Students should choose, in consultation with their supervisor, a coherent subject of study appropriate to the degree, which fulfills the three following criteria:

  1. The subject provides intellectual challenge in evaluating an unresolved debate, or challenging the existing mainstream view, or developing a new interpretation or interpreting new primary material.
  2. The subject is not too large for a reasonably thorough discussion within the limits of 15,000 words, or too narrow to present adequate intellectual challenge.
  3. The bulk of the essential secondary literature on the subject is in languages which the student can read.

Supervision and work

Supervisors will advise students in their choice of topic, give bibliographic guidance, provide written comments on written drafts of parts or the whole of the dissertation and discuss any major problems or issues raised, and will check that the candidates understand and follow the guidelines for presentation and submission of the dissertation.

When students have identified their field of interest and a supervisor has been chosen, supervisors and students should meet promptly to agree on a particular topic and to arrange a pattern of meetings. Although students will have most time for writing their dissertations in July to December (after completion of their taught courses), it is in their own interest to begin work much earlier in the year.

Supervisors will advise students of when they will be away and unavailable for consultation, especially over the summer period. They can be asked to read separate chapters of a dissertation once each OR to read one draft of the entire dissertation. We would recommend the submission of drafts to your supervisor in stages. But it is at the discretion of the supervisor and the student how submission of written work for feedback is put into practice.

Content and presentation

A dissertation is similar to an essay but its scale and academic purpose require you to plan and structure your material and ideas more carefully, to discuss problems in more detail and to note fully the sources of your information and ideas — that is to write a scholarly piece of research.

A dissertation should begin with a brief explanation of the topic chosen and the problem(s) that the dissertation addresses. The main body of the dissertation should consist of a structured argument or survey in which you discuss the relevant primary material and main scholarly views and advance the interpretation(s) that you prefer (or explain why no one view is adequate).

There should be a conclusion summarising your own response to the problem(s) raised.

If a dissertation involves extensive detailed discussion of particular passages of text or manuscript, or sites, monuments or objects, or sets of data, these should be presented in the dissertation as quotations, illustrations or tables. Illustrations should be relevant to the discussion, not merely decorative. They should be numbered consecutively for clarity of reference in the text, have a brief identifying caption, and should be reproduced clearly.

A dissertation which is not on the approved subject or which is submitted after the deadline is liable to be failed with a mark of zero.


Failure to indicate that you are quoting, or closely paraphrasing, someone else’s argument, words or material is a form of cheating called plagiarism. All quotations or paraphrases must be individually acknowledged by giving a precise reference to the source in a footnote, and word-for-word quotations must be placed in quotation-marks. Plagiarism is considered an examination offence under the University’s MA Regulations, and as such will be referred to the appropriate committee of the Examinations Office for investigation and, if necessary, disciplinary action.


Two typed and bound copies of the dissertation must be submitted.

Word length

The dissertation must be of between 13,000 and 15,000 words in length.

Draft Paper Format:

The most important format aspects are listed here. Please write your contribution paying attention to the format guidelines. This will reduce the need to have to go over it again later.


Header: 2,54, top of main body: 1,25
Bottom: 2,54
Left 2,54
Right 2,54
Footer: 0

Times New Roman: 12 pts for main text, 10 pts for footnotes, 16 pts for chapter headings, 14 pts for subtitles.

All the text should be one and a half spaced. After the title of the contribution the author(s) name and affiliation should be specified followed by an abstract of maximum 300 word and 5 key words section that summarizes the main elements of the contribution.

Indent quoted texts of more than 2 lines by 5 mm on both sides and separate from rest of text by 1 line on top and bottom – use 9 pts for such text. Use double quotation marks for all quotes, including single words, except for quotes within quotes.

Referencing system:
Author-date-system of the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition.
Available online at