MA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
MA Dissertation

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST60070
Credit rating 60
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module is designed to support students in writing a dissertation, a substantial piece of independent and original research on a topic, question or problem in History. With the assistance of an academic supervisor (and, in the early stages, the PGT Programme Director), each student selects the topic for the dissertation, defines the scope of inquiry, and frames the questions or problems to be addressed in his/her work. The first semester’s work culminates in the production of a formatively assessed Research Outline (due early in Semester 2) that describes the research problem/question(s), evaluates the available evidence, identifies risks and challenges, and sets out the writer’s working hypotheses. Thereafter, the student works independently, supported by supervisions, to bring the project to fruition at the end of the academic year.


The course aims to:

  • Enable students to identify a research topic for sustained, original, and independent research
  • Develop advanced research skills, including:
  1. Identification of research issues/questions: defining scope and select appropriate research methodology
  2. Develop advanced skills in selecting, evaluating and engaging critically with primary sources (textual or material)
  3. Enhance ability to identify, evaluate and critique relevant secondary literature
  4. Evaluate and present results of analysis, in the context of broader research



As this module supports an advanced piece of individual and independent research, there is no single unified ‘syllabus.’ Students will not only receive expert advice from their supervisor throughout the year, but will also benefit from those training sessions in the linked MA compulsory core course units HIST64181 and HIST64282 Historical Research 1 & 2. Students will be asked, as part of the summative assessment of HIST64282 to write 3,000 words related to the MA dissertation research process, including a 1,500 research outline, developed together with a dedicated dissertation supervisor. The production of the dissertation is a cumulative and iterative process.

Teaching and learning methods

One-to-one supervision meetings: 

2 hours with the academic supervisor (4 x 30 minute supervisions), plus consultations by email, as appropriate. 


Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate critical awareness of previous research scholarship on the chosen topic 

  • Demonstrate appropriate familiarity with, and confidence in engaging with advanced methodologies, theoretical frameworks, or technical aspects of relevant material (e.g., as appropriate, in numismatics, epigraphy, literary criticism etc.) 

  • Demonstrate understanding of critical or theoretical ideas 

  • Demonstrate originality 


Intellectual skills

  • Construct lucid, persuasive and sustained argument in support of a research hypothesis 

  • Conduct independent research that ranges widely (as appropriate) over different types of evidence, analysing and synthesising the results intelligently 

  • Plan and structure a sustained and multi-faceted piece of research 

Practical skills

  • Plan, conduct and report on research, within a specified timetable, making use of available resources 

  • Take active responsibility for academic progress and development: identify a programme of work, arrange regular supervisions, reflect on and learn from feedback (both written and oral) 

  • Present advanced academic work in an appropriate format, adhering to School and Departmental guidelines 


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Identify skills gaps and seek relevant training and support where necessary 

  • Conduct themselves as a member of a research community 

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine a large amount of often difficult information
Problem solving
an ability to see both sides of an argument
Written communication
the ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.
the ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Dissertation 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback Method Formative or Summative
Oral feedback in initial discussions of topic, scope, etc. Formative
Oral and written feedback on Research Outline Formative
Oral and written feedback on draft chapter Formative
Written feedback on Dissertation Summative


Recommended reading

Specific reading on dissertation topics will vary from project to project. Students may, however, like to browse through the following on various aspects of academic writing: 


Umberto Eco, How to Write a Thesis (Cambridge, Mass., 2015).  


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Project supervision 2

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christian Goeschel Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please Note: There are also approximately 33 contact hours in the associated core skills training units (HIST64181 and HIST64282) that are focussed on skills needed for the Research Outline and for the dissertation itself.

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