Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
The mandatory Politics dissertation (PL30670) is an extended research project on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the dissertation supervisor. The aim of the dissertation is to enable students to enhance their research and analytical skills through an in-‐depth study of an approved topic within the field of politics. (Note that politics is understood broadly to include related subjects; please see the Unit convenor or Director of Studies if you are unsure whether a topic is suitable). As final year students you are expected to research your topic independently and on your own initiative. You are, however, allocated a supervisor who will provide advice and guidance. You can expect to meet your supervisor about eight times during the course of the year.
The dissertation is the equivalent of two full units, i.e. 12 credits. It thus makes an important contribution to your final degree. You should expect to devote one full day each week to it during the teaching period and should also set aside a block of time for writing during or immediately before the Easter break. Dissertations are submitted on Friday 11th April 2014 in the second semester. The total length of the dissertation should not exceed 10,000 words (excluding bibliography and appendices). You can find a dissertation archive on the Moodle page for this unit that contains ‘best practice’ dissertations from previous years.
With the support and encouragement of their supervisor, final year students take responsibility for framing and undertaking the entire research project. Students will gain research skills based on a critical awareness of the importance of methodology in political research and writing. A dissertation provides an opportunity for you to study one problem or issue in political theory or practice in depth. It may offer practical experience in the use of research methods, or in the more intensive use of library resources. You must show why you selected this particular topic for your research, how you selected and collected your primary data (e.g. interviews, unpublished documents) or other published evidence (including web sites, properly cited), how you analyzed the material and reached your conclusions. A dissertation is not intended to be an enlarged essay or series of essays. It needs to have a unity in theme, and a structure appropriate to your goals in investigating and analyzing a particular issue or problem. Your supervisor will guide you, but you are in charge!
Intended Learning Outcomes:
Students who complete this unit successfully will be able to demonstrate that they can:
• frame and succinctly formulate a political research problem;
• undertake independent work;
• acquire in-depth knowledge and expertise of a particular issue in politics;
• distinguish between different research methods;
• justify and apply a particular theory and method to a political problem.
The key skills this unit will develop are:
• Advanced research skills in identifying, locating and applying a range of descriptive, methodological and theoretical material;
• Intellectual skills of conceptual, original and independent thinking, synthesis and reasoned argument;
• Skills of assessment in relation to the soundness of competing arguments and scenarios, including the reporting and assessing of qualitative and/or quantitative empirical data; and
• Skills of self-direction, self-evaluation and time management.
Although you may consult several members of staff on your dissertation, you will have one supervisor for advice and support. A meeting about the dissertation will be held at the beginning of the final year at which you will be given a form to be filled in and returned to the unit convenor within two weeks. On this form you should indicate the subject area or title of your dissertation and provide a 100 word preliminary outline of your project. Supervisors will be allocated by the unit convenor. You may suggest a preferred supervisor, but their availability cannot be guaranteed. You will then need to meet up with your supervisor and get your form signed by them, and then return it to the unit convenor by the beginning of the fifth week of term.
Final year dissertations are normally supervised by PoLIS staff. Staff in other Departments may occasionally agree to act as supervisors, but cannot be required to do so. We recommend that you choose a topic which falls broadly into the area of expertise of a potential supervisor. A list of supervisors available during 2013/14 is available on the Moodle page of this unit. If in doubt about possible supervisors, please consult the unit convenor, Dr David Cutts.
Supervisors do not always need to be major experts in the particular topic of your dissertation, but will be able to help you in discussing the general problems of researching and organizing your material. Of course, the initiative for the research project should come from you. Ultimately it is your work that will finally be assessed, and for that reason supervisors or other members of staff will not give detailed comments on any more than one third of the draft. You may wish to submit your introduction and/or conclusions together with one chapter, as this should enable supervisors to comment on the dissertation’s overall structure as well as content. However, it is up to you to decide what to submit.
You should see your supervisor regularly for guidance and support. These meetings, as well as the progress made by the student, will be recorded on a form by the supervisor. It is advisable for students to get feedback from their supervisor on style and bibliographical notation as well as on more substantive matters. In particular, you should seek advice if you are at all uncertain about referencing: plagiarism in a dissertation is a very serious offence which will lead to an Inquiry Hearing and a severe penalty. The Library also has a very useful ‘Guide to Citing References’ at www.bath.ac.uk/library/help/guides.html. If you think you are being poorly supervised, you should immediately bring the matter to the attention of the unit convenor or Director of Studies.
Topic and Approach
A well-planned programme of research for a dissertation should – broadly speaking – go through a series of stages, irrespective of what you are writing about and the sort of research methods you are using. Put at its most simple, you start by selecting a topic area and doing some general reading. The initial idea may derive from practical experience, from a placement year if you took one, or from your reading for a particular unit. It may derive from an item in the news that seems to raise interesting and not immediately answerable questions. For example, is this a new political development? What were the origins of this movement/party/ideology? How would an intensive study of this problem or policy question (or a comparative study of such a problem or policy area in two countries) illuminate either the problem or the political setting? A recent or imminent political development, such as an election, might allow you to do some original research before academics and experts can publish their own analyses. A dissertation often begins with a puzzle or paradox which suggests the ways in which you might break up and structure your research and therefore make the task manageable. Your question should really start with ‘why’ or ‘how’.
A dissertation should be grounded in an academic literature. It is very unlikely that your question will not have been considered to some extent by scholars, so read what they have to say and engage with it (to develop, challenge or illustrate their arguments). Although you will start off with a particular question, the actual topic and title may well be adapted and refined over time, as you collect more evidence and get to understand what the crucial questions and issues are. Research often involves a series of reformulations as you proceed.
Note that it is a University rule that you may not submit the same piece of work twice for assessment. You may draw upon work which you have done for an essay or a Year Abroad Special Study, but you must not reproduce it as a chapter of your dissertation.
Data Collection and Analysis
You need to decide on a research question, and think about where you can get data and evidence that will inform your analysis and enable to you to suggest an authoritative answer. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time set and do not aim too high: it may be difficult to obtain interviews with MPs or other key players without personal contacts. Your supervisor has to be satisfied that this piece of research is manageable and feasible. Evidence on a broad topic might be provided by examining a case study in detail. You should be presenting an argument, not just exploring an area in general. There should be a logical development from one chapter or section of your dissertation to the next. Begin with a survey of academic literature relating to your problem, and then proceed to an analysis of data, or to one or more relevant case studies that explore your question in more depth. Your conclusions should then derive from the dissertation as a whole.
Your supervisor will be able to advise you on suitable techniques for collecting evidence. If you are thinking of interviewing people who could supply relevant information, or using a questionnaire, you should first consult your supervisor. You obviously need to think carefully beforehand about what you want from any interviewee; the more informed and professional you appear to any potential interviewee the more likely are they to co-operate and provide useful material. This also applied to approaches to institutions (embassies, international bodies etc) for information or data. An interview early in your research process might provide useful ideas and leads, in terms of what relevant information is available. You need to understand, and to explain in your dissertation, why your chosen method – or combination of methods – is appropriate to your research question. A recent student writing a dissertation on press coverage of the ‘Northern Ireland’ issue since the commencement of the peace process was able to make good use of an interview with a journalist from BBC Northern Ireland. But beware of giving too much weight to such evidence; you need to be critical of all evidence, including primary sources. Instead you need to assess how all the evidence bears on your question and your argument.
You should make judgements on the quality and persuasiveness of the data that you offer and discuss, and assess the implications for the robustness of the conclusions which you then draw. Don’t strain for a certainty that is rare in the social sciences, but suggest, in relation to your overall focus, what arguments the evidence best and least supports. Remember to return at the end to your opening questions, and show how your conclusions relate to the existing literature on the topic. Do they confirm work that others have done, or question it, at least in certain circumstances and settings? Speak to Politics staff about your topic, and its practicability. You need to be self-‐motivated, so try and choose a topic that interests you. If you enjoy researching, organising your material and writing the piece, all these aspects of the task will be easier. The dissertation will take a lot of your time, and will require dedication. On the other hand, don’t expect your dissertation to provide an answer to the meaning of life. You need a research question, which is manageable and not over-ambitious.
The Higher Education Academy hosts a very useful resource for students, covering every aspect of the dissertation in depth at www.socscidiss.bham.ac.uk/. This easy to use website contains a wealth of practical information including video clips of supervisors’ views.
Useful books to consult on conducting and writing your dissertation include:
Bell, J. (1999), Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First- time Researchers in Education and Social Science, Buckingham: Open University Press, 3rd ed.
Burnham, P. et al (2008), Research Methods in Politics. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dunleavy, P. ed. (1986), Studying for a Degree in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Harrison, L. (2001), Political Research: An introduction. London: Routledge.
Hay, C. (2002), Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave
Pierce, R. (2008), Research Methods in Politics. London: Sage.
Robson, C. (2007), How to Do a Research Project: A Guide for Undergraduate Students.
David, M. Silbergh, D. M. (2001), Doing Dissertations in Politics: A student Guide.
Walliman, N. (2000), Your Research Project: A Step-by-Step Guide for the First-Time
Researcher. London: Sage.
Walliman, N. (2006), Social Research Methods. London: Sage.
End of Freshers’ Week
Unit convenor and Director of Studies meet with final year students to provide information about Politics dissertations.
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Submit dissertation form with outline and preliminary title of dissertation to unit convenor,.
Beginning of Week 3
Unit convenor will allocate supervisors on the basis of forms and inform students. Students should then approach their supervisors to arrange the first meeting and get their form signed by their supervisors.
Wednesday 30th October 2013
Return signed dissertation form to unit convenor,
Wednesday 6th November 2013: 1315-1605 (TBA) Dissertation workshop
Thursday 12th December 2013 Student should hand in a two-page outline to their supervisor by 3pm. *See below for more details.
Friday 7th March 2014
Students may hand in a draft of up to 3,000 words for supervisors to read and comment on.
The dissertation outline is due on Thursday 12th December 2013. The outline should be a critical bibliography, not more than two sides in length. A critical bibliography is more than a list of books consulted. It should be a piece of writing showing evidence of reading i.e. summaries of the main arguments in key texts. The outline should also clearly state the main research questions or hypotheses to be tackled in the dissertation.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ONCE YOU HAVE DECIDED YOUR TOPIC AND HAVE BEEN ALLOCATED A SUPERVISOR YOU ARE ADVISED NOT TO CHANGE TOPIC. IF YOU HAVE TO CHANGE TOPIC PLEASE CONTACT THE UNIT CONVENOR.
1. The dissertation must be handed in on Friday 11th April 2014, no later than 3pm. No late submissions are allowed unless they have been agreed with the Director of Studies.
2. You must submit two copies of your dissertation:
(a) A hard copy of the dissertation must be handed in to the PoLIS Admin Office (Anne Coleborn), date-stamped upon submission, and accompanied by a signed PoLIS cover sheet. It should not be stapled or submitted in a fixed binding (we will bind it).
(b) You must also, by the same deadline, upload a copy of your dissertation to the Politics Dissertation page on Moodle.
3. The dissertation must be printed, paginated, double-spaced on one side of A4 paper with a 5cm left hand margin (in order to permit binding).
4. The first page of the dissertation should include the title, your full name, and the following formula: “This dissertation is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the BSc in Politics with Economics [or BA in French/German/Italian/Russian/Spanish and Politics] and BSc in Politics with International Relations, Friday 11th April 2014.”
5. The dissertation should be 10,000 words long (+/-10%), excluding bibliography and appendices. It must be properly referenced and include a table of contents and a bibliography.
6. Indexes, appendices, annexes abstracts are not required but, clearly, allowed. Appendices/annexes are a means of including background material which is relevant to the argument of the dissertation but which does not in itself constitute part of the argument. They do not count towards the word limit for the dissertation. If used, the material included must be relevant, and if you do not refer to your appendix within the dissertation itself you might want to ask yourself if it is really necessary. Everything necessary to the argument should be in the body of the dissertation.
7. Dissertation marks will be released at the same time as Semester 2 marks and degree classifications. One copy of the dissertation, along with comments, will be returned to you.
Dissertation title: Can the special Chinese policy one country two systems be successfully ran in Taiwan in the near future?
What type of dissertation am I doing it? Hypotheses
Why am I doing it?
Some western scholars believed that Taiwan would definitely come back to mainland, as it is a historical trend. However, in reading some related articles and traced back to the history of Taiwan, the nature of Taiwan is totally different from Hong Kong and Macau. Since Taiwan is completely independent, but Hong Kong and Macau are two colonies, they do not have individual sovereign thus one country two systems may easily work on these two areas. However, Taiwan is independent and democratic, people in Taiwan may not easily be convinced to accept that Taiwan would demote from a “country” to a special administrative region. What is the main voice about this very controversial issue from Taiwan to look at this special policy and what kind of differences and specialty could Taiwan have if they accept to run this policy? What is the biggest difficulty will become the resistance to run this special policy in Taiwan? To analysis the successful experiences to run this policy from the cases of Hong Kong and Macau and analysis the difficulties that Taiwan may suffer, could the one country two systems would be successfully run in Taiwan in the near future?
How am I going to do it?
Introduction: History of Taiwan (civil war in mainland China 1949)
History and creation of “one country two systems” policy (Deng Xiaoping)
Definition of this policy
Theory and Methodology
Use the literature review and methodology try to find out and discuss the advantages of the one country two system policy applying on Hong Kong and Macau and some negative effects exist now for running this policy for more than 15 years. (Must be critical)
Second part analyze Taiwan’s political situation, for example party system, election system and legislature system, focus on Taiwan’s democratic political environment, because Taiwan runs a very different democratic political system different from mainland China’s politics. For these reasons, it would cause the arguments and different voices inside Taiwan to against running this policy.