BA Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Interpreting Religion

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT20572
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Religions & Theology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


‘Interpreting Religion’ explores current methods in the academic study of religion and the role of spirituality in personal and public life. The course introduces students to a range of traditional and contemporary approaches to interpreting religion and also concentrates on the practical application of these methods to the undergraduate study of religion. It is intended as a preparation for dissertation study at Level 3. Part of the assessment profile of the course will require the student to write an essay on the subject of his/her intended dissertation.


  • To enable students to be more reflective and self-aware about the methods of interpretation of traditional, classical and particularly new approaches in the study of religion
  • To consider a range of types of research questions and approaches appropriate for Level 3 undergraduate dissertations
  • To reflect on the practical problems of writing a good dissertation
  • To develop analytical and presentational skills that are required for the Level 3 dissertation

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of various historical and contemporary ways of approaching and interpreting religious material
  • communicate orally and in written work a range of conceptual terms in the interpretation of religion

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate the ways in which different methods can inform a greater understanding of religious experience
  • Comment upon the strengths and weaknesses on different academic approaches to the study of religion
  • Identify and articulate the theoretical basis and objectives of their own proposal for dissertation study at Level 3

Practical skills

  • Draft and discuss abstracts, with reference to research projects
  • Identify the key components of a Level 3 Dissertation
  • Conduct an effective literature review


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Make clear arguments for and against different positions
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the purpose of analytical discussion in written work

Employability skills

¿ ability independently to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to critically evaluate its significance ¿ write in accordance with specific guidance for a particular purpose Independently to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to critically evaluate its significance. Write in accordance with specific guidance for a particular purpose.

Assessment methods

Approaches Essay


Research Outline


Literature Review


Refelctive Review



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on Critical Reflection Task 1


Written feedback on Essay 1


Written feedback on Article/Book Review


Written feedback on Essay 2




Recommended reading

  • Day, Abby et al. (2013) Social identities between the sacred and the secular. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate
  • Gregg, Stephen E. & Scholefield, Lynne. (2015) Engaging with living religion: a guide to fieldwork in the study of religion. 1st ed. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
  • Hinnells, John R. (2009) The Routledge companion to the study of religion. 2nd ed. London: Routledge
  • Segal, Robert Alan. (2009) The Blackwell companion to the study of religion. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell
  • Stausberg, Michael. & Engler, Steven. (2014) The Routledge handbook of research methods in the study of religion. London: Routledge


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katja Stuerzenhofecker Unit coordinator

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