SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

R201 Approaches and Methods in the Study of Religions

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/23
Year of study:
Year 2

Religions are connected to a variety of human practices, symbols and artefacts, and therefore are studied within multiple scholarly disciplines and with different approaches and methods. This makes the study of religions a perfect entry point for getting to know a wide array of approaches in the humanities, and the ability to connect various approaches and methods in a multi-dimensional understanding of a subject is a core competence in this field of study and in multiple professional careers beyond.
This module provides a comprehensive introduction to the most interesting and essential approaches and methods for studying religions. In doing so, it teaches a number of transferable skills, including competence in textual and historiographical analysis, knowledge of memory and interview techniques and the ability to interpret and understand the role of religion in current affairs.
The course is a combination of lectures and tutorials, utilising examples and sources from the lecturers’ own research expertise. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. differentiate various disciplinary approaches in the study of religions and explain their main paradigms and differences
  2. discuss various types of sources in the study of religions and main methods of their analysis
  3. explain the emergence of scriptural traditions and demonstrate one or two methods of analysing textual sources
  4. discuss theories and methods in historical research, including issues of religious historiography
  5. explain how oral traditions and articulations inform religious practices and which qualitative methodologies are suitable for their study
  6. analyse the interaction of religions with wider societal contexts by drawing on sociological theory and the discussion of quantitative methodology

Scope and syllabus

The module is divided in four main parts:

  1. Approaches to religious histories and historical methods
  2. Approaches to religious texts and philological methods
  3. Approaches to religious orality and qualitative research methods
  4. Approaches to religion in society and quantitative research methods

Method of assessment

Four 1,500 word essays, each consisting of exercises for one of the four components of the module.


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