How important are undergrad dissertations in the UK?

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Stick In The Mud
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Hi,

In my university in Canada, undergrad dissertations/theses are optional for history students like myself. I want to ask how is it like in the UK? Does pretty much everyone have one done? Would not doing one put me at a real disadvantage when applying to masters programs at Oxbridge/LSE?

How original are undergrad dissertations in the UK? Do you have to come up with a brand new idea or angle that previous scholars have not touched?

Thanks!
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by Stick In The Mud)
Hi,

In my university in Canada, undergrad dissertations/theses are optional for history students like myself. I want to ask how is it like in the UK? Does pretty much everyone have one done? Would not doing one put me at a real disadvantage when applying to masters programs at Oxbridge/LSE?

How original are undergrad dissertations in the UK? Do you have to come up with a brand new idea or angle that previous scholars have not touched?

Thanks!
It would strengthen an application to have done a dissertation, but it's not necessarily mandatory for a PG application. But obviously, evidence that you can deal successfully with a larger piece of work is a positive indicator.

You do not have to come up with a brand new idea or angle, that's what a PhD is for.
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Stick In The Mud
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
It would strengthen an application to have done a dissertation, but it's not necessarily mandatory for a PG application. But obviously, evidence that you can deal successfully with a larger piece of work is a positive indicator.

You do not have to come up with a brand new idea or angle, that's what a PhD is for.
Thanks for your reply. So if the idea doesn't have to be original, what is the difference between a dissertation and just a normal paper other than perhaps the length?
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by Stick In The Mud)
Thanks for your reply. So if the idea doesn't have to be original, what is the difference between a dissertation and just a normal paper other than perhaps the length?
Nothing, just the length, but it requires more material to evidence the argument, more strand to the argument and more academic management of time, references, research sources etc
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BridgeHouseGlasgow
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Hi there,

In my experience doing a dissertation was fundamental to my Masters application and then the programme itself. It was where I started to really hone my research interest and ideas and it formed a lot of what I then went on to write about in essays in my Masters and then my final Masters dissertation. I think it demonstrates an overall passion for your subject and academic skill to be able to create an original argument, sustain that over length, choose sources wisely, close reading, editing and proof-reading, etc.

Personally I was quite lucky in that the books (I did English) that I wanted to write on didn't have much secondary criticism on them so the nature of that meant that it was original. In my experience at undergraduate level a unique contribution to knowledge is not expected but of course any new insight is going to be impressive and beneficial to you, particularly if you want to undertake Masters study. As mine was mostly quite original, this is something I drew on a lot when applying and later on as I was comfortable with my own voice, research and approach.

I would highly recommend it!

Lilith
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Stick In The Mud
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(Original post by BridgeHouseGlasgow)
Hi there,

In my experience doing a dissertation was fundamental to my Masters application and then the programme itself. It was where I started to really hone my research interest and ideas and it formed a lot of what I then went on to write about in essays in my Masters and then my final Masters dissertation. I think it demonstrates an overall passion for your subject and academic skill to be able to create an original argument, sustain that over length, choose sources wisely, close reading, editing and proof-reading, etc.

Personally I was quite lucky in that the books (I did English) that I wanted to write on didn't have much secondary criticism on them so the nature of that meant that it was original. In my experience at undergraduate level a unique contribution to knowledge is not expected but of course any new insight is going to be impressive and beneficial to you, particularly if you want to undertake Masters study. As mine was mostly quite original, this is something I drew on a lot when applying and later on as I was comfortable with my own voice, research and approach.

I would highly recommend it!

Lilith
Thanks for the advice Lilith!
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