SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H201 Historical Research: Approaches, Methods, Design

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year
This module introduces students to the practice of historical research. What historians have meant by history and how they have done it has changed considerably over time. In the first term, we survey the ways in which historians have approached the past -- from event-driven narratives, through the structural analysis of economy, society, and culture, to contemporary debates about postmodernism, postcolonialism, and presentism. Throughout, we pay close attention to the way in which the study of the past changes when one looks at the world outside the West, not least when one is based in Asia, Africa, or the Near and Middle East. We thereby consider the rich variety of questions, sources, and methods that have been generated as the study of history has evolved. In the second term, we turn to the practice of identifying, designing, and executing a research project. We begin by discussing the various stages of the process, which will inform a small group project. We then turn to a series of case-studies, presented by members of the History staff, on their own experience of research, as well as to presentations on the group projects, which will be due at the beginning of the final term. The module as a whole serves as a foundation for the dissertation project that students will undertake in their third year.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, students will:

Demonstrate a good understanding of the key differences between different historiographical approaches to the study of the past
LO2. Design and execute a well-defined research project, based on effective information skills, with respect to both the secondary literature and primary sources
LO3. Work effectively in a team to develop and deliver a project, demonstrating the ability to divide labour, monitor progress, and provide and respond to feedback and critique.
LO4. Present their work effectively in both oral and written form in a way that demonstrates their developing capacity to think like a historian and to work in a team.

Scope and syllabus

Term 1. Historiography
1. Introduction
2. History before historians
3. History v1.0: event, archive, and empire
4. History v2.0: structure, economy, dependency
5. History v3.0: everyday life
6. History from below: the subaltern school
7. Gender as a category of analysis
8. Cultural history: discourse and identity
9. The return of the material: science, technology, environment
10. History today

Term 2. Practice
11. Introduction
12. Identifying a problem, finding a question
13. Finding information, reviewing literature
14. Navigating archives
15. Presenting your work
16. Case-study 1
17. Case-study 2
18. Case-study 3
19. Case-study 4
20. Revising your work

Method of assessment

1 assignment of 3,000 words worth 40%, research proposal for group project of 500 words worth 10%, written presentation of the group project of 2,500 words worth 50%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules