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The philosophy dissertation

The dissertation is the culmination of your MA in Philosophy and tests your ability to present a sustained academic argument in clear, logical prose. Within the rules of the MA, you’ll have considerable freedom in your choice of topic. You’re not expected to make an original contribution to scholarly knowledge, but you must demonstrate a reasonable grasp of work done in the subject area, with a thorough survey of relevant literature. Your tutor will help you decide on the focus of your dissertation, approve your research proposal and comment on draft sections of your work through the module.


A857 is a compulsory module in our:

This module can also count towards F07 which is no longer available to new students. Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.

OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

The only stipulation regarding the subject matter for your dissertation is that it must be related either to an MA subject module you have studied or to an area you have studied in sufficient detail in the foundation module. Your tutor will help you to decide what is feasible.

While the work you produce need not be entirely original, you will be required to undertake a survey of the relevant existing literature and to be up to date as far as possible with recent journal articles on your chosen subject. Your dissertation must be well written and must show that you are confident in creating the scholarly apparatus necessary to support your argument.

During the module you will produce five pieces of written work before submitting the dissertation itself. The first is your research proposal, which must be approved by your tutor and the Examination and Assessment Board. The next three pieces of work are draft sections of your dissertation. They will not be graded, but your tutor's comments on them will be a key part of your teaching for A857, as well as a way of monitoring your progress. The fifth piece of work is a complete draft of the dissertation, and the final piece of work is the dissertation itself, which will be assessed by your tutor and a second marker. Their recommendations will help to determine the result awarded by the Examination and Assessment Board.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be in a tuition group of about four students. Tuition will be through online forums and email. For the most part, you will be given individual tuition on your dissertation proposal and as your dissertation develops. You will be asked to send to your tutor drafts that are not part of your assessment, but will enable your tutor to offer comment and assistance.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above. All the marks will come from your dissertation.

You will be expected to submit your research proposal and drafts online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit them on paper.

Course work includes

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

Future availability

The philosophy dissertation starts once a year – February 2018 is the last time we expect it to start. A new module in the same subject area is planned to start in October 2018. 


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Essential Documents website.

    Entry requirements

    To take this module, normally you must have completed the Postgraduate foundation module in philosophy (A850)(now discontinued), and either the philosophy subject module, one of the other subject modules from the MA Humanities programme, or have received an appropriate award of transferred credit. If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    You are strongly urged to consider your dissertation topic and your access to the necessary research material before the module begins. In particular, you should establish that the material you will need is available via the OU Library (or other research library).


    Start End Fee
    - - -

    No current presentation - see Future availability

    This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2018.

    Future availability

    The philosophy dissertation starts once a year – February 2018 is the last time we expect it to start. A new module in the same subject area is planned to start in October 2018. 

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    Ways to pay

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options. To find out more see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

    Dissertation guide, computer software.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    This module makes extensive use of the internet and online forums, so you may need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer. The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.