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Developing Research Proposals (ResMA History)


Admission requirements

This course is part of the ResMA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA or 1-year MA students.


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? Finally, how do you convey a sense of urgency for your research plans?

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 a proposal from inception to end result. 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.

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: Research Skills

  • 11) The ability to frame a pertinent research question and methodology;

  • 12) The ability to plan a successful time trajectory for a research project;

  • 13) 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 timetable is available on the MA History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (15-20 students)

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures 11 × 2 hours: 22 hours

  • Practical work, and assignments 10 × 12 hours: 120 hours

  • Additional reading: 20 hours

  • Final project description or paper: 118 hours

Assessment method

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

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7

  • Assignment 1 (Preparation of discussion and interview of project initiator of a granted research project)
    Measured learning objectives: 4, 5, 8, 9, 11-13

  • Assignment 2 (Participation in class discussions)
    Measured learning objectives: 4, 5, 8, 9, 11-13


Interview and preparation of discussion: 15%
Weekly assignments: 15%
Written paper/research proposal: 70%

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


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


Blackboard will be used for: Communication
Dissemination of study material

Reading list

  • To be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. B. Rieger Dr. A.D.J. Shield