Choosing Your Past: How to Design and Manage a Research Project

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 20 April 2020
Friday 26 June 2020
20 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA V100 History,
BA V101 History (Including Year Abroad),
BA V102 History (Including Foundation Year),
BA V103 History (Including Placement Year),
BA V1W6 History with Film Studies,
BA V1W7 History with Film Studies (Including Placement Year),
BA V1W8 History with Film Studies (Including Foundation Year),
BA V1WP History with Film Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA V1L2 History with Human Rights,
BA V1L8 History with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
BA V1LF History with Human Rights (Including Year Abroad),
BA V1LG History with Human Rights (Including Placement Year),
BA V140 Modern History,
BA V144 Modern History (Including Foundation Year),
BA V148 Modern History (Including Placement Year),
BA V149 Modern History (Including Year Abroad),
BA LV21 Modern History and Politics,
BA LV22 Modern History and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA LV28 Modern History and Politics (Including Foundation Year),
BA LV2C Modern History and Politics (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

HR231 is an essential preparation module for the final-year History Research Project module (HR831). On HR231 we will equip you with the skills to design and manage a research project, which you will then go on to complete and submit in your final year.

We will cover the following key aspects of historical research:
How to identify an area of research interest and develop a research question about it;
How to work out a method of answering your research question;
How to find and analyse the primary sources you will need for your research;
How to use secondary readings to help you to develop and refine your ideas.

The module is taught through a series of lectures (some from speakers from external archives and libraries), seminars and workshops. You will find out about the rich diversity of primary sources available for your research and have the opportunity to practise key research skills; you will also hear about the research projects undertaken by members of academic staff. The HR231 coursework consists of a Portfolio in which you record your developing research skills, a short verbal presentation about your Project, and a final Research Project proposal, which will form the basis of the work on your Research Project in your final year of study.

Module aims

This module:

1. teaches you how to design your own research project, with particular focus on preparation for the History Research Project (HR831).

2. deepens your understanding of how historians research, write and create the interpretations of the past that you read (in the form of books, articles, etc) on other modules.

3. gives you transferable skills in project design and planning which you can list on your CV and transfer to further study or the world of work.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will have:

1. Gained a better understanding of how historians develop research projects and of the shaping processes that lie behind the historical texts you read for other modules (books, articles, blogs etc).

2. Developed your own skills of project design and planning, as demonstrated by your own research proposal.

3. Developed problem-solving, teamwork and self-reflection skills in completing the module coursework and seminar activities (eg: peer review).

Module information

General Reading List:

Tracey Loughran (ed.), A Practical Guide to Studying History. Skills and Approaches (Bloomsbury, 2017).

Gary Thomas, Doing Research (Palgrave Pocket Study Skills, 2nd edition, 2017).

Learning and teaching methods

HR231 is taught intensively (four contact hours per week) in the first five weeks of the Summer Term. There will be a programme of lectures, seminars, interactive workshops and mini-conferences in which you are given the opportunity to practise and develop research skills and to work on your Portfolio tasks. You will give your assessed presentation to an audience of your peers at a conference-style event towards the end of the module. In addition to your seminar teacher, you will also have the opportunity to discuss your ideas with potential Project supervisors over the course of the module.


  • (no date) Great news from Middle-Row in Holbourn, or, A true relation of a dreadful ghost which appeared in the shape of one Mrs. Adkins to several persons, but especially to a maid-servant at the Adam and Eve, all in a flame of fire on Tuesday-night last, being the 16th of this instant March, 1679..
  • Porter, Roy. (1988) 'Seeing the Past', in Past and Present. vol. 118 (1) , pp.186-205
  • Jordanova, L. J. (2019) History in practice, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Jordanova, L. J. (2006) History in practice, London: Hodder Arnold.
  • Schnell, Felix. (2015) 'Empire in Disguise: The Soviet-Russian Imperial Metamorphosis after World War I', in Journal of Modern European History. vol. 13 (2) , pp.203-225
  • Green, Alix R. (2019-06-01) '‘Secret Lists and Sanctions’: The Blacklisting of the John Lewis Partnership and the Politics of Pay in 1970s Britain', in Twentieth Century British History. vol. 30 (2) , pp.205-230
  • Raphael Samuel. (1972) 'Perils of the transcript', in Oral History. vol. 1 (2) , pp.19-22
  • Gowing, Laura. (c2012) 'Anne and James Young', in Gender relations in early modern England, Harlow: Pearson Education., pp.127-130
  • French, Henry. (2016) 'Legal and Judicial Records', in Understanding early modern primary sources, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Williams, Raymond. (1963) Culture and society, 1780-1950, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Gender in the Proceedings,
  • (2017) A practical guide to studying history: skills and approaches, London: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Arthur Marwick. (1984) 'Room at the Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and the 'Cultural Revolution' in Britain', in Journal of Contemporary History. vol. 19 (1) , pp.127-152
  • Van Emden, Joan; Becker, Lucinda M. (2016) Presentation skills for students, London: Palgrave.
  • Flather, Amanda; Royal Historical Society (Great Britain). (2007) Gender and space in early modern England, Woodbridge: Royal Historical Society/Boydell Press.
  • Noakes, Lucy. (2018-06-07) '‘My Husband is Interested in War Generally’: gender, family history and the emotional legacies of total war', in Women's History Review. vol. 27 (4) , pp.610-626
  • Colson, Justin. (2019) 'A Portrait of a late medieval pub: the Star inn, Bridge Street', in Medieval Londoners: essays to mark the eightieth birthday of Caroline M. Barron, London: University of London Press., pp.37-54
  • Passmore, Kevin. (2017) Evidence and Interpretation, London: Bloomsbury Academic., pp.139-153
  • Sipe, Dan. (1991) 'The future of oral history and moving images', in The Oral History Review. vol. 19 (1/2) , pp.75-87
  • Assuncao, M. R. (2014-04-01) 'Stanzas and Sticks: Poetic and Physical Challenges in the Afro-Brazilian Culture of the Paraiba Valley, Rio de Janeiro', in History Workshop Journal. vol. 77 (1) , pp.103-136
  • Bornat, Joanna. (2017) 'History and the Community', in The voice of the past: oral history, New York, NY: Oxford University Press., pp.1-22

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   A Portfolio consisting of four tasks (1000 words maximum in total)    35% 
Coursework   A PowerPoint Presentation    15% 
Coursework   Your Research Project proposal (1250 words maximum)    50% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Alison Rowlands, email:
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

Dr Rachel Rich
Leeds Beckett University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 1869 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1869 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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