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HIS2304 : Crafting History: The Dissertation Proposal

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ellie Armon Azoulay
  • Lecturer: Dr Matt Perry, Dr Claire Brewster
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


•       To help students learn how to formulate research questions.
•       To help students practice selecting and analysing a group of primary sources focused on one research question/project.
•       To help students develop skills in designing, planning and executing an extended piece of independent work.
•       To provide opportunities to discuss their research plans with an advisor.

This module serves as the major transition point between Stages 1 and 2, in which the student has developed specific skills about historiography and primary sources in focused ways, and Stage 3, where the dissertation is central. As such, this module is devoted to generating a fully-fledged dissertation proposal that is intellectually purposeful and logistically viable. It will articulate a working thesis that intervenes in a scholarly conversation and does so with a focused look at diverse primary source sets.

Outline Of Syllabus

The first half of the module will be devoted to training in research skills, and guidance on tackling specific historical topics as a researcher; in the second half, the emphasis will be upon students putting those skills into practice by developing and completing an independent research assignment. As such, the bulk of the contact time will be placed earlier in the semester, with surgery hours available later in the semester to allow students to consult with staff one-to-one about their projects. More module time is also given over to Guided Independent Study, to reflect the more independent nature of the assessment.

Topics covered may include:

--acquiring primary sources
--distilling historiography
--finding your voice (adding to the conversation)
--outlining (not planning)
--the architecture of arguments.
--the proofing eye: learning to line-edit

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion771:0077:00Guided Independent Study
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Lecture materials on research skills development. Counts towards contact hours.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading451:0045:00Guided Independent Study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study451:0045:00Guided Independent Study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Teaching will be balanced between seminars providing specialised iterative opportunities for students to investigate research topics further (with the guided assistance of seminar leaders) and guided instruction on the skills necessary to craft the best proposal that will form their assessment (delivered by the module leader in recorded lectures to digest according to the student's individually appropriate timeline).

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M20preliminary project proposal
Research proposal2A804000 words (incl footnotes but not bibliography)
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Written exerciseMwritten outline of project.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The dissertation proposal builds on previous skills acquisitions in Stage 1, plus HIS2316 (which is an opportunity to combine primary and historiographical insights in one research essay). This module extends the process first modelled in HIS2316, providing the student a chance to select a viable dissertation topic, begin sketching out the intellectual and logistical workplan necessary to complete it, permit staff intervention at an earlier stage to facilitate better planning, provide a plan for the student’s summer and/or beginning of Stage 3, and set the foundation for success in the dissertation overall (as befitting the culminating piece of work in their undergraduate careers).

We are requiring you to commit to a topic early on with the preliminary proposal so as to not wreck your chances for good work later in the module, as hard-won experience in previous versions of this module have taught us, and additionally we are requiring an extensively detailed outline that will allow you to think through your evidence and your argument before having to polish that analysis in clear prose. Both will permit you to do your best work on the final proposal.

Reading Lists