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The Dissertation

The Dissertation

Student 2In the last third of the course students currently complete a 15,000 to 20,000 word dissertation, based on independent research, to be submitted before the end of Easter Full Term (early June). The dissertation may be a direct continuation of the topics already chosen for the Research Essays or it may open up relatively new areas of research.

It is essential that students give thought to their dissertation plans from the moment they embark on the course. They will be required to provide evidence of preliminary research on the dissertation at the beginning of the Lent Term, and shortly afterwards to submit the proposed title of their dissertation, together with a descriptive statement of 500-1000 words and a page of bibliography. The dissertation ought to be designed in such a way as to help students to find their own distinctive research topic for subsequent PhD study and is therefore seen as a direct preparatory contribution to the candidate's envisaged doctoral research.

All Cambridge research degrees (MPhil, MSc, MLitt, PhD) require some contribution to learning as an examination requirement. While the PhD requires a 'significant' contribution to learning, the criteria for the two-year MLitt degree is a 'useful' contribution, and the MPhil requires ‘a contribution’. Although provisional decisions concerning admission to a PhD programme (in Cambridge or elsewhere) are often taken before dissertations are completed, in the end it is the quality of the dissertation which is regarded as the chief criterion of an MPhil student’s suitability for being granted ‘leave to continue’ to the PhD.

An oral examination will only be required in cases where one of the marks is a marginal fail.