Research Skills in Classics, Ancient History and Theology (CTHM007)

StaffProfessor Martin Pitts - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module is designed to offer students maximum flexibility and optionality, by providing them with the opportunity to tailor a research skills menu which is uniquely suited to their own needs and requirements. The module will provide students with the opportunity to develop, under the guidance of subject specialists in a series of interactive, research-led workshops, a range of specialist skills to prepare them for more advanced research (e.g. PhD) as well as more generic and transferable skills which will enhance their profile for other employment opportunities as well as research. All of these research skills will directly support the students’ preparation for writing the MA dissertation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate advanced ability to formulate and write a cogent research proposal (for either an MA or PhD dissertation), including the ability to articulate the objectives, aims and scholarly context of a research project, to construct a viable work schedule and to formulate a structure for the proposed dissertation; AND/ OR
  • 2. demonstrate advanced ability to understand, analyse and interpret quantitative and statistical data; AND/ OR
  • 3. demonstrate advanced ability to understand, analyse and interpret theory and methods relating to literary theory and/or textual criticism and/or ancient scholarship; AND/ OR
  • 4. demonstrate advanced ability to locate, record and evaluate critically scholarship that is relevant to the core module.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. develop advanced skills in project-planning and writing of a research proposal; AND/ OR
  • 6. develop advanced research-presentation skills; AND/ OR
  • 7. develop advanced ability to understand and apply specialist analytical approaches which are relevant to the study of ancient texts or culture; AND/ OR
  • 8. demonstrate advanced critical reading skills, specifically the ability to extrapolate methodologies that are implicit in secondary scholarship and evaluate their usefulness in relation to the core module.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. demonstrate the ability to communicate clearly and creatively in oral and in written form; AND
  • 10. demonstrate advanced ability to plan an extended independent research project; AND/ OR
  • 11. demonstrate ability to interpret and use statistical and quantitative data; AND/ OR
  • 12. demonstrate advanced ability to select and organise relevant material, to work independently and write succinct judgements on academic issues.

Syllabus plan

The module will comprise a range of research skills components which will be taught as 2-4 week ‘short courses’. A typical list of the skills short courses on offer is provided below. The student selects four of these skills short-courses in order to complete the requirements for the module.

Skills Short Courses (select any four from the list below, two from each term):

Term 1

Reading Papyri (Dr David Leith)

This short course offers an introduction to the process of deciphering and editing Greek literary papyri. It is intended to develop skills in using papyrus editions and the various tools, especially online, which are available to papyrologists. The precise content and emphasis of the course can be adapted to suit student interest. Prior knowledge of Greek language is required for this course. Useful for those with an interest in literature and who study texts in the original language.

Interpreting material culture (Dr Kristin Leith)

This short course offers an introduction to interpreting material culture from the Greek archaeological record and is designed to introduce students of Ancient History and Classics to critical approaches to materiality. Focusing on the figure of Greek warrior/hero, the poetic, iconographic and ideological construct of male excellence, status and honour, we will discuss the value of material evidence, how it can be used as a historical resource and how these theoretical perspectives might facilitate a deeper and more nuanced understanding of ancient gender, society and culture.

Classical Receptions and translations (Dr Sharon Marshall)

This short course offers an introduction to understanding the reception of literary texts in the modern world, and how reception can generate new interpretations. It also introduces the student to theories about translation as an act of interpretation and reception in itself. Useful for those with an interest in literature and those who are interested in how ancient culture is perceived by modern culture(s). Prior knowledge of Greek and/or Latin language is not required for this course, although it may be an advantage for those who wish to explore translation in greater detail.

Writing Your Research Proposal (Dr Christopher Siwicki)

This short course offers an introduction to the research project proposal: what it is and how to write it. It develops skills in project planning, communication and proposal-writing which are directly useful for planning the MA dissertation, and which will also be useful for planning a PhD project. These skills are also transferable to other areas of employment. Useful for all students on the MA programme.


Term 2

Critical Review (Dr Christopher Siwicki)

This short course offers an introduction to the process and art of writing a critical review. Looking different approaches and examples of good and bad practice, we consider the nature and purpose of academic reviews. It is design for you to develop your critical voice: communicating your assessment of the work of others in an informed and scholarly way. This is an opportunity to do an in-depth critique of a particular piece of scholarship that is relevant to your research interests.

Bioarchaeology (Dr Erica Rowan)

This course will provide a brief overview of the current state of bioarchaeological research and the ways in which this material can enhance our understanding of the ancient world. Several different types of bioarchaeological material including ancient plant remains, animal bones, human bones, pollen and phytoliths will be examined. Methods of scientific analysis as well as quantification techniques will also be explored. 

Literary seismology (Dr Karen Ni-Mheallaigh)

This short course approaches literary texts as bodies that are in material and conceptual flux, and argues that ancient texts illuminate this dimension of literary culture particularly well. We will explore the effects of different sorts of seismic activity in ancient literature: ruptures, frictions, erosion, intrusion and other types of interaction and inter-penetration. The course aims to familiarize you with a variety of analytical approaches to literature, including narratology, intertextuality, intratextualty, hypertextuality, textility and the paratext. We will also assess the value of these approaches in the ancient literary context. This short course will be especially useful to those who are interested in ancient literature.

Epigraphy (Dr Katherine McDonald)

This course will give an introduction to reading Greek and Latin inscriptions. You will develop practical epigraphy skills including how to read inscriptions from originals and photographs, how to identify and date inscriptions, and how to produce new editions, including an introduction to the conventions for digital editions. You will also learn how to use the main print and online corpora to find inscriptions and how to use epigraphic tools and editions to help you. We will also discuss the merits and limitations of epigraphic evidence. Some prior knowledge of either Greek or Latin is required, but the course can be adapted to suit student interests. This course will be very useful to anyone interested in archaeology, history and material culture who would like to use inscriptional evidence in their work.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities32Each skills-component will be taught in a series of 2-hour interactive workshops. For each skills-component, between 2-4 such workshops will be scheduled, depending on the complexity of the subject and the requirements of the class. During these workshops, students will be involved in class-discussion and problem-solving tasks designed to develop skills relating to the component.
Guided independent study268Independent study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
2 x coursework exercises, to be decided by tutors of individual components. The nature of these exercises may vary, depending on the skill which is being assessed: typically, they will take the form of an essay, research proposal, analysis of text or quantitative data-set, or critical reviews. 1003000 words. There is scope for fluctuation in the word-length of coursework assessment across individual options, depending on the nature of the skill being assessed. Typically, discursive essay-style exercises will be 3000 words, whereas exercises in hard data-analysis and interpretation may be shorter, e.g. 1500 words. 1-12Written feedback, with opportunity to discuss with individual tutor.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Coursework exercisesCoursework exercises1-12Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

R. Burns Introduction to Research Methods. London, 2000.

K.E. Rudestam, et al.. Surviving your Dissertation, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2001

S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth, eds., Oxford Classical Dictionary 3rd ed., Oxford, 1996.

Paulys Real-encyclopdie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft. Neue Bearbeitung.unter Mitwirkung zahlreicher

Fachgenossen hrsg. von G. Wissowa. Stuttgart, 1894-1972.


Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

L’Année Philologique (for Classics and Ancient History)

Thesaurus Linguae Graecae

Thesaurus Linguae Latinae

ATLA data base (for Theology)

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other resources: to be recommended by tutors of individual skills components.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

Sept 2012

Last revision date


Key words search

Classics, Ancient History, Ancient Texts, Translation