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Research Training - HIS00148M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. David Clayton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

The course is designed to help students acquire the skills to design a research project in history, locate relevant primary and secondary sources, handle those sources and prepare a research proposal.

The module introduces the sequencing of research design—that is, how to turn an interest into a research topic and finally into a viable research project for which there are adequate and accessible sources; it also debates how to present arguments, such as how to make a claim backed by evidence and reject a counter claim for which the evidence is scant or erroneous.

The module divides into three blocks, which align with three learning cycles. The first requires students to debate Research Practicalities; the second builds on this ethical and empirical foundation by posing common Research Challenges; the third focuses on narrowing down and proving the viability of an initial idea for dissertation, and tackles matters of Research Design.

The reading to be undertaken in advance of seminars will facilitate debate on generic and discipline-specific issues regarding research design and provide illustrative examples of historical and interdisciplinary scholarship that will appeal to all MA cohorts. Seminars will be organised on a cross-cohort basis to facilitate discussions, with teaching and learning immersive and discursive.

Plenary hours will introduce aspects of research (including the building up personal resilience as you research) and set up discretionary follow-up readings. Students will expend the majority of the hours on the module designing their own research dissertation/project proposal–that is conducting a preliminary literature survey, culminating in an annotated bibliography which provides a foundation for writing a draft introduction/literature survey.

Related modules

Students must complete this module to progress to the Research Dissertation.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Introduce students to the processes of independent research
  • Make them aware of the range of archival and other resources available to historians
  • Develop students’ powers of historical argument
  • Develop skills of primary research, including project and information management, independent working and the ability to research primary and secondary materials independently
  • Develop skills in designing and communicating a research project, leading to a dissertation proposal.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have knowledge of conventional and non-conventional sources available to historians
  • Have knowledge of how to scope and describe an independent research project
  • Have developed an understanding of the potential and limitation of historical methods
  • Understand the ethical issues that arising from collecting and presenting research that arising primary sources
  • Have developed an understanding of the resources available for their own specialist area

Module content

There is a one-hour briefing, eight one-hour plenary sessions, plus four one-hours seminars for which students read texts in advance and discuss aspects of research design.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Plenary - What is Research?
  2. Plenary and Seminar - Archives and Power (classes will be hosted at the Borthwick Institute)
  3. Plenary - Using and Abusing Sources
  4. Plenary and Seminar - Sources beyond the written word
  5. Plenary - Surveying Scholarship in Print and Beyond
  6. Plenary and Seminar - Narrowing the Scope and Crafting a Proposal
  7. Plenary - Next Steps, managing a project
  8. Plenary and Seminar - Proposal Troubleshooting and Resilience during Research


Task Length % of module mark
Proposal : Dissertation Proposal & Bibliography
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a draft 750-word proposal (including two annotated references of approximately 150 words each) in Week 9 and receive written feedback in Week 11 before revising it for submission as a summative assignment.

Summative assignment—a 1,500-word dissertation proposal plus a 1,500-word annotated bibliography including a minimum of eight secondary sources and a maximum of sixteen— will be due on Thursday, Week 15, and assessed on a pass/fail basis.


Task Length % of module mark
Proposal : Dissertation Proposal & Bibliography
N/A 100

Module feedback

At the final workshop, students will receive oral feedback from the seminar leader on their proposals.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive an outcome—pass/fail— within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Booth, W., Colomb, G. William, S. J., The Craft of Research (Third edition, University of Chicago Press, 2008).
  • Hare, J, Wells, J., Baker, B., Essential Skills for Historians: A Practical Guide to Researching the Past (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019).
  • Barber, S., Peniston-Bird, C., History Beyond the Text: A student’s Guide to approaching alternative sources (Routledge, 2009)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.