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Provide a generic guide and introduction to what is expected from students on the dissertation module and are intended to supplement the more specific individual support provided by dissertation supervisors.

Guidelines for Dissertations



BA (Hons) Community and Social Care: Policy and Practice: SW3803; SW3813

BA (Hons) Social Policy and Sociology: SP3990; SP3991


  1. Significance of the Dissertation

It is the dissertation or community research project that forms the honours component of your degree.

There is no set syllabus for the dissertation, which is a piece of independent work.  You will be allocated a dissertation supervisor as soon as possible in semester 1 of year 3: the sooner you inform us of your dissertation topic, the sooner you will be allocated a supervisor. The list of supervisors and students will be posted on Blackboard and also be e-mailed to students in due course.

It is essential that you make contact with your supervisor as early as possible in the first semester in order to discuss your ideas and obtain guidance and support. Dissertations are researched and written up over two semesters in the final academic year and, during this period, supervisors are available to guide and support students.  However, in the last few weeks before submission students should be in a position where they are typing-up, proof-reading, making minor amendments etc.: very little can be done to help you make major revisions to the dissertation if drafts are given to your supervisor for comment just before the hand in date.

  1. Hand-in Dates
  • The deadline for submission of the 500 word research proposal (see section 5 below)
  • The deadline for submission of the completed dissertation is 3rd May 2019.

The proposal should be submitted via Turnitin and feedback will be given using Grade mark.  The dissertation itself should be submitted to Turnitin to provide an originality check, but you should also submit two hard copies (bound) of the dissertation.  Feedback will be provided with one of the hard copies.

The word lengths for dissertations are as follows:

  • Students on the BA (Hons) Community and Social Care: Policy and Practice degree programme undertake the Dissertation Module SW 3803: Single dissertation module – 7,000 words, or SW3813: Double dissertation module – 12,000 words.
  • Students on the BA (Hons) Social Policy in Combined Honours degree programme can choose between SP 3990: Single dissertation module – 7,000 words, or SP 3991: Double dissertation module – 12,000 words.


  1. Dissertation Support

Guidelines for dissertation: supervision role

You will be allocated a dissertation supervisor within as soon as possible in semester 1 when we have an idea of your topic area.

The maximum allocation of time for face to face contact between student and supervisor is 4 hours. This includes time for face to face, telephone and email contact and time taken by a supervisor to review plans of work other than the final draft (students should submit work plans they want to discuss at least one week prior to arranged tutorials).

Dissertation Workshops

There are also a number of Dissertation Workshops available for all students on the following dates between 10.00-11.00 am:

  • 24th September (Adelphi Building LT4)
  • 8th October (Adelphi Building LT5)
  • 29th October (Adelphi Building LT4)
  • 12th November (Adelphi Building LT4)
  • 26th November (Adelphi Building LT4)

The workshops provide a generic guide and introduction to what is expected from students on the dissertation module and are intended to supplement the more specific individual support provided by dissertation supervisors.

Your dissertation supervisor will read the dissertation plan and one draft chapter, which must arrive, at the latest, two weeks before the hand in date. Supervisors will not be obliged to read final drafts if students do not submit work within these timescales.

Your dissertation supervisor will also mark your dissertation and be involved in 2nd marking other students’ dissertations.

  1. The Dissertation Topic


Students are free to choose their own dissertation topic; however, experience has shown that the more interesting and highly graded dissertations tend to be those that pose a question which is then examined. Descriptive dissertations e.g. ‘The 1989 Children Act’ or ‘Community Care’ tends to lack sharp focus or precise analytical themes.  Posing a question or focusing on an issue is likely to result in greater depth of critical analysis, which is generally rewarded with higher marks.

Please note students are not permitted to carry out empirical research; students should develop a research project that explores secondary (i.e. literature based) research only. We will explore the differences between these approaches to research in the first dissertation workshop. In deciding on the topic of your dissertation you must be guided by the following points:

  1. a) It must be concerned with social welfare issues: this gives you a very broad range of themes to choose from
  1. b) Availability of appropriate supervision.
  1. c) No chosen topic should substantially replicate a piece of work undertaken previously.

Points to be considered in making your choice of topic:

  • Is there someone who can supervise the topic?
  • Does the topic really interest you?
  • Can the topic be completed in the required time?
  • Are the library facilities and e-resources sufficient either at the university or at another library to which you have access? Some material may be obtainable on inter-library loan. Some may not be accessible until some years after an event. You should be prepared to consult subject librarians.
  • Is the study feasible? Do you have easy access to data?

5. Dissertation Calendar

       Semester 1, Year 3

  1. Check your university e-mails where there a list will be circulated indicating your dissertation supervisor.
  1. Make an appointment with your supervisor – you must ensure you do this within the first 4 weeks of the semester.
  1. At the first appointment it is advisable that you provide your supervisors with a written draft of your ideas – this will later form the basis of your 500 word research proposal.

Semester 2, Year 3

  1. Continue to work on dissertation and to meet with supervisor
  1. Submit draft chapters to supervisor for advice/guidance
  1. Drafts should must be with your supervisor at least 2 weeks prior to the hand-in date.
  1. Producing Your Dissertation

1)     Presentation

For general guidelines on presentation, refer to your School of Social Work Assessment Handbook.

2)     Abstract

The dissertation should include a synopsis of approximately 200-300 words at the beginning, following the title page, stating the nature and the scope of the work undertaken.

3)     Contents Page

This should immediately follow the abstract, and provide the page number and titles of all dissertation chapters or sections

4)     General Guidance

Depending on the nature of the subject, some or all of the following may be appropriate in your dissertation.  If you are unsure you should ask your supervisor for guidance

  1. In the introduction, provide a clear statement of what you hope to achieve and how you intend to achieve it.
  1. A series of progressive and coherent chapters each of which advances your overall arguments: your chapters should have a logical sequence and should always begin on a new page
  1. Evidence of the effective use of a range of academic sources appropriate to this level of study.
  1. A balanced discussion of the appropriate theoretical and empirical issues raised by your topic
  1. A clear and coherent conclusion, which reveals the outcome of your study and demonstrates the degree to which you have achieved your objectives and/or answered your chosen research question.

5)     In organizing your dissertation, you need to clearly establish the parameters of your study.  For example you might take a historical/chronological approach to organizing the literature or alternative a theme approach, depending on the subject area. You might also include the time frame from which you have drawn the literature and also its country of origin and consider the implications of these.    You will need to discuss this in more detail with your dissertation supervisor, and we will explore these issues in the workshops

6)     When examining the literature, you may consider including some discussion of the methodologies used in the studies, not just focusing on the content or findings.  NB. It is not essential to have a separate chapter on methodology in a short dissertation like this: it is fine to discuss important examples of methodology used in the literature you have drawn upon where this is particularly appropriate or significant to your analysis and discussion, but it is not compulsory to have a separate methodology chapter.

7)      Bibliography.

Use the Harvard System of referencing (see School of Social     Work, Care and Community Assessment Handbook).


  • Use good quality paper of standard size (A4)
  • Write on one side of the page only.
  • Leave margins at 30mm on the left and the top of the page, and 30mm on the right and the bottom of the page.
  • Number the pages consecutively at the bottom middle.
  • Drawings, tables, photographs and other figures, where used, should be correctly referenced.

The dissertation should incorporate:

  1. A table of contents listing appropriate page numbers for sections or chapters
  1. b) A consistent reference system
  • The dissertation should be divided into sections or chapters and should include an introductory and concluding section or chapter and a bibliography.
  • Any abbreviations and symbols should be those in normal use; where necessary a key to abbreviations and symbols should be provided after the contents page, following the acknowledgements section.
  • Appendices: appendices where used should be used appropriately and sparingly in consultation with your dissertation supervisor. They should be contained in referenced appendices at the back of the dissertation e.g., Appendix I “UK homelessness statistics” and listed in the contents page of the dissertation.
  • The front cover of the dissertation should contain the title, your name and course title (this is the new format provided by the Library) or, a cover with a window: if using this type of cover you should arrange the front page of your report so that the title and your name are visible through this window. The front page should also contain the title of the degree and the year of submission.
  • It is essential to proof-read the dissertation before submitting it: read it through carefully and correct spelling, grammar, copying or typing mistakes.


Acknowledgements are optional but it is polite, however, to acknowledge supervision of the project. Patronisation is to be avoided. In cases where exceptional assistance is given by members of staff or supplied by other institutions, appropriate acknowledgement would be expected.  If included, this section should be on a separate page after the abstract and contents page.

  1. Submission of Work

All dissertations must be typed using double spacing and with triple spacing between paragraphs.  Two hard copies should be submitted to the School of Social Work Office and students are advised to keep a further copy for reference.  One copy should be submitted electronically via Turnitin for the purposes of an originality check.  Any late work submitted without an approved extension or extenuating circumstances is subject to the University’s regulations: see the School of Social Work Assessment Handbook

  1. Assessment

The specific learning outcomes are provided in the module descriptors in your course handbook.

It is hoped that the above guidelines will clarify any queries you might have about your dissertation.  Further help and guidance can be obtained from your dissertation supervisor and in the workshops and group tutorials.  We wish you good luck and enjoyment during the course of your dissertation study.

          September 2018

        Dr Jonathan Pratt

School of Social Work, Care and Community

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