The Philosophy Dissertation contains both a research planning phase, ‘The Research Plan’, and a research execution phase ‘The Dissertation’.
The Research Plan for the Philosophy Dissertation prepares students to embark upon a substantial, sustained, unified piece of research at the MQF 7 level. The module is taught by the proposed dissertation supervisor as a form of preparation specific to the dissertation and the requirements of its subject matter.
This module is not a general introduction to research or research methodologies, but a practical preparation for students embarking upon the dissertation for the MA in Philosophy. Although these skills are highly transferable to other research domains, it remains the case that the purpose of the module is scoped to the needs of the specific dissertation for which it prepares the student.
This module marks the end of the taught portion of the degree and the transition to the research portion. It is expected that the topic of research, which is refined during the planning phase, will have arisen out of one of the taught modules’ essays.
The planning phase provides a highly structured plan for embarking upon independent research in the subsequent dissertation and more broadly at the MQF 7 level.
In order to provide context for the submission of the ‘Research Plan’ (which is the purpose of this phase of the module), the student will gain a proficient knowledge of relevant research methods and planning. Thus in connection with the core learning outcomes resulting from the research plan, the student will additionally gain a proficient understanding of the wider context of research methods and evaluate the fittingness of the chosen method.
In this phase a student must:
The dissertation supervisor finally prepares the student for external examination of the proposed dissertation.
At the end of the Research Plan is submitted as a portfolio containing six elements:
The Research Plan provides students with a clear framework to guide their research question, a structure into which they can fit their scholarly research, and a pathway to the completion of the dissertation. During the module, students meet with their supervisor twice per month.
The student’s attention is directed to the literature on the topic of the proposed dissertation, and thus methodological research guidance, beyond the oral instruction of the student’s supervisor, will be provided within the domain of study specific to the student’s dissertation. This will vary considerably, depending upon the topic of the dissertation, and it forms a natural component of the literature survey. (Thus it is neither appropriate nor possible to list here the bibliographic references that will be needed by the student. We have, however, provided valuable works of general research guidance and reference, and works to aid the student in evaluating the best research method for the dissertation.)
Upon completion and approval of the ‘Research Plan’, students will have a well-defined research topic, a clear structure to organise their proposed research, a firm grasp of the relevant literature, and a practical timeline in which to conduct their research.
In the dissertation module, the aims of the methodology module are fulfilled and a 20,000-word dissertation is written. The dissertation will constitute a substantial, original, independent piece of research, which is clearly articulated in relation to the primary evidence and secondary literature, and which is organised in relation to the plan first envisaged in the methodology module.
Regular supervision meetings keep the student on course with the timeline agreed in the methodology module. Supervisory meetings concentrate on a pre-submitted piece of research in a pattern that continues until the first draft of the dissertation is complete.
Although students may request twice-weekly meetings during the first 2 weeks of the dissertation, it is expected (and students typically prefer) not to meet more than twice per month thereafter. This allows the students time to develop their independent research and writing.
After the completion of the first draft, meetings focus on the harmonisation of the parts, adjustments to the overall argument, and the supervisor seeks to ensure that the student guides the dissertation with a single, coherent line of enquiry.
Dissertations are often shortened down to 20,000 words at this stage in order to focus the argument. The final meetings with the student focus on polishing the editorial aspects of the dissertation, and helping the student prepare for the examination.