BA Sociology and Portuguese

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Dissertation in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies

Course unit fact file
Unit code SPLA30000
Credit rating 40
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Full year
Offered by Spanish, Portuguese and Latin
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit is a guided research unit, in which the student submits a 12,000-word dissertation on a subject of her or his own choosing that relates to the Spanish- and/or Portuguese-speaking worlds (subject to approval by the convenor). The student will be expected to identify and develop a dissertation topic appropriate to the scale of the project. They will shape a central research question that should provide scope to explore sophisticated critical issues and undertake complex research and analysis. Following some initial lectures on key issues related to undertaking and designing a dissertation project, the convenor will allocate the student a dissertation supervisor, who will provide guidance with relevant research methods, writing skills and analysis of data. Thus, this course unit affords the student the opportunity to design and undertake a large research project, and will involve significant independent research.


IMPORTANT: Students are reminded that they should seek formal ethical approval before undertaking any research for their dissertation that involves third parties (e.g. interviews, questionnaires, etc.). This includes any preliminary research that students may wish to undertake during their year abroad or the summer prior to their final year. They should contact the dissertation convenor for guidance on how and when to apply for such approval.



An average mark of 60% at Level 2 will be a requirement for admission onto this course unit.

Available on: Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Single Honours and Joint (Hons) programmes with Spanish and/or Portuguese.


  • To develop a better understanding of the languages, cultures and/or histories of the Spanish- and/or Portuguese-speaking worlds
  • To explore an aspect of the languages, cultures and/or histories of the Spanish- and/or Portuguese-speaking worlds
  • in greater analytical depth
  • To develop critical thinking, conceptual reasoning and analytical skills
  • To place an analysis of culture and/or history in their social, aesthetic and political context


Knowledge and understanding

  • Show an in-depth knowledge of an aspect of the languages, cultures and/or histories of the Spanish- and/or Portuguese-speaking worlds
  • Show familiarity with key scholarly debates and literature about their chosen topic 


Intellectual skills

  • Define a topic for research
  • Write and revise a key research question
  • Write analytical plans for extended pieces of work
  • Develop a written argument of depth and complexity, using primary sources and critical literature, with a standard of scholarly presentation of the material produced appropriate to Level 3 study. 


Practical skills

  • Use the library, electronic and online resources
  • Engage in significant independent research
  • Design a large-scale research project appropriate to Level 3 study
  • Organize a large volume of information


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Manage time effectively, self-motivate and work to deadlines
  • Communicate a coherent and critical argument of depth and complexity in written form
  • Use information and communication technology (ICT)
  • Assess the relevance and importance of the ideas of others
  • Demonstrate powers of analysis
  • Display good literacy skills in English
  • Show awareness of and responsiveness to the nature and extent of intercultural diversity.


Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate both existing literature on the material studied and the primary set materials themselves. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
On this unit students are encouraged to design a large-scale research project, and respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by existing literature on the topic and the primary materials studied.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines, work independently and to manage their time effectively.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to communicate a coherent and critical argument of depth and complexity in written form and to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Assessment task  

Formative or Summative 


Weighting within unit (if summative) 

  1. Dissertation title, abstract and annotated bibliography due Friday of Week 5 in Semester 1  

Summative and Formative 



  1. Dissertation plan due Friday of Week 9 in Semester 1 (summative and formative) 

Summative and Formative 



  1. Draft chapter due Friday of Week 5 in Semester 2 




  1. Dissertation (summative) 





Feedback methods

Feedback method  

Formative or Summative 

  • Written and oral feedback on the title, abstract and annotated bibliography in week 8-9 


  • Written and oral feedback on the dissertation plan in week 12 


  • Written and oral feedback on draft chapter no later than 10 working days after submission 


  • Written feedback on the dissertation 


Recommended reading

Suggested further readings

  1. Chambers, Ellie, and Northledge, Andrew, The Arts Good Study Guide (Milton Keynes: Oxford University Press, 1997)
  2. Reardon, Denis, Doing Your Undergraduate Project (London: SAGE, 2004)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 3
Project supervision 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 391

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Samuel Llano Unit coordinator

Additional notes

An average mark of 60% at Level 2 is highly recommended for admission onto this course unit. Students who do not have to take this unit as part of their degree requirements and who have an average mark of less than 60% at Level 2 will need to seek approval from the dissertation convenor to be able to take this unit. 


Enrolment procedure: Students must submit their dissertation topic proposal form to the dissertation convenor by the end of the first Friday of September. It is expected that in most circumstances students will have already undertaken preparatory research, especially taking advantage of sources available during the period of residence abroad (if applicable), before beginning the unit . Following submission of the proposal form, the dissertation convenor will then evaluate the topic, decide whether it is feasible and, if so, whether there is sufficient expertise within the subject area to supervise the project. Students will be offered the chance to change their topic in cases where approval is not forthcoming. If an appropriate topic cannot be finalised by the end of Week 2 then a student will be required to choose alternative units. If approved, the convenor will allocate a supervisor based on 1) staff expertise and 2) fair distribution of workload among staff. When, because of workload distribution, it is not possible to allocate students to the supervisor whose expertise is most appropriate, students will be offered the choice of changing their topic. In cases in which particular expertise is highly popular, students may be allocated a supervisor based on their second year average mark or based on the strength of their proposal. Allocation of supervisors will be finalised by week 4. In cases in which a supervisor has more than one student, there may be a group-work component to the course unit. Any such groups will normally be 3-6 students, who will meet to discuss research findings and review each other's work, under the guidance of their supervisor. Additionally, students will have one to one meetings with their supervisor.

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