Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with an opportunity to undertake in-depth research into a topic not otherwise available in another relevant module. ‘Special Topics’ could be drawn from (but not limited to) the research areas reflected in the Department’s Research Clusters including: Aesthetics; Phenomenology; Ethics; History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine and Mind, Language and Metaphysics.
  • To provide students with advanced, in-depth knowledge of the key literature, theories, concepts, arguments and debates that comprise the relevant topic.
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills required to pursue self-directed research on a specific topic, under the direction of a member of staff with relevant expertise.
  • To equip students with extended research training in the form of one-to-one supervisions suitable to enhance their research preparation for PhD study.


  • Content of the ‘Special Topic’ will reflect the teaching and research expertise of members of staff as demonstrated in our current module provision and Departmental research activities. An appropriate topic will be agreed upon between the student and supervisor.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will:
  • Acquire an advanced, in-depth knowledge of recent research in a relevant topic.
  • Prepare and develop a detailed research plan on a specialized area and refine their research in light of guidance from an expert supervisor.
  • Present a rigorous essay reflecting advanced knowledge supported by tailored research-led teaching on a specific topic.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will:
  • Identify key issues, questions and debates concerning a specific philosophical topic.
  • Identify and make use of relevant literature.
  • Identify a philosophical problem, formulate a philosophical position and employ advanced critical skills and conceptual knowledge to address the problem and defend the position.
  • Write an essay with an appropriately focused research question, a clear, knowledgeable discussion of the topic area, and a structured argument. Essays will display evidence of critical understanding and innovative philosophical thought relevant to the chosen research topic.
Key Skills:
  • Students will:
  • Use their own initiative to choose a research topic.
  • Manage their time effectively in the context of supervised research
  • Exercise self-discipline, responsibility and autonomy in pursuing a research project.
  • Communicate complex ideas effectively in writing and in conversation with an expert.

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

  • The ‘Special Topic’ module will involve 5 one-to-one supervision sessions. After initially agreeing a research topic, subsequent supervisions will further develop a student’s understanding and offer detailed feedback and guidance both in verbal form and in writing.
  • A formative essay of 2000 words will be submitted as preparation for the assessed essay submission.
  • A summative essay of 5000 words will be submitted. Students will be required to focus on a specific research question, demonstrate advanced knowledge of the relevant literature, develop a critical understanding of relevant ideas and arguments and put forward a philosophical position in the form of a clear, structured philosophical argument.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
One-to-one supervisions 5 Flexible as required 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading Time 295
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Special Topic in Philosophy Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 2000 word 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