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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Dissertation in HSTM, science communication studies or medical humanities

HSTM60632 (30 credits)

Contact: Dr James Sumner

The unit aims to

  • produce a substantial piece of original research, firmly grounded in the appropriate primary and secondary literature, appropriate to the student’s chosen degree programme and pathway
  • present this research clearly and effectively in the form of a dissertation (thesis) following disciplinary conventions on format and structure.


On completion of this unit, successful students will be able to

  • display ability in analytical and critical thinking, information gathering and management, and the written and spoken communication of facts and arguments
  • demonstrate extensive knowledge of a specialist area in their chosen field
  • demonstrate understanding (beyond what is established in the taught component of the programme) of practical research skills in their chosen field, including the ability to identify and analyse research questions, devise research strategies to explore these questions, and to analyse and present results and conclusions
  • understand how to identify and pursue research questions, and to critically analyse and present research results and conclusions
  • identify and analyse problems
  • critically interpret primary and secondary material relevant to the research project
  • plan and organize an in-depth piece of original scholarly writing in their chosen field
  • employ a high level of library and IT skills, including the ability to use a range of reference tools to search and retrieve information
  • display a comprehensive set of skills in identifying, sourcing and using primary and secondary literature
  • write and reference according to appropriate scholarly conventions.


The dissertation allows students to use skills developed across the taught component of the programme in working more independently, under supervision, on an original piece of research.
The focus may (subject to supervisor availability) be on any topic covered by the student’s degree programme pathway. Depending on pathway choices, this may include the following areas:

  • history of science, technology and/or medicine (STM) in any period, including the contemporary
  • science and technology studies, including sociological and anthropological perspectives
  • science policy studies
  • innovation studies
  • science communication studies, including the history and theory of engagement, networking and media as applied to STM
  • bioethics or medical ethics
  • approaches to medicine and healthcare from a variety of disciplinary perspectives in the arts and humanities, including those of art history, classics, religious studies or theology, gender studies, philosophy, and law.

The dissertation may be based on the same subject matter as one of the student’s assessed essays from the taught component, though it may not substantially duplicate the essay.


  • Dissertation proposal (up to 3000 words), pass/fail assessment
  • Oral Presentation (5 minutes), pass/fail assessment
  • Dissertation (up to 17,500 words): 100%