Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap
Tied to V7K107


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To teach students how to present research papers in a style and format that is appropriate to the discipline.
  • To teach students how to pose a clear, succinct research question, formulate a clear research proposal, identify literature that is relevant to their proposed topic and read selectively.
  • To impress upon students that the question of which research methods a philosopher should employ is itself a difficult philosophical question, to which many conflicting answers have been proposed, and, in the process, to convey an understanding of some of the many different argument structures and essay writing techniques that are employed in philosophy.
  • To enable students to critically reflect at an advanced level on distinctions made between philosophical 'traditions', and to address the issues of whether, when and how various philosophical presuppositions should be defended.
  • To teach students how to identifify and critically examine the presuppositions of their own philosophical work.
  • To inform students of how to use and reference Internet resources, and to instil appropriate caution with regard to material on those Internet sites that are not professionally and appropriately regulated.


  • Through the seven 'Philosophical Methods' Lectures and the weekly seminar discussions, students will learn about different conceptions of what philosophy is and how it should be done. Key topics include 'philosophy and science', 'philosophy and history', 'philosophy and culture' and the schism between so-called 'analytic' and 'Continental traditions'. The two seminars on 'writing a dissertation proposal' will teach students how to compose a concise research proposal, focusing on a core area of philosophy and addressing a clear, specific question. The University Library Workshop and ongoing seminar discussions in Michaelmas and Epiphany will provide students with an understanding of how to search for and acquire relevant books, articles, chapters and how to use various electronic resources. Two focused seminars will teach students to present their work in a style appropriate to the discipline, making proper use of abstracts, section headings, footnotes, in text referencing and a comprehensive bibliography.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will:
  • know which library resources are available.
  • become familiar with some of the ways in which academic research in philosophy is presented.
  • learn about different conceptions of the relationships between philosophy and science, philosophy and literature, philosophy and culture, and philosophy and its history.
  • acquire a knowledge of distinctions between 'analytic' and 'Continental' traditions and be sensitive to the shortcomings of such distinctions.
  • understand that different philosophers, philosophical methods and philosophical schools start from quite different presuppositions and learn that implicit presuppositions often play a key role in motivating philosophical positions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • identify the context or tradition in which a philosophical work is situated.
  • present work in a style appropriate to the discipline.
  • prepare a detailed research proposal on a specialised area, which may involve innovative work in a developing field.
  • make some of the presuppositions of their own work explicit.
  • critically reflect at an advanced level on the question of what philosophy is and how it should be done.
  • address in detail a specific issue relating to the nature and role of philosophy.
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Use library resources, including electronic resources such as databases.
  • make explicit and question some of the assumptions that underlie their thinking more generally.
  • recognise that academic thought is structured by a diversity of cultures and traditions, which are not always explicitly acknowledged by their 'inhabitants'.
  • Develop the ability to manage their time effectively and communicate their ideas to others in a clear, succinct fashion.

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

  • he core of the Taught MA in Philosophy course is a weekly two-hour seminar, which runs from weeks 1 to 22. Four of these seminars will be wholly dedicated to RMR topics. The other eighteen will incorporate a dedicated half hour, as detailed below.
  • Two Michaelmas seminars will provide detailed instruction and advice concerning style and presentation. An piece of approximately 2,500 words will be brought to a Seminar in Michaelmas, on a topic that is to be addressed in one of the other modules. This essay will be presented in a style appropriate to the discipline, with abstract, footnotes, section headings, in-text referencing and a list of refences at the end. Students will be encourged to adopt the conventions of the philosophical journal *Analysis*. During the Seminar, a member of staff will offer one-to-one consultations with each student, during which the staff member will go through the piece of work, offering advice concerning style and presentation. Summative assessment of these skills will be integrated into assessment of the dissertation proposal and philosophical methods essay.
  • The Library Workshop will teach students how to locate and use library resources. Appropriate use of bibliographical resources will be assessed via the dissertation proposal and philosophical methods essay.
  • Further guidance on locating and using resources and on style and presentation will be integrated into weekly seminars throughout the academic year. The first half hour of eighteen seminars will be dedicated to discussion of these issues and to questions concerning philosophical method.
  • The seven Philosophical Methods lectures will each address a specific topic concerning the nature and role of philosophical enquiry. Lecturers will provide a general overview of a debate and will then outline their own view. Students will be encouraged to engage in the debates and to challenge the lecturers' positions. Lecturers will provide students with short reading lists and research questions, which students are advised to use as a starting point from which to start researching the Philosophical Methods essay. Further discussion of the lectures and guidance concerning the essays will be offered in the weekly seminars.
  • In order to give students the chance to critically discuss their Philosophical Methods essay and further refine their arguments, they are offered two one-to-one tutorials with an appropriate supervisor.
  • The two seminars on the dissertation proposal provide the opportunity for group discussion concerning possible dissertation topics, followed a week later by presentation of dissertation proposals.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
One-to-one supervisions 2 Flexible, as required 1 hour 2
Style and presentation seminars 2 Twice, in Michaelmas term 2 hours 4
Dissertation proposal seminars 2 Twice, in Epiphany term 2 hours 4
RMR Lectures 7 Three in Michaelmas, three in Epiphany and one in Easter 1 hour 7
RMR Discussion Sessions (part of the scheduled, weekly seminar) 18 Weekly until week 22, with four weeks excluded for seminars on dissertation proposals and one style and presentation 30 minutes 9
University Library Workshop 1 Once, in Michaelmas 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading Time 273
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Philosophical Methods Essay 4000 words 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation Proposal 1000 words plus bibliography 100%

Formative Assessment:


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