Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To train students in competent use of library resources, key general reference works, IT and internet resources, and various style and bibliographical conventions appropriate to writing a postgraduate essay on the history of scientific thought.
  • To introduce key methodological concepts and primary sources needed for students researching the history of scientific thought.
  • To contextualise scientific thought with reference to its different institutional and cultural contexts.
  • To trace the characteristic features of seventeenth-century scientific thought.
  • To introduce the historical background, changes and continuities of scientific knowledge during the seventeenth century.


  • Seminars 1-3 will familiarise students with library resources and general reference works and will introduce them to IT resources and efficient and intelligent use of the internet.
  • Seminar 4 will give an overview of the philosophical, sociological, anthropological and literary historiographical methods used in the history of scientific thought.
  • Major themes in seventeenth century scientific thought then will be traced in four chronologically arranged seminars:
  • Seminar 4: The Aristotelian Background.
  • Seminar 5: Robert Boyle and the Experimental Turn.
  • Seminar 6: Isaac Newton and Newtonianism.
  • Seminar 7: William Paley and the Tradition of Natural Theology.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Demonstrate a firm understanding of research methods used in history of seventeenth-century scientific thought.
  • Have an advanced awareness of the changes in scientific thought that occurred during the seventeenth century.
  • Clearly distinguish different projects, assumptions, styles, methods and goals in seventeenth-century scientific texts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Apply various style and bibliographical conventions appropriate to writing in the fields of scientific history.
  • Use at an advanced level libraries for historical and philosophical research and be familiar with the use of key works of general reference.
  • Write a well researched and clearly organised essay on the history of scientific thought.
Key Skills:
  • Make intelligent use of IT resources including textual and bibliographic databases, and intelligent use of the internet.

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

  • This module will be taught in seven two-hour group seminars during Michaelmas Term; there will also be four essay supervision tutorials for each student.
  • The first three two-hour seminars will teach specific research methods relevant to the history of scientific thought, including appropriate use of libraries and general reference works, of IT and internet resources, and correct application of various style and bibliographical conventions.
  • The next two-hour seminar will address the philosophical underpinnings of scientific historiography. It will consist of a short introduction to the topic given by the lecturer and joint critical discussions of pre-read research publications (partly in group work) that concentrate on various advanced methods that are used to approach the history of scientific thought.
  • Each of the four remaining two-hour seminars will be led by a lecturer. The seminars include a short introduction to the topic by the lecturer; students' historical interpretation of selected sources; students' short presentations of key primary and/or secondary literature; and joint critical discussion of pre-read research publications (partly in group work).
  • The individual tutorials (entitlement of up to 4 contact hours with the chosen supervisor) will support the student's work towards the assessed essay. They include discussion of the chosen research/essay topic; guidance on relevant research methods and literature; development of a research plan and timetable; and feedback on essay drafts.
  • In the workshop (up to 8h) students will present draft versions of their essay and discuss them with their fellow-students and the lecturer.
  • These teaching and learning methods will support students in achieving Learning Outcomes stated above. The Learning Outcomes will be formally assessed by the Essay.
  • Through optional, students will also be entitled to attend the research seminars, workshops or special lectures organised by the Department of Philosophy.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 4 Flexible, as required 1 hour 4
Seminars 7 Weekly 2 hours 14
Workshop 1 Once 8 hours 8
Preparation and Reading 274
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessed Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed Essay, including footnotes, excluding bibliography and appendices up to 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Short formative essay of 2000 words on a topic distinct from that of the summative essay.

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