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The University of Southampton

HIST6081 Research Skills and Dissertation Preparation

Module Overview

The module divides into two parts, the first part delivered in Semester 1 and the second in Semester 2. The first part is designed to serve as a practical general introduction to the skills required of you as you study for an MA in History as a research degree. The second part of the module in semester 2 is largely dedicated to discussion of specific historiographical themes.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The requirements of essay writing, particularly of extended essays, and of oral communication at postgraduate level, both in seminar presen-tations and less formal interactions
  • The methods by which historians use bibliographic records and other data sets to facilitate their research, including both physical and virtual records, catalogues and databases.
  • The methods researchers use to communicate their work to other historians, such as seminars and book reviews.
  • Some key debates and arguments that surround the contemporary discipline of history.
  • The place of the discipline within a range of related and sometimes competing academic disciplines and the value of interdisciplinary approaches for historical research.
  • The ways in which this knowledge can be used to formulate an effective research agenda.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Formulate an effective, reasoned approach to research on any chosen historical project
  • Offer a coherent response to academic presentations given by others
  • Think critically about and make intelligent assessments of a range of methodological and epistemological approaches to the problem of identifying historical truth.
  • Identify the main developments in historical methodology and practice in the last century, and make assessments of their applicability to specific areas of historical research.
  • Think reflexively about the historical discipline, its discourses, and its methods.
  • Consider the ways in which primary research can be used to contribute towards historiographical debates.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Give strong, effective oral presentations
  • Produce high quality pieces of extended written work
  • Present reasoned critiques of the formal presentations of others
  • Conduct comprehensive bibliographic searches on any given topic
  • Locate and access diverse bodies of data, assess their utility for your project and analyse them critically
  • Articulate your understanding of complex themes and problems clearly and confidently in oral and written form.
  • Show an ability to collaborate and share ideas with your peers both in seminars and in order to complete a project within tight deadlines.
  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of complex philosophical concepts and the discourses associated with them.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the usefulness of various bibliographic tools for specific research projects
  • Assess the utility of specific archives and collections for your research work and access remote repositories of data of relevance to it
  • Analyse primary sources critically and show awareness of their genre, circumstances of production, and limitations
  • Write clearly and effectively about complex historiographical issues.
  • Enhance the historiographical content of your own research.
  • Develop a plausible research agenda and write an effective research proposal.


The module divides into two parts, the first part delivered in Semester 1 and the second in Semester 2. The first part is designed to serve as a practical general introduction to the skills required of you as you study for an MA in History as a research degree. Classes are provided on the preparation of essays and oral presentations. We will also consider the various means by which historians communicate their research and opinions, such as monographs, seminar and conference papers, book reviews, and even through the media. A particular focus will be how historical narrative, argument and evidence are presented through television and radio. We will also introduce you to the Hartley Library, its archive collections and a range of bibliographic databases and electronic resources with which you can expand the resources available to you at Southampton. You will be given guidance about approaching and using archives and other libraries along with other advice intended to help you prepare for your dissertation. The second part of the module in semester 2 is largely dedicated to discussion of specific historiographical themes. These might include national identity, subaltern and postcolonial history, landscape, history and memory, gender, and the cultural ‘turn’. Different historical methodologies will also be considered as approaches to primary sources, such as gender, quantitative methods, the history of emotions, and oral history. We will also introduce you to different genres of evidence and how the various historiographical and methodological approaches have exploited them. During this semester, each of you will meet with your dissertation supervisor to discuss your dissertation. The module will end with a dissertation proposal workshop, in which all of you will be asked to contribute to a general discussion of what makes an effective research plan.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Weekly double seminars. • Individual staff consultations on essays and dissertation proposal. • Hands-on bibliographic database training • On-site induction and training tours • Tutor-led discussions and possibly podcasts Learning activities include • Participation in seminars through individual presentations and general discussion • Independent study • Discussions with current PhD students on their research and teaching

Independent Study260
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Keith Jenkins (1995). On ‘What is History’: from Carr and Elton to Rorty and White. 

Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob (1995). Telling the truth about history. 

Peter Burke (ed.) (1991). New perspectives on historical writing. 

Georg G. Iggers & Q. Edward Wang (2008). A Global History of Modern Historiography. 

John Tosh (ed.) (2009). Historians on History. 

Ludmilla Jordanova (2000). History in Practice. 

Michael Bentley (ed.) (1997). Companion to historiography. 

Richard J. Evans (1997). In defence of history. 

Richard Marius (1998). A Short Guide to Writing About History. 

Michael Bentley (1999). Modern historiography: an introduction. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback • Tutor comments on seminar presentations and discussion. • Informal feedback from dissertation supervisor on draft proposal. • Individual discussion with course convenor on essay and review ideas Your understanding of presentation skills as well as your ability to evaluate a scholar's oral presentation of work in progress will be assessed in the seminar critique, in which you will review and compare two of the seminars offered within History, the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture, or the Parkes Centre and comment in detail on the speaker’s style of delivery, the organisation of their paper and their success in engaging their audience, identifying elements worthy of emulation as well as areas which could be improved. The programme review will compare and contrast radio and television as media for communicating historical ideas, knowledge and evidence, through discussion of one television and one radio programme about the past. This might consider how far such broadcasts can present and provoke academic debate. The review article requires you to review three monographs of your choice on a common theme in order to evaluate critically their authors’ contributions to a specific historiographical debate and area of historical research. You will be required to compare and contrast their effectiveness in terms of the construction of their arguments and their skill in using primary evidence to support these, and to recognise how far these three monographs reinforce, respond to or contradict each other. The essay is meant to assess your ability to develop through private study your understanding of one or more of the historiographical and methodological themes discussed in class and to communicate them in a scholarly manner. The proposal is intended to demonstrate your capacity to put this historiographical and methodological understanding to practical use, demonstrating how it can be used to develop an effective research agenda and interpret sources effectively and critically that will be of use to you as you enter the next phase of the MA. All five exercises will test written communication skills, critical intellectual ability and information retrieval skills.


MethodPercentage contribution
Dissertation proposal  (1500 words) 20%
Essay  (2500 words) 35%
Review  (1000 words) 10%
Review  (1000 words) 10%
Review paper  (2000 words) 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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