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Unit information: English and History Practice-Based Dissertation in 2018/19

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Unit name English and History Practice-Based Dissertation
Unit code HUMS30004
Credit points 40
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Matthews
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Humanities
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The English and History Practice-Based Dissertation is an exercise in extended independent research leading to the design of a practical output. Students are required to identify their own topic, informed by their engagement with the disciplines of English and History. They will write a supporting report (6000 words) setting out the project’s aims and objectives and the research process, and reflecting on the design and production of their public-facing output in dialogue with relevant literature. The exact form an output takes will be developed in agreement with supervisors, but could, for example, be a walking tour, exhibition, podcast or play/performance. Students will formulate questions to be asked, identify main primary sources, set the research questions in context of issues arising from the secondary literature, and carry through an analytical study to the highest standards. Guidance will be provided in the form of lectures on devising a research topic and using primary sources. Students will also be assigned a supervisor (from either the English Department or the History Department, depending on the disciplinary orientation of the project) who will discuss with them a draft dissertation proposal and an introductory chapter, as well as the particular challenges of the chosen topic. Students will receive guidance from their supervisors in meetings, which should not normally exceed three hours in each teaching block. Students are also free to consult other lecturers with relevant expertise.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit successful students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. a deep understanding of a chosen subject
  2. the ability to produce an extended piece of analysis in accordance with high scholarly standards
  3. advanced proficiency in identifying and in forming their own questions
  4. advanced bibliographical skills
  5. advanced skills in textual analysis and time management
  6. the ability to work with primary sources, demonstrating an awareness of the provenance and nature of those sources and how to draw reasoned and considered conclusions from them
  7. the ability to work almost entirely independently in producing an extended piece of research
  8. critical understanding of key issues in relation to public history and the communication/representation of the past in the present
  9. the ability to reflect critically on their own practice and process of producing public history and public-facing history outputs in line with relevant literature
  10. the ability to produce a public-facing output which responds appropriately to a well-defined project brief

Teaching details

Across the year: 22 hours of supervision (mixture of group and one-on-one), 11 lectures and 11 hour 'festival'.

Assessment Details

For this practice based dissertation unit, students will receive an integrated mark for the two components: written report (6000 words) [ILOs 1-7] and practical output [ILOs 8-10]. (100%, split 50:50 between the two components).

Reading and References

Sayer, Faye. Public History: A Practical Guide. London: Bloomsbury, 2015

Cauvin, Thomas. Public History: A Textbook of Practice. London: Routledge, 2016

Kean, Hilda. The Public History Reader. New York: Routledge, 2013

Smith, Laurajane. Uses of Heritage. London: Routledge, 2006

Black, Jeremy. Contesting History: Narratives of Public History. London: Bloomsbury, 2014