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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Dissertation (MSc/Dip African Studies) (PGSP11059)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeDissertation AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits60 ECTS Credits30
SummaryAll students will undertake a 15,000 word dissertation on a topic related to the field of African Studies to be submitted by a date specified in the University Regulations. The dissertation is a major piece of research in which a student is expected to formulate and sustain a substantive argument, based on relevant literature and field evidence. The dissertation is expected to engage critically and analytically with the literature in the field, building upon relevant concepts and theory covered in the taught element of the degree and deploying a range of secondary (and in some cases primary) sources as well as appropriate data-analysis and bibliographic skills. Fieldwork in Africa is encouraged where possible, but fieldwork can also be carried out in libraries and archives in UK and continental Europe. Students will make their first dissertation proposals during the Spring Semester and be be allocated research supervisors before the end of the Spring semester.
Course description a. Academic description
The MSc in African Studies culminates in a dissertation, an independent, self-directed piece of writing of up to 15,000 words that examines in depth a topic of your choosing. It tests your ability to conduct research autonomously, organise large quantities of information, and effectively communicate original findings and analysis. You will be assigned a supervisor who will provide feedback as you develop your research question, methodology, and writing plan.

b. Outline content

The course consists of self-study and research; however, an indicative timetable is below:

Early February - Dissertation meeting with Programme Director

18 March 2016 - Dissertation abstract due to Programme Director

End of March - Supervisors allocated in collaboration with subject heads

Early April - Meet with your supervisor and discuss research proposal

April-July - Fieldwork/data collection; research analysis; outline dissertation structure. Contact supervisor as mutually agreed.

Mid-July - Finish first draft

Mid-August 2016 - Submit dissertation

c. Student learning experience

All dissertations are research-based and take one of two possible approaches: desk or library based analysis of existing material; or, fieldwork and primary data collection. Either style of dissertation can be successful. Above all, the dissertation should be theoretically and empirically grounded, through its critical engagement with a substantial body of literature.

What you can expect from your supervisor:
Normally, supervisors will meet with their students 3 or 4 times during the dissertation process. They will provide input and guidance on your research proposal, including your research questions, methods, literature, and timeline. During the writing process, after the bulk of your research is done, they will provide feedback on your dissertation outline and structure and will provide substantive feedback on one chapter.

What your supervisor will expect from you:
You are responsible for initiating contact with your supervisor; creating your research question and driving your research forward; proposing and agreeing on a dissertation timeline; and flagging up any issues or challenges in a timely manner so they can be addressed. Your supervisor is a resource for you to use wisely - they will not proactively chase you for work, initiate supervision meetings, or provide specific reading lists.

In your first meetings, you should: present, discuss, and reform your dissertation proposal; decide on how often you will communicate in the coming months; share a detailed timeline for research and writing plans (including any travel); and agree when you will be submitting your chapter for substantive feedback. Providing that your chapter submission is pre-planned, you should expect feedback within about two weeks.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Block 5 (Sem 2) and beyond
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 600 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 12, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 588 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The examiners will use the following criteria to assess the quality of your dissertation - you can also use them as pointers to monitor your own work:

1. Formulation and presentation of research problem

2. Review of literature and contextualisation of study

3. Discussion of methods used to collect and analyse relevant information, including ethics

4. Development and coherence of arguments

5. Use of supporting evidence and evaluation of evidence

6. Drawing together major arguments by way of conclusion in relation to the original research problem

7. Degree of reflexivity and critical thinking; originality of argument

8. Formal presentation of dissertation: correct referencing and quoting; spelling, grammar and style; lay-out and visual presentation
Feedback Students will have the opportunity, as noted above, to receive detailed feedback on a dissertation plan and one chapter of the dissertation to ensure that they are on track with their research and build up to the final submission.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
- To test the ability of students to undertake a sustained piece of supervised but independent work within the field of African studies which displays the research skills, training and knowledge acquired in the previous coursework.
- to test the ability of students to demonstrate an ability to engage critically and analytically with the literature in the field of their specialist interest.
- to develop and test the ability of students to employ relevant social science concepts and theories in formulating a thesis.
- to examine the ability of students to manage the conduct, presentation, and timing of an independent research project, employing appropriate data-analytical and bibliographic skills.
- to encourage those students who can carry out fieldwork in Africa itself to draw upon the many individual and institutional contacts and networks of the Centre in Africa, in pursuing their fieldwork.
- to publish and disseminate, in the Centres Occasional Paper series, the completed dissertations of those students who achieve a distinction in their work
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information independent study
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Zoe Marks
Course secretaryMiss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
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