Dissertation Guidelines



While information provided in this booklet is correct at the time of publication, it is subject to change as new policies and procedures may be introduced. You will be notified of any changes in advance of your submission deadline. 










  1. MRES and MRES with Soc. Statistics. in Criminology









The content of the dissertation guidelines include information on:



III.  DISSERTATION FORMAT                 6


VII.  PRESENTATION                                     8

VIII.  SUBMISSION DETAILS                    9


XII.  RESEARCH INTERESTS OF ACADEMIC STAFF                                       12
























I. Timetable for submission of Master’s dissertation in September 2021

November 2020  
13th Meet your Potential Supervisors Meeting
30th Dissertation process and calendar Meeting
December 2020  
18th Students are required to submit via email a provisional title and a brief summary of their proposed topic for the attention of Nuria Hortiguela;  by 18th December 2020.


The brief summary should include an indication of the chosen dissertation format, namely Research Proposal, Policy Report, Literature Review, or Empirical Project).


*Empirical Projects: students must send a ONE-page brief description of their topic, methods, timescale and data to be collected. Bullet-point listing may be used.


Feasibility of Empirical Projects will be monitored with particular attention given to the ethics-level requirements.


Please note that Masters students are not permitted to undertake dissertations which require University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) approval. ** In light of the current health crisis, empirical projects must be carried out online exclusively.


The process for ethical approval and guidelines are available at the following website and document under the Projects, Dissertations and thesis tab – please use the Ethics Decision Tool to evaluate your project’s needs.


18th Part-time (year 2) students will submit their dissertations in September 2022 (with further details of date, time and venue to follow in academic year 2021-2022).


January 2021  
6th The Dissertation committee meets to decide on feasibility of Empirical PGT Project(s) with particular attention given to the ethics-level requirements.
8th Decision of the PGT Research committee on the feasibility of

Empirical Projects are to be notified to student.


There are three possible outcomes:

1)    Empirical project is deemed unfeasible. Committee will make suggestions and recommendations.**

2)    Empirical project is feasible and requires School-level ethical review ***

3)    Empirical project is feasible and does not require School-level ethical review.


**If the Empirical project is deemed unfeasible, you can either:

1) Revise the empirical project and submit a new empirical project by the end of January taking into account the Committee’s


    feedback and suggestions OR

2)    Select another dissertation format: i.e., research proposal, critical literature review or policy report.

3)    You need to let Nuria and the PGT Director know which option you have decided to undertake by the end of January 2021.


*** If the project is feasible but requires School-Level ethical review, you need your application submit the application by the end of March.

13th   PGT Director to allocate supervisors.


You will be allocated a supervisor/s based, wherever possible, on matching your project to a member of academic staff’s research interests, methodologies and current projects.

MRes students with social statistics are allocated two supervisors, one from the Department of Criminology and one from the Department of
Social Statistics.  The supervisor from the department of criminology,

however will be taking the lead in terms of supervision.


15th   Nuria will notify students and allocated supervisors.
  By     the     end


of Empirical projects resubmission deadline.


Notification to Nuria and PGT Director of decision to undertake another dissertation format.

February 2021


8th   Student to organise their introductory supervision meeting. Aim is to discuss project and define supervision approach. (nb: no need to have the meeting, but student needs to have sent an email to supervisor to schedule one before the start of term).
Anytime in Feb.    

Attend the Introductory Supervision meeting.


For Empirical Projects: this meeting needs to focus on the ethics application process and deadline. If your dissertation requires ethical approval you must complete and submit a School Ethics Application form via the Ethical Review Manager (ERM) system by the end of March 2020 at the very latest.


Please note that Masters students are not permitted to undertake dissertations which require University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) approval. ** In light of the current health crisis, empirical projects must be carried out online exclusively.


The process for ethical approval and guidelines are available at the following website and document under the Projects, Dissertations and thesis tab – please use the Ethics Decision Tool to evaluate your project’s needs.


For all the other projects (Research proposal, critical literature review, and policy report), first meeting needs to focus on ethics and ethical issues more broadly.

March 2021  
By the end of March For Empirical Projects: submission of the ethics SoSS application


April-July 2021 •       4- 6 Meetings with supervisors (excluding the Introductory Supervision Meeting)


•       There will be no supervision meetings in August 2021.


07 September 2021 All dissertations must be submitted in accordance with the guidelines outlined below.


This document is intended to give you further guidance relating to the preparation and submission of dissertations for the MA, MREs and MRes with social statistics in Criminology. It is supplementary to the information already provided in the Programme Handbook and by individual members of staff.  



II. Length of dissertation


Dissertations should be between 12,000 and 15,000 words. Dissertations must not exceed 15,000 words. This word limit does not include bibliography, footnotes, appendices or title page material (further details will be provided with the dissertation guidance).


However, footnotes should contain material that is merely incidental to the main text.  Footnotes should not comprise any more than 10% of the total length of the work.  The inclusion of significant amounts of material in footnotes will be treated as an attempt to circumvent the limits described above, and will be penalised.


In cases where footnotes exceed 20% of the total length of work, no penalties will be imposed if the footnotes are primarily bibliographical in nature, and are not used to circumvent a word count limitation by including substantive argumentation.


You must state the word count of your dissertation i) without footnotes (and without bibliography) and ii) with footnotes (but without bibliography), where applicable.


The sanctions for exceeding the word limits for individual pieces of work are as follows: (i) *if the dissertation is no more than 10% over the specified word limit, then 5 marks will be deducted from the mark awarded;

  • if the dissertation is more than 10% but no more than 25% over the specified word limit, then 20 marks will be deducted from the mark awarded;
  • if the dissertation is more than 25% but no more than 50% over the specified word limit, then 50 marks will be deducted from the mark awarded;
  • if the dissertation is more than 50% over the specified word limit, then the work will not be marked and a mark of zero will be recorded.

*Penalty may be waived where the limit is exceeded by a trivial amount


The computer clusters on the 3rd and 4th floors of the Williamson building are available for students wishing to use University facilities to prepare their work.


N.B. You should not have excessive text in footnotes – this is not an acceptable way to ‘get around’ the word limit.  If in doubt, consult your supervisor who will be able to offer guidance on this.


III. Dissertation Format


You are asked to follow one of the following formats:


  1. A critical, original and thorough review of literature and research on a specified area.


  1. A research proposal. This will include a critical review of the literature and a research proposal detailing methods, ethical considerations and limitations of the proposed study. It can be an extension, but does have to be, of your research proposal submitted for SOCY Research Design.


  1. A policy report. This will include clear and detailed recommendations, directed at a specific criminal justice agency.


  1. Empirical projects*


  1. A small piece of empirical research (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods)– only to be attempted if agreed to be feasible in the introductory supervision meeting (in January 2021) with the assigned supervisor (this format will be rare for the MA student pathway) or


  1. Secondary analysis of an existing qualitative or quantitative dataset (eg BCS or other data held by ESDS) – Likewise, this must be agreed in the introductory supervision meeting in January and will be rare on the MA pathway.


* In light of the current health crisis, empirical projects must be carried out online exclusively.


IV. Dissertation Structure


Each  of  the  four  dissertation ‘types’  detailed  above  will  involve  the  preparation  of  a literature review, a rigorous metholodogy section and an in-depth discussion on ethical implications. One common form of organisation is as follows:


  1. Introduction and Statement of the Topic:


  • State the question to be addressed and provide detailed information about the relevance of the project and the overall context of the general topic.


  1. Review literature relevant to the topic:


  • The general dissertation topic may be divided into a limited number of topics or themes which comprise the elements of the whole question. These should be addressed using published research, relevant theoretical works, public policy documents and published findings from professional practice.


  • The topics/themes/subsections may be addressed within one chapter focusing on published research in those areas or, if required, may be divided into separate chapters.


3.          Methods and Ethics

  • Each project needs to include a critical discussion about methods and ethical implications.


4.          Discussion


  • You should highlight/summarise the overall findings presented in the literature review and draw conclusions relating to the general research question and to subsequent research, policy and development and/or professional practice.


V. The role of your supervisor


Students should meet with their dissertation supervisor at least twice. Students are entitled to one introductory supervision meeting to discuss the format of supervision and discuss any ethical issues that might arise. There will then be up to six supervision meetings, of at least 30 minutes each. These meetings will run between March-July 2021.


When a supervisor is allocated to you, you will be sent his/her contact details.  It is then up to you to arrange contact with your supervisor(s) from this point onwards.  However, if you have any problems contacting supervisor(s), do alert the Programme Administrator of this and she will do her best to resolve any problems.


While your supervisor will offer general guidance and support, he/she will not ‘proofread’ your dissertation.  It is up to you to make sure that your dissertation is presented in the appropriate way (see Presentation and Format below) and that you have checked it for any mistakes or typographical errors.


VI. Proofreading Guidance


If a student chooses to approach another person to proofread their written work or seeks to use the services of a proofreading service or agency, they must take account of the following principles:


  • It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the dissertation is checked for typographical errors. Anybody involved with proofreading a dissertation should be checking solely for grammatical/spelling errors. The University statement on proofreading is available at:


  • it is the responsibility of students to ensure that all work submitted is their own, and that it represents their own abilities and understanding. Any proofreading of work that is undertaken by a third party must not compromise the student’s own authorship of the work;


  • proofreading undertaken by a third party must not take the form of editing of text, such as the adding or rewriting of phrases or passages within a piece of student’s work;


  • Proofreading undertaken by a third party must not change the content or meaning of the work in any way.

Remember: Supervisors have busy schedules with many other responsibilities apart from your dissertation.  Make sure that you get any work you want guidance on to your supervisor in plenty of time for them to read it before you expect any feedback.


        VII.     Presentation


  • Your work must be typewritten or word-processed;


  • Your work must be a minimum font size of 12-point Arial script (or equivalent);


  • For the main text, double or 1.5 spacing should be used; single spacing may be used for quotations, footnotes and references.


  • Footnotes should be numbered clearly for each page and should be typed at the foot of the page to which they refer, or at the end of each chapter;


  • All dissertations must include a suitably presented bibliography;


  • The main text of the dissertation should normally be left-justified to aid accessibility and readability.


  • Figures or images used in the dissertation must be of sufficient size and clarity.


  • For examination purposes an electronic copy should be submitted in Blackboard before 4pm, on Tuesday 7th September, 2021.


  • The candidate’s student ID number; and PGT dissertations which were referred for reexamination must bear the year of resubmission on the title-page and not the year of the original submission.


  • It is essential that the title of the dissertation should appear exactly as approved by the School.


  • Your word count with footnotes and without footnotes must appear on your title page.


  • The University publishes a document entitled Guidance for the presentation of Taught

Masters           Dissertations,      available                   at           the                  following   website:


The dissertation must be prefaced by:


1) Statement page


A statement that it is “A dissertation submitted to The School of Social Sciences, Department of Criminology, The University of Manchester for the degree of MA, MREs, MREs with Social Statistics in Criminology in the Faculty of Humanities”.


2) Declaration page


EITHER That no portion of the work referred to in the dissertation has been submitted in

support of an application for this or another degree or qualification of this or any other university or other institution of learning;


OR Stating what portion of the work referred to in the dissertation has been submitted in support of an application for another degree or qualification of this or any other university or other institution of learning.


3) Copyright page


Copyright of the text of this dissertation rests with the Author, Copies (by process) either in full, or of extracts, may be made only in accordance with instructions given by the Author and lodged in The University of Manchester Library.


Guidance on copyright is available here: This page must form part of any such copies made. Further copies (by any process) of copies made in accordance with such instructions may not be made without the permission (in writing) of the Author.


This page must form part of any such copies made. Further copies (by any process) of copies made in accordance with such instructions may not be made without the permission (in writing) of the Author.


4) Intellectual Property Rights


The ownership of any intellectual property rights which may be described in this thesis/dissertation is vested in The University of Manchester, subject to any prior agreement to the contrary, and may not be made available for use by third parties without the written permission of the University, which will prescribe the terms and conditions of such agreement.


The word count does NOT include the title of the piece (or question itself), bibliography or any appendices or prefaces pages.


5) Abstract

Your abstract needs to include  a concise summary of your dissertation. It highlights the key topic and areas (context and focus), your research purpose (what issue does it address), the relevance or importance of your work (is timely, urgent and important?), and the main outcomes (what is your argument/finding?). It is a well-developed single paragraph of approximately 250 words in length, which is indented and single spaced.


IMPORTANT: Your attention is drawn to the importance of thorough checking of the dissertation before submission to ensure all typing errors have been corrected.  Failure to do so may result in delay of the award of the degree.


        VIII.    Submission details


Dissertations must be submitted electronically and not to your supervisor by the designated deadline. Failure to do this could mean that your degree result will not come before the Board of Examiners at the appropriate time, and your work may be treated as a non-/late submission.


Further details of the whole submission process will be made available to students separately later in the academic year.


The electronic submission will be subjected to plagiarism detection software.


You must check the dissertation carefully for typographical, printing and other errors before it is submitted. You will not be allowed to substitute a ‘corrected version’ once the paper has been formally submitted.


To guard against the possibility of your work being lost once it is submitted you are strongly advised to retain your own copy


You will be issued with an electronic receipt upon submission of your dissertation. It is your responsibility to keep a copy of your dissertation and the electronic receipt.




IX. Extensions

If a student has foreseeable circumstances which prevent submission of a piece of coursework by the deadline, they can request an extension using the Extension Request Form found via Blackboard Programme pages or via email from the Postgraduate Office in the Williamson Building. Any extension permitted will be of one or two weeks in length. Any extension further to this can be granted only in exceptional circumstances by the Exams and Assessments Officer. Students submitting an Extension Request Form must do so no later than 24 hours before the original submission deadline. Where circumstances prevent submission which was not foreseen or occurred too close to the deadline to request an extension, a penalty will be applied to the mark for the assignment which can then be appealed on the basis of mitigating circumstances as outlined above.


X. Penalties for late submission

If you submit coursework after the original published deadline without an approved extension, the following penalties will apply:

Work submitted Marks deducted
Within 24 hours of the submission deadline 10
Within 48 hours of the submission deadline 20
Within 72 hours of the submission deadline 30
Within 4 days of the submission deadline 40
Within 5 days of the submission deadline 50
Within 6 days of the submission deadline 60
Within 7 days of the submission deadline 70
Within 8 days of the submission deadline 80
Within 9 days of the submission deadline 90
Within 10 days of the submission deadline Mark of zero


Any student who submits work (including the dissertation) at 1 second past a deadline or later will, therefore, be subject to a penalty for late submission. There are no discretionary periods or periods of grace therefore, any work submitted at any time within the first 24 hours following the published submission deadline will receive a penalty of 10% of the maximum amount of marks available.  Any work submitted at any time between 24 hours The University policy is that any piece of assessed written work (including the dissertation) submitted after the submission deadline will be marked but the mark awarded will reduce progressively for each day, or part thereof by which the work is late. Any work submitted at any time within the first 24 hours following the published submission deadline will receive a penalty of 10 marks. Any work submitted at any time between 24 hours and up to 48 hours late will receive a deduction of 20 marks, and so on, at the rate of an additional 10 marks deducted per day/24 hours, up to 5 days. Late work submitted after 5 days will receive a mark of zero. The Policy relates to calendar days, so includes weekends and weekdays. The policy of submission of work for summative assessment on taught programmes, which includes the late submission policy can be found at the following link:


Work submitted more than 9 calendar days late

If work is submitted more than 9 but less than 10 calendar days late this is considered as a late submission and the penalty will be applied that results in the mark being reduced to zero. The work should still be marked and feedback given.

If the work is submitted more than 10 calendar days late, then it is considered as a nonsubmission and a mark of zero applied.


This guidance relates to first attempts only. Students who submit referral (also known as resits as a second attempt) assignments after the deadline will be automatically subject to a mark of zero. There is no sliding scale in operations for resits/referrals.


Submission dates and times are in UK local time and it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they submit by the submission deadline.


The School requires students to submit all assessed coursework and dissertations in electronic form.  Work handed in by students for assessment will be subjected to electronic systems for detecting plagiarism or other forms of academic malpractice. TurnitinUK, is the plagiarism detection service used by the University.


If you are unable to meet your dissertation deadline due to mitigating circumstances, you should follow the process for submitting a mitigating circumstances application form as soon as possible, and by the relevant advertised deadlines for mitigating circumstances. Information about the mitigating circumstances process, grounds for mitigation and deadlines can be found in the Mitigating Circumstances Advice Sheet for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Students 2020-218 available on the Postgraduate Taught Students (Department of Criminology) Blackboard page or from the Postgraduate Office.





If you are unsure about any of the information provided in this booklet, please contact the Student Experience Administrator, Nuria Hortiguela:


By Email:


By Telephone:      +44 (0)161 275 3561



XI. Assessment Criteria

See Annex I.


        XII.               Research interests of Academic Staff

See Website:


See Blackboard video and slides under the Dissertation tab.



Assessment Handbook Will be available via your programme page on Blackboard












(90, 95, 100)

is highly original, displaying great insight into the subject and the ability to approach problems in an innovative and/ or unexpected, yet highly productive, manner.

contains no significant errors of expositon, interpretation, or argumentation.

is to all intents and purposes flawless.


–      applies the principles of the discipline to the issue(s) at hand in an original yet appropriate manner to produce a well reasoned analysis, with conclusions carefully and effectively argued and


–      displays a deeper than normally expected understanding of theoretical nuances, particularly in their application;

–      shows appropriate use of the literature base(s), and shows significant originality in source selection















has no structural weaknesses of great consequence.

integrates detail into a coherent whole;

argues autonomously to a reasoned and logical

conclusion; is supported throughout by appropriate and accurate language.

80% –       demonstrates originality and depth in thinking and


–       demonstrates a comprehensive familiarity with relevant

theories, doctrines, and cases;

shows familiarity with germane literature base(s).



N.B  Where a marker feels, for whatever

reason, that a

mark of    70 –

74 is most appropriate,

the mark to be

given is 75, not


shows breadth of study and

some originality in application;

shows extensive knowledge and critical understanding of relevant theory, facts, and issues; is directly relevant to the issues to be addressed in the assignment.




Within the ‘distinction band’ above, all individual marks MUST be given at one of following steps: distinction=75%; clear distinction=80%; good distinction=85%; excellent distinction=90%; outstanding=95%.
60 – 69% (62, 65, 68) –       is sufficient, and relevant to issues being discussed;

–       shows a good grasp of relevant theory, facts, and issues;

–       reflects a critical understanding of a broad range of reading.

–       reveals an attempt to create a coherent whole;

–       attempts to guide reader through to a reasoned


–       is rarely affected by inappropriate or inaccurate language.

50 – 59%

(52, 55, 58)


–       is generally competent, and displays an adequate understanding of the issues to be addressed;

–       is just sufficient to cover the subject, but has some


–       shows a satisfactory grasp of relevant facts and issues;

–       shows adequate reading but little originality.

–       links parts together but falls short of creating a coherent whole;

–       does not always guide the reader and does not always provide a conclusion to the arguments deployed;

–       is weakened in places by inappropriate or inaccurate language.


A mark of 50% or more indicates the work is of the standard appropriate to Masters level.  Marks between 40-49% (see below)  indicate that the work is of the standard appropriate to the level of PG Diploma
40 – 49% (42, 45, 48) –       engages with the subject, although in a limited way and/ or with occasional digressions;

–       shows some understanding of relevant concepts, facts, and issues;

–       would benefit from greater

–       sections of the work, while relevant in themselves, are not clearly linked;

–       assumes, rather than argues for, a given conclusion;

–       would be improved by greater emphasis being placed on appropriate and/ or accurate

  depth of reading and analysis. language.
Marks below 40% are deemed to have failed to meet the standard appropriate for either the PG Diploma or Masters qualification.
0 – 39%

(0, 5, 15, 25,

30, 32, 35, 38)

–       provides evidence of only very limited background reading;

–       shows only superficial understanding (at best) of the relevant issues;

–       relies uncritically on subjective personal opinion or hearsay.

–       no attempt made to argue to a conclusion;

–       written in the form of an unstructured monologue or


–       shows little respect for the conventions of grammar.

The assessment criteria above are equally applicable to Masters dissertations or research papers.  In assessing these constituents of the research element of the Masters programme, the Examiners will give more weight to critical analysis than to a descriptive display of general knowledge of relevant material, etc.