Guidelines for the Honours Dissertations in History

Dissertation/Honours Projects Briefing: Wednesday 21 February 2018, 1 pm, in Schoool III
[download the Powerpoint presentation]

2018-19 Honours Dissertation Application Form

Dissertation Supervisors - Mediaeval History (updated annually)

Dissertation Supervisors - Modern History (updated annually)


Finding a topic

At the beginning of the second semester of your Junior Honours Year, you should start thinking about finding a suitable general area within which your dissertation topic should fall. We will hold a Dissertation/Project briefing at the end of February/start of March of your third year, where the Honours Adviser will explain your degree requirements, the different options for your Senior Honours Year, and the differences between the Dissertation and the Honours Project (if applicable to your degree). Please keep an eye for an email inviting you to the briefing, or posters at the Notice Boards in the School.

After the briefing, you are encouraged to seek advice from members of staff, who will be happy to discuss ideas and give you some guidance, but please do not expect them to provide you with a specific dissertation topic.

Supervisor allocation

In order to register for the Honours Dissertation, you will need to download a dissertation proposal form (link above). You must submit a hard copy of this form no later than 4.30 pm on Monday 23 April 2018 to the Mediaeval or Modern History office (depending on the topic you plan to pursue).

On this form you must indicate the general area (not a specific topic) within which your dissertation topic will fall. You can also, if you wish, indicate the member(s) of staff with whom you have had preliminary discussions about the dissertation, though they will not necessarily be your supervisor.

If the area specified is deemed suitable for the Honours degree undertaken, the Degree Committee Chair will then allocate you to a suitable supervisor. No individual supervisor will normally take on more than five dissertation students in any one semester. You will be informed of your allocated supervisor as soon as possible.

Meetings with Supervisors

Once you have been allocated to a supervisor, and if you plan to do some research during the summer (this is not necessary,  but you may wish to do so), you can arrange to see your supervisor in May, in order to agree a precise topic, receive advice on reading and source work and map out a work plan for the summer vacation. This is not compulsory, and can also happen during semester 1 of your Senior Honours Year. If your supervisor is on research leave during Semester 1 then you can still arrange a meeting either in person or - if they are away from St Andrews - on Skype/Facetime if you have not met during the previous May.

Please note that the bulk of your dissertation work will take place during Semester 2 of your last year of studies, though you will be expected to have done some of your research before Semester 2, particularly if your research involves fieldwork of some kind (e.g. archives and libraries elsewhere).

After this voluntary initial meeting, supervisors will meet their dissertation students on the following occasions:

  • In week 12 of Semester 1, for a preliminary organisational meeting with confirmed supervisor.
  • In week 0 or 1 of Semester 2, to discuss the overall progress and plan of further work, and the dissertation plan and indicative bibliography (which must be submitted by Friday of week 2).
  • In an informal (but compulsory) presentation of your topic and progress so far, to a staff member and between two and four other students (usually supervisees of the same supervisor), in week 4.
  • To give detailed feedback on draft material (which must be submitted by Friday of week 5).
  • In up to three further meetings arranged at the student's request during the semester.

You are free to contact your supervisor by email for further advice. No supervision of any kind will be offered after Friday of week 8.

You will also be expected to take part in the Annual Fourth Year Conference, organised by the School President at the end of the year, in which you will give an informal 15-minute presentation of your dissertation. This is not an assessed element of the module.

Written Material submitted during supervision

Supervisors will comment in detail on three written items as long as they are submitted by the published deadlines:

  1. an outline of the overall structure of the planned dissertation. – This text must not exceed two sides of A4 and must be submitted by Friday of week 2 (semester 2).
  2. an indicative bibliography – This must be submitted by Friday of week 2.
  3. a draft chapter/introduction/conclusion – This text must not exceed 3,000 words and must be submitted by Friday of week 5.

All the above are compulsory elements of the module, and must be uploaded into MMS. Although you will not get a mark for them, failure to submit them will result in an Academic Alert Engagement, and, if not submitted by the dissertation deadline, an Academic Alert Final.

Presentation, Length and Layout

Two copies of the dissertation (in secure binding such as a folder, bound copy, stapled etc) must be submitted to the relevant School Office by Monday of week 10 (semester 2), 5.00 pm. An electronic version of the dissertation (named copy) must also be uploaded to MMS by the same deadline.

Dissertations handed in late and without having been granted an extended deadline will be penalised according to normal School of History regulations on late and short/long work published on the School website.

The dissertation must comply with the School Style sheet published on the School website. Marks will be deducted for failure to present the dissertation in an acceptable format.

The dissertation must consist of between 10,000 and 12,000 words of English prose. The word limit includes footnotes and appendices, but excludes the bibliography. A declaration indicating the precise length of the dissertation must be given on p. 2 of the dissertation.

Students can apply to the relevant Chair (of Mediaeval, Modern, Scottish or Middle East History) to request that their appendices be exempt from inclusion in the word count. This is to cover exceptional cases in which an appendix might be deemed indispensable to the dissertation. Should you wish to make such a request, please email the Chair *before Monday of week 8* explaining your reasons.

Students preparing a dissertation are reminded of the crucial importance of familiarising themselves with the University regulations governing Academic Misconduct available on the School website.

The normal School Penalties for late and short/long work apply.

The dissertation must contain the following components:

  1. a Title Page including
    1. The full title of the dissertation
    2. The name of the candidate on one copy – only the matriculation number on the second copy
    3. The name of the supervisor (in the form: “Supervisor: Dr. A.N. Other”)
    4. The statement: “This thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment for the degree of M.A. Honours in the School of History, University of St Andrews.”
    5. The year
  2. On the named copy only: Statement of Own Work and Word Count – On the next page, the candidate must include the following signed and dated statement with the exact number of words given: “I, (the name of the candidate), attest that this dissertation, for submission to the School of History, University of St Andrews, is entirely my own work. It contains exactly (word count) words.” For students who submit by proxy (e.g. print unit, friends), the MMS submission takes the place of the signature.
  3. Table of Contents – including page references of all sections of the dissertation (chapters, appendices, bibliography etc.)
  4. List of abbreviations used (if any)
  5. Main text (introduction, chapters, conclusion)
  6. Appendices (if any)
  7. Bibliography
  8. Acknowledgements (if any)

Printing and Binding

The Print & Design Unit can help you with printing and binding of your thesis. You can take your printed thesis for binding only, or you can send your dissertation or thesis electronically to them (at least 2 days (not including weekends) before the submission deadline). For more information, please visit their webpage for Dissertation and thesis printing and binding.

Release of grades - Feedback

All dissertations will be double marked by two internal markers, and a sample will be sent to external examiners for moderation. Official marks for this module will be released as part of the May diet, after they have been confirmed by the Module Board and approved by the Dean.

The feedback on your dissertation by the internal markers will be available in MMS. If you would like further feedback, you are welcome to approach your supervisor after the release of the grades.