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Module QXL-4400:
MA/MSc Dissertation

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

60 Credits or 30 ECTS Credits

Organiser: Dr Eirini Sanoudaki

Overall aims and purpose

This module constitutes the research component (part 2) of Masters degrees in the School of Linguistics and English Language. Students will conduct a small-scale, yet significant piece of individual research to an advanced level and write a 20,000 word dissertation on it. Each student is assigned a member of staff whose research interests best and/or most closely connects with the topic as a supervisor. The supervisor will assist the student to focus the scope, methodology and content of their dissertation, as well as giving advice throughout the project. Under the guidance of the supervisor, students will focus and fine tune their research question, survey relevant literature, plan the project, decide on a methodology, consider the need for ethical approval and act accordingly, collect and analyse data (depending on the nature of the research) utilizing an appropriate analytic framework, and write up the project to form the dissertation which will address the research question in light of the findings. The dissertation will be a substantial piece of written work, employing the usual conventions in linguistic literature.

• To develop the capacity to design and complete a major piece of independent research by formulating a research project; conduct and present a supporting review of literature; identify, utilise and interpret a relevant body of evidence, and produce a sustained argument in written form.
• To reinforce key skills of research, critical analysis and academic writing.
• To develop students' ability to analyse linguistic phenomena, employing the key tools and theoretical frameworks of Linguistics.
• To gain a critical appreciation and experience of the research process and methodologies in Linguistic research.

Course content

Topics vary depending on individual students choices and degree programme. They relate to a wide array of issues in linguistics but must be relevant to the degree programme that the student is registered on. Topics will include, but not be confined to, research in Cognitive Linguistics, Bilingualism, Language Acquisition, Language Development, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Most topics will involve the collection and analysis of data, but the possibility of utilising exiting data or doing an extended literature review is not precluded if relevant to the topic and agreed with the supervisor. The School makes every effort to supervise the topic of the students' choice, however, on the rare occasions that the School does not have the capacity to supervise a topic, students will be advised to choose a new topic.

Only students wishing to collect data involving children or vulnerable adults will need a DBS check (see below).

Assessment Criteria


C (50%):
The student demonstrates the minimum acceptable level of understanding of the area they have chosen to research and achieved the minimum acceptable standard in all the learning outcomes.
The answer must show some evidence of background study of sources, knowledge of the methodology used, the ability to interpret data and draw conclusions, and be relevant to the research topic chosen.
Errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation must be minimal, so that the dissertation can be easily understood.


Data and/or review of literature must be collected, organized, and analysed with care, and be free from misunderstanding and errors of content, be free from irrelevant material, and have few errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Appreciation must be shown of some of the problems involved with collecting data and/or preparing a review of literature. The answer must show a better-than-average standard of knowledge and understanding.
The answer must show evidence of background study of a variety of primary sources.
Assertions must be supported by reference to a theory and/or empirical research.
The answer must show evidence of analytical thinking and have a coherent structure that is adhered to in the most part; relationships between successive parts must be generally easy to follow.
Students will have achieved an above average understanding and/or knowledge in all learning outcomes.


The student has revealed a thorough understanding of the area being researched, both in terms of content and theory. Data and/or review of literature must be evaluated critically and in detail, in a logical manner.
The study must show evidence of being able to apply complex concepts clearly and accurately and display evidence of critical thought, clear and logical argument, and display communicative competence, free from irrelevant material and errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation.
The research must have an originality of exposition and understanding; the author’s own thinking should be readily apparent.
The research must show a clear line structure in which each successive stage is explicitly linked and the reader is explicitly told why these parts are relevant to the study.
The research must show clear evidence of extensive reading of primary sources. Students will have achieved a thorough/excellent understanding and/or knowledge in all learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to formulate and carry out a sophisticated and sustained individual academic research project of significant scope to an advanced standard, in order to investigate the identified research question.

  2. Students will develop a great depth of knowledge in the appropriate area/topic under investigation, demonstrated through a confident and properly critical use of existing literature through reflection on a number of pieces of written research in an appropriate and thorough manner, and the presence of a reasoned theoretical defence of the research.

  3. Students will demonstrate a sophisticated consideration of varying methodological approaches, and be able to critically appraise and deploy these methodologies by adopting and adapting the necessary approaches suitable to the topic being researched.

  4. Students will develop an increased independence of view, and demonstrate the ability to analyse critically, make judgements, and draw conclusions.

  5. Students will be able to identify and utilise a relevant body of evidence to an advanced standard, identifying clear aims appropriate to a masters dissertation in linguistics.

  6. Students will develop and demonstrate a high level of autonomy and responsibility in planning and executing the research.

  7. Students will demonstrate a sophisticated ability to consider ethical issues and constraints, and will know how to exercise this in both the planning and execution of the study.

  8. Students will be able to identify the limitations of the study.

  9. Students will be able to able to present the research undertaken in the form of a written dissertation, producing a sustained and sophisticated argument in extended written form, subject to rigorous standards and conforming to the conventions of presentation found in linguistics.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Dissertation (20000 words) 100

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Individual Project

Students will be engaged in private individual research (under the direction of their supervisor) and writing this up to form their dissertation.


Students will be allocated a dissertation supervisor, who will provide eight 30 minute one-to-one supervisory meetings (roughly every two weeks through the summer). Where possible, these will be face-to-face, but may occasionally be conducted by online means. In the first meeting, a schedule of future meetings will be set, as well as a plan for undertaking and completing the research project.
The supervisor will provide support on an individual basis to help students become properly self-critical and to support their growing autonomy as researchers. Supervisors will be allocated on a basis of relevant expertise but students will be responsible for the extent to which their work covers appropriate territory. Supervisors will serve to challenge assumptions and extend the limits of students' thinking, though they will also act as a source of research expertise and procedural guidance. Supervisors will also give comment on one draft of the dissertation, either in full or as parts/chapters are completed.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Research skills - students will be able to undertake advanced independent research, involving formulating a research question, identifying and deploying appropriate linguistic methodology (theoretical or empirical), data collection techniques (experimental or field-based), as well as the selection and application of appropriate theoretical frameworks in order to adequately analyse and interpret data.
  • Writing & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in written form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies to an advanced standard.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse and interpret data accurately and to draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Problem solving - students will be able to evidence sophisticated problem-solving skills in formulating problems (factual, empirical, theoretical) in precise terms, identifying key issues, and developing the confidence to address challenging problems using a variety of different approaches
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate to an advanced standard a particular position, viewpoint or argument in relation to a specific area of investigation. They will be able to reflect on the efficacy of a particular approach, practice or performance, and moderate these as a consequence in order to achieve specific goals.
  • Independent investigation - students will develop the ability to plan, design and execute a highly original and significant piece of research or inquiry, either independently or as a member of a team in order to discover a specific solution to an outstanding issue or question through searching out and synthesising written, visual and oral information. Students will also develop skills of independent investigation, including interacting with peers and participants/informants.
  • Personal organisation - students will develop the ability to undertake self-directed study and learning with appropriate time-management
  • Information technology - students will develop the ability to use computing and IT skills in order to find, store, interpret and present information, to produce a range of electronic documents and to use software confidently
  • Effective communication - students will develop the ability to communicate effectively, appropriately and confidently, in a range of contexts, to different audience types, and making use of a range of supporting materials
  • Awareness of and appreciation for linguistic and cultural differences - students will develop an awareness of and an appreciation for the range and nature of linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • Proficiency in the use of English in reading, writing, speaking and/or listening - students will demonstrate proficiency in their ability to use and understand English in a range of different contexts and via different media.
  • Knowledge of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) theory and practice - students will demonstrate familiarity with core terms, issues, principles, aspects and best practices related to the teaching of English as a foreign language.
  • Understanding of the nature of bi/multilingualism - students will demonstrate familiarity with phenomena and findings relating to the nature of bilingual and multilingual individuals and communities.
  • Knowledge of linguistic theory and application - students will demonstrate a detailed knowledge of terms, issues, principles, aspects and best practices related to the study of human language and linguistics.
  • Understanding of the nature and organisation of language - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of observations and findings relating to various aspects of linguistic phenomena and organization.
  • Understanding the nature of commonalities and differences across languages - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to universals and diversity exhibited by and across languages.
  • Knowledge of the relationship between language and society, culture, and/or embodied experience - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to the complex interdependent relationship between language, society culture and/or embodied experience.
  • Knowledge of the relationship between language and mind/brain - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to the complex interdependent relationship between language and mind/brain.
  • Knowledge of the nature of language origins, change and use - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge phenomena and findings relating to the nature of language origins, the way language changes, and factors involved in and affecting language use.


Resource implications for students

Students needing a DBS check will be responsible for paying for it themselves

Reading list

Relevant reading will vary for each student due to the variety of topics being researched. Supervisors will assist students in identifying relevant literature.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: