The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6090 Intellectual Methodologies

Module Overview

This module is designed to develop student's dissertation research topics, supported by and in discussion with, the other students taking the module and all the staff supervising dissertations on it.

Module Co-ordinator: Dr Y Marshall

Aims and Objectives

The aims of this module are to:

  • To familiarise you with, and to begin to put into practice, the process of developing a research topic
  • To provide an opportunity to develop a research topic in a peer-review environment
  • To encourage you to engage critically with your peers in learning the process of developing a research topic

Knowledge and understanding
Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The theoretical ideas you intend to work with for you dissertation
  • The substantive data you intend to investigate for your dissertation
  • The process of developing a research topic

Cognitive (thinking) skills
Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to:

  • Critically, but constructively, evaluate your peers’ attempts to develop a research topic
  • Evaluate your own efforts in the light of your critique of other students’ work
  • Demonstrate in-depth understanding or selected theoretical ideas and data that will form the basis of your dissertation.

Key transferable skills
Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to: 

  • Critically evaluate the work of others 
  • Understand the importance of collegiality in the process of developing a research project
  • Present draft work in a form which invites critical, but helpful, feedback


In this module you will be developing your dissertation research topic, supported by and in discussion with, the other students taking the module, your proposed dissertation supervisor and other staff supervising Masters Dissertations. The module is structured in three sections. In the first section you will develop the elements of your proposed research topic. It will take the form of a literature review, an exploration of a chosen theoretical approach, and an exploration of a selected methodological approach. In the second section you will define the data to be investigated in your dissertation and possibly conduct a preliminary data collection and analysis. In the final section you will bring the literature, theory, method and data together to define the final research question which will form the focus of your dissertation. All three parts will be conducted within a peer-review learning environment in which comments and feed-back from other students is at least as important as feedback from staff. Students are also required to attend seminar presentations outside of the formal teaching and learning environment, such as departmental seminars and conferences, and to share this learning experience with other students.

Special Features

This module is designed to emulate within a structured and supportive seminar-based environment, the peer review-based process of developing a research project. It sets out to provide a stimulating but supportive context for students to develop a dissertation research topic. The teaching and learning environment offers continuous comment and evaluation within seminars, culminating in the final piece of work for formal assessment – a process designed to emulate the process of preparing a research grant application.

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:2
Private study hours:10
Total study time: 12 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include

  • Staff moderated student discussions
  • Student presentations of their developing work

Learning activities include

  • Staff evaluation of draft work
  • Peer evaluation of draft work
  • Student evaluation of their peers’ draft work
  • Attendance at extra-curricular seminars and conferences

Innovative or special features of this module

  • Continuous evaluation of developing work within a seminar discussion context
  • Involvement of all teaching staff supervising dissertations on the programme

Resources and reading list

  • Estelle Phillips and Derek Pugh, 2000, How to get a PhD. A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors. Open University.
  • Patrick Dunleavy, 2003. Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation. Palgrave Study Guides.
  • Ralph Berry, 2000. The Research Project. How to write it. Routledge.
  • Ranjit Kumar, 2005. Research Methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners. Sage.



Assessment methods

Either A Literature Review Or A Practical/Methodological Task - 2000 words               
40% contribution to final mark

1 Research Design - 2000 words      40%

1 Seminar Journal & 1000 word summary + Appendix       20%

Linked modules

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites



Programmes in which this module is compulsory

Core module for Archaeology Masters Programmes

ProgrammeUCAS CodeProgramme length
MA Social ArchaeologyV4001 years
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