Critical Approaches in Medieval Research (HISM019)

StaffDr Helen Birkett - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aims of the module are fourfold: 1) To introduce students to current debates within the field of Medieval Studies; 2) To engage with the active research culture of Exeter’s Centre for Medieval Studies; 3) To provide training in formulating a research project; 4) To develop students’ own skills in the practice of research communication.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Display an advanced knowledge of your chosen subject within the remit of the module.
  • 2. Critically analyse arguments by reading and discussing key primary and secondary texts.
  • 3. Present sophisticated arguments concisely, explain difficult points; and identify key aspects of a debate.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Assimilate and critically analyse data from an appropriate range of sources
  • 5. Develop a cogent argument;
  • 6. Communicate complex information and ideas effectively in writing.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Undertake an individual research project in a structured, time-effective fashion.
  • 8. Locate and use literature effectively.
  • 9. Construct and evaluate ideas; formulate and express ideas at different levels of abstraction.
  • 10. Assess and criticise the views of others; write at the level required for ongoing and future research.

Syllabus plan

During the course of the module, students will take part in a series of research workshops led by a member of the academic staff of the Centre for Medieval Studies. The group will meet with the tutor fortnightly for six scheduled meetings. The first meeting will discuss students’ interests and possible areas for research projects, as well as providing an introduction to some of the key sources, the conceptual and critical issues and areas of current debate in the tutor’s particular area of expertise. For subsequent meetings, students will prepare a series of set tasks which build up to writing the review essay and research project.  These may include:


-          Reading key primary sources or secondary works set by the tutor to discuss at the meeting.

-          Compiling a specialized bibliography on their chosen area of specialism.

-          Preparing an analysis of a primary or secondary source for presentation to the group.

-          Writing and presenting a research proposal for their long essay for presentation to the group.

-          Presenting their work in progress and giving feedback on others’ work.


Tutors will provide specialised advice and an introductory reading list.


Students will attend at least four research seminars organized by the Centre for Medieval Studies, as well as the annual Postgraduate Research Symposium. In the research workshops, there will be an opportunity to discuss the papers delivered, which will help students develop their training in formulating a research project and communicating its findings.

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 activities9Group meetings between students and supervisor
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4Attendance at student conference
Scheduled learning and teaching activities9Attendance at four Centre for Medieval Studies research seminars (or equivalent medieval seminar). Seminars last approximately 1 ½ hours. Attendance at Postgraduate Medieval Research Symposium (3 hours)
Guided independent study278Research and writing of review essay and research project; preparation for group meetings.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral presentation of work in progress to group and supervisor20 minutes1-5, 7-10Verbal in student conference

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
Review essay282000 words1-10Verbal and written
Research project725000 words1-10Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Review essayReview essay1-10Referral/deferral period
Research projectResearch project1-10Referral/deferral period

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