Module Number: P65033

Module Leader(s)/Tutors: Dr Jane Potter,

This module takes place during Summer

A Dissertation is a dynamic, defining and essential component for the award of the MA degree. It is a major in-depth investigation of a subject, theme or issue significant to the study of publishing through original research and extended written work of 15,000 words. It provides an opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a particular subject and your ability to gather information, undertake a synthesis of findings, apply appropriate insights, theories and models, evaluate critically, argue coherently and bring to a successful conclusion a significant piece of independent work which has been founded on appropriate primary and secondary research. This module aims to provide you with the skills that you will need to carry out this important aspect of your MA course, skills that will also be implemented in concurrent and subsequent Publishing modules.

Research in Publishing encompasses a wide range of different approaches across several research ‘cultures’. Depending on the topic under investigation, your research can resemble anything from historical or literary research, through social science inquiry, to the kinds of investigations undertaken in business fields. Publishing researchers therefore need to be versatile and have a wide range of understanding of different research environments. This module reviews and appraises the research methods that are commonly used across the Publishing Media fields – such as burrowing in archives, conducting interviews and surveys, the practicalities of project planning and scheduling, and the all-important matter of what to do with data when you get it. The module helps you to prepare your Proposal (due in Semester 2), the first stage of your Dissertation.

The first semester will cover research and academic literacy skills applicable to all MA Publishing/MA Digital Publishing students whether they intend to undertake a Dissertation or a Major Project. Indeed, Semester 1 is designed to help you decide which of these to undertake. In the second semester, students opting for the Dissertation will be offered different classes tailored to their research needs. From the middle of the second semester and during the third semester, you will have individual supervision meetings with your allocated supervisor.


Dissertations can cover a wide range of publishing topics.  Some students like to look at historical and cultural topics.  Others prefer to look at more contemporary issues in publishing.  Frequently, students base their topic in an area of publishing in which they would like to work, or where they are already doing work experience or internships.

Recent student dissertation titles include:

  • 21st Century Teenage Kicks: How the Book Publisher Can Reach the Adolescent Male Market in a New Era of Popular Culture
  • Fighting for Change: The Role of Publishing in UK Non-Governmental Organisations' (NGOs') Advocacy Campaigns
  • Literary Agents: Gatekeepers or Translators?
  • The Battle for Literary Freedom: A Study of the Cultural Effects of Censorship

There is an annual award for the most publishable Dissertation, offered in collaboration with Lightning Source.  Lightning Source produces the winning dissertation as a print-on-demand title, and the winning Disseration is published by the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies.  Winning Dissertations include Rachel Craven's work E-volution and Revolution, which analyses the importance of Internet Marketing for ELT (English Language Teaching) publishers.  Rachel's work links to her subsequent employment: after working in marketing at Pearson, she is now an e-marketeer at The Stationery Office.

Our students are also very successful in the annual Sue Thomson Foundation Publishing Award.  Past winners from Oxford Brookes include Isabel Essery's work on publishing in South Africa, which was subsequently published as 'Politics and Publishing in South Africa' in Logos (17: 3).  For her work, Isabel conducted fascinting interviews with Marie Phillip and James Currey, both of whom were active in publishing opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Dissertations enable you to focus on an area of publishing that really fascinates you; to engage with contemporary and/or historical aspects of publishing; to make contact with experts (both academics and practitioners) in your field of study; and to situate yourself in the job market.

Contributes to: Publishing