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HIS2304 : Crafting History: The Dissertation Proposal

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Darakhshan Khan
  • Lecturer: Dr Bruce Baker, Dr Benjamin Houston
  • 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
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials101:0010:00Lecture materials on research areas by potential supervisors. Counts towards contact hours.
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials41:004:00Lecture materials on research skills development. Counts towards contact hours.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture11:001:00Introductory lecture (in-person)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion771:0077:00Guided Independent Study
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading451:0045:00Guided Independent Study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops62:0012:00Skills development workshops, in person, counts towards contact hours
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00Module Leader drop-ins for advice and guidance
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery22:004:00Consultation with members of staff about specialised knowledge.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study451:0045:00Guided Independent Study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will be balanced between providing specialised opportunities for students to investigate research topics further (with individual lecturers giving overviews of the resources available for their fields), and guided instruction on the skills necessary to craft the best proposal that will form their assessment (delivered by the module leader).

As this is a research module, with a substantial emphasis on students’ independent learning, the standard delivery model has been tweaked to allow more time for Guided Independent Study.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M30Annotated bibliography, 1000 words
Research proposal2A703000 words (incl footnotes but not bibliography)
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).

The annotated bibliography will require students to both practice the information literacy skills developed in HIS2316 (in terms of searching for relevant material, and explaining how they found it), and to build a preliminary historiographical map for their research project. In the proposal, students will need to present a more developed literature review (building upon skills from Evidence & Argument), an overview and discussion of their primary source evidence base (building upon skills from Historical Sources & Methods), an explanation of their research question (building upon HIS2316), and a rationale for the significance of their proposed project.

Reading Lists