BA Philosophy and Religion

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
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

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures will combine a variety of teaching and learning methods, including lecturer ‘input’, small group work, textual analysis, whole class discussion, video, the use of case studies and internet resources. Seminars, focusing on dissertation preparation, will be interactive and will adopt three forms – activity-focused, readings-based and skills-based. A Blackboard site including lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, readings, internet links, video material, assessment guide/support, and course handbook.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students should be able to: 

  • 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

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • 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

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • 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

By the end of this course students should be able to:

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


Employability skills

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

Assessment methods

Approaches Essay


Research Outline


Literature Review10%

Reflective Review



Feedback methods

Feedback MethodsFormative or Summative 
Written feedback on critical reflection task 1 Formative 
Written feedback on essay 1 Summative 
Written feedback on article/book review Summative 
Written feedback on essay 2 Summative 

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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