Module HPS-4004:
Research Skills

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

40 Credits or 20 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Peter Shapely

Overall aims and purpose

This is an advanced level skills module that has three aims: to train students to initiate research projects, to familiarise them with how to critique a research seminar paper and to supply them with skills that will enhance their employability.

The module 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 proposal for a project which could use the material they have found to produce a substantive and original research piece. Moreover, the module will enable students to engage directly with the dissemination of research. They will attend research seminars as directed to observe and interact with the presentation of research. The module will test students on their ability to critically analyse research papers. In their critiques, students will be expected to identify the aims and objectives of the research paper, outline content, identify, summarise and analyse key arguments and debates addressed, and place the paper within the broader framework of historiographical and archaeological debates, referencing historiographical and archaeological works. Finally, the module will also equip students with key skills, such as how to write a CV, which will enhance their employability.

Course content

An indicative list of the sessions that this module contains is the following:

Keeping notes in a research seminar; Employability: Academic CV and cover letter writing; Transmitting research to non-academic audiences-edutainment; Data handling and ethical issues; Drop-in session: One-to-one discussion between the module convener and each student of a draft critique of research seminar paper that the student has prepared; Putting together a dissertation research proposal; Delivering an effective oral presentation.

The module also requires attendance at History and Archaeology research seminars on various topics in medieval, early modern and modern history and archaeology.

Students will be also offered 2 directed reading sessions and 2 surgery sessions with the supervisor of their MA dissertation.

Assessment Criteria


Students who achieve A- and above will produce correct bibliographies with an excellent critical literature search demonstrating an understanding of a very high standard, and a fully effective research proposal which suggest a research project of great insight or significance as well as originality. They will produce and explain a cogent piece of work using relevant forms of presentation with clarity and precision as well as demonstrate visual aids of a professional standard. Strong and consistent critical engagement with historiography or archaeology in their critique of a research seminar paper.

C- to C+

Students who receive a mark ranging between C- to C+ 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 proposal likely to serve as the foundation of a solid academic dissertation. They will show some awareness of the audience and of the methods required to engage people, but will still lack fluidity or content. In evaluating the research seminar paper, they will critically interrogate it, without, however, engaging with relevant historiography or archaeology.


Students who receive a mark ranging between B- and B+ 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 proposal 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. They will speak clearly and will establish eye contact with the audience in their presentation, using the time and materials sensibly to convey a clear case. In evaluating the research seminar paper, they will engage with historiography or archaeology, as applicable, but such an engagement may not be consistently sustained throughout, or may be lacking critical engagement.

Learning outcomes

  1. Acquire an in-depth knowledge and the ability to critically evaluate secondary and primary material in a chosen scholarly area.

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

  3. Organise own learning through self-management and work to deadlines

  4. Be able to place research within a broader framework of historiography and archaeology.

  5. Develop an independent research question and evaluate its significance to historiography or archaeology.

  6. Formulate and test a hypothesis for an original research project.

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

  8. Present complex ideas in a coherent and accessible form and report to a professional standard in writing and orally.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
2*1,500-word critique of research seminar paper 50
Dissertation research proposal 25
Presentation as part of student-led symposium 25

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Workshop 14
Seminar 12
Tutorial 6
Private study 360
One-to-one supervision

2 directed reading sessions with the supervisor. These will be small group sessions involving the supervisor and all her/his MA students. The supervisor will have agreed with the students on 3 journal articles/book chapters that each student needs to closely read, before s/he attends each of these sessions. These readings should be clearly linked to the topic of her/his dissertation. They may also involve some discussion on a research seminar that is linked to the topic of the dissertation of the MA student.

2 surgery sessions with the supervisor. In these sessions, the supervisor will meet with all the students that have been assigned to her/him. The supervisor will offer advice, drawing on her/his expert knowledge of the field. The students will also benefit from exchanging view with one another. The topics of the surgery sessions will be the following: 1) Mapping archives and analysing primary sources 2) Defining the argument and structure of the dissertation


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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.
  • 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


Reading list

General Bibliography

John H. Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2000).

Stefan Berger, ‘The rise and fall of “critical” historiography? Some reflections on the historiographical agenda of the left in Britain, France and Germany at the end of the twentieth century’, European Review of History, 3:2 (1996), 213-32.

Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern (Chicago, 2007).

Peter Burke, (ed.), New Perspectives on Historical Writing (2nd ed. Cambridge, 2001).

Peter Burke, What is Cultural History? (Cambridge, 2008).

J. W. Burrow, A history of histories: epics, chronicles, romances and inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the twentieth century (2007).

David Cannadine (ed.), What is History Now? (New York, 2002).

Conal Furay and Michael J. Salevouris, The Methods and Skills of History: A Practical Guide (3rd edn, 2009).

James B. Gardner and Peter S. LaPaglia (eds), Public History: Essays from the Field (Malabar, Florida, 1999).

Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (London & New York 2000).

Tracey Loughran, A Practical Guide to Studying History (Bloomsbury, 2017)

John Tosh, The Pursuit of History: Aims, methods and new directions in the study of history (Hoboken, 2015).

Books on Research and Study Skills

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).

Council for British Archaeology, Signposts for Archaeological Publication (York, 3rd edn, 1991).

Useful Bibliographical Websites

British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (BIAB)

Bibliography of British and Irish History hosted by Brepolis, and available on-line via the Bangor University Library website (follow links from Electronic Resources)

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: