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Tips when tackling a Dissertation proposal

1 Gorffennaf 2020

Tips when doing an English Literature dissertation proposal

In third year, English literature students get the opportunity to do a dissertation. Unlike many universities, this is an optional equivalent to a module, meaning that if you do not wish to do a dissertation you don’t have to. You can pick an extra module instead.

A dissertation allows you to choose a specific sector of Literature to explore. You could do anything from gender studies within Hitchcock films to the romanticism period and nature. Essentially, any subject that you are interested in is available to you as a dissertation subject.

Before you can start; however, the school of Literature, Communication and Philosophy (ENCAP) undergraduate office must confirm that you are suitable to undertake the hard work that a dissertation requires. This means that after your second year is done you must complete a dissertation proposal to the best of your ability to demonstrate your capabilities.

A dissertation requires a lot of independent research and with only a few one-to-one meetings with your dissertation supervisor, you are essentially left to your own devices.

The way to tackle the daunting task of dissertation planning is to take it one step at a time.

Identify a subject area that you find particularly interesting.

-This could be a part of a module you have already done in your two years at university but were not able to investigate the matter to the degree you wanted. Perhaps you stumbled across an interesting theme in a novel that didn’t actually apply to the question you had chosen, and you had to discard it.

-If you cannot think of a subject you have already done, or wish to do something new, identify a general topic like Gender, Race, Language or Poetry to consider.

– Find a genre that interests you and think about the broad subject matter before you before specifying the subject.

If you are interested in the topic you are much more likely to do well as you will enjoy doing it.

Read, then read some more

If you have found a genre that you like but cannot think how to make it into a specific subject, read the books.

This is part of your research in itself. This is what the office is looking for, specific details. Look up on google the best books in your chosen genre and read them. Take notes as you read, perhaps on different pages, of different themes or matters tackled within the texts. This means that you can compare and contrast with linked material and the shape of your dissertation will emerge.


Once you have found the general topic or texts you want to explore, go onto the university library or/and google books and research them.

 Take notes of the biographical information as you go as the form will require you to record at least eight examples of secondary research. Research the general topic, the texts you have chosen, the themes behind them and perhaps the authors themselves. The fact of the matter is that you can never read too much.


Once you have researched and honed your subject down, you have to brainstorm some intellectual and interesting base questions that your dissertation will explore. Use your research to guide these questions.

Reference your research in the annotated bibliography.

 You need to be meticulous, pay careful attention to how you are referencing. It should be in the MHRA style. You will then need to provide a reason for the texts inclusion in your research. Why is it an important text? What information does it provide in order for you to further your research into the topic? Does the text agree or disagree with what you are researching and if it disagrees then what will you use it to prove? You have to have at least eight texts; I would recommend more to demonstrate the desire to go above and beyond. Something that a good dissertation will require.


This is essential. If you cannot show that you are able to produce a well written piece, then the office will have no faith in your ability to complete a dissertation to a high standard.

I hope this has helped you when deciding on how to approach dissertations, the trick is caring about the subject enough that you will enjoy writing around 6000 words on the subject.