Dissertations are optional in Part I and compulsory in Part II. The dissertation must be on a topic which falls within the scope of one or more of ASNC Tripos Part I Papers 1-10 and ASNC Tripos Part II Papers 1-12. Opting for a dissertation in Part I has certain attractions. It provides you with an opportunity to pursue an interest in a particular subject, and gives you the satisfaction at the same time of producing an extended piece of work. It releases you from the teaching load for one paper throughout your first two years, and enables you to make very effective use of the Long Vacation in your first year, and of the Christmas vacation in your second year, for your academic work. It also prepares you for your work on the compulsory dissertation in Part II, by giving you experience of what is involved. It is not expected that a dissertation will represent ground-breaking research, leading to original discoveries and enabling you to draw stunning conclusions (though some Part I and Part II dissertations have been published almost as written). Rather, you should look at it as an opportunity for you to do something interesting, rewarding, and satisfying, to work at your own pace, and to take pride in your own achievement.

It is important to keep an eye on the timetable for dissertations. You may have decided from the outset to commit yourself to a dissertation, in which case you should be thinking about your intentions during the course of the first year, and should commit yourself to a subject in June. It is also possible that you may decide, for whatever reason, to change from a paper to a dissertation at a later stage, but in that case you must still commit yourself to the dissertation in June. The point is, of course, that the bulk of the groundwork for a dissertation should be undertaken during the Long Vacation before the beginning of your second year. So the timetable is as follows:

There will be a meeting in the Easter Term of your first year for all those intending to submit dissertations for Part I. Before this meeting you should discuss your choice of subject with one of the teaching staff, because you will be asked to give us an idea of your chosen subject, so that a Dissertation Advisor can be appointed. At the meeting you will be given a document entitled Guidelines for Tripos Dissertations and Form 1 in this document should be filled in, and your Dissertation Supervisor, who will specialise in your chosen subject area, will be appointed.

Before leaving Cambridge for the Long Vacation, you should have a proper meeting with your Dissertation Supervisor, who will suggest some suitable reading, and help you to plan your campaign. The vacation itself should be regarded as the period when you will undertake the necessary reading and groundwork, and produce at least a rough draft of the dissertation itself.

In the first half of the Michaelmas Term of your second year, you should finalise the title of your dissertation (in consultation with your Dissertation Supervisor), and prepare a 500-word summary of its content (or intended content). As a general rule, you might expect to have at least two formal supervisions with your Dissertation Supervisor during the Michaelmas Term. Form 2 in the ‘Guidelines for Tripos Dissertations’ should be returned to the Departmental Secretary by the division of the Michaelmas Term (i.e. the end of the fourth lecturing week). You should be conscious at this stage of the importance of presentation as well as content. The dissertation must be well organised, clearly expressed, furnished with proper annotation and bibliography, and produced (i.e. word-processed and presented) in accordance with professional standards (clean, accurate, internally consistent, etc.). Please refer in this connection to the ‘Guidelines’; and bear in mind that your Dissertation Supervisor is always on hand to advise you on these aspects of your work.

You should try hard to complete most of the work on your dissertation during the Christmas vacation, so that you have the Lent Term and the Easter vacation to focus attention on your other papers. In practice, there may still be some work to do during the Lent Term, and you may feel that you need one or two more meetings with your Dissertation Supervisor; but everything should be done by the end of the Lent Term. You will be asked to submit a full draft of your dissertation to your advisor at the start of the Lent Term, for which you must use the Draft Submission Form. You may still need a day or two in the Easter vacation for polishing your style, checking references, and attending to matters of presentation (e.g. preparation of any illustrations or special data); but you ought to reserve by far the greater part of your time in the vacation for work on other papers. Please bear in mind, moreover, that you cannot rely on your Dissertation Supercisor to be accessible in the Easter vacation, or to be in any position to comment at that stage on a final draft.

Two copies hard-copies and one electronic copy of the completed dissertation must submitted to the Departmental Office, by 4:00 p.m. on the second day (always a Wednesday) of Easter Full Term. There is an informal guide to submitting dissertations and FAQs on the student intranet, which you may find useful. You will need to submit Form 3 and ensure that you include the relevant title page for Part I, or for Part II and a declaration sheet. Form 3 contains a receipt slip which will be signed and returned to you as proof of submission. In fairness to all students, it is imperative that you adhere to this deadline. Late submission will not be permitted, unless there are grave or exceptional circumstances.

A dissertation is a compulsory element in Part II. The procedures are essentially the same as for Part I, and will be set in motion in the Easter Term, after the end of the Part I examinations. Again, the fundamental point is that you should be working on your dissertation during the Long Vacation before the beginning of your third year.

All templates and forms for Dissertation Submissions can be found in the Student Intranet pages. All students must use the templates provided for Dissertation Submissions.