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Study information

Advanced Historical Research Skills

Module titleAdvanced Historical Research Skills
Module codeHISM016
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Naomi Sykes ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Research – the acquisition of new knowledge - is one of the most personally fulfilling aspects of academia, and in life more generally. To be a successful researcher requires an understanding of the entire research process: beginning with idea generation and networking/team building, through the design of coherent, ethical and risk-assessed projects/funding applications, to collaborative working in equitable partnerships in order to generate information. All of this comes before results can be synthesised, analysed, visualised, interpreted and presented. Presentation itself is a vital part of the research process, and there are many audiences that require different kinds of engagement.

This module will provide you with understanding of the research process through first-hand experience.  The module takes an active learning approach where, in addition to mini-lectures, discussions and research exercises, the class will work together on a number of activities, including the organisation and running of a Departmental Conference (physical or virtual). In addition, you will learn to plan a major research project and to communicate that research – its aims, objects, methods and discoveries – which is an essential part of your development as a postgraduate researcher. During classes you will work on tasks that you will tailor to your own interests and skill development needs. By the end of the module, you will have gained new experiences that will benefit your CV whilst advancing your own research. You will have developed the skills you need to undertake a MA History degree, especially to research and write as a historian. Finally you will be embedded in the Department’s active research culture not only by running the conference but also by attending four seminars run by our Research Centres.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of the module are to:

  • Provide you with an understanding of the different approaches to history and how results interdigitate with other disciplinary fields.
  • Provide training in formulating a major research project
  • Provide you with first-hand experience of the research process, from idea inception to results dissemination,
  • Provide knowledge of issues of reliability, validity and ethics in historical research.
  • Develop collaborative and organisational skills.
  • Enhance confidence in research participation, leadership and communication.
  • Develop data analysis and interpretation skills
  • Advance the development and impact of your own research projects.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Develop and extend the skills you require to deal with primary sources
  • 2. 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. Describe the relationship between research questions and conceptual tools, and apply this when formulating a proposal for a dissertation project

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 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

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

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

Syllabus plan

The module is designed to give you supervised time to develop your own research proposal and gain the skills and networks to maximise its success. Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Approaches to historical and interdisciplinary research
  • Working with museums, collections and archives
  • Working with visual/material culture and Digital Humanities
  • Ethics and risk assessment in historical research
  • Managing collaborative working
  • Research design and funding proposals
  • Managing and analysing evidence sets
  • Visualising evidence (e.g. graphic design and photography)
  • Conference organisation and presentation
  • Journals, article writing and submission processes.
  • Public engagement and research dissemination

There will be sessions dedicated to research proposal development where your 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. Throughout, you will be expected to discuss your ideas with supervisors, compile an initial bibliography, write a draft research proposal, and reflect on feedback before submitting a final version. You are expected to attend research seminars organised by any of the research centres within the Department of History to inform your own work in formulating and developing research questions.

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 activities18Seminars (9 x 2-hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching88 hour conference (including set up and break down)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching6Seminars (4 x 1.5 hours)
Guided Independent Study268Preparation for the session through reading and research, including conference organisation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research pitch presentations5 minutes, 5 slides plus class participation1-11Oral feedback (lecturer and peers)
Draft research proposal1000 words1-11Written and oral

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 proposal602000 words1-11Written and oral
Conference presentation405-minute poster or 5-slide presentation (1000 words). Conference abstract (300 words). Reflective statement about contribution to the conference organisation (200 words).1-11Written and oral

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research proposal (2000 words)Research proposal (2000 words)1-11Referral/deferral period
Conference presentation - 5-minute poster or 5-slide presentation (1000 words). Conference abstract (300 words). Reflective statement about contribution to the conference organisation (200 words).Conference presentation - 5-minute poster or 5-slide presentation (1000 words). Conference abstract (300 words). Reflective statement about contribution to the conference organisation (200 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 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

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)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Historiography, historical skills, sources, methodology

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date