For most students the prospect of undertaking a dissertation is a daunting one. University guidelines state that the body of a dissertation can range from ten to twenty-five thousand words, depending on the qualification. This is a substantial undertaking for anyone.
Let's imagine that you're a dedicated student. You're studious, achieving above average marks, but not likely to be invited to University Challenge any time soon. You've worked your way through the first two years and now, in the final year of your degree, the prospect of completing a body of work that counts towards a substantial portion of your final grade is fast looming on the horizon.
To compound that unnerving feeling in the pit of your stomach, you've also come to the stark realisation that your CV is hardly bursting at the seams with relevant work experience, transferrable skills that prove invaluable in employment, let alone an army of contacts to call on when you finally graduate and hit the job market.
How are you to prove to employers that you have that edge over any other prospective candidates? Do you need to make a positive pre-interview impression to get your foot in the door? Is the accumulated debt over the course of your education weighing heavy on your mind, and you need to secure employment quickly? An eloquent dissertation can dazzle employers, and secure you that much needed position.
The ability to write clear and accurate text is the most useful skill that you will learn at university. Whatever subject you specialise in, and whatever career you choose after you graduate, a command of language is a valuable asset. When employers offer a job to an MA graduate they are sometimes interested in how much he or she knows about Charles Dickens or the Napoleonic wars, but they are always looking for someone with good communication skills and an eye for detail. In almost any job, you will spend time working with a range of texts. You may produce written reports, letters or marketing copy. You may also give lectures or presentations. If you are aiming for a career in which you can use language stylishly, such as journalism or creative writing, it is equally important that you know the rules of good plain English.
It's true that summer internships, placements and graduate schemes are still effective ways of procuring employment, but in today's competitive job market it's highly advisable to have as many strings to your bow as possible. It's also true that not all employers will base their selection of candidates on the strength of their dissertation. However, those candidates who have demonstrated their ability to complete such a demanding project to the very highest of standards will surely mark themselves out as the