Skip to main content


HIS1100 : Evidence and Argument

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Robert Dale
  • Demonstrator: Dr Luc Racaut
  • Lecturer: Dr Simon Mills, Dr Philip Garrett, Dr Katie East, Dr Anton Caruana Galizia, Dr Jen Kain, Dr Fergus Campbell, Dr Samiksha Sehrawat
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Evidence and Argument is designed to prepare students for independent study at undergraduate level, and to introduce the basic skills of the historian’s craft to the student in a lively and accessible way. It will introduce students to what undergraduate level study and historical research entails and equip them with the skills to make the transition from school/college education to independent learning. The module seeks to achieve this in two ways.

First, the module is delivered through a series of online lectures and associated online mateirals which explains to students how to best approach their degree, whilst developing foundational skills in reading, research, arguing, referencing and writing that are intended to underpin their future intellectual development. By the end of the module, then, students will understand what the basic expectations upon undergraduate students are, what the fundamental disciplinary standards are, and have practiced applying those skills within the context of a particular historiographical debate.

Second, the module will foster and develop these key historical and study skills through the detailed study of a specific historical and historiographical debate, closely related to the field of research expertise of the individual seminar tutor. Alongside lectures (and replacement materials), students will experience small group teaching through seminars, which explore a particular debate over the Semester. Students will be given an introduction to the topic or theme by their seminar leader, and will then be guided through the development of the historical scholarship in that field over the course of the semester. In so doing students will learn how to read and analyse a key chapter and debate in the historiography and explore its role in establishing a historical debate. In subsequent weeks they will be introduced to, or asked to find, other journal articles, essays from edited volumes and monographs (books) that deal with the same topic, but which disagree with the initial article, approaches the topic from a different perspective, or advances the debate in other ways. Over the course of the semester students will learn how historical debates develop and arguments operate. Students will learn the differences between different forms of historical writing (books, articles, chapters), and how to find, use and reference them for their own purposes. These are understandings and skills that are central to the discipline of history, and that you will need to apply in all the rest of your history modules throughout your university career.

By the end of the module you will therefore have built up a detailed understanding of one particular historical debate, but you will also have some understanding of how historical arguments and debates operate and of the skills involved in reading, analysing and commenting on a range of secondary sources. You should understand the differences between these types of source, and how to find, use and reference them for the purposes of your own research. These are understandings and skills that are central to the discipline of history, and that you will need to apply in all the rest of your history modules throughout your university career.

This module aims:
•       To develop the various research, reading, and writing skills required during a university career.
•       To introduce students to how lectures and small-group seminars operate.
•       To introduce students to a range of historical writing – including journal articles, monographs and essays from edited volumes – and to guide them in the reading and analysis of secondary sources.
•       To demonstrate the ways in which historical argument and debate operate within a specific historical context, but also more generally.
•       To develop technical skills in when, where and how referencing is required.

Outline Of Syllabus

Module topics covered may include the following:

Lecture Series (11 x one-hour lecture)
Lectures may include the following topics, which are offered as a indicative guide.
- Induction to the Module via a Module Talk
- How to read as an undergraduate – Methods of reading, why and how to read for undergraduate purposes, reading for argument.
- Different types of historical writing, and how to recognise them. Monographs, Journal Article, Chapter in Edited Collections, Book Reviews. How to spot quality. University level texts. Reference works. Beware of the Web.
- Taking Effective Notes – What, how, and why do I need to take notes.
- What is a footnote, when and why do we reference? [Grafton – The Footnote. How footnotes played an important part in the evolution of history as a discipline, and its centrality to the historical method]
- Having an Argument [The importance of building and defending an intellectual position via evidence.]
- Evidence and its interpretation
- The Historians' Draft: Writing your book review, and How to set about writing your first essay? The process and challenges of writing
- To quote or not to quote - that is the question! [Explain when and why quote. How to integrate quotes into your sentence. When to paraphrase]
- Learning from your feedback – What is feedback? How do we provide it? What does it mean?
- Conclusions - Developing the Historical Mind (What we have learnt and why it matters for the degree).

Seminar Series (9 x two-hour seminars)
Seminars will follow the particular pathway dictated by the research-led specialism of seminar leaders, but the intention is that all groups will follow a similar approach, exploring how a particular historiography has developed, while also reinforcing the skills-based approach in the lectures. The expectations is that approximately half of the seminar will be dedicated to the content of the particular topic, and half to explicitly developing skills. Seminars might broadly follow the following general schema over the course of the seminar.

1.       Introduction - background on the topic
2.       Key Articles communicating an orthodox position
3.       Counter-posing arguments in response
4.       Alternative approaches
5.       Revisionist approaches
6.       Comparative / Transnational / Non-Western Approaches
7. New approaches in Monographs
8.       New theoretical approaches
9.       Summary of the debate

Skills Workshops (Two x two-hour skills workshops)
1.       Library Skill Workshop
2.       Writing Skills Workshop

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials101:0010:00Online. Count towards contact hours
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading571:0057:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities551:0055:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching92:0018:00Seminars focusing on particular debate. PiP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Library (online) Workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time12:002:00Online Writing Workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk11:001:00Module talk to introduce the module, teaching and allocate students to student groups. Online
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

As a Stage 1 module, aside from an in-depth understanding of the content of the module, the teaching methods, which focus on small group work, presentational and oral skills, team work, lecture delivery and independent research and writing, relate to the core learning outcomes of supporting students in developing sophisticated research skills across a wide range of sources, being able to synthesise the information they collect and form convincing and coherent arguments.

LECTURES (and associated lecture materials) focus on developing key academic skills necessary for undergraduate historians to acquire in order to develop as independent learners at undergraduate level. These skills will enable students to start to assemble a basic toolkit of skills necessary for future success, for example in critical reading, note-taking, developing arguments, understanding and using evidence, writing skills, and referencing skills.
It is envisaged that these lectures will be recorded and provided online.

SEMINARS encourage independent study and will enable students to engage closely with a historical field and debate taught by a specialist researcher in that area. Seminar promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills, research skills and adaptability.

Small group teaching will allow the students to explore ideas and patterns together in a structured way, and great emphasis will be placed on critically reading and analysing historical scholarship, its interpretations, arguments, and the evidence on which these are based.

Independent learning is essential to this module: students are expected to develop skills of critical reading, note-taking, and historical argumentation in an independent and effective manner. Seminar teaching complements these skills by allowing students the opportunity to share and debate information gathered independently. Oral skills of argument and presentation will be developed. Moreover, a significant part of seminar teaching will test the development of primary source analysis and problem solving.

In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to hold live seminar discussions online and retain timetabled slots.

WORKSHOPS: Workshops will focus on the key practical skills associated with the study of History, including: especially skills and knowledge necessary for using information and the library effectively, and developing academic writing skills.

In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to hold live seminar discussions online and retain timetabled slots.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Computer assessment1M20Exercise in referencing- Blended learning exercise online
Written exercise1M301000 word Book Review
Essay1A502000-word essay, Historiographical Essay/Literature Review
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1M500 word summary of argument and evidence of scholarly article/chapter
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

This module (1) supports and assesses student progression to university and (2) endeavours to support their skills development, including academic and employability.

The formative piece of assessment will give students an opportunity for students to develop the skills of interrogating the argument and the evidence on which is based of a scholarly article or chapter at towards the beginning of the module, and an opportunity to obtain feedback on their writing before summative assessment.

The Online Referencing Assessment is intended as a means of reinforcing the key skills of referencing, and to consolidate students' learning in lectures especially in how to correctly and consistently format references in Chicago style. This exercise will help develop key skills valuable for subsequent history modules.

The Book Review is an opportunity for a student to engage closely with a key piece of scholarship pertinent to the debate explored in their seminar group, and develop the skill of critically analysing and evaluating a book length study, focusing particularly on the argument, evidence, and historiographical contribution of a book.

The 2000 word historiographical essay enables students to develop key essay writing skills, and engage closely with the historigraphical debate and historical field they have been studying in their seminars, drawing upon their learning in seminars, and applying the skills acquired in the lectures, especially in terms of developing their own arguments, supporting points with evidence, and communicating complex ideas in academic prose.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the alternative of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of other students on the module. In order to take up this option, students need to discuss it with the Study Abroad Coordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Coordinator will have the final say on such issues.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

Reading Lists