Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module HIST45830: Special Topic in History

Department: History

HIST45830: Special Topic in History

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 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’ should be drawn from (but are not limited to) the research areas reflected in the Department’s Research Areas: Theology and Religion; Economic and Social History; Gender and Sexuality; Political Cultures; Visual and Material Culture; Science and Medicine; Transnational History; Memory and Landscape.
  • To provide students with advanced, in-depth knowledge of the key historiography, theories, concepts and approaches in the research area.
  • To provide students with 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 and 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 historical topic.
  • Identify and discuss relevant historiography.
  • Identify a historical problem and an appropriate historical approach, employ advanced critical skills and conceptual knowledge to address the problem and follow through with the chosen approach.
  • Write an essay with an appropriately focused research question, develop a clear and knowledgeable discussion of the topic area, and a structured argument. Essays will display evidence of critical understanding and innovative engagement with the historical approach relevant to the chosen research topic.
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/PGModuleProformaMap/
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 conversation with an expert.
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/PGModuleProformaMap/

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.
  • A formative essay of 2000 words will be submitted as preparation for the assessed essay.
  • A summative essay of 5000 words will be submitted. Students will be required to focus on a specific question, demonstrate advanced knowledge of the relevant historiography and put forward a historical approach in the form of a clearly structured historical argument.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Supervisions 5 As agreed by supervisor 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading 295
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words not including footnotes or bibliography 100%

Formative Assessment:

Written assignment of 2000 words.

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