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Module HPH-4026:
Initiating Research Proj MArts

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Peter Shapely

Overall aims and purpose

This is an advanced level skills module that aims to train students to initiate research projects, and will lay the foundations for their MArts 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 Choosing a topic Scholarly presentation – academic conventions and referencing Producing a critical literature search – the importance of historiography or previous archaeological scholarship Using finding aids to compile lists of secondary and primary sources – locating materials Constructing research plans for substantial and original research pieces Presenting a literature review Effective oral presentation.

Assessment Criteria


Distinction-level students (74 and above) 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. Distinction-level students (74 and above) will produce and explain a cogent piece of work using relevant forms of presentation with clarity and precision.


Threshold students (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. With the oral presentation threshold students (50) will present information, but this may seem relatively uncoordinated and hesitant and is likely to be short.

C- to C+

Better Pass-level students (52-58) 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. Better Pass-level students (55, 58) will show some awareness of audience and on the methods required to engage people, but will still lack fluidity or content.


Merit-level students (62, 65, 68) 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. Merit-level students (62, 65, 68) will speak clearly, using the time and materials sensibly to convey a clear case.

Learning outcomes

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

  2. Use electronic and printed finding aids to compile a list of secondary and primary material in a chosen scholarly area as preparation for critical evaluation and analysis in a dissertation.

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

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

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
A critical and scholarly litertature search and accompanying bibliography relevant to the proposed dissertation 40
A research plan for a dissertation project 40
A 20-minute oral presentation 20

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Individual Project

2 x 1 hour dissertation supervision and 1 x 1 hour feedback session.


9 x 1 hour seminars

Study group

1 x Oral presentation session.

Private study 184

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.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • 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
  • 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
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • 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

No extraordinary financial outlay required by students on this module other than possible travel costs to access primary sources.

Reading list

Chambers, E. and Northedge, A. The Arts Good Study Guide (Milton Keynes, 1997). Cryer, P., The Research Student’s Guide to Success (Milton Keynes, 2000). Delamont, S., Atkinson, P. and Parry, O., Supervising the PhD (Milton Keynes, 1997). Fairburn, G. J. and Winch, C., Reading, Writing and Reasoning (Milton Keynes, 2nd edn, 1996). Graves, N. and Varma, V., Working for a Doctorate: a Guide for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (London, 1997). Howard, K. and Sharp, J. A., The Management of a Student Research Project (Aldershot, 1983). Marshall, L., A Guide to Learning Independently (Milton Keynes, 2nd edn, 1993). Northedge, A., The Good Study Guide (Milton Keynes, 1990). Truss, L., Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (London, 2003). Oxford English Dictionary Department, The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (Milton Keynes, 1981).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: