Module HPH-4008:
Initiating a Research Project

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Organiser: Dr Peter Shapely

Overall aims and purpose

strong textThis module aims to train students to initiate research projects, and for those who wish to continue to the full MA will lay the foundations for their dissertation. It will teach students to use `finding aids┬┐ to compile a corpus of secondary and primary works in their chosen area of interest; it will show them how to compile scholarly bibliographies; and it will allow them to construct a research plan for a project which could use the material they have found to produce a substantive and original research piece.

Course content

How to produce a successful thesis. Use of finding aids to compile lists of secondary and primary sources; presentation of scholarly bibliographies; production of critical literature search; construction of research plans for substantial and original research pieces.

Assessment Criteria


B/60%: will compile a bibliography meeting the criteria above, but perhaps also containing some unusual or very recent items, which would suggest effective and imaginative use of finding aids. Their literature search should also show good critical acumen. Their research plan will be adequate as a foundation for a dissertation ┬┐ but may also include perceptive understandings of the state of the chosen field, imaginative choices of primary material, or full understandings of the possible problems (as well as the strengths) of the chosen methodology. With oral presentation: Good students (60s) will speak clearly, using the time and materials sensibly to convey a clear case.


A/70%: will produce correct and imaginative bibliographies with an excellent critical literature search demonstrating understanding of a very high standard, and fully effective research plans which suggest a research project of great insight or significance as well as originality. With oral presentation: Excellent students (70s and above) will produce and explain a cogent piece of work using relevant forms of presentation with clarity and precision.


C/50%: will compile and discuss a bibliography of primary and secondary sources of relevance and present it reasonably correctly and write a literature search with some critical comment, and they will assemble a research plan which may be limited but which could serve as the foundation of a basically successful dissertation. Better students (50s) will compile a bibliography of primary and secondary sources in the relevant area and present it correctly and write a literature search with adequate critical comment, and they will assemble a research plan likely to serve as the foundation of a solid academic dissertation. With the oral presentation: Threshold students (40s) will present information, but this may seem relatively uncoordinated and hesitant and is likely to be short. Better students (50s) will show some awareness of audience and on the methods required to engage people, but will still lack fluidity or content.

Learning outcomes

  1. Use electronic and printed finding aids to compile a list of secondary and primary material in a chosen scholarly area.

  2. Produce a critical literature search relevant to the dissertation with a correctly set out bibliography.

  3. Construct a plan for a research project to produce a substantial and original piece of historical or archaeological investigation and analysis.

  4. Present that material in an appropriate scholarly manner and report to a professional standard in writing and orally.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Presentation 20
Plan of project 40
Literature Review 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Group discussion of different topics covered in module

Private study

Preparing to discuss topics covered in seminars, initial research for dissertation project, and preparation for literature review, research plan and oral presentation.


9 x 1-hour seminars


1 x session of oral presentations (c. 4 hours)


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
  • making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Reading list not necessary

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: