BA Arabic and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Dissertation in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies

Course unit fact file
Unit code MEST30000
Credit rating 40
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Full year
Offered by Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies
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 Middle East (subject to approval by course 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 and critical issues and undertake complex research and analysis.  


Following three 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.


Students should be mindful of the fact -- and formal requirement -- that the total yearly hours that supervisors are supposed to spend on advising students directly (via face to face or office hour) is 6 hours. Please understand that academic staff cannot work more than 100% (most of us anyway work much more than that) and that MEST 3000 dissertation is chiefly an independent study. 


An average mark of 60% at Level 2 is required for admission onto this course unit.


Medium of Language: English


  • To develop a better understanding of the Middle East.
  • To explore an aspect of the politics, cultures, language and/or histories of the MENA in greater analytical depth
  • To develop critical thinking, conceptual reasoning and analytical skills
  • To place an analysis in its social, political and/or cultural context

Learning outcomes



Knowledge and understanding

  • Show an in-depth knowledge of an important aspect of the MENA region
  • 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/or online resources
  • Engage in significant independent research
  • Design a large-scale research project appropriate to Level 3 study
  • Organize and synthesise 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
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.
Innovation/creativity: 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
Project management: Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines, work independently and to manage their time effectively.
Research: 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
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 



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




  1. Dissertation 




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

  • Chambers, Ellie, and Northledge, Andrew, The Arts Good Study Guide (Milton Keynes: Oxford University Press, 1997)
  • 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
Moshe Behar Unit coordinator

Additional notes

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. If due to 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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