PG 305 Research Methodologies & Readings and Interpreting Primary Source Texts I (12 hours)

Module Level

9 MTh (History of Christianity)

Time Allowance

12 hours


Archival Review: 20% | Bibliographic Survey: 40% | Book Review: 40%

Module Aims

· To equip students with the skills necessary to identify, locate, critique and analyse sources relevant to the history of Christianity

· To familiarise students with the holdings and locations of repositories, and to introduce students to the wide range of finding aids employed in such locations

· To facilitate the identification and use of relevant online material

· To impart the necessary skills to identify, analyse, interpret and contextualise source material, and secondary analysis, and to present one’s findings in a scholarly manner.

This module will introduce students to the practicalities and pitfalls of historical research. It will provide the skills which will enable them to identify, locate, analyse and contextualise both primary and secondary sources. It will provide advice on how to structure their research and to present their findings in a scholarly manner in accordance with standard writing conventions.

Students will be familiarised with the sources and repositories relevant to the religious history of Ireland, and to the wider history of Christianity; sources studied will include written texts, material and archaeological evidence, and works of art. Students will be introduced to material relevant to the history of the early church and will be familiarised with the extensive holdings of the Russell Library, Maynooth. They will engage with the growing body of online primary sources and will learn to identify, access and critique recent scholarship in both print and online media.

Parts 1 & 2 of this module are delivered on alternate years. The material covered in Part 2 complements the content of Part 1 without unnecessary duplication.

While this module focuses on research into the history of religion, especially in the Irish context, the skills imparted in this module will prove useful to persons involved in any form of research, whether within or without the field of history.

Learning Outcomes
On completion of this module, the student

  • will be able to review the current state of research in a given field of study
  • will be able to identify, locate and evaluate relevant primary sources
  • will be able to access and critique up to day scholarship on their chosen topic
  • will be familiar with the variety of cataloguing systems (digital and hard-copy) employed in archives
  • will be able to produce a carefully-researched, well-written paper which conforms to the accepted conventions of writing.

Indicative Syllabus

Topics to be covered will include

  • The process of historical research: identification and effective use of repositories and finding aids
  • Digital and online sources relevant to the history of Christianity
  • Published scholarship: how to review and critique other people’s work
  • Thesis presentation: historical writing, academic style, and writing conventions
  • The approaches to writing church history, possible methodologies employed and the problem of objectivity
  • Visit to the Russell library.

Timetable: First Semester: Wednesday evenings, 6pm-7pm.


  • - Arnold, John H, History: a very short introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), esp. chapter 4.
  • - Burton, Antoinette, Archive stories: facts, fictions and the writing of history (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), introduction.


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