The University of Southampton

PHYS6009 Dissertation

Module Overview

The first part of the course is devoted to exploring a given topic via group work, assessed via short, written summary (extended abstract) and oral presentation. The second part consists of an individual dissertation that is assessed via a written report. The content and the scope of both group work and individual dissertations are based on physics and astronomy ideas with the focus on independently researching them, report writing in a style of scientific papers, presentation skills as well as effective team working.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of this course is to develop skills in scientific reading and comprehension, the forming of critical judgements upon researching a topic in physics and the effective communication of the findings in a written and as a presentation.

Learning Outcomes

Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate independence in exploring scientific concepts and with the aim of finding practical solutions
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Effectively search the scientific literature, papers and books as well as a variety of online resources
  • Develop a critical approach to the literature and the ability to select the most relevant information
  • Process the most relevant information to provide a solution and explanation to a given scientific problem , developing problem solving skills
  • Develop ability to present complex material at a suitable level
  • Improve skills in writing a clear and structured report on a scientific topic
  • Develop document preparation skills including creating figures, equations, tables and a bibliography
  • Develop confidence and clarity in verbal communication
  • Work effectively as a member of the team, contributing with skills and knowledge towards a common goal
  • Increase awareness and ability to manage time effectively to meet deadlines


First part: group work. The teams consisting of three to five students will carry out joint work on a given topic. The list of topics will include a comprehensive selection of ideas and challenges from different areas of physics and astronomy. Some may be of interdisciplinary nature and include aspects of mathematics, biology, chemistry or nanotechnology, for example. In general, the topics will not be `cut and dried', where the material is readily available in textbooks or has been covered in depth during lectures, but should require students to synthesise the research and/or technical literature into coherent conclusions. Scientific judgement must then be used to select the key material and an overview must be developed to discuss material from specialised research papers in a broader context. While the topics’ titles highlight the main concept, creativity and going beyond their abstracts are encouraged. The main goal of the joint work is to provide an opportunity to develop independence and initiative as well as to learn how, within a team, group members can support and share work to achieve a common goal. To this end, the groups are responsible to carry out their work independently, namely without seeking scientific or technical supervision, help or guidance from academic or research staff. Second part: individual dissertation. All the students will be allocated a topic (guided by their expressed preference) of their own, individual dissertation. The individual topic will have to be researched and the report written, demonstrating clear comprehension as well as critical judgement of the findings. As with team work, the focus of this individual dissertation is on gaining confidence in exploring independently a particular idea or concept and in developing analytical and critical problem solving skills. It is also an exercise in time management and getting the right balance between the time devoted to researching the literature and relevant resources, and writing up the report. The individual topics are intended to be linked with the subject pursued during team work.

Learning and Teaching

Completion of assessment task99
Wider reading or practice44.5
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Individually provided for each topic. 


Assessment Strategy

Each group has to prepare a short, one page summary/extended abstract of their topic and its main findings. Typical, expected length is 450-600 words and can include pictures and diagrams. Submission of summaries will be done via Blackboard where electronic files should be uploaded. This abstract should be comprehensible to other third year physics students with no specialist knowledge of the field, “with” degree students may assume familiarity with their subsidiary subject to third year level. Research done by the groups will be presented through talks organised in conference like sessions. The detailed timetable and the order of the talks will be announced on Blackboard, indicating the time and the venue. Each presentation will have 20 minutes allocated with additional 5 minutes for questions. Presentations should be well balanced and planned to match the required time slot. This aspect will be assessed as part of the presentation mark. Each extended abstract and presentation will be assessed by two members of staff, typically involving the course coordinator and one of the deputies. As all team members will receive the same mark, it is important that each student provides equally valuable and significant input to the joint work. It is up to a team to facilitate that. All members of each group will need to provide a statement confirming that group presentations and summary reports are their own contribution carried out as a part of a team effort. In an instance of plagiarism, all students in the group concerned will receive the same penalty. Peer assessment forms will also be used to evaluate the work of each group and its members. This assessment will be done anonymously and its results analysed. If it emerges that some students contributed in an inadequate manner, up to 20% of their mark could be deducted. However, issues of that kind should not emerge at the assessment stage. As part of developing management and team working skills, students should aim to resolve such cases within each group and if necessary, use progress review meetings and office hours. It is important to note that, similarly as in case of talks for PHYS2022 module, most of the marks are credited for the physics content and the demonstration of problem solving rather than the use of media, advanced graphics or special effects, both in presentations and in written reports. Blank mark sheets, with the split of marks per category will be provided on Blackboard. The individual topic will have to be researched and the report written, demonstrating clear comprehension as well as critical judgement of the findings. The length of the report should be approximately 10-12 pages (up to 2500 - 3000 words) and should be written as a technical/scientific report. Reports in PDF format will need to be uploaded through Blackboard. The dissertations will be marked by two members of academic staff. Referral Students must get at least 40% mark to pass this course. The students who fail to meet this target will have the following referral arrangements. By first Monday (9 am) of the Supplementary Exam period the students will need to submit: 1) their individual dissertation and 2) Power Point (or a similar format) file containing presentation of the main results of their individual report. If the individual dissertation was submitted already in Week 12 and marked, improved and amended version has to be submitted. There will be no oral presentation of the results. Any marks given for the team work will be carried forward and will contribute to the final, referral mark. Division of marks: Resubmitted report 50%, PPT presentation file 30%, Team work (carried forward from the semester work: abstract and presentation): 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual dissertation report 60%
Oral presentation 25%
Team work abstract 15%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) %
Coursework marks carried forward %

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

PHYS3004Crystalline Solids
PHYS3002Nuclei and Particles
PHYS3007Theories of Matter, Space and Time
PHYS3008Atomic Physics
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