[skip to content]

Department of History

MA Historical Research Methods and Intensive Language

Duration: Full-time: 2 years; Part-time: 4 years


Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent); relevant background in the region of specialism

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Who is this programme for?:

The programme is tailored for students who wish to proceed to further research on the doctoral level on a topic related to the history of the Near and Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia, East Asia and Africa, but it also makes sense as a stand-alone programme for those who wish to explore a specific topic or question within a shorter period of time.

The two-year intensive language pathway is directed at students who want to engage with a country in a professional as well as academic way, as the intensive language course would enable them to reach a near proficient knowledge of the language.

Career opportunities include:

  • Further historical research (PhD)
  • Research positions in government institutions, NGOs, journalism, etc.

This is the only Master-level programme in Historical Research Methods focusing on the study of Asia and Africa in the UK. It provides the unique opportunity to develop and carry out a research project under the guidance of regional specialists and thus an ideal preparation for a research degree. It can also be taken with an intensive language pathway over two years, therefore making this programme unique in Europe.

Please see the webpage for the Japanese pathway of the programme, and contact the MA convenor of that pathway for further information on the language component. Further information on entry level language requirements can be found on the programme page.

The Korean pathway is designed for beginner learners of Korean. Students with prior knowledge of Korean are advised to contact the programme convenor, Dr Anders Karlsson (ak49@soas.ac.uk). Students will take four course units in the Korean language, one of them at a Korean university during the summer after year 1.

The Arabic pathway is designed for beginner learners of Arabic. Students will take four units of Arabic, one of them at the Qasid Institute in Jordan or another partner institution during the summer after year 1.  Programme convenor: Dr Mustafa Shah (ms99@soas.ac.uk)

Email: nf2@soas.ac.uk


Students take 4 course units over the period of their programme of study (i.e. 2 or 4 years). This includes the core course Sources and Research Design in Historical Research (1 unit), which is taught on a one-to-one basis by the dissertation supervisor, the compulsory course Research Methods in History with Special Reference to Asia and Africa (1 unit), a minor course or courses (to the value of 1 unit) from a list of approved options and/or a language course from the Faculty of Languages and Cultures, and a 10,000 word dissertation (1 unit).

In the intensive language pathways, students take 2 intensive language units and one history unit in their first year.  During the summer, they will participate in a summer school abroad (location dependant on language).  Upon their return, they will take 1 language unit and 2 history units and complete work on their dissertation (1 unit). For example, Year 1: 2 intensive language units + compulsory course Research Methods in History with Special Reference to Asia and Africa; Year 2: 1 intensive language unit + core course Sources and Research Design in Historical Research (1 unit) + minor courses to the value of 1 unit + dissertation.


Teaching & Learning

Year abroad

Yes (Summer of first year)

Teaching & Learning

Aims and Outcomes

  • Knowledge of a variety of theoretical issues and methodological approaches relevant for the study of historical problems
  • Practical research and writing skills, developed through the study of primary and secondary sources related to Asian and African history
  • A sound grounding for further research, either in a doctoral programme or in a professional environment
  • A near proficient ability in the a language.



  1. How to locate materials and use research resources (particularly research library catalogues, archival hand lists, and digital resources), assess data and evidence critically from manuscripts, printed, and digital sources, and solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations.  
  2. How to formulate and carry out a research project, based on a thorough knowledge and understanding of the particular field of study chosen by the student, the relevant literature and current debates.
  3. Language skills appropriate to chosen region of study.


Intellectual (thinking) skills

  1. Students should become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence and understand what the different types of historical sources can and cannot tell us.
  2. Students should question interpretations, however authoritative, maintain an open-minded attitude to interpretations that challenge older interpretations, and reassess evidence for themselves.
  3. Students should be able to think critically about the nature of the historical discipline, its methodology, historiography, and openness for interdisciplinary approaches.
  4. Students should be able to reflect about the potential of historical research on non-Western societies and civilizations for the advancement of the historical discipline and human civilization in general.

Subject-based practical skills

  1. Effective writing and referencing skills, attention to detail and accuracy in presentation.
  2. Effective oral presentation of seminar papers, articulation of ideas, and constructive participation in seminar discussions.
  3. Ability to retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources, effective note-taking, record keeping and planning of projects.
  4. Effective use of relevant professional databases.
  5. In the two year intensive language pathway, to acquire/develop skills in a language to Effective Operational Proficiency level, i.e., being able to communicate in written and spoken medium in a contemporary language

Transferable skills

  1. Critical thinking.
  2. Ability to communicate effectively in oral and written forms.
  3. Information gathering skills from conventional and electronic sources.
  4. Effective time-management, writing to word limits, and meeting deadlines.

A Student's Perspective

If I were to describe SOAS in one sentence it would say that you will hear at least six different languages on the same day while you casually walk through the corridors of the university.

Stephanie Koch