What is a dissertation?
A dissertation is the independent exploration and extended critical study of a topic which you choose because it particularly interests you. Its final form will be a carefully organized essay based on sustained thought and considerable research. Its length will be between 6,000 and 7,500 words; or between 4,500 to 6,000 words if your dissertation includes a practice-based element.
Assessment of the module is based on two components which together constitute 100% of the final mark: a dissertation plan (15%) and the draft and final dissertation (85%).
The module involves individual supervision designed to support your ambitions and confidence in becoming an independent learner, building on techniques and knowledge developed in previous years, and providing scope for initiative and development.
For the dissertation you will need to demonstrate the ability to thoroughly research a topic, use appropriate methods of investigation, and work methodically and productively. The dissertation mode affords a sophisticated instrument for exploring, testing and presenting ideas at graduate level: it encourages you to deploy a variety of skills and to show how well you can conduct and present an investigation, from researching sources to analysing evidence. It requires you to construct and interpret your chosen material and present it as an integrated and coherent whole. Depending on the aim and choice of subject and material, this may take the form of an argument, a discussion, a critical reflection or exposition.
The subject matter of the dissertation can be theoretical, technical, or historical, and should be closely related to your main field of study. It may be envisaged as one of several different types: for example, visual, technical or other non-written material may form the subject of the enquiry and comprise an integral part of the whole; the dissertation may be professionally oriented and include field-work; or it might be academic and theoretical in its source material and methodology.
You will develop your topic independently, but within a specific dissertation ‘interest group’ similar to design studios. Dissertation Studios provide a seven-week-long block of taught programme and incorporate research based specialisms, areas of scholarly interest in history, theory and criticism, industry related practice, and workshop, digital or media based technical studies.
All dissertation studios share the same assessment criteria and follow a basic structure. However they can differ however considerably in the way they approach research and writing. When choosing which studio you would like to join, you should consider not only the studio’s specialism, but look closely at the teaching methods and – maybe most importantly – the tutors’s general interests and expertise. You can learn more about this and the voting process in the Module Milestones section.
Writing a dissertation requires creative skill and rigour in equal measure. While we encourage innovative approaches to research and writing, and offer you an opportunity to include a practice-based element in your submission, there are certain criteria all students must follow. Some of these are hard to define, such as originality or the quality of your writing. Others, however, have clear outlines. It is very important, for example, that you add footnotes to quotations and reference your source; and that your work adopts a structure that is clear and that supports your argument. Your tutors will help you with this, but it is important that you familiarise yourself with the culture, standards and rules of writing in an academic context.
We have developed a very useful online tool that will answer many of your questions and clearly sets out what a dissertation should look like, how to do research, how to make a bibliography etc. Follow the link on the left to ‘CASS Writing’ and start reading.
Your work should be easy to handle:
Your work should be easy to read:
Your work should be easy to reference:
Your work should be well organized; it needs form and structure to help give it meaning:
The form or structure of a text can most easily be understood as its sections or parts (e.g. beginning, middle, and end). You can make the structure of your sections more or less obvious to suit the type of assignment, for example:
Contents Page (table of contents)
The Dissertation (because it is a longer, more complex piece of work) needs a table of contents:
List of Illustrations
The Dissertations (because it is a longer, more complex and formal piece of work) will need a List of Illustrations.
The Bibliography should be after your Conclusion. It is designed to be a one-stop location where the reader can see the published and unpublished sources you have used to research your assignment. All CCS submissions MUST include a full Bibliography thats lists all the sources you have used. If your submission does not have a bibliography it will be deemed ‘incomplete’.
You MUST detail your use of sources at the exact point of use in your writing. It makes a map for your reader and demonstrates your academic honesty and respect for the integrity of other people’s work as well as your own.
Footnotes have two purposes:
They state the source for your material – ideas, information, facts, theories, explanations. Footnotes can also be used to provide additional information to the main text such as clarifications, comment, further examples. This type of additional information should only be included if you believe it is helpful for the reader.
Remember, although there is an overlap of information, you need to include both footnotes and a bibliography. This is because they serve different purposes: footnotes demonstrate use of evidence at the relevant point in your text; bibliographies provide a summary list of your sources.
What is a quotation?
A quotation is a group of words taken from a text, speech or other source and repeated by someone other than the original author. A quotation can be direct (word-for-word or verbatim), or abbreviated or summarized using your own words.
When quoting an author word-for-word or using an author’s ideas/ arguments, you must clearly attribute these words or ideas to that author. You mark it in the text (in one of three ways as outlined below) and you provide the reference at the end of the quotation.
1. Short Quotations (less than about 40 words)
Inverted commas: If it is a
word-for-word (verbatim) quote, then you must separate these words from the
main body of your text by single inverted commas: ‘the quotation’.
Quotations within quotation (i.e., where the
quote you are using contains a quote) are indicated using double inverted
commas: ‘the quotation “quotes”.’
Italics: There is no need to italicise your quotes or make any other changes to your font, spacing or punctuation.
2. Long Quotations (more than about 40 words)
Indenting: If it is a long word for word quote then you should separate these words from the main body of the text by indenting the quotation on the left hand side. In effect you place the quote within its own paragraph. For example:
Fashion is neither a conspiracy to seduce us into ‘unnecessary’ expenditure nor is it a realm of unfettered choice and untainted pleasure. In contemporary Western society
it is sometimes associated with glamour and ideal beauty as well as extravagance and self-indulgence. Yet a more equal social system would not necessarily lead to the
abolition of fashion, although this is what the dress reformers believed.1
Inverted commas: Note how quotemarks are not used in this type of longer quotation. It is enough to separate the text into its own paragraph, indent and change font size. Consequently quotations within the quotation have single inverted commas when the quotation is indented.
Italics: There is no need to italicise your quotes or make any other changes to your font or punctuation or add inverted commas.
Line spacing: you may change the line spacing of indented quotes to further differentiate them from the main body of the text.
To shorten a long quotation: you may take out words that are irrelevant for your purposes and replace with ellipsis i.e. […]. For less than a sentence removed use three dots; for a sentence or more removed use four dots [….].
3. Summarising Quotes
You can also reference a text without quoting it directly, e.g.: As Wilson and Taylor have argued, ‘fashion is neither a conspiracy’ nor an ‘untainted pleasure’.2
It has been argued that fashion is neither a conspiracy nor an untainted pleasure.3
All three of these approaches (fn 1, fn 2, fn 3) are footnoted in the same way. The reference at the bottom of the page would read: Wilson and Taylor, 1989, p.227.
Illustrations must be used to illustrate. They should be relevant to your ideas and argument and support your research.
These can present the original data or information used in your case study or dissertation that is not easily available elsewhere and that does not fit into the flow of the main body of the text.
A Glossary is a form of appendix. It comprises an alphabetical list of any unusual words, technical terms, abbreviations or acronyms used in the text, together with their definition.
Abstracts are the academic equivalent of the ‘Executive Summary’ in the professional and business world. They serve the same purpose: to provide a succinct summary of any written work, be it a report, a case study, or a paper submitted to a conference or for publication. They are also a useful exercise.
Abstracts are also a useful exercise. Writing one helps you reflect on your text and examine whether it does have an idea to it, and whether it has well structured good content.
Plagiarism is attempted fraud. It does not matter whether it is a result of incompetence, inefficiency, lack of understanding of conventions and requirements, poor time management, or deliberate intent to deceive – it still constitutes academic misconduct and will be dealt with by the University accordingly. Plagiarism includes:
What is not plagiarism?
How to avoid plagiarism:
How it should look like:
John Berger, Ways of
Seeing (Penguin, 1972).
Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Souvenir Press, 4th edition, 2013).
Alan Fletcher, The Art of Looking Sideways (London: Phaidon, 2001).
Francis D. K. Ching, Building Construction Illustrated (Wiley, 2011).
Fred Dubery and John Willats, Perspective and other drawing systems (London: Herbert Press, 1983).
Diane Waldman and Henri Matisse, Collage, assemblage, and the found object (Phaidon, 1992).
Jonathan Bignall, An Introduction to Television Studies, (Routledge, 2012).
David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson and Jeremy Ashton, Film art: an introduction, Vol. 7 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997).
John Backus, Acoustical Foundations of Music (New York: Norton, 1977), pp 67-78.
Thomas Rossing, Richard Moore and Paul Wheeler, The Science of Sound, (Addison Wesley,2002), p. 127.
Chapters in books
Catherine Ingraham, ‘Initial
Proprieties: Architecture and the Space of the Line’ in Sexuality and Space, ed. by Beatriz Colomina (Princeton Architectural Press, 1992),
Melissa Zinkin, ‘Film and the Transcendental Imagination: Kant and Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes’ in Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts, ed. by Matthew Kiernan and Dominic McIver Lopes (London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 245-258.
Jean-Claude Risset and David L. Wessel, ‘Exploration of Timbre by Analysis and Synthesis’, inThe Psychology of Music, ed. by Diana Deutsch, 2nd edn (Academic Press, 1999), pp. 113-169.
Articles and Journals
• Author’s name, exactly as it appears in the article
• Title of article, in single quotation marks
• Title of journal, italicized
• Series number, in arabic numerals
• Volume number, in arabic numerals
• Year(s) of publication, in parentheses unless there is no volume number
• First and last page numbers of article cited, not preceded by ‘pp.’
• Page number(s), in parentheses and preceded by ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’, of the particularreference (if necessary.
Dominic Cullinan, ‘Building the structures
of belonging’, Architecture Today, 202
Britany L. Salsbury, ‘Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler: A Feminist View of Weimar
Culture’, Woman’s Art Journal, 29 (2008), pp. 23-30.
Ali Momeni and Cyrille Henry, ‘Dynamic independent mapping layers for
concurrent control of audio and video synthesis’, Computer Music Journal 30, no. 1 (2006),
Michael Z. Newman, ‘Indie culture:
In pursuit of the authentic autonomous alternative’, Cinema Journal 48, no. 3 (2009), pp.16-34.
Edward Tufte, ‘Envisioning
information’, Optometry & Vision Science 68.4 (1991), pp. 322-324.
Articles In Newspapers And Magazines
‘Colour and I are one’, Guardian, 5 October 2013,
Review section, p. 14.
Christopher Fox, ‘Record, cut, stick, loop’, Guardian, 5 October 2013, Review section, p. 13
• As far as possible follow the style used for printed publications.
• Author’s name
• Title of item
• Title of complete work/resource
• Publication details (volume, issue, date)
• Full address (Universal Resource Locator (URL)) or DOI of the resource (in anglebrackets)
Marina L. Levitina, ‘Models of New Femininity and Masculinity in Soviet Russia in the 1920s’,Kinema, Spring (2013), <http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/article.php?id=528&feature> [accessed 8 October 2013]
Mary Ann Steane, ‘Lightenings: Niall McLaughlin’s Bishop Edward King Chapel’, Architecture Today, 20 May 2013, <http://www.architecturetoday.co.uk/?p=30237> [accessed 8 October 2013]
Steve Parnell ,‘Review: The Italian Avant-Garde’, IconEye, 3 October 2013, <http://www.iconeye.com/news/reviews-2013/review-the-italian-avant-garde> [accessed 8 October 2013]
Recordings, Films And Digital Media
Beethoven, Piano Concerto no. 5, Mitsuko Uchida, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, cond. by
Kurt Sanderling (Phillips, 462 586-2, 1998).
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black, (Island, 171 304-1, 2006).
God’s Own Architect, BBC Four, 12 Aug 2013.
The Grapes of Wrath, dir. by John Ford (20th Century Fox, 1940).
Note: the surname comes first.