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MRes Historical Research

Our postgraduate degree in historical research enables you to become a research-oriented historian, equipped to undertake research at a Doctoral level.

Historical Research

Economic and Social Research Council Logo  Arts and Humanities Research Council logo

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MRes, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Start date September
  • Duration MRes full-time: 12 months, MRes part-time: 24 months
  • Mode of study Part-time, Full-time, Campus based, Stand-alone modules

The Master of Research in Historical Research is a one-year research-oriented course that allows you to specialise in particular historical topics and areas.

The MRes is designed to:

  • enable you to become a well-trained historian
  • demonstrate your ability to undertake research to doctoral level at Stirling or other universities in Britain and overseas

Both of these aims are achieved through the completion of independent study modules, field seminars and skills training conducted under supervision. You’ll be allocated an individual supervisor to direct your independent study and plan the curriculum to reflect your interests and needs.

Our course prepares you for further research by:

  • Undertaking project design, indentifying research questions, and presenting research findings
  • enabling qualitative and quantitative data analysis
  • practical experience in applying research methods to interrogate primary sources
  • skills development in applying bibliographical software and database management
  • developing written and verbal critical analysis
  • Top reasons to study with us
  • Professional accreditations

    The course is recognised by both the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. Both have given PhD funding to outstanding Stirling graduates of the MRes.

  • Work placements

    Work placements can be arranged as training activities.

  • Flexible learning

    If you’re interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email Graduate Admissions to discuss your course of study.

  • Research

    In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), 100% of our research impact in History was rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. The REF 2014 panel also stated that our work in postgraduate research supervision in combination with the nurturing and career development of postgraduate research students was outstanding. All our staff are research active, and, with postgraduates, sustain a vibrant and inclusive research environment.

    History staff offer particular strengths in African, American, British, environmental, European and Scottish history.

    History staff publish widely in their fields, writing books, essays, articles in leading academic journals, historical documentary editions, and online resources. Several have won awards for their work including Dr Michael Penman in medieval Scottish History. Current and recent research projects have been funded by (among others):

    • Arts and Humanities Research Council
    • Economic and Social Research Council
    • The Carnegie Trust
    • The Joseph Rowntree Foundation
    • The Colonial Society of Massachusetts
    • The British Academy
    • The Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • Academic requirements

    A minimum of a Second Class Honours degree (2:1 preferred) in a relevant subject or equivalent is required. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

    A research proposal is required along with your application. It should be a maximum of 1,500 words.

  • 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 sub-skill
    • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 176 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
    • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 180 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
    • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 60 overall with 56 in each sub-skill
    • IBT TOEFL 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
    • Trinity ISE II Pass overall and Merit in all sub-skills, ISE III Pass overall and in all sub-skills, ISE IV Pass overall and in all sub-skills

    Last updated: 5 December 2019

    For more information on ways that you can meet our English language requirements, including options to waive the requirement, please read our information on English language requirements.

  • Pre-sessional English language courses

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

    Find out more about our pre-sessional English language courses.

The Master of Research in Historical Research is a one-year research-oriented course that and allows specialisation in particular historical areas. You will be allocated an individual supervisor to direct your independent study and plan the curriculum to reflect your interests and needs. You should maintain regular contact with supervisors and agree a schedule of meetings to discuss your work and review draft submissions.

The course is split into four sections:


You’ll undertake independent study of the literature of a chosen historical field. Coursework comprises a 10,000-word paper that critically reviews historians' works, and identifies a topic suitable for original research in a dissertation. There are no classes. One-to-one supervisory sessions are scheduled at mutually convenient times.

Research skills training

You’ll plan a personal itinerary, with direction, of specific activities to support your research project. Activities cover generic skills, employability skills, breadth of knowledge, and subject skills. These can entail attendance at workshops on dissertation planning and research design, preparing a research bibliography, learning a research method, building a database, undertaking archival research, document analysis, and engaging with personal development events. Additionally, there are opportunities for workshops in historical research methodology, languages, and palaeography.

Sources and methods

You’ll discuss with your supervisor how to apply your research skills to historical evidence. You will examine a body of sources related to your research topic and practice the methods you have been learning. Coursework comprises 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. There’s also a skills test to ascertain competency in source analysis and try out methods before the dissertation.


Having researched the existing secondary literature and the primary sources, and having received training in appropriate research skills, you will then go on to complete a dissertation of up to 20,000 words.



The modules listed below are those currently intended for delivery in the next academic intake of this course. These may be subject to change as the University regularly revises and refreshes the curriculum of our taught programmes.

Course Details

  • Teaching

    Delivery of the MRes is mainly through one-to-one sessions with the member of staff who will supervise your dissertation and provide direct feedback on the modules Historiography, and Sources and Methods.

    Research skills training is planned in discussion with your supervisor and requires completion of two independent study modules taken over two semesters. Coursework in the first semester comprises a reflective portfolio on skills’ activities and in the second semester analysis of a discrete body of historical sources (including text corpora and datasets) complementing work undertaken in the Sources and Methods module. Alternatively, you can take applied social research modules in quantitative and qualitative data analysis. You’ll also attend history research seminars and present a short working paper at the History postgraduate symposium in June.

  • Course director
  • Fees and costs

    Fees shown are per year (fees are different for each course)


    Home/EU Students

    Fees shown are for full-time, one-year Masters course*

    If you’re domiciled in Scotland, you may be eligible to apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for a loan of up to £10,000 to cover your tuition fees and associated living costs. Students domiciled in the EU can also apply for tuition fee support, although may not be eligible to receive funding to support living costs.

    If you're domiciled in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you should be eligible to apply for a loan from your regional body.

    English students apply for a loan of up to £10,609 per year as part of the UK Postgraduate Loan Scheme, Welsh students can apply for a non-means tested loan of up to £13,000 from the Welsh Government and Northern Irish students are eligible to apply for support of up to £5,500.

    *Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Overseas (Non-EU) Students

    Fees shown are for full-time, one-year Masters course. Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Please note: You will be liable to pay tuition fees for every year you’re in attendance, and your fees will be held level upon entry. If you need to extend your period of study, you may be liable for an additional fee.

  • Scholarships and funding

    If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

    Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

  • Additional costs

    There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

  • Cost of living

    If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

    EU and overseas students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support.

    Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

  • Payment options

    We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

The MRes Historical Research 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

Taking the MRes can also enhance your continuing professional development, particularly in teaching, journalism, marketing and heritage management through in-depth study of particular fields. By helping you develop critical analytical skills and research techniques, the course provides preparation for a wide variety of research-based careers in the public and private sectors.

Where are our graduates now?

Many 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, the Scottish Government, Sea World and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

MRes Historical Research graduates have been successful in securing external funding to help their research abroad. Christopher Minty, who graduated MRes in 2011, pursued doctoral research on the American Revolution for his Stirling PhD (2015) and is currently an assitant editor of the Adams Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Dr. Minty was awarded two prestigious Fellowships: the William A Dearborn Fellowship in American History, Houghton Library, Harvard University; and a Robert L. Middlekauff Fellowship at the Huntington Library, California. He also held a number of other fellowships to support archival research:

  • 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
  • Employability skills

    We offer a comprehensive employability and skills programme to help you maximise your time at university and develop the attributes that employers look for. In the Faculty of Arts and Humanities we have a dedicated Employability and Skills Officer. The University of Stirling’s Career and Employability Service also works in partnership with academic staff to ensure you get the most out of your University experience and are ready for the employment market.

    Skills you can develop through this course include:

    • a 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
    • effectively use ICT, information retrieval
    • presentation skills
    • exercise self-discipline, self-direction and initiative
    • work with others and have respect for others’ reasoned views
    • show empathy and imaginative insight

    Our students also have the opportunity to further develop their transferable skills through voluntary internships working on collections of material held within the Faculty - The Scottish Political Archive and the University's own archive.

The MRes has definitely made me both more employable and ready to take on my PhD because it’s expanded my academic skills and has proven that I am willing and able to step up to the next level.
Jane Cessford
MRes in Historical Research
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