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What is an Undergraduate Dissertation?

Undergraduate Dissertation or Bachelor Dissertation What is a Bachelor’s or Undergraduate Dissertation?

An undergraduate dissertation (or Bachelors dissertation) is essentially an extended piece of research and writing on a single subject. It is typically completed in the final year of a degree programme and the topic is chosen based on a student’s own area of interest. It allows the student to explore a narrow topic in greater depth than a traditional module. The student works with a single supervisor chosen from their departmental faculty, and this individual provides guidance and support throughout the course of the research.

How does Undergraduate Dissertation differ from Postgraduate Dissertation?

The bachelor’s dissertation varies significantly from postgraduate dissertations. First, it is considerably shorter in length, averaging only 10,000 – 15,000 words. While this is much shorter than a Masters or PhD dissertation, it is much longer than any other piece of writing required in undergraduate programmes.

Secondly, the undergraduate dissertation is not required to contain the same level of originality as postgraduate work. Students are still expected to complete the work independently and cite all sources, but they do not need to present any new ideas. It is sufficient to conduct thorough, sustained research and present a critical discussion of a relatively narrow research topic. It is not necessary to discuss the philosophical context of the research, or to design a distinct methodology.
However, it is important to note that the best bachelor’s dissertations demonstrate genuine critical thinking skills and an ability to combine information derived from many different sources.

Finally, the undergraduate dissertation also varies in the type of research conducted, which will be more focused on texts and documents rather than active field research. For the most part students will examine secondary sources or easily accessible primary sources, and they will not be required to pursue obscure or costly data sources. In some disciplines a practical element may be incorporated into the dissertation, but this is usually performed with less independence than would be expected at the postgraduate level.

Undergraduate Dissertation Requirements
  • Topic selection. At the end of the penultimate year of study students will be asked to select an area of research for the dissertation. You should be sure to choose a topic that is likely to hold your interest over a long period of time, as it is difficult and dangerous to change your topic once your research period has begun.
  • Finding a supervisor. Depending on the university, there may be a formal process in place for allocating supervisors or students may simply approach a member of faculty that they are interested in working with. It can be helpful to meet with potential supervisors before registering an intended research area, as they can help you to refine your proposed topic and give you suggestions for specific research questions. Once the formal dissertation period begins you will meet with your supervisor regularly to discuss your progress and refine your study.
  • Early research. Most students begin general reading around their chosen subject area in the summer before the final year. This period is truly key in developing a broad awareness of the subject, and it prepares you for more targeted research once your final year commences.
  • Research outline. Once the undergraduate dissertation module begins (usually at the start of year 3) you will be asked to draft a brief dissertation outline of about 2-3 pages in length. This should include a summary of chapters and a full bibliography. By now you should have decided upon a narrower aspect of your topic, and this should be formulated into a research title with the help of your supervisor.
  • Refined research and writing. At this stage your research will be much more targeted, in order to pursue your proposed dissertation agenda. You should also begin writing as soon as possible. Most departments require students to submit a substantial piece of writing (3,000-5,000 words) by the end of the first term. Remember that you should submit at least one draft to your supervisor before this deadline, in order to give you time to make necessary revisions.
  • Final dissertation. When you’ve completed the writing process you should have roughly three or four chapters, as well as an Introduction and Conclusion. It must all be formatted according to university guidelines, and you must be certain to properly cite all if your sources.
  • Binding and submission. Unlike undergraduate essays, the undergraduate dissertation must be professionally bound before being submitted. This is usually done on campus but you need to allow enough time for the process before your submission deadline. The final due date is usually at the end of the second term of the student’s final year.

The marking system for undergraduate dissertations is the same that is used for all other aspects of the undergraduate degree. Students must generally achieve a minimum mark of 40 to pass, but most will aspire to higher marks than this. Marks of 60-69 earn a classification of 2.1, or B; Marks over 70 earn a First classification, or A.

The dissertation is marked as a stand-alone module and it is combined with other module marks to determine the overall degree classification. There is no standard rule for UK universities regarding the weight of the dissertation mark when calculating the degree average, so it’s best to check with your university to understand their individual regulations.

For many students, the undergraduate dissertation provides their first taste of prolonged independent research. This can be a daunting experience but it is helpful to remember that your departmental supervisor can be called upon frequently for advice and support. If you work at a consistent and dedicated pace you will have no problem completing the dissertation on time. You will also develop important research skills that can prepare you for postgraduate study.


Bryan Greetham, 2009. How to Write your Undergraduate Dissertation (Palgrave Study Skills). Edition. Palgrave Macmillan.

Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008. Guidance on the Writing of Undergraduate Dissertations. Available: http://www.ioe.mmu.ac.uk/cpd/downloads/UNDERGRAD%20DISSERTATION%20HANDBOOK.pdf. Last accessed 08 Apr 2013.

University of Warwick, 2010. Dissertation Guidelines for Undergraduate Study. Available: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/cll/currentstudents/undergraduatemodules/ce302dissertation/dissertation_guidelines_2010.pdf. Last accessed 08 Apr 2013.
Nicholas Walliman, 2004. Your Undergraduate Dissertation: The Essential Guide for Success (SAGE Study Skills Series). 1 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Other articles

PS for a Summer Undergraduate Research Programme

PS for a Summer Undergraduate Research Programme

Submitted by Sunyue on Fri, 11/21/2014 - 08:59

During the early stage of my college year, I spent a plenty of time introspecting myself and attempted to figure out my passion as well as the pursuit of my life. After biological research turned out to be my lifelong enthusiasm and the most suitable occupation, I started to strengthen my competence for a brighter future.

In junior grades, my primary objective was to establish some indispensable basic knowledge and meanwhile cultivate elementary ability of critical thinking. Although usually achieve the highest score in my major courses, I never rest content with knowledge stated in the textbooks and tried my best to master the essence behind and grasp the recent progress in each field. For fundamental courses like Organic Chemistry, I referred to the most advanced domestic versions; for core courses, I thoroughly study original editions of classic textbooks to build a rigorous knowledge system in each subject, such as Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of The Cell. Besides, I extensively consult latest discoveries to strengthen my comprehension of knowledge in each part. For instance, by referring reviews on Nature, I eventually understood the molecular mechanism of endocytosis, which was not adequately interpreted by textbooks. Accordingly, I enjoy doubting authority and asking questions based on my own reflection after class, which often baffled my teachers. Instead of simply conforming teachers’ instructions, I formed my own strategies of study such as looking up various materials, constituting my knowledge system and engendering questions after deep thinking. Therefore capable of self-directed learning, I have confidence in handling any challenge in this program.

Apart from the study of major courses, I tried my best to foster interest and proficiency in scientific research. By widely attending various lectures concerning DNA damage, epigenetics and synapse plasticity, I can appreciate the splendid realm of life science and grasp the latest advance in each branch of this field. In addition, I participate in some courses and seminars of graduates, through which I learn a lot about general strategies of biological exploration such as designing control experiments. Furthermore, I am hosting a research project on the SUMOylation of human PCNA. At first, Unfamiliar with the fundamental knowledge and skills of experiment, I was frustrated by junior faults and disappointing results, yet through my continuous effort in refining my techniques and inquiring senior students in the lab, I could eventually keep a clear mind and complete experiments independently. During the process, I learned approaches in biochemistry and genetics and methods of searching for literatures with tools like Pubmed. Through these experiences, I have gained the passion and courage to deal with any challenging issues.

Incidentally, I possess adequate ability of expressing viewpoints in English. Based on my participations in MOOC, experiences of presentations in seminars and preparations for GRE, I can smoothly comprehend others’ standpoints and state mine with academic English in writing and presentations.

This program is a superb opportunity to broaden one’s horizon and promote capability of biological research. I will be appreciated if admitted.

Undergraduate - Research Paper by Yikchan

Undergraduate Essay

This essay will attempt to evaluate the relationship between the dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex and antisocial behavior, for instance, violence, inappropriate behaviour, lack of empathy and verbal abuse. Evidence has shown that dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex does lead to antisocial behavior.

The prefrontal cortex is the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain (Poh, 2013), locate in the very front of the brain. The main function of this brain region is executive control. It allows human to cope with complex and difficult problems (Yang & Raine, 2009). It involves the decision making process, by searching through the past or present’s events and experience, in order to let human make the best decision to new situations (Yang & Raine, 2009). And most importantly, regulating behavior.

Individual with early damage or dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex, who would most likely result in massive personality change since the the prefrontal cortex in charge for so many behavior such as suppressing emotional or sexual urges and thought-processing pathways. A thoughtful and reserved patient to be less can become reckless and impulsive and a outgoing can become quiet and withdrawn. Most of the patient might have less regulatory control and life long aggression, although there is no life threat to the patient (Adrian ,2006).

In recent years, there has been enormous amount of research proved that connection between abnormal prefrontal lobe function and antisocial behavior.
Ackerly and Benton (1948) conducted a study of patient with early damage to the prefrontal cortex. The most infomative case was about a boy called JP. At the age of 4, JP fell off a bed and struck his head on the floor. The earliest behavioral abnormality noted was JP’s tendency to wander long distances and showing showing no fear of being lost (Anderson et al. 2008). Another notible behaviour was JP in tend to employ overly polite and superficial person.

Research Essay

Undergraduate Studies Research Essay Definition:

"A research essay has much in common with the persuasive essay as it relies heavily on the evidence the writer has acquired through reading and what ideas have contributed to the resulting thesis."

The thesis is the most crucial aspect of the research essay so the writer should take great care when selecting not only what the thesis is going to be but how the thesis statement is going to be presented. The thesis statement should be clearly stated whilst allowing room to accommodate possible limited qualifiers. The thesis statement also gives focus to the research you have done.

You should ensure that your thesis is original by setting it in textual context i.e. by finding out whether anyone else has previously proposed the same idea. The only way to do this is by thorough research of your chosen topic; there are no short cuts. While carrying out your research, remember to make notes of all your reading, using the referencing style you have been asked to use. Keeping an ongoing list of references will ensure that you do not unintentionally plagiarise, or simply repeat, another’s ideas and will also save you time when compiling your bibliography. It should be stated that in a research essay the bibliography will be even more important in the assessment of your work than in other essays and will probably be more extensive, including the most recent thinking on a subject by means of journal articles or other theses as well as critical works.

The research essay should follow the usual structure of an academic essay, with the introduction containing a strong statement of your thesis and the main body encompassing the argument and evidentiary support. The conclusion should restate the thesis, with quotation if necessary, but new evidence should not be introduced at this stage. Remember that with a research essay the single most important aspect is originality of thought emanating from evident thorough research; this is what the reader will be looking for and what will earn most marks in the assessment process.

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Undergraduate Funding - Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies


Students enrolled in minor concentrations in Hebrew or Jewish Studies are encouraged to apply to the Elie Wiesel Center for the following short-term scholarship awards and undergraduate research support:

The Leo Baeck Institute-NY Essay Prize in German-Jewish History and Culture
Undergraduate Prize Announcement: The Leo Baeck Institute-NY Essay Prize in German-Jewish History and Culture
The Elie Wiesel Center in conjunction with the Leo Baeck Institute in New York is pleased to announce the creation of a new undergraduate essay prize to acknowledge the best essay written by an undergraduate enrolled in ANY undergraduate program at a North American college or university on any topic related to the history and cultures of German-speaking Jews. A cash prize of $500 will accompany the award. Essays can be submitted by students or by faculty nomination; the deadline is May 15. Detailed instructions can be found here. The inaugural winner of the essay prize was Jonathon Catlin of the University of Chicago. Please direct all inquiries to ewcjs@bu.edu, with “Leo Baeck-NY Prize” in the subject line.

Brooks Family Scholarship
Recipients of the Brooks Family Scholarship are Boston University CAS students acknowledged for their outstanding performance in Jewish Studies and related fields. By nomination or application, the recipients of the Brooks Family Scholarship will be chosen by the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies prize committee. Nominations and applications are due by April 7.

Levine, Martin Family Scholarship
Recipients of the Levine, Martin Family Scholarship are Boston University students from any BU school or college acknowledged for their outstanding performance in Jewish Studies and related fields. By nomination or application, the recipients of the Levine, Martin Family Scholarship will be chosen by the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies prize committee. Nominations and applications are due by April 7.

Henry J and Carole Pinkney Research Scholarship
The Henry J and Carole Pinkney Research Scholarship supports any Boston University undergraduate or graduate student’s research in Jewish Studies. Students can request funds to cover travel expenses, conference fees, and other costs directly related to research or professional development. Students should apply directly to ewcjs@bu.edu and will be considered by the prize committee on a rolling basis.

David V. Karney Israel Travel Scholarship
The David V. Karney Israel Travel Scholarship supports Boston University students with outstanding academic records pursuing study abroad, research, and other approved activities in Israel. Students should apply directly to ewcjs@bu.edu and will be considered by the prize committee on a rolling basis.

Einhorn Book Award
The Einhorn Book Award provides support to a Boston University graduate student for the purchase of books in all areas of Jewish Studies. Students should apply directly to ewcjs@bu.edu and will be considered on a rolling basis for specific book purchases up to $500 per student per year. (Students may request multiple books per application). Decisions will be made jointly by the Chair of the Religion Department and the Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies.

With the exception of the Leo Baeck Institute-NY Essay Prize, priority will be given to Jewish Studies minors for all scholarships.

How to Apply
With the exception of the Leo Baeck Institute-NY Essay Prize, applicants are asked to submit an unofficial academic transcript, a letter of application, and a CV/resume by the stated deadline. For faculty nominations, faculty are asked to submit a letter explaining the nominated student’s merit for
the relevant scholarship. The prize committee will then request additional material from the student.