Although we’re out of the university and the country, we Erasmus students are constantly having to cast our eyes back to Leicester to make sure we don’t fall behind the times. We’re sending signed forms back and forth, approving this and that and etc., but most important is the communication regarding the dissertation and special subjects. Time doesn’t stand still, and in the previous year we were able to sit back and laugh as our puny human fellows fretted over their dissertation topics (‘portrayal of sharks in Dickens?’, ‘references to Power Rangers in Old English?’ are two topics which I guarantee nobody fretted over. They were obviously correct choices from the start).
We are at a slight disadvantage in terms of planning for dissertations in that we have to rely on email rather than office hours, and it’s easy to forget when you’re cramming yourself full of cannoli that you should be planning a topic until the deadline is upon you. But these aren’t very good excuses, because we are given plenty of warning in emails and a service is provided to redirect us to the appropriate tutors to discuss our topic proposals with. If you want some information about the dissertation process, you’ll find that my colleague Jennifer has already covered it rather well here and here.
As she says, a Leicester English dissertation is only 5000 words. This might seem strange to anyone who’s heard people talking about their ‘10,000-‘, ‘15,000-‘, or ‘100,000,000-‘ word dissertation. I didn’t plan the course, but I can offer a few suggestions as to the benefit of a short dissertation.
1) We’re undergraduates in a Bachelor’s degree. The whole point is that specialisation comes afterwards, not during.
2) This way we’re able to donate more time to getting an overall view of the subject based on other modules, rather than spend all our time revising sharks.
3) It encourages only the most important points to be made, rather than rambling space-filler to up that word count.
4) We’re saving the planet by cutting down on people printing multiple times 10,000 words of shark-analysis.
These are some ideas. The deadline for special subjects — the optional ones taken in the final year — has not yet arrived, so I’ll talk about that in the future.