Bibliography, Research Methods, and Writing Skills

Module code: EN7001

Module co-ordinator: Dr Julian North

This module is compulsory for all new MA students in the School of English. It is designed to provide both knowledge and practical experience of the research methods critical to successful academic writing at the postgraduate level. Its primary aim is to ensure that all students are familiar with the conventions governing the presentation of a bibliography and are able to write an effective critical review. Both are essential skills, especially in preparing for the dissertation. The module introduces students to a wide range of print and digital information sources, including catalogues, special collections, periodicals, databases, and web resources. It also provides instruction and advice on academic writing, presentation skills, and the preparation of the dissertation.


The module's weekly two-hour sessions are taught in a variety of formats to suit the different topics covered. In addition to lectures, there are hands-on seminars and workshops in which students gain practical experience of the research skills they are learning. 

By the end of the module, students will be able to...

  • Pursue appropriate research strategies in support of their written work
  • Locate relevant research materials via printed catalogues, reference works, electronic databases, and the internet
  • Critically assess those research materials
  • Construct an effective argument in clear English at an appropriate level
  • Present written work in accordance with the conventions of academic writing (for example, MHRA, MLA, Harvard style guides)
  • Deliver a clear, well-timed oral presentation appropriate to the topic and the audience, using appropriate supporting materials


MA students taking this module will be required to compile a brief bibliography and deliver a five-minute presentation (30% of mark) and write a 2,000-word critical review of three or four different sources to be submitted in January (70% of mark).

Bibliography and presentation 

Students will compile a bibliography of between 20 and 25 primary and secondary works related to a single topic in English Studies, Modern Literature, or Victorian Studies. Students may choose their own topic with the exception of those for which an extensive bibliography is already provided in the course handbook. It is not necessary to consult the works listed in the bibliography for this task; what is being tested is the ability to use research tools effectively and identify appropriate sources for a research project. Students will give an oral presentation of no more than five minutes, explaining how and why they constructed the bibliography as they did, attending to the process of discovering as well as selecting relevant material. Which sources were used and why? What makes some sources better than others? How do you establish the relevance and significance of the items selected in relation to the proposed project? Students may use PowerPoint when delivering the presentation if they wish but this is not a requirement. Students must supply a copy of their bibliography to each member of the seminar. Students will receive informal feedback on their presentations during the presentation session and will receive a marked-up copy of the bibliography within seven working days. Credit will be given for the use of appropriate conventions in terms of the presentation of the bibliography, the range and relevance of items in the bibliography, and the clarity and insight of the commentary on the bibliography offered in the oral presentation.

Critical review

The critical review is an assessment of three or four texts (these might include a monograph, a biography, a scholarly edition, a chapter from an essay collection, a journal article, or an electronic resource). The texts may or may not be texts included in the bibliography exercise. The review should take the form of a critical evaluation (that is, an account of their strengths and weaknesses and not a mere summary of contents).