1. All Honours and Masters degrees contain a component designed to demonstrate independent study. Often this is a written piece of work which has an analytical perspective and is called a dissertation but such independent study may have a more work based emphasis and include a research project, exhibition, performance or similar. Irrespective of the nature of the independent study, the module is described as the principal module. A principal module is one which cannot be discounted from the calculation of the degree classification.

2. In addition to taught degrees, the Master of Research (MRes) programme links the dissertation to a research project, and a student may submit the dissertation as a set of published articles.


3. The Module Leader allocates a dissertation supervisor to a student before the module starts. Dissertation supervisors for students on all taught awards (both undergraduate and postgraduate) should:

  • have the appropriate skills and subject knowledge to support, encourage and monitor the research of students effectively
  • have a postgraduate degree commensurate with the award to which the dissertation/project is related (postgraduate dissertations)
  • be required to meet with their students regularly although it is the responsibility of the student to arrange and attend meetings
  • have a workload that adequately reflects the extent of supervisory responsibilities to ensure that the quality of supervision is not put at risk as a result of an excessive volume and range of responsibilities

4. For MRes students, a supervisory team is used, and where students are undertaking research as part of a team or funded project for which the outcomes will be used in their dissertation/project the supervisor should ensure that students are fully aware of how their own research fits into the group as a whole and how the research meets the academic obligations set by the University.


5. Irrespective of the form that the study takes, the student will be required to attend tutorials (either in groups or individually) as a way to develop their work.

6. Students should be made aware that supervision will be available to them.

7. Ideally the first tutorial should take place before the beginning of the module. At postgraduate level, the frequency of meetings will depend on the subject, but normally at least one half-hour meeting in every six weeks for full-time students and in every eight weeks for part-time students. The allocation of time for supervision at undergraduate level should be stated in the module specification.

8. Any changes to the supervisor will be made in accordance with the agreed protocol.

9. Students are expected to cover the following in tutorials:

  • discuss ideas and issues
  • receive guidance on resources and the development of a topic area
  • be provided with direction to help manage the research process
  • be advised on academic style, format and referencing and citation
  • be provided with general feedback on their work in progress
  • reflect on the feedback received and apply the comments to other parts of their developing work

10. Tutors are expected to cover the following in tutorials:

  • consider the topic, advise with regard to risk assessment, ethical issues, appropriate methodologies and information sources
  • monitor and discuss the planning and progress of the work
  • advise about the structure and presentation of the work
  • help the student to identify problems/issues and suggest and agree action to address these
  • show students exemplars of good practice
  • liaise with other dissertation supervisor in the case of a joint dissertation

11. Students and supervisors have a joint responsibility for agreeing a schedule of meetings and deadlines and adhering to them. If a student does not attend then tutors should contact those students and, if necessary, make use of the Cause for Concern process.

12. Students are expected to take notes of supervisory meetings whilst supervisors are expected to record formal supervision meetings

Viva voce assessments

13. All MRes award students undergo a viva voce (oral) examination. The purpose of a viva is to enable the examiners:

  • to clarify any ambiguities in the thesis
  • to satisfy themselves that the thesis is the candidate’s own work
  • to ensure that the candidate has sufficient knowledge and understanding of the relationship of his/her own work to the academic discipline
  • to establish that the thesis is of a sufficiently high standard to merit the award of the degree

14. The viva will be chaired by one of the designated supervisors along with an independent examiner. The External Examiner of the programme and/or the Faculty Academic Integrity Officer (AIO) may be in attendance if this is deemed necessary.

15. The oral examination should be held at The University of Northampton but exceptionally it may be held elsewhere with consent from the relevant Dean.

16. Other subject and levels may also use this as an assessment strategy.

Text based assessment

17. All text based work at Levels 6 and 7 must be typed or word processed and submitted electronically in accordance with current university policy.

Whilst hard copies are not required, some disciplines may request that a hard copy is also provided. If this is the case it must be clearly stated on the NILE site. From 2015-16 it is expected that hard copies will not be requested unless an exemption to SAGE has been granted.

18. When a student takes an original or creative approach, the format must be negotiated with the tutor.

19. Where hard copies have been approved (see 17 above), they must meet the following requirements:

  • Cover: standard burgundy with gold writing on cover for 50/60 credits, standard blue with gold writing on cover for credit MRes dissertations
  • Page size: A4 (210 X 297 mm)
  • Page layout: one side of paper only to be used
  • Spacing: double or one-and-a-half
  • Margins:
    • Inner 35 mm minimum
    • Outer 15 mm minimum
    • Head 15 mm minimum
    • Foot 15 mm minimum
  • Explanatory footnotes should stand at the foot of relevant pages
  • Bibliography/ references to follow text and any appendices
  • Title page to include: the full title, award for which the work is submitted, the year of submission, the candidate’s name and student number

20. A word count must be clearly stated in a text based submissions. The word count should exclude the bibliographies, appendices and footnotes.

  • Undergraduate 20 credit: 5,000 words
  • Undergraduate/joint 40 credit: 10,000 words
  • Postgraduate 50/60 credit: 15,000-20,000 words
  • MRes (Science): 20,000 words
  • MRes (Soc Sci, Edu, Business, Arts & Humanities): 30,000 words

21. The style of the work will depend upon its nature. Clear guidance should be published in the module guide about the expectations of the discipline in terms of the style.

22. All subjects should include an analytical commentary that sets the work in its relevant theoretical, historical, critical and design context. Work with a practical element should include a permanent record of the practical component of the thesis (for instance a video, a photographic or a CD/DVD record).

23. The work must be accompanied by a statement, signed by the candidate. It should:

  • state that the work is the authentic production of the student submitting it
  • certify that it is the result of work mainly done during the registration period
  • state that in the case of conjoint work a substantial part of it is the original work of the candidate and the extent of the material affected must be clearly stated