Advanced Historical Research Skills (HISM016)

StaffDr Matt Rendle - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value60
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aims of the module are fourfold:

  1.  To develop and extend the skills employed by students when dealing with primary sources
  2. To introduce students to the most influential theoretical and conceptual frameworks within the discipline of     history over the past 150 years, and to assess the ways in which these theories and concepts inform historical practice in the present
  3. To provide training in formulating a major research project
  4. To develop students’ own skills in the practice of research communication

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Develop and extend the skills required to deal with primary sources
  • 2. Understand and critique the key concepts and theories that inform historical research
  • 3. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of researchers’ use of evidence, interpretation and argument
  • 4. Understand the relationship between research questions and conceptual tools, and apply this when formulating a proposal for a dissertation project

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate awareness of the evolving nature of historical analysis and interpretation
  • 6. Identify key research questions in a given field, the appropriate source materials with which to address them and the characteristics of the research context into which any project arising might be situated
  • 7. Evaluate the most effective means of presenting research, reviewing it and developing research in line with feedback from peers and staff
  • 8. Recognise the theoretical and conceptual links to other disciplines within the social sciences and humanities

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Conduct independent study and group work, including participating in oral discussions
  • 10. Demonstrate capacity for independent critical analysis
  • 11. Demonstrate ability to construct and defend a sustained argument concisely and clearly, orally and in writing

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following:

The first part of the module (weeks 1-5) will focus on developing students’ ability to deal with historical sources, extending earlier knowledge by addressing the broader theoretical issues surrounding certain types of sources. Seminars may include archives, textual sources, visual culture, material culture, quantitative history and oral history.

There will be a week in the middle focused on developing a research proposal where students’ draft proposals will be subjected to peer-review as well as review by the seminar convener, thereby providing valuable feedback to contribute to the dissertation as well as key professional skills.

The second part of the module (weeks 7-11) will focus on developing students’ knowledge of fundamental historical methodologies, exploring how they have shaped the development of the discipline of history and their relevance to historical practice today. Seminars may include empiricism, the Annales, Marxism, post-structuralism, recent interdisciplinary approaches, and the digital humanities.

Finally, students will be expected to attend four research seminars organised by any of the research centres within the Department of History to inform their own work in formulating and developing research questions. Throughout, students will be expected to discuss their ideas with supervisors, compile an initial bibliography, write a draft research proposal, and reflect on feedback before submitting a final version.

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 and teaching activities2211 x 2-hour seminars
Attendance at departmental research seminars64 x 1.5 hour seminars
Independent study272Students prepare for the session through reading and research

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft research proposal1000 words1-11Written and oral feedback

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
Research proposal332000 words1-11Written and oral feedback
Essay674000 words1-11Written and oral feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research proposal2000-word proposal1-11Referral/deferral period.
Essay4000-word essay1-11Referral/deferral period.

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Barber, Sarah and Corinna Peniston-Bird (eds.), History beyond the Text: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources (2008)
  • Berger, Stefan, Heiko Feldner, and Kevin Passmore, Writing History: Theory and Practice (2003)
  • Black, Jeremy, Clio’s Battles: Historiography in Practice (2015)
  • Blouin, Francis and William Rosenberg, Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives (2011)
  • Blouin, Francis and William Rosenberg (eds.), Archives, Documentation and Institutions of social Memory (2007)
  • Boyd, Kelley (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Historians and Historical Writing (2 vols., 1996)
  • Budd, Adam (ed.), The Modern Historiography Reader (2008)
  • Burke, Peter (ed.), New Perspectives on Historical Writing (2000)
  • Burke, Peter, Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence (2001)
  • Clark, E. A., History,Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn (2004)
  • Dobson, Miriam and Benjamin Zeimann (eds.), Reading Primary Sources: The Interpretation of Texts from Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century History (2009)
  • Fay, Brian et. al. (eds.), History and Theory: Contemporary Readings (1998)
  • Fulbrook, Mary, Historical Theory: Ways of Imagining the Past (2002)
  • Gunn, Simon, History and Cultural Theory (2006)
  • Green, Anna, Cultural History (2007)
  • Harvey, Karen (ed.), History and Material Culture: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources (2009)
  • Jordanova, Ludmilla, The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice (2012)
  • Kramer, Lloyd and Sarah Maza (eds.), A Companion to Western Historical Thought (2006)
  • Wickham, Chris (ed.), Marxist History-writing for the Twenty-first century (2007)
  • Scott, Joan, Gender and the Politics of History (Second edition, 2000)
  • Thompson, Paul, The Voice of the Past: Oral History (Third edition, 2000)

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Key words search

Historiography, historical skills, sources, methodology