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.

Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

C# R&D .NET Developer (Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET)

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NET Developer (Algori...

Year 3 Teacher needed- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Look no further; this is the ...

Primary NQT Teachers

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Opportunities for NQTs for the...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star