NST Part II BBS - Dissertations
In addition to your Major and Minor Subjects, you must write a dissertation. The purpose of the dissertation is to give you an opportunity to produce a substantial piece of original work. It should be an extended account of a topic or question that lies broadly within the field of either your Major or Minor subject. In producing your dissertation, you will be expected to show skills in researching primary literature, critically evaluating published information, and marshalling arguments to produce a structured critical assessment of a defined topic.
Examples of dissertations topics offered in the past are available here.
You can expect to receive a maximum of four supervisions with your dissertation supervisor. You are expected to meet with your supervisor at least twice during the preparation of your dissertation. Supervisors are only permitted to view a single draft of your dissertation prior to submission.
Course Organisers will tell you when and how dissertation titles will be released; and you will be required to have your title approved by Division of Michaelmas term.
Your dissertation should be prepared in accordance with the dissertation guidelines shown below, which have been issued by the Faculty Board. Please consult these guidelines at an early stage and pay particular attention to the appropriate closing dates.
The Faculty Board has issued a statement on plagiarism, and you should read this carefully before preparing your dissertation. For information on plagiarism issued by the Board of Examinations, please click here. In addition, soon after choosing your dissertation you will be required to sign a form consenting to the use of Turnitin plagiarism software.
Guidelines for the dissertation
All NST Part II BBS students should take note of the following regulations and guidelines for their dissertation.
Your dissertation must be on a topic associated with either your Major or Minor subject. You must, by notifying the Course Organiser for that course, obtain approval of the proposed title and subject of your dissertation. (The form for this is available by clicking here.)
This must be done not later than Division of Michaelmas term, that is 4.00 pm on Friday, 9 November, 2012. You must notify the Course Organiser and the Faculty Office of any subsequent changes to either the title or the subject of your dissertation. You should also notify him/her of the name of your supervisor as soon as you have one. The latest date by which you can change the title of your dissertation is the last day of Lent Term, that is Friday, 15 March 2013.
Please note that you are free to do a dissertation in your minor subject, but you should inform your major subject Course Organiser if you take this option.
Your dissertation must not exceed 6,000 words, excluding the summary, appendices, contents page, tables, figures (and figure legends), footnotes and bibliography. References and citations within the text count towards the word total. Dissertations that exceed the stated word limit may be marked down for poor scholarship.
Your dissertation must be typewritten or word-processed, double spaced, on one side of A4 paper with 2.5 cm margins, a font size for main body text no larger than 12pt and no smaller than 10pt. Dissertations should be permanently soft-bound (hard back copies are not necessary) using comb-binding or wire binding. There are many binding services on offer in Cambridge, the University of Cambridge Computing Service is one such provider.
Two copies of your dissertation, in its complete form, must be submitted to the Course Organiser of the subject you wrote your dissertation in, by the deadline of 12.30 pm on Friday 26 April 2013.
In addition to the two typewritten or word-processed hard copies, the dissertation must be submitted in electronic form, via CamTools, no later than 12.30 pm on Friday 26 April 2013. Please click here for instructions on how to do this.
Extensions to dissertation deadlines: Please note that Senior Examiners and Course Organisers do not have the authority to grant extensions to the deadline for handing in your dissertation. If you think you will be unable to meet the deadline and have good reasons (i.e. illness or other extenuating circumstances) you will need to see your Tutor, who will make a case to the Applications Committee. They will then make a decision as to whether you may have an extension to the deadline. Further information can be found on these sites:
You are advised to contact your Tutor as soon as you are aware that you may miss the deadline. Please note that if you miss the deadline you will be considered to have scored zero for your dissertation until we have received approval from the Applications Committee for an extension.
The electronic version of your dissertation may be run through a plagiarism-detection software program. For information, please see the Faculty Board's statement on plagiarism
Hardcopies of your dissertation must be accompanied by a A4 cover page (a sample form is available by clicking here, which must be bound to your dissertation, and must include:
The dissertation must include a summary of not more than 300 words. The summary must be bound to the dissertation immediately after the cover page.
The marking scheme for dissertations can be found here (http://www.bio.cam.ac.uk/sbs/facbiol/camonly/diss-marking.html).
Examiners have power to examine you viva voce on the subject of your dissertation. The viva voce, where given, will be held in the department you submitted your dissertation, held on the same date as the single subject viva voce examinations.
Please remember it is your responsibility to write and submit your dissertation on time. (Please allow time to have your work permanently bound. This is a busy time of year and you may encounter queues.)
Advice on preparing your dissertation:
Supplementary information to assist in the preparation of dissertations
Latin names of the genera and species in the text etc should be underlined or written in italics. Where a generic name is the same as the last mentioned it may be abbreviated as the initial letter with full stop, eg Agrostis canina and A. tenuis. If in doubt, use the full generic name throughout. Vernacular names of organisms can be used without capital letters unless a proper name is involved eg 'bottle-nosed dolphins', but 'Mediterranean seals'. The Latin name should accompany the first mention of the vernacular name and subsequently either may be used. Anglicised names of higher taxa should not have initial capital letters eg 'carabids'; but not 'Carabidae'.
Figures and tables can be used to illustrate the essay, compiled or copied complete from original papers or books. Each should be numbered, eg Figure 1, and provided with a caption. They must be referred to in the text, eg 'Table 2 shows ...'.
References should be given in the text by using the author's name with
year of publication in brackets - Smith (1992). No comma is required between
name and date when the whole reference is in brackets (Smith 1992), but use
(Smith 1992; White 1971), (Black, 1972, 1975). If the reference has three or
more authors use (Smith et al 1992) or (Smith et al 1992).
Place the list of references at the end, in alphabetical order by first
author and then date order, with the journal name preferably in full, eg Smith, A.,
Black, B. & White, E.J. (1967). The ecology of natural communities. Journal
of Ecology, 42, 460-53. Or if a book: Smith, A. (1976) Mountains
and Moorlands. Collins,
Notes on literature retrieval: literature retrieval is more of an art than a science and there are many ways of achieving your goal of finding all/most of the relevant literature on your chosen subject. Experts working in the same field often provide a helpful start, especially if approached in person!
Textbooks are usually out of date when published, but may provide a useful starting point (eg The Handbook of British Mammals). Look for authors or titles in Books in Print.
'Trends in';, 'Advances in', 'Progress in', 'Annual Review of', etc, as well as symposium articles and recent reviews of your subject are also useful, but beware of imitation! The review journals mentioned above are useful as well as the review articles in many ecological journals such as Oikos and Ecology.
Computerised or printed indexing or abstracting services (including the Internet) may provide lists of references/abstracts from recent journals and earlier literature may be found from Zoological Record (ceased 198?) (Balfour), Biological Abstracts (1926-, SPL), Science Citation Index (1964-, SPL - including papers referring to a particular author), Excerpta Medica (1947 - Medical Library), and bibliographies in papers, etc.
On line services in
Specialist abstracting services are also available in print such as Key-word Index of Wildlife Research (Swiss Information Service) and Wildlife Review (North American literature), but these are difficult to find outside personal subscriptions (ask your Supervisor).
Alerting systems such as Current Contents (SPL and available on the Internet) and even the index to New Scientist (SPL) may help in bringing the review right up to date.
The Internet gives summaries of research in progress and details of research workers' interests as well as much, much more.