Skip to main content


HIS2304 : Crafting History: The Dissertation Proposal

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Fergus Campbell
  • Lecturer: Dr Luc Racaut, Dr Darakhshan Khan, Professor Daniel Siemens, Professor Violetta Hionidou, Dr Konstantina Maragkou, Professor Alejandro Quiroga, Dr Lauren Darwin
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


•       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. Each student will undertake a short research project based on a short oral history interview with a member of their own family, and develop a research question which will enable them to use their data to answer a question raised by the secondary literature on that topic. In the process of undertaking this mini-research project, each student will learn how to conduct a short oral history interview, how to analyze primary source evidence, how to relate that data to a wider secondary literature and how to develop their own research questions. Where it is not possible to conduct an interview with a family member, students could also undertake research into the history of their locality or use an object or written evidence to research their own family history. Lectures will communicate the aims of family and local history, and also provide a summary of the history of the family; and instruct students as to how to conduct an oral history interview themselves.

In the second half of the module, after the Easter break, the emphasis will be upon students putting those skills into practice by developing and completing an independent research project. This may be based on what the students have done in the first half of the module but it does not have to be. During the second half of the module, the teaching will be directed towards guiding the students to develop a bigger research project that may become the basis for their third year dissertation. Lectures will communicate the kinds of primary sources that are available to them for a variety of topics; tell them what a dissertation is, and what we expect from them, and also provide them examples of previous dissertations which they can consult and which we will help them evaluate.

Topics covered may include:

--how to do oral history
--what is family history
--what is local history
--the history of the family
--acquiring primary sources
--how to read primary sources critically and imaginatively
--distilling historiography and relating a topic to a wider secondary literature
--finding your voice (adding to the conversation)
--outlining (not planning)
--the architecture of arguments and learning how to make your own argument
--identifying primary sources that you may use for your dissertations
--thinking about your own subjectivity as a historian

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion771:0077:00Guided Independent Study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00In-person lectures
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 on the module will be balanced between providing guidance on how to conduct an oral history interview and how to relate data to a wider secondary literature and on the methodologies of family history, and also some specialised opportunities for students to investigate research topics, and seminars for guided instruction on the skills necessary to craft the best proposal that will form their assessment. The seminars will also facilitate each student in developing a mini research project on their family history which will help them to learn the necessary research skills by applying them to a small set of concrete data.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research proposal2A502000 words (including footnotes but not bibliography)
Essay2M50A reflective essay (personal reflection on family or local history topic), 1500 words
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2MSource commentary, 500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Formative assessment will be a 500-word source commentary. This will build on skills gained in HIS1101 and help the students to elucidate the deeper meanings of primary sources in their chosen thematic/chronological area.

Students will submit a 1500 word reflective essay on a family or local history topic. This will enable students to discuss the material they have gathered from either the oral history interview or – if that is impossible – research into a local history topic and to relate it to a relevant secondary literature and an appropriate research question. The reflective essay will enable them to develop research skills and also to reflect on the subjective experience of completing this task.

The final summative assessment will be a research proposal. 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. By giving students the time and scaffolding to complete a dissertation proposal in Stage 2, this will set the foundation for success in the dissertation overall.

Reading Lists