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Study information

Philosophy Dissertation

Module titlePhilosophy Dissertation
Module codePHL3040
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Jonathan Davies (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The writing of a philosophy dissertation offers you the opportunity to engage in a research project on a topic of your own choice. Guidance and support include discussions with the module convener, allocation of an expert academic supervisor and participation in small discussion groups of students working on similar topics. The main aim is for you to select a topic and way of working on a philosophical problem that suits you and through which you can show your acquired skills in independent research, philosophical analysis and writing. You may choose to engage with and discuss a specific traditional or current problem, a particular author or book, or write a philosophical essay on a current ethical, social or epistemological problem.

The module begins with a two-hour session of general introduction to expectations, progress measures, library and other resources, and supervisor support. You will then be assigned to a supervisor, and submit the first outline and summary of your project idea and research plan (and an initial bibliography covering some of the relevant literature). In a second step you will discuss this outline with your supervisor and other students in a first small-group seminar. Throughout both terms you can request inidividual 1:2:1 supervision on general and more specific aspects of the dissertation. A substantial draft of the dissertation, which outlines the course of your argument and has at least half of the text written up (with references and argued to the expected standard), is expected to be ready for the second February group seminar meeting. In the intervening weeks you are expected to conduct your research independently and seek advice from your supervisor and other academic experts on the way when needed. After an extensive discussion of the draft dissertation with your supervisor, you complete the dissertation for submission at the end of April/beginning of May. The word maximum for the dissertation is 9000 words (plus or minus 10%).

Module aims - intentions of the module

Writing a philosophy dissertation is an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities in the comprehension, analysis, and critique of philosophical texts. It is also an exercise in the communication of your own ideas, your ability to choose and develop a research topic of your own choice and preference, with the help and guidance from members of the academic staff. You will obtain substantial knowledge of the discussions and problems pertaining to your dissertation topic and enhance your analytic and writing skills.

A well conducted and written dissertation is a text that shows your dedication to define and engage in independent research, explore and present philosophical arguments on the basis of good knowledge of core texts relevant to the topic, and complete a large project on time and at a high academic standard.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate independent research skills
  • 2. Demonstrate analytic skills
  • 3. Complete a substantial piece of original writing in a timely manner

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate knowledge of appropriate literature
  • 5. Develop and demonstrate a high standard of presentational and writing skills
  • 6. Analyse and critique philosophical arguments

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Choose and define personal, relevant themes and questions
  • 8. Demonstrate graduate level skills of written presentation of philosophical material
  • 9. Demonstrate advanced skills in selecting, digesting and organising material for a purpose
  • 10. Demonstrate the ability to develop coherent and cogent arguments based on own research skills
  • 11. Demonstrate high level of independent work ethic and commitment to a project

Syllabus plan

Students to think about a possible topic and select possible supervisor; introductory lecture available online.

Term 1:
Week 2: 2-hour lecture and Q&A, to get students started and finalise allocations of supervisors.
Week 4: Submission of dissertation plan and initial bibliography (via BART).
Week 7: 3-hour small group seminar with student presentations, and feedback from supervisor and others students.
Weeks 8-12: At least one extended meeting with the supervisor before the Winter break is highly recommended!

Term 2:
Week 3: 1-hour lecture and Q&A about practical matters (bibliography, reference formats, and so on)
Week 6: Submission of first dissertation draft (ca. 5000 words) through BART
Week 6: 3-hour small group seminar with student presentations on their drafts, and feedback from supervisor and others students.
Weeks 9-11: At least one extended meeting with the supervisor before the Spring break is highly recommended!

End of April/Beginning of May:
Submission of the completed dissertation through BART.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity 12Personal meetings with the supervisor
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity 31 seminar per term in small groups with student project presentations
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity1Lectures and presentations in Term One
Guided Independent study284Private study: hours are approximate and may vary depending on student skill. Literature search, reading and analysis (130 hours), preparing presentations for the seminars (8 hours), writing of draft (60 hours) and final dissertation (86 hours)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Dissertation title and study plan1 page1, 2,7, 10 Written and verbal
Bibliography1 page1, 2, 4, 9Written and verbal
Penultimate draftVariable1-11Written and verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Dissertation1009,000 words1-11Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
DissertationDissertation (9,000 words)1-11August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Dependent on choice of topic.

Key words search

Philosophy Dissertation

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

Students would normally have completed one or more of the second year core Philosophy modules

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date