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Guidance on coursework

This page gives guidance on submitting your coursework. For information on the examination process and marking criteria, see the page on examining.

Essays

You will be provided with suggested essay topics for each module, and module leaders will be able to suggest supervisors for these topics. In consultation with your supervisor, you may either refine one of the suggested topics into an essay title, or come up with your own title. In all cases, essay topics should be anchored in the module content.

Any combination of essay topics is permissible as long as no more than two pieces of work are chosen from any single module.

Examples of high-achieving past essays are available to consult in the Whipple Library.

Dissertation

The dissertation is an exercise in original research. You should start exploring topics and supervisors for your dissertation during Michaelmas term with the support of your Subject Manager and any other appropriate members of staff. You will be asked to submit a provisional dissertation form by the Division of Michaelmas term, and confirm your topic and supervisor during Lent.

If you anticipate working with human participants it is particularly important that you indicate this sooner rather than later, to allow sufficient time for any ethical approval processes to be completed.

Past dissertations are available to consult in the Whipple Library.

A dissertation workshop is held early in Lent term, which will give you the opportunity to discuss your own research and progress with your peers, and hear about the work of other students. You will have time for a short presentation, followed by a discussion.

Topic forms

All essay and dissertation topics and supervisors are subject to approval by the Degree Committee. For each piece of coursework you must submit a topic form for approval. These should be handed in at HPS Reception or emailed to the course administrator by the dates shown on the forms.

Topic forms can be found on the course moodle site. For a reminder of the relevant deadlines visit the key dates and deadlines page.

Changing topics or supervisors

Once topics and supervisors have been approved by the HPS Degree Committee, you must apply for permission if you want to change them. Permission is not automatically granted.

To change a topic or supervisor, complete the section at the bottom of the appropriate topic form and submit this to the course administrator by email or by handing it in at HPS Reception, by the date shown. Please pay particular attention for the final deadlines for changing any details, shown on the forms themselves and on the key dates and deadlines page.

Note: approval is given for topics rather than titles. You may refine your title after submitting topic forms, and provided the title still falls within the remit of the original topic, there is no need to apply for permission to change. However, any substantial changes in essay topic will require you to re-apply for approval.

Plagiarism

The University and the Degree Committee take plagiarism very seriously. Please read this advice about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Plagiarism guidelines

The text-matching software Turnitin UK is used to blanket screen all student work submitted in Moodle.

Use of Turnitin UK

Working with human participants

If you are planning to collect data from human participants, or use data collected from human participants, you will need to plan well in advance to ensure that you have obtained ethical approval before starting work on your project and have given consideration to how you are going to handle the information you collect.

Working with human participants: ethical considerations

Editions, translations and bibliographies

An essay or dissertation should be self-contained, including or citing all information needed for an examiner to follow its argument.

The word limit normally includes text and footnotes but not the bibliography. However, in certain cases permission may be obtained for materials strictly relevant to the argument of the essay or dissertation to be footnoted or appended for the information of the examiners, with such materials not contributing to the word count. Materials falling into this category may include primary source materials that are not readily accessible, translations, questionnaire responses, statistical tables, descriptions of objects and analytical bibliographies.

Normally material included in the word count should mainly consist of your own discussion and analysis. Exceptionally, when a critical edition or translation, an analytical bibliography, or a technical description of objects and their provenances is based on substantial original scholarship and is central to the argument of an essay or dissertation, permission may be obtained for its inclusion within the body of the essay or dissertation, hence contributing to the word count. Normally no more than one third of an essay or dissertation should consist of such material.

Applications for such permissions should be sought, in consultation with your supervisor, from the Degree Committee at the time at which the topic of the essay or dissertation in question is submitted for approval.

Request form(for appendices)

Word counts

The word limits are as follows:

  • Essay 1 (formative): 3,000 words
  • Essays 2 and 3: 5,000  words each
  • Dissertation: 10,000-15,000 words

The word count includes footnotes but excludes the bibliography and prefatory matter.

Figures may be included in the work and should contribute to the argument. They should be captioned only so as to specify the source; such captions are excluded from the word count. Formulae may be used where appropriate and are also excluded from the word count.

In order to ensure the equitable enforcing of the word limit laid down for MPhil work, students will be required to submit their work, by the specified deadline, stating the word count in the work, together with an electronic version of the work. The Senior Examiner will inspect each piece of work to ensure that the word limit has been respected. If it has not, the work will be returned to the student who will be asked to revise it so that it does conform to the word limit. Given that the inspection will take place at the time of the deadline, the rule governing penalties for late submission will be applied.

The Senior Examiner will use Microsoft Word to check word counts. If using coding software, such as LaTeX, students should be aware that this software may give a different word count. It may be helpful to use TeXcount, an online tool that analyses LaTeX code to provide an accurate count of words, formulae, captions and footnotes. If using software other than Microsoft Word students should submit a screenshot to demonstrate the word count from the software used.

Coursework submission

You should submit two copies of each essay and the dissertation to HPS Reception before 12 noon on the day of the deadline. Each copy should have numbered pages, footnotes where appropriate, and a bibliography. They should be printed single-sided. Essays should be stapled and dissertations should be securely bound. Binding facilities are available in the HPS Department at a cost of £1 per copy.

Each copy should have a cover sheet stating the title of the essay or dissertation, the word count, and the name of the supervisor. You should also submit a completed submission form. Cover sheets and submission forms are available on Moodle.

All coursework is marked anonymously, so it is important that your name does not appear anywhere other than on the submission form.

In addition, you must upload your work to the MPhil Moodle course. Examiners may use this to confirm the word count and check for derivative passages. Please note:

  • The file uploaded must be exactly the same as the printed copies. It should include the bibliography and any images
  • Only one file can be uploaded for each submission
  • The following file formats are accepted: DOC, DOCX, PDF, RTF

You are advised to check your emails the day after submission to ensure there are no queries about your work.

Please note that the Management Committee will retain a copy of all dissertations and essays and may make them available to future students unless a written request is made to the contrary to the course administrator.

Late submission

You are expected to manage your time appropriately in order to meet submission deadlines. This includes, for example, preparing drafts well in advance to allow reasonable time for feedback from supervisors, and time for any final revisions.

The Senior Examiner will advise the Examiners’ Meeting of any late submissions and, unless there are exceptional circumstances, this will normally incur a penalty.

Work submitted within 24 hours of the deadline will incur a 3-point penalty. Further 3-point penalties will be incurred for every further day late work is submitted. Work submitted later than one week after the deadline, or not submitted, will receive a mark of zero.

The Examiners adhere strictly to the rule that permission to submit essays or dissertations late will only be granted by the Degree Committee (or by the Degree Committee’s Chair taking chair’s action) if a formal request is received from the student's College, with medical or similar reasons given in documentary form. Where an extension is granted, the deadline is 12 noon on the new date.

Extension request form

Feedback to MPhil students

During the course of your studies, you will receive feedback in person from your supervisors and the Subject and MPhil Managers, as well as from termly online supervision reports. The first essay is examined prior to the end of the Michaelmas Term in order to provide you with early feedback on your performance and allow you to gauge the level of achievement required by the course. Essay 2 is examined at the beginning of February, and feedback will be given a couple of weeks later in mid-February. Essay 3 is examined at the end of Lent Term, and feedback is given on this shortly afterwards together with a provisional overall mark for the essay component of the course.

After each Board of Examiners meeting, you will meet with the MPhil Manager, who will share your provisional marks and provide copies of the non-confidential parts of the assessors' reports. You will have the opportunity to discuss these remarks and put them in context for future work. You may contact your Subject Manager and supervisor after this meeting if you would like to discuss the reports in more detail.

Marks are subject to moderation up until the final Board of Examiners meeting, and are approved by the Degree Committee in late June. At the end of the course the Department provides all students with an informal transcript with details of marks for each component of the course. Formal transcripts can be downloaded from CamSIS.

Feedback on the overall performance of the cohort each year is provided by Senior and External Examiners' Reports which are submitted at the end of the year.