A dissertation is a type of coursework which requires a student to undertake research and to produce a detailed report on a project or topic. A dissertation is often positioned at the culmination of the programme, drawing on all the work before, and can be quite an isolating exercise, so regular formative feedback (through supervision) should be given during the process of compiling and researching the subject.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload High Marking time High

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Working independently
  • Being self-directed, managing time
  • Written and non-verbal communication
  • Searching and managing information sources
  • Organising, reviewing and paraphrasing information
  • Researching, investigating and interpreting


  • Brief publication
  • Illustrated presentation
  • Exhibition


Students are normally allocated to a supervisor based on subject area knowledge, and the supervisor normally provides formative feedback on a literature review, first section or first draft, as well as take on the role of first marker. Dissertations are normally blind double marked, and so represent a major marking load for a department: timing of the dissertation to account for student workload and staff marking load is therefore crucial.


Formative feedback during supervision is often verbal, via 1:1 meetings or phone/Skype calls. Summative feedback follows the same pattern as essays: it may be provided in-text as well as in a detailed summary. As submission is normally at the end of the programme, other forms of personal feedback are often difficult to arrange, but there should be opportunity for students to see their supervisor to discuss the marks/comments.

Further reading

University of Ulster Assessment Handbook (pgs 40-42)


Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

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