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Study information

Becoming a Historian: Core

Module titleBecoming a Historian: Core
Module codeHIH1137
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Matt Rendle (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Studying history at university is not only about increasing your knowledge of the past, but mastering particular ways of researching, processing information, and communicating arguments effectively. This module introduces you to the essential skills that will enable you to become a historian, and familiarises you with the innovative ways we teach and assess these skills at Exeter.

Part of the module will facilitate your transition to studying history at university by covering key practical skills, from conducting independent research to reading critically. The other part will introduce the key intellectual tools you will need, surveying the evolution of history writing over time and the important approaches and ideas that historians use to study the past. By the end of the module, you will acquire skills that will be developed further across your degree and in future careers, and that will enhance your development as an open-minded and internationally-engaged individual.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will introduce you to the essential practical tools that every historian requires. We will introduce you to the idea of historiography, before exploring and explaining a range of research, writing, and referencing skills. You will apply this knowledge, for example, by constructing bibliographies, and assessing and taking notes on books and articles. 

We will also introduce you to the essential intellectual tools that every historian needs to be aware of. We will provide you with an introduction to key types of history (such as political, social, cultural, postmodern, global, and digital), and discuss with you ‘case studies’ of these different kinds of history.  

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Present work in the format expected of historians, with accurate footnoting and bibliographic reference
  • 2. Appreciate the variety of approaches taken to historical study
  • 3. Recognise how qualitative and/or quantitative data can be used in historical study
  • 4. Understand at a basic level some of the philosophical problems confronting historians i.e. the difficulties of total objectivity, the value of debate

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate appropriate use of a library to find information
  • 6. Draw thematic comparisons between material from different sources
  • 7. Employ effective bibliography skills and reference sources accurately in written work
  • 8. Show awareness of a range of approaches to research, including the difference between qualitative and quantitative data

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Demonstrate critical skills and communications skills (written and oral)
  • 10. Work both independently and in a group, to compile, present and discuss material
  • 11. Gather, organise, and deploy material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument developed through the mode of assessment

Syllabus plan

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


  • finding books, journals, and online materials
  • critical reading skills, writing history
  • referencing
  • formatting
  • historiography 
  • constructing bibliographies 
  • critical reading and writing skills 
  • introducing key themes: historiography, political, social, cultural, and postmodern history 

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 Teaching10Lectures (10 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching14Seminars (7 x 2 hour)
Guided Independent Study126Preparation for seminars and assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical reading assignment1 page2-4, 7-11Oral and/or Written
Essay Plan1 page2-5, 7-11Oral and/or Written

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
Annotated bibliography301000 words1-9, 11Written
Essay 651500 words1-11Written
Attendance at seminars5Attendance at all seminars9, 10n/a

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Annotated bibliography (1000 words)Annotated bibliography (1000 words)1-9, 11Referral/Deferral period
Essay (1500 words)Essay (1500 words)1-11Referral/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

  • Claus, Peter, and John Marriott, History: An Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice, 2nd ed. (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2017). 
  • Jordanova, Ludmilla, History in Practice, 3rd ed. (London: Hodder Arnold, 2019). 
  • Rublack, Ulinka, ed., A Concise Companion to History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 
  • Tosh, John, The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions of Modern History, 6th ed. (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2015). 

Key words search

Historiography, Skills, Research, Approaches, Concepts

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date