduction in marks (but no lower than the pass mark). 
  • The marks for coursework received more than two working days and up to five working days after the published date and time will receive no more than the pass mark (40% for UG modules, 50% for PGT modules).
  • Work submitted more than five working days after the published date and time but before the second week of the third term will receive a mark of 1%.
  • Programme/ module teams must clearly communicate to students whether and when coursework solutions will be published. Submissions will not be accepted or marked after the specified publication date. 
  • In the case of coursework that is submitted over- or under-length and is also late, the greater of any penalties will apply.

Penalties for Over-length Coursework, including Research Projects, Dissertations and Final Reports

UCL Academic Regulations for Taught Programmes: Postgraduate Students (Masters and MRes Programmes) for 2019/20, 3.13:

  • A minimum and/ or maximum word count may be specified as part of the assessment criteria for a component or module. The word count must specify whether footnotes, bibliographies, appendices, tables, figures etc. are to be included in the word count.
  • Where a word count is included, the module information for students must provide clear details of any penalties that will apply for over- or under-writing.
  • Penalties must not exceed a deduction in marks of 10 percentage points, or one Letter Grade, for that component and must not take the student’s mark below the Pass Mark (see Section 3.7).
  • Standardised penalties may be agreed at Faculty, Departmental/ Divisional, Programme or Module level.
  • In the case of coursework that is submitted over- or under-length and is also late, the greater of any penalties must apply.

Consequences of Failure

If the first attempt at the Dissertation receives an agreed mark of less than 50, this is a fail. All students who fail are given the opportunity for a second attempt. The second attempt submission deadline will be January the following year.

Extenuating Circumstances and Extensions

If you have had any medical or other significant problems which may have affected your preparation or performance in this assessment or any other examination, or piece of assessed coursework, you may apply to have these extenuating circumstances taken into account. To tell us about the circumstances, and to apply for an extension if needed, you use the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure.

Guidelines on the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure, and the link to the form, can be found in the SSEES Student Handbook.

Extensions may be granted in exceptional, unexpected, short term circumstances (and only when supported by relevant evidence).

Students with long term, chronic conditions need to register with Disability Support.

When applying for an extension please ensure that you complete the form fully and provide appropriate medical or other written evidence in English, or accompanied by an independent translation.

The form should be emailed to ssees-extenuating-circumstances@ucl.ac.uk.

It is not possible to consider claims for extenuating circumstances after the Examination Board has sat.

The Extenuating Circumstances regulations are designed to cover unexpected emergencies; they are not always the best way to help students who might have a longer-term medical or mental health condition or a disability. Although there may be times when it is necessary for such students to use the EC regulations, students should make sure they are aware of, and take advantage of, all the other support mechanisms provided by UCL.