With so many students preparing to spend their Christmas holidays under piles of books and papers, we ask: Is a dissertation worthwhile?

Panic is beginning to set in as third-years across the country start to realise just how many words are actually in "12,000 words"

Asking someone how their dissertation is going is not a kind thing to do. Letting slip the bad word in a university library will only bring about wide-eyed fear, nauseous denial and unbridled resentment. It’s a big enterprise that comes with massive pressure, the indomitable final boss of university.

But is a dissertation always the best choice when the contact hours are minimal and a module might teach you more? Are dissertations just embedded into our expectations of final year?

Rob Ellis wrote a creative writing dissertation at UEA and said: "When I was writing my dissertation I had three hours of contact time for the whole of a 12-week semester. Although I felt I was being given complete creative freedom, I think I would have learnt more had I been allowed to take a different module instead.’

Many students are allotted just three meetings with their supervisor. Easy as it is to exploit the "lazy student" stereotype, most begrudge diminishing their contact hours. A dissertation is a chance to research and work independently, but students don’t pay £9,000 a year for a glorified library pass.

Modern languages second year Pippa Hamey said: "I don't think I have to do a dissertation, and if I don't I won't. I think paying so much for tuition means you prioritise the modules where you're getting taught, not doing all the research yourself."

Rewarding and productive?

Richard Allen, a lecturer in psychology at Leeds University, has worked on many final year dissertations, and considers them one of the most rewarding and productive experiences university offers students.

"The process embeds the student in the research experience, encourages them to take ownership of their work, and develops a range of specific and transferable skills that can be utilized in their future careers," he says.

"This extended collaborative process between students and supervisor is therefore a key part of a degree’s training, and is certainly preferable to just running yet another taught module. Even for me personally (15 years afterwards), I have detailed memories of working on my final year dissertation, but don’t remember what any of my final year taught modules were!"

On contact hours and the benefits for individuals he adds: "It does depend on the strengths of the student, and the support available from the supervisor, with the latter varying with subject, university, department, individual, and workload, which is, unfortunately, ever-increasing."

The decision holds the same conflicts as any module choice. Good marks and employability will always be priorities, and in the final year the pressure is on to make the most of a degree.

Lewis Buxton, a third year at UEA, will write a creative writing dissertation. He said of the opportunity to engage with his tutor: "It is possibly one of the few times in my life I will work intimately with one person on a collection of poems and have the time and the resources to do whatever I want with it.

"I don't always agree with 'independent study' as it's marketed by the uni but I definitely hope that this is a situation where I am supported yet allowed a lot of freedom to do what I want with my work."

A whip-round of anxious third-years gives surprisingly heartening insight; stress is rarely founded in resentment of hard work. It’s the fear of not doing themselves or their topic justice. Where dissertations are undertaken, they are dedicated to, enthused over, and become a unique, valuable project. But that only happens when the question, the tutor, and the university policies are right. If students plunge in blindly, all options not considered, the final semester of university can be very bleak indeed.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
News
Valerie Trierweiler’s book paints Hollande as a cold-hearted hypocrite
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
filmsMockingjay Part 1 taking hit franchise to new levels
News
Bill Cosby
peopleActor has firmly defended himself against all claims
Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in Far From The Madding Crowd
filmsAlso much to look forward to for Thomas Hardy fans
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A keen Graduate Structural Engineer with...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Data & Delivery Guru

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Data & Delivery Guru is required to...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible