Module code: ENGM165

Module Overview

The Dissertation module provides students with an opportunity to explore a key aspect of environmental management or sustainable development in depth.  By applying the knowledge, skills and expertise developed in their degree students undertake original research to answer a research question or prove a hypothesis. The research process typically involves the review of the relevant literature, developing a research methodology, data collection (or acquisition of an existing data set), data analysis and reflection.  Students are encouraged to consider and apply interdisciplinary approaches in their research where appropriate, thus crossing the boundaries between disciplines to address a problem which can be better understood by applying combining research approaches from more than one discipline. 

Students are encouraged to identify their own dissertation topic, however the academic team may also suggest topics in their areas of expertise. Once a topic has been approved students will be assigned a supervisor with sufficient experience and academic background to provide the necessary guidance and support.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

CHENOWETH Jonathan (Sust & CEE)

Number of Credits: 60

ECTS Credits: 30

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 576

Lecture Hours: 6

Tutorial Hours: 12

Module Availability

Crosses academic years

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The dissertation gives students an opportunity to undertake an extended piece of research and to develop their knowledge and expertise in a specific area of sustainability. Dissertations vary according to individual interests but typically include empirical research, whereby the student conducts primary research using methods such as interviews and questionnaires or secondary research by analysing a pre-existing data set. Doing an extended piece of research is a challenging task which requires students to draw upon all the knowledge and skills developed previously in their MSc and previous study while also thinking creatively as they address the challenges posed by their research question. The dissertation allows students to apply what they've learned to this extended piece of research and really prove their capabilities.

The final dissertation which students submit is a significant document which can demonstrate to future employers a student’s data collection, analysis, information synthesis and writing skills. Since dissertations are student-led, they also demonstrate a student’s ability to work diligently and independently while being supported by their dissertation supervisor. 

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Project (Group/Individual/Dissertation) FINAL DISSERTATION 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to formulate a research question, relate this to relevant literature, design and execute a small piece of empirical research and write up research findings. When doing their dissertation students are expected to employ extensive critical thinking, develop a consistent set of arguments over a sustained piece of writing, and make clear recommendations.

 Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A dissertation report of 15,000 words usually comprising an introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis and discussion and conclusions.

Formative assessment and feedback:

Early in the academic year a dissertation roundtable discussion seminar allows students to present preliminary research topic ideas and get feedback from the academic staff and peers. Following the roundtable discussion students submit a short topic outline after which dissertation supervisors will be matched to topics and supervisors allocated. A 2-3 page dissertation proposal is submitted to the supervisor so that the supervisor can provide feedback on the viability and ethics of the project and early suggestions for improvements.

Students are strongly encouraged to meet regularly with their dissertation supervisor who will provide oral and written feedback on the literature review, the research methodology development, research ethics, the analysis of results, and draft dissertation chapters. 

The dissertation module coordinator is also available for one-to-one meetings with any student who wishes to discuss any aspects of the dissertation process although normally a student would discuss any issue with their dissertation supervisor in the first instance.

Research methods training is provided, with tutorial sessions held to allow students to discuss ideas with and get feedback from academic staff and peers. Academic writing skills tutorial sessions are also provided, with students able to get feedback on their academic writing.

Module aims

  • Provide students with experience of undertaking individual research. This includes developing a research proposal, conducting a literature review, following the research methodology adopted, analysing the results and drawing appropriate conclusions. Students write up their research as an academic dissertation.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Be able to formulate a clear research question and design an appropriate research methodology for focused piece of research KCP
002 Be able to critically review academic literature relevant to the research topic, using this review to inform the development of research questions and research methods KC
003 Be able to identify or collect data relevant to the research questions and undertake critical analysis to answer the research questions KCPT
004 Develop conclusions and recommendations through relating findings to existing research and/or theory KCP
005 Present research findings in an appropriate format, constructing reasoned arguments and exercising critical judgement. KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Develop students’ ability to undertake original research. The bulk of the module involves students working independently to design and carry out research on a topic of their own choice.

Original research aims to produce new knowledge by answering a research question for which the answer was not previously known. Usually this is through the collection and analysis of new data although it can also include the reanalysis of an existing dataset or the synthesis of previous research to answer an original research question.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Lectures and captured content

  • Individual one-on-one meetings with a dissertation supervisor

  • Workshops to discuss issues related to research with lecturers and peers

  • Independent research

Students are assigned a dissertation supervisor and are expected to engage with their supervisor in a constructive way to receive feedback throughout the two semesters. The role of the supervisor is to provide guidance to the student on the development of the research and the writing up of research results. The student remains in charge of the research project and to get the most out of the supervisory meetings must come well prepared to meetings having completed the tasks discussed and agreed with their supervisor at the previous meeting.

A series of lectures and workshops are provided to help students develop their research and academic writing skills as appropriate for progressing their dissertation. These will cover issues such as undertaking a literature review, the ethical assessments of planned research activities and how to use referencing software.


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ENGM165

Other information

The Centre for Environment and Sustainability is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience, in line with the Surrey Curriculum Framework. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Sustainability: Dissertations should be focused on investigating a problem or issue related to environment and sustainability. By focusing on a specific sustainability related problem, students can develop their in-depth knowledge of this problem, deepening their understanding of a key aspect of sustainable development.

Resourcefulness and resilience: Dissertation research allows students to demonstrate the ability to respond to problem-based task requirements, addressing challenges or set-backs through agile thinking and decision-making processes to achieve positive outcomes. Completing a dissertation requires students to develop their resourcefulness as they navigate the challenges of doing research, and also develop their resilience as they overcome setbacks in the research process to produce a high quality and in-depth research project report. Students are guided through this process by their dissertation supervisor.

Employability: This module develops students' ability to work independently and conduct a detailed and in-depth piece of research. The ability to work independently and apply a range of analytical techniques in depth to a sustainability-related challenge or problem are key skills which are sought by employers. In this module students learn how to present research results via the writing of their research project report under the supervision of an academic who is an experienced researcher. The ability to present research results in a well-structured concise report is also a key skill sought by employers.

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.