Project – Dissertation

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Advanced Higher English – Project – Dissertation

The dissertation is worth 30 marks out of the total of 100 marks. This is 30% of the overall marks for the Course assessment. The course will be graded A – D.

This assessment will assess the skills, knowledge and understanding specified for the project–dissertation in the Course Assessment Specification.

These are:

  • knowledge of literary forms and genres
  • the ability to apply in-depth knowledge and understanding to complex and sophisticated literary texts
  • the ability to plan, research and present the findings of an independent dissertation on an aspect of literature

The Added Value consists of challenge and application: the candidates will build on the skills they have acquired in the Analysis and Evaluation of Literary Texts Unit and apply them with greater independence.

 This assessment has three stages:

  • A planning stage which should be completed over a period of time.
  • A development/research stage which should be completed over a period of time.
  • A writing stage which should be completed over a period of time.

The dissertation should be between 2,500–3,000 words. The word count should be submitted with the dissertation. If the word count exceeds the maximum by more than 10%, a penalty will be applied.

The word length is appropriate to the complexity of the task, allowing candidates to conduct an in-depth study of their chosen text(s).

This assessment is likely to involve redrafting pieces of work.

There are no restrictions on the resources to which candidates may have access, for example, spellcheckers and dictionaries.

Candidates must undertake the assessment, whatever the nature, independently. However, reasonable assistance may be provided prior to the formal assessment process taking place. The term ‘reasonable assistance’ is used to try to balance the need for support with the need to avoid giving too much assistance.

Reasonable assistance may be given on a generic basis to a class or group of candidates, for example, advice on how to develop a dissertation plan. It may also be given to candidates on an individual basis. When assistance is given on a one-to-one basis in the context of something the candidate has already produced or demonstrated (e.g. detailed commentary on drafts) there is a danger that it becomes support for assessment and assessors need to be aware that this may be going beyond reasonable assistance.

Assessor comments on the selection of a task/topic is appropriate before the candidate starts the task.

Once work on the assessment has begun, the candidate should be working independently.

The writing stage will be conducted under some supervision and control. This means that although candidates may complete part of the work outwith the learning and teaching setting, assessors should put in place processes for monitoring progress and ensuring that the work is the candidate’s own and that plagiarism has not taken place.

Assessors should put in place mechanisms to authenticate candidate evidence. For example:

  • regular checkpoint/progress meetings with candidates
  • short spot-check personal interviews
  • checklists which record activity/progress

Group work approaches, as part of the preparation for assessment, can be helpful to simulate real-life situations, share tasks and promote team working skills. However, group work is not appropriate once formal work on assessment has started.

This dissertation will give candidates an opportunity to demonstrate the following skills, knowledge and understanding:

  • independent planning, research and presentation of their knowledge and understanding of an aspect or aspects of literature

The text(s) chosen must not be the same as those used in the Literary Study question paper.

 General Marking Instructions

General Marking Principles for Advanced Higher English project-dissertation

  1. Marks for each candidate response must always be assigned in line with these General Marking Principles and the Detailed Marking Instructions for this assessment.
  2. Marking should always be positive. This means that, for each candidate response, marks are accumulated for the demonstration of relevant skills, knowledge and understanding: they are not deducted from a maximum on the basis of errors or omissions.
  3. The candidate’s dissertation will be marked in terms of knowledge, understanding, analysis, evaluation and expression.
  4. Assessment should be holistic. There will be strengths and weaknesses in every dissertation; assessment should focus as far as possible on the strengths, taking account of weaknesses only when they significantly detract from the overall performance. The dissertation does not have to be perfect to gain full marks.

© Scottish Qualifications Authority 2015


The dissertation is worth 30% of your overall award—so it is important to take it very seriously.

Authors, texts and topics that are central to your work in one component of course assessment (for example, Literary Study) may not be used in any other component of course assessment (for example, your Project – Dissertation). You will be required to record your Dissertation texts and topic on your answer booklet.

What you have to do:

You have to make an independent study of and produce a dissertation on an aspect or aspects of literature.

The first stage in the process is the selection of texts or topics and the formulation of a brief descriptive statement of what you propose to study. This proposal must be approved by your teacher in order to ensure that the materials are appropriate to an English course and worthy of study at this level and that the study itself is manageable. Your study should explore a limited area and examine it in detail with lots of appropriate supporting evidence.

It should be noted that texts and topics:

  • must be personally selected by you (under the guidance of your teacher)
  • must be accepted by your centre as suitable choices
  • must not be the subject of teaching in this unit
  • must not be the subject of teaching or assessment in other units of the Advanced Higher English course or in the units of other courses.

You should select a topic that will enable you to offer a full exposition and discussion of a particular aspect your chosen field of study. For example, a literary theme might be pursued through the works of a single author, or works of several authors, or over a historical period; a language topic might focus on language acquisition, the dialect of a specific locality, the language of specialist groups; a media topic might be related to the study of language or of literature.

Studies of the works of a single author or single works by two or more authors should avoid a serial treatment in which each work is left isolated from the other(s).

Your teacher will:

  • brief you on the nature of the task at the outset
  • illustrate the wide range of texts and topics available
  • discuss with you your relevant individual and personal interests
  • guide you towards consultation with librarians or other teachers.
  • give you practical help with final choice and location of texts and with the wording of topics and titles
  • provide regular opportunities for consultation and support
  • make clear to you the procedures that must apply in order to meet deadlines and evidence requirements
  • record your progress at different stages in the production of the dissertation in order to ensure the authenticity of your work.

You should:

  • write, type or word-process the dissertation on one side of A4 paper only
  • use italics or underlining to indicate titles of texts
  • set in from the margin all quotations of more than one line so that they are clearly distinguishable from the text of the dissertation
  • use footnotes and page references where appropriate to identify quotations from and references to primary sources
  • use footnotes and page references at all times to identify and acknowledge quotations from, references to and information/ideas gleaned from secondary sources
  • provide an accurate bibliography
  • give footnote and bibliography references in the following form:D.Gifford and D. McMillan, A History of Scottish Women’s Writing, EUP, 1997.

Advice on the presentation of your dissertation

Title page

Your title page should include:

  • your centre name
  • your centre number
  • your name
  • your candidate number
  • your title/topic/texts.


If word-processed, your dissertation should observe the following conventions:

  • each page should be numbered, including the title page and the bibliography
  • each page should be single-sided
  • each page should be typed in single line spacing
  • the font used should be Times New Roman
  • the font size should be 12 point
  • your text should be left-justified
  • titles of texts – novels, plays, poems, critical or reference works – should be in italics, without quotation marks
  • quotations, unless only a few words long (when quotation marks should be used), should be preceded and followed by a double line space.

Citing references in the body of your dissertation

Footnotes should be kept to a minimum and numbered sequentially from the beginning to the end of your dissertation.

  • The first reference to a text cited or quoted from should be given in full as follows:
  • Bennett, Joan, Four Metaphysical Poets, (London, 1953), p23.
  • The normal convention for subsequent references is: Bennett, p47.
  • It is acceptable to abbreviate lengthy titles in footnotes or textual references. For example: All’s Well That Ends Well can become AWTEW.
  • Simple references, such as line numbers or page references of quotations from a book or a play or a poem already cited in full, can usually be incorporated in the text, normally in parentheses after quotations.
  • Internet sources should be referred to thus:
  • Crowley, J, New York Times (1985), Review of Lanark. Available:

Listing sources in your bibilography

You should take a fresh page for your bibliography.

  • Make separate lists of primary texts (those chosen for study) and secondary sources (critical or reference works, periodicals, Web documents).
  • List sources in alphabetical order, according to the author’s surname.

The dissertation you produce must be between 2500 and 3000 words in length, including quotations but excluding footnotes and bibliography.

While you should of course consult secondary sources, you must be careful not to rely on them excessively and you must never copy them without acknowledgement. Always remember that to plagiarise is to cheat—and this could lead to your disqualification from any award. Markers are instructed to report all instances where plagiarism is suspected for further investigation (so be warned!).





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