HST6560: Dissertation

60 credits (Academic year)

Dissertations Co-ordinator 2019-20: Dr Kate Davison

Useful links:

Additional specific guidance on preparation and submission of assessment for the dissertation can be found below.

Module Summary

You will undertake an individual research project, based on an identifiable collection of primary sources and present your findings in a dissertation of 15,000 words.

The dissertation provides you with the opportunity to further develop the skills and methods that you have learnt during the first part of your MA degree and to apply this historical knowledge to your investigation. It represents an original piece of independent research and should be based on a substantial primary source base and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the secondary literature. Through the dissertation you will demonstrate your practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret historical knowledge.

You will work under the supervision of an expert member of staff who will provide guidance and regular tutorial support. There will also be milestones in place throughout the year to make sure that you are on track with your progress.

Meetings and workshops 2019-20

Deadlines 2019-20

All deadlines are compulsory and must be met promptly.

Module aims

The dissertation aims to help students to identify an area of historical enquiry and an appropriate primary source collection to engage in independent historical research. It provides them with the opportunity to use the skills and methods learnt during the first part of the course and to apply their historical understanding to the investigation of questions of their own devising.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  1. An ability to engage in independent and extended research within a defined area of historical enquiry;
  2. A capacity to formulate and sustain a logical and, where possible, original historical argument based on the information collected;
  3. An ability to work from primary sources, providing appropriate evidence to support historical argument, and referencing the sources of the evidence used;
  4. An ability to write about the past in good English, showing an awareness of History as a literary discipline and a developing sense of literary style.

Supervision and assessment

Learning hours
Tutorials Independent Learning
6 594
Assessment methods
Assessment Type % of final mark Length
Title Formative n/a n/a
Synopsis Formative n/a 1000 words
Preliminary Bibliography Formative n/a n/a
Dissertation Summative 100% 15000 words

The 15,000 word dissertation forms 100% of the module mark and tests your ability to carry out independent and extended research, to formulate and sustain a logical and, where possible, original historical argument, to work from primary sources, and to write about the past in good English.

You will be allocated a supervisor at the start of the academic year based on the expression of your research interests. You will normally receive an email confirming your supervisor(s) by the end of week one. You are advised to contact your supervisor in the early weeks of semester one to discuss ideas. In your first meeting you and your supervisor should discuss the kind of support needed, and should arrange to meet regularly to discuss progress.

You will also attend a dissertation meeting in week 4 which offers general advice on producing the dissertation, and a further workshop in the second semester which builds on this advice. In Week 6 you will be asked to confirm a more detailed dissertation title in agreement with your supervisor.

In week 3 of semester two, you are asked to submit a 1000 word synopsis form in discussion with your supervisor. This may include information on: sources, historiographical context, methodological and/or theoretical approach, outline of dissertation structure and research questions. In week 6 of semester two, you are asked to submit a bibliography including approximately 30 items. These tasks ensures that you have identified a viable research problem as well as important works in the secondary scholarship, and forms the basis for discussions with your supervisor.

By the end of the second semester you will normally have made good progress with the research and will continue writing the dissertation over the summer. Meetings may be less frequent, or virtual, during the summer vacation but submission is in early September. You can ask your supervisor to read up to a third (5,000 words) of your dissertation in draft form and offer comments either in person or via email. Supervisors will impose their own deadlines for the submission of draft work. This will allow staff a reasonable time to give feedback and for you to act on this.

See MA Dissertation Student Guide on MOLE for more information.


Title and synopsis form submission

The title registration and synopsis forms should be submitted through google forms. You will receive the outcome of your submission via email and can expect to receive this within two weeks of the deadline.

Title and synopsis forms


Bibliography preparation and submission guidance

You should follow the usual guidance on Presentation of Assessed Work and Submitting Written Work. This work is formative and will not receive a grade, feedback comments will be provided in the usual way through Turnitin.


Dissertation preparation and submission guidance

Preparation and Binding

Dissertations will be marked anonymously; please do not put your name anywhere on your dissertation.

You should include the following information in a header/footer:

  • your Registration Number
  • module code
  • page numbers

Your dissertation should also have a title page which includes the following information:

  • your registration number
  • the full title of the dissertation
  • your supervisor's name
  • your word count, and
  • the following statement:

'A dissertation submitted in part-fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MA in [your degree], University of Sheffield, September 2019.'

An example of the title page is downloadable from the right-hand side of the page. Please note this is an example only, you can format your text different so long as all of the same information is included.

There is no Feedback Form for the dissertation but you should complete a Plagiarism Form, to certify that your dissertation is your own work and not the result of any collaboration, and submit this with your dissertation. This will be filed separately and should not be bound into your dissertation.

Binding - Your dissertation must be bound in a permanent and secure binding. There is a binding service available within the University: Print and Design Solutions. You are also welcome to use an external binding service.

Spiral/comb binding is not recommended, as it is not secure enough, but any kind of glued binding is fine: www.shef.ac.uk/cics/printanddesign/document-binding. Print and Design Solutions also offers a thesis binding service with ‘T3’ and ‘T4’ options available for dissertations. You are welcome to use this service but will find that it’s more expensive than some other options.

You are welcome to use soft or hard binding. There are no restrictions on the colour of the cover and it does not need to include the University logo.

Please note that it may take up to two days (or longer at particularly busy times) to bind your dissertation, so you should get in touch with your chosen print service in plenty of time to enquire about time scales.


The dissertation should be submitted via turnitin plus one hardcopy should be submitted in person to the History reception along with a signed plagiarism form. See Submitting Written Work.



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.