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MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society


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


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 must be anchored in the module content.

Any combination of essay topics is permissible provided no more than two pieces of work are based in any single module.

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


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 topic halfway through 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. You can see past dissertation titles here.

A dissertation workshop is held early in Easter 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 discussion.

Finding a supervisor

Staff can help you identify appropriate supervisors: you may approach seminar leaders or the course managers for advice, particularly for the essays. You can also find an overview of people's research interests in the staff directory, and you may find it helpful to consult the staff directories of individual departments.

You will not normally be permitted to work with the same supervisor on more than two pieces of work.

Topic forms

All essay and dissertation topics and supervisors are subject to approval by the Degree Committee. You will be asked to submit a topic form via Moodle for each piece of coursework. 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 coursework request form and submit this to your subject manager. Please pay particular attention for the final deadlines for changing any details, which you can find 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 topic will require you to re-apply for approval.


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


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 (where used) 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.

You should consult with your supervisor about whether such materials will be needed, and where possible, apply for permission at the same time as you submit your essay or dissertation topic for approval.

Request form (for appendices as well as topic/supervisor changes)

Word limits

The word limits are as follows:

  • Essay 1 (formative): 3,000 words
  • Essays 2 and 3: 5,000 words each
  • Dissertation: 12,000 words

These are upper limits. While your word count can be lower than the limits, it must not be any higher. Word counts will be verified upon submission. If you have exceeded the limit the work will be returned to you and you will be asked to revise down to the word limit and resubmit. This will usually also result in a late penalty.

The word limit includes footnotes (where used) 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.

Microsoft Word is used to verify word counts. If using software other than Word (e.g. Pages), you should include a screenshot demonstrating the word count from the software used on the title page of your work. If using coding software such as LaTeX, 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.

Coursework submission

You should submit examined work to the HMS MPhil Coursework site on Moodle before 12 noon on the day of the deadline. You do not need to submit hard copies.

Please note:

  • The work should have numbered pages and a bibliography.
  • You cannot upload more than one file for each submission.
  • The following file formats are accepted: DOC, DOCX, PDF, RTF.

All coursework is marked anonymously, so it is important that your name does not appear anywhere on it.

Please give the following information on the first page:

  • Title
  • Supervisor
  • Word count

You are advised to check your emails in the days following submission, in case there are any queries about your work.

Please note that the Department will retain a copy of your dissertation and essays and may make them available to future students unless you make a written request to the contrary to the Departmental 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 the cumulative loss of marks for each day's lateness, as follows:

Number of days late Penalty
1 day (i.e. up to 24 hours after the deadline) 1 mark
2 days 3 marks (1+2)
3 days 6 marks (1+2+3)
4 days 10 marks
5 days 15 marks
6 days 21 marks
7 days 28 marks

Work submitted later than one week after the deadline, or not submitted, will receive a mark of zero.


All requests for an extension to the submission date for coursework must have a good reason and must be supported by your College Tutor and Course Manager. You are advised to discuss potential extension requests with the Course Manager before submitting a formal application.

The Examiners adhere strictly to the rule that permission to submit essays or dissertations late will only be granted if a formal request is received, with medical or similar reasons given in documentary form. Where an extension is granted, the deadline is 12 noon on the new date.

Students are reminded that extensions are not cost free: they reduce the amount of time you can devote to subsequent pieces of work, limit opportunities for you to receive feedback and participate in other aspects of the course, and may delay the approval of your degree. A granted extension does not mean that your supervisor will be available beyond term time.

Extension request form

Feedback to MPhil students

During the course of your studies, you will receive feedback in person from your supervisors and the course 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 in mid February, and Essay 3 is examined at the beginning of Easter Term.

After each Board of Examiners meeting, you will be provided with your provisional marks and non-confidential parts of the assessors' reports. You can speak with the course managers and/or your supervisor to discuss these reports and put them in context for future work.

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 are available from CamSIS once final marks have been approved.

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.