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Developing Research Proposals (ResMA History)


Admission requirements

This course is offered exclusively to Research Master students in History, others cannot attend this course.


What does a good research project entail? How do you draw up relevant, strong, and pertinent research questions and methodology, schedule a realistic time-frame? How do you convey a sense of urgency for your research plans? How should you embed your research question? Which debate(s) will you address? Which theory will you apply or how will you operationalize your questions? Which sources will you use and to which level of detail will you convey their contents? We will practice this by reviewing existing projects and each others’ proposals, and explore our own ideas, in order to develop a successful draft research proposal.

In this course, we will examine the setup of some research projects currently being executed or completed at Leiden University, with the intention to absorb insights of senior project applicants. We will examine the trajectory of personal proposals from inception to end by inserting an element of role playing in three pivotal elements of a research grant proposal: applicant, committee member and peer reviewer. All participants in the course will be asked to play all of these roles during the first 10 weeks of the course. The last two weeks will contain an element of personal and collective reflection regarding achievements, as well as management of stress and frustrations. Some of the skills acquired during this course are transferable onto the non-academic labour market and form an important contribution to the development of a MA graduate.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  10. The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific Common Course: Developing Research Proposals

The student acquires the following Research Skills:

  1. The ability to frame a pertinent research question and methodology;
  2. The ability to plan a successful time trajectory for a research project;
  3. The ability to set up an original and pertinent research proposal that raises new questions, pioneers new approaches and/or and points to new directions for future research.

The student hones the following transferable skills:

  1. takes part in (scientific) committee work;
  2. provides peer review for (scientific) projects;
  3. incorporates and frame peer reviews onto existing (scientific) pilots;
  4. learns how to behave in an (scientific) interview;
  5. learns how to translate personal capability and (scientific) quality of a project onto a panel of evaluators.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend must notify the lecturer beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written research proposal (max. 2500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and excluding bibliography) and narrative cv
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-13

  • Committee reports/work (max. 3000 words) for each committee
    Measured learning objectives: 14, 15, 17

  • Peer Review Work (max 5000):
    Measured learning objectives: 15, 16

  • Rebuttal and Interview
    Measured learning objectives: 16-18

  • Reflection
    Measured learning objectives: 16-18


  • Committee Work and Peer Review: 30%

  • Proposal, CV, Rebuttal and Interview: 60%

  • Reflection: 10%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the Proposal must always be sufficient. All requirements should be passed.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised. 

Reading list

To be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.