Historical Research



The Masters of Philosophy in Historical Research is a one-year course that is research-oriented and allows specialisation in particular research areas. Students are allocated an individual supervisor to direct their independent study and plan the curriculum to reflect their interests and needs. Students should maintain regular contact with supervisors through email and an agreed schedule of meetings to discuss their work and review draft submissions.

The Masters of Philosophy (MPhil) is designed

  • to enable students to become well-trained historians


  • to demonstrate their fitness to undertake research to doctoral level at Stirling or other universities in Britain and overseas. Both are achieved through the completion of independent study modules, field seminars and skills training, under supervision.

It is also possible to follow an Environmental History pathway and complete an MPhil in Historical Research: Environmental History.


The MPhil programme and all constituent modules are constructed in line with the University's academic procedures and are fully assessed and externally examined. The programme is recognised by both the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council both of whom have given PhD awards to outstanding Stirling graduates of the MRes.

Key information

EU Applicants
EU students enrolling for a taught postgraduate degree in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic year will be admitted as Scottish/EU fee status students and will be eligible for the same tuition support as Scottish domiciled students.

  • Qualification: MPhil
  • Study methods: Part-time, Full-time, Campus based
  • Duration: Full-time: 12 months Part-time: 24 months
  • Start date:


  • Course Director: Dr Jim Smyth
Download postgraduate prospectus

Dr Jim Smyth


Faculty of Arts and Humanities
University of Stirling
Stirling, FK9 4LA

Course objectives

This programme prepares you for further research:

  • to co-ordinate the provision of additional or external skills training and to develop the application of research skills
  • students will obtain practical experience of devising and applying a research method to interrogate primary sources
  • qualitative and quantitative analyses
  • the application of IT in information retrieval, especially bibliographical database software,
  • communication skills, written and oral
  • project design involving the conceptualisation of research questions and the presentation of data and data analysis

What makes us different?

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Studying for a degree means learning in different ways; managing your own time; conducting research; mastering new computer skills. We have the facilities and advice on hand to help you do all this - and do it well.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

A minimum of an upper second class Honours degree (2.1) or equivalent in a relevant subject.  Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

Research proposal required (1,500 word maximum) with an indicative bibliography attached. The proposal must be prepared in consultation with an academic member of staff who has agreed to supervise your project.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 6.5 with 6.0 minimum in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade B
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 60 with 56 in each component
  • IBT TOEFL: 90 with no subtest less than 20

For more information go to English language requirements

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard. View our range of pre-sessional courses.

Flexible Learning

If you are interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email graduate.admissions@stir.ac.uk to discuss your course of study.

Application procedure

Because the focus on a research project is in large measure of your own design, it is imperative that you contact prospective supervisors in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and discuss your intended research project before applying.

You can find details of staff research interests in our Research Hub, and use our find a supervisor service.

Fees and costs

2017/18 Overseas £12,930
2017/18 Home/EU £4,195


2018/19 Overseas £13,250
2018/19 Home/EU To be confirmed

From 2016/7 onwards, the fees for all taught postgraduate courses are to be held at the level set upon entry.

Please note there is an additional charge should you choose to attend a graduation ceremony. View more information

Cost of Living

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

Find information on paying fees by instalments

Scholarships & funding

Financial information

Find out more about funding your studies and meeting your living costs while working towards another degree.

Scholarship finder

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

The Master of Philosophy in Historical Research is a one-year programme that is research-oriented and allows specialisation in particular research areas. Students are allocated an individual supervisor to direct their independent study and plan the curriculum to reflect their interests and needs. Students should maintain regular contact with supervisors through email and an agreed schedule of meetings to discuss their work and review draft submissions.

Historiography: Students taking the MPhil undertake independent study of the historical literature of a chosen field.  During their first semester on the programme students must complete a 7,000 - 10,000-word paper that critically reviews historians' works and identifies a topic suitable for original research in a dissertation (module 4 below). There are no classes; one-to-one supervisory sessions are scheduled at mutually convenient times.

Research Skills Training: Students plan a personal itinerary, with direction, that entails attendance at events organised by the Stirling Graduate School and Stirling historians through training modules. Sessions include personal development and career planning, making grant applications, undertaking qualitative and quantitative analyses and database management. An intensive, one-week programme covers history-specific related discipline skills including historical approaches, documentary editing, palaeography, and using biographical sources. Extra classes in languages can be arranged. Students attend History research seminars and present a short working paper at the History postgraduate symposium in June. Coursework involves the preparation of a research bibliography for the dissertation and due performance at skills workshops.

Sources and Methods: Students discuss with their supervisor how to apply and develop their research skills. This may entail further training, such as in languages or palaeography, or attendance at external courses on relational database construction or social theory. Students also examine a body of sources related to their research topic, and practice the methods that they have been learning. During their second semester on the programme students must complete a 5,000-word paper explaining the research 'value' and significance of the selected sources and setting out the appropriate concepts, theories and methods to be used in analysis and interpretation; and a skills test based on methods and sources.

Dissertation: Having researched the existing secondary literature and the primary sources, and having received training in appropriate research skills, students now go on to complete a dissertation of between 20,000 and 22,000 words.

Delivery and assessment

Delivery is primarily through one to one sessions with the member of staff who will supervise your dissertation and provide direct feedback on Historiography and Sources and Methods. Training and skills elements are planned in discussion with your supervisor and these will comprise activities in four areas: generic skills; employability skills' breadth of knowledge, subject-specific skills. Students must attend the one-week programme and history and related discipline skills in early December and must give a short paper on their own research at the Stirling postgraduate conference in early June. 


While the dissertation provides the basis for the award and classification of the MPhil students must undertake and complete a number of activities.  These are intended to provide the necessary subject skills and knowledge while encouraging a wider engagement with academic life, career planning, etc. It is assumed that students will be working on their dissertation throughout the programme.

For most students the ARTPP modules will be the default option but for those whose projects are more social history or economic history based the ASRP modules may be recommended particularly if these students are likely to apply to the ESRC for PhD funding.  The decision will be taken in consultation with your supervisor and the programme director.

Full Time Programme of Study


            Essay on Historiography,

plus one of the related modules below:

  • ARTPP01 Training for Masters in the Arts and Humanities OR
  • ASRP04  Quantitative Data Analysis


            Essay on Sources and Method

plus one of the related modules below:

  • ARTPP02 Training for Masters in Arts and Humanities OR
  • ASRP05  Qualitative Data Analysis



  • Completion of Dissertation

Part-time programme of study:


            Essay on Historiography


            Essay on Sources and Methods

plus one of the related modules below:

  • ARTPP02 Training for Masters in the Arts and Humanities OR
  • ASRP04  Qualitative Data Analysis


Dissertation (continued to Spring and Summer)

plus one of the related modules below:

  • ARTPP01 Training for Masters in the Arts and Humanities
  • ASRP05  Quantitative Data Analysis


Spring and Summer:

  •  Completion of Dissertation

This listing is based on the current curriculum and changes may be made to the course in response to new curriculum developments and innovations. The module information is currently linking to the 2016/17 module listing and the information for 2017/18 will be made available on 21st April 2017. 


Modes of study

The Master's of Philosophy in Historical Research is a one-year taught programme that is research-oriented and allows specialisation in particular research areas. Students are allocated an individual supervisor to direct their independent study and plan the curriculum to reflect their interests and needs. Students should maintain regular contact with supervisors through email and an agreed schedule of meetings to discuss their work and review draft submissions.

Study method

Part-time; Full-time

Why Stirling?



In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.


Our research in History and Politics was assessed in the most recent UK Research Assessment Exercise, and found to be of internationally excellence: you can read about our ratings and find details about out submissions here.  Every member of both departments (which were then separate entities) was included, as we take pride in the fact that we are all research active, and all contribute alongside our postgraduate students to a vibrant and inclusive research environment.

History staff offer particular strengths in African, American, British, environmental, European, and Scottish history. Our History staff have common interests in themes including the 18th-century transatlantic world, kingship and lordship, parliament, identity and ethnicity, religion, ideology, war, revolution and counter-revolution, colonialism, gender, health, housing, welfare, historiography, archive record-linkage, land use, urban history, environmental history, mining, natural resources and waste.

History staff publish widely through monographs, collections of essays and in leading journals in the discipline. A number of our colleagues have won awards for their work such as Dr Alastair Mann and Dr Michael Penman, in early modern and medieval Scottish History. Current and recent research projects have been funded by (among others): the AHRC, EHRC, the Wellcome Trust, the Carnegie Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, the British Academy, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes students from around the world. Find out what studying here could be like for you .

Study abroad opportunities

A significant proportion of our graduates continue their studies abroad, mainly in the USA. 

Students who have undertaken our Masters have been successful in securing external funding to help their research abroad. Chris Minty, who graduated with a Masters in 2011 and was awarded a PhD from Stirling in 2015 was awarded two prestigious Fellowships. They were the William A. Dearborn Fellowship in American History, Houghton Library, Harvard University, and a Robert L. Middlekauff Fellowship at the Huntington Library. Chris also held a number of other fellowships:

  • Larry J. Hackman Research Residency, New York State Archives, 2012-2013
  • Eccles Centre Fellowship, British Library
  • Gilder Lehrman Fellowship, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
  • Jacob M. Price Short-Term Visiting Fellowship, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada Scholarship for 2012-2014 


For staff research areas and specialisms please refer to our staff directory.

Our students

Please see testimonials from our students.

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

The MPhil has been designed with three career destinations in mind:

  • to prepare graduate students for further research at doctoral level
  • as a route to an academic career
  • as a higher degree in its own right


The MPhil will also enhance continuing professional development, particularly in teaching, journalism, marketing, and heritage management through in-depth study of particular fields; by aiming to develop critical analytical skills and research techniques, the programme provides preparation for a wide variety of research-based careers in the public and private sectors.

Most of our graduates go on to study for a PhD either by continuing at Stirling or at another University in the UK, Europe or North America. Recent graduates have secured posts in firms and institutions as varied as Historic Scotland, Sea World, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Chances to expand your horizons

There is a lively series of guest lectures which students can attend on this programme.


Skills you can develop through this programme

  • command of a substantial body of historical knowledge
  • understand how people have existed, acted and thought in the context of the past
  • read and use texts and other source materials critically and empathetically
  • appreciate the complexity and diversity of situations, events and past mentalities
  • recognise there are ways of testing statements and that there are rules of evidence which require integrity and maturity
  • reflect critically on the nature and theoretical underpinnings of the discipline
  • marshal an argument, be self-disciplined and independent intellectually
  • express themselves orally and in writing with coherence, clarity and fluency
  • gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information
  • analyse and solve problems
  • use effectively ICT, information retrieval and presentation skills
  • exercise self-discipline, self-direction and initiative
  • work with others and have respect for others’ reasoned views
  • show empathy and imaginative insight
  • prepare for further academic research such as a Phd

In addition, our students have the opportunity to further develop their transferable skills through voluntary internships working on collections of material held within the Division (The Scottish Political Archive and the University's own archive (e.g. the UNESCO recognised Royal Scottish National Institution for mentally disabled children).

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