Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)

Module THEO40830: Resources, Methods and Interpretation

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO40830: Resources, Methods and Interpretation

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop student skills of documentary/textual sourcing, bibliography, research writing and analysis.
  • To encourage student awareness of the appropriate application of research methods and approaches to research in Theology and Religion, through the analysis of seminal primary and secondary sources.
  • To provide students with the opportunity to engage with particular scholarly methods and approaches within a chosen field in Theology and Religion, through writing a detailed programme of research and a critical literature review.
  • To encourage intra-disciplinary dialogue between students on MA research and writing in regular seminars.


  • The seminars will engage students as a group on a range of subjects on research resources, methods and interpretation in Theology and Religion. There will be two sections to the module:
  • 1. Fixed themes: there will be a number of fixed themes on resources and methods in Theology and Religion - using library and archival resources; IT usage; compiling a bibliography for dissertations and research projects; choosing a dissertation topic.
  • In preparing their dissertation proposal, students will meet with their prospective dissertation supervisor to discuss potential research fields and topics . The students will produce a brief proposal (this will normally be submitted by or on the first day of the Epiphany term) on which they will receive feedback from their supervisor. They will then incorporate emerging insights into a revised formal programme of research which will form part of the summative assessment of the module.
  • Other appropriate themes on methods will be chosen before the beginning of the Michaelmas term by the Course Director in collaboration with members of the Board of Studies, with the aim of engaging with the intellectual interests of that particular student cohort.
  • 2. Elective themes: preparing a project proposal for applications for doctoral research or research funding; use of Bible; interpreting hagiography; visual evidence in Theology and Religion; historians and the reformation; methods in the study of religion; modern media, Theology and Religion.
  • The above list of elective themes is not exhaustive. A final seminar will be incorporated, in which participating staff and students will reflect on and synthesise the issues raised in the elective seminars.
  • A reading list will direct students to sources on the subjects of the elective seminars.
  • In choosing a focus for their critical literature review, students will not be confined to the topics treated in seminars. Equally, they will be encouraged to choose a field or subfield which relates to their dissertation research. Essay proposals falling outside of these areas must be approved by the Course Director (in consultation with appropriate members of the Board of Studies if necessary). Students will always be encouraged to discuss possible essay topics with an appropriate member of the Board of Studies. Critical literature reviews will normally be submitted by or on the first day of Easter term.
  • Detailed guidelines for format, procedures and deadlines will be made available to students in the Department's MA handbook.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, students should:
  • understand the significance of the range of research approaches to the development of the discipline in Theology and Religion;
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students should:
  • possess the skill to use appropriate printed and electronic resources competently in their research and learning;
  • be able to compile and produce a bibliography (based on their research for their MA dissertation) that corresponds to the discipline's stylistic conventions;
  • be able to identify a dissertation topic;
  • be able to analyse critically and utilise relevant research approaches of the discipline;
  • demonstrate the ability to research and write a critical literature review relevant to research within a particular area of the discipline.
Key Skills:
  • advanced research skills, including the ability to locate, evaluate, and summarise key sources, both in print and online, and to cite them to a professional standard
  • advanced communication skills, including the ability to construct a sophisticated argument, supported by the sources, in a clear, concise and convincing manner

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • In seminars, students will benefit from teaching and learning in two related fields of the discipline (these will be the module's explicit foundations).
  • The module will develop the students' organisational and practical research skills, using the expertise of Library and academic staff. They will learn how to search for and collate primary and secondary sources, using printed and electronic resources. They will learn the rules for producing proposals and bibliographies in their discipline, and how to tailor those rules for individual projects, applications and awards. Their assignments will enable them to apply these skills, under the tutorial direction the Course Director, guided by suggestions offered by potential dissertation supervisor(s).
  • Subject skills 1-3 will be assessed through the revised programme of research and the critical literature review.
  • In the electively themed seminars (these will be chosen by staff) , students will benefit from the explanation and analysis of research approaches by subject specialists. Each seminar will examine a particular approach and will be based upon prescribed, seminal sources; this framework will offer a broad, evaluative perspective on research and writing to students. The module will end with a synthetic seminar, where students and the seminar teachers will reflect ont he themes treated during the previous seminars.
  • Their critical literature review should allow students to develop and express their intellectual reactions to research approaches and to display their knowledge and understanding of the application of research approaches to theological and religious sources.
  • Subject skills 4-5 and subject knowledge will be assessed through the critical literature review and associated bibliography.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 1 Once in Michaelmas term 1 1
Seminars 10 Weekly in Michaelmas term and weeks 1-3 of Epiphany term 1.5 15
Seminar 1 Once per Annum 2 2
Preparation and Reading 282
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Formal Programme of Research and Critical Literature review Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Formal Programme of Research 1,000 words 20% re-submission
Critical Literature Review and Bibliography 4,000 words 80% re-submission

Formative Assessment:

Brief Dissertation Proposal (500 words) Oral Contributions to seminars

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University