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Unit information: Introduction to Literary Research in 2022/23

Unit name Introduction to Literary Research
Unit code ENGLM3029
Credit points 40
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Tamsin Badcoe
Open unit status Not open
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)


Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)


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School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Unit Information

Why is this unit important?

As a mandatory TB1 unit on the English MA programme, ‘Introduction to Literary Research’ helps students to develop core research skills and to make the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level study. The unit reflects the research expertise and enthusiasms of the English department at Bristol, and offers students the chance to work directly with members of staff who have distinctive research trajectories and specialisms. Students are given an introduction to key research problems and are exposed to a variety of research methodologies through case studies and skills training workshops.

How does this unit fit into your programme of study?

The unit is designed to offer our MA cohort a strong foundation in postgraduate literary study and to build confidence and practical skills when addressing key research problems associated with textual scholarship. Students are invited to engage with literary texts from the early modern period to the present day and then to specialise as the unit progresses. The unit structure blends full-cohort sessions with breakout seminars that map on to the MA programme’s specialist pathways.

Your learning on this unit

An overview of content:

This unit will enquire into the changing nature of texts, textual authority, and authorship, from the early modern period to the present day. Approaching a diverse range of literary forms (including poems, letters, fragments, essays and anthologies), it will investigate what happens when a collection of words becomes a literary text and how our understanding of texts is shaped by the ways in which they are presented, taking into account such things as paratexts, editing, and the physical aspects of the work. Different models of authorship will be compared, and texts will be considered both as social products and as the creations of a particular writer. The unit will also explore issues of book production and theories of editing; introduce students into some of the databases and tools of literary research; and introduce students to researching primary literary texts through the study of a particular and significant year in English literary history, with the aim of recovering the diversity of its literary production and considering how that diversity is represented by conventional literary histories. Students will be invited to specialise as the unit progresses and to attend a series of workshops that incorporate skills training as well as an introduction to the latest research being undertaken by members of the department. The unit also includes opportunities to present formative work through the delivery of group presentations.

How will you be different:

On completion of the unit students will have had the opportunity to engage with different scholarly methodologies that provide a strong foundation from which to engage with literary research at postgraduate level. You will have been asked to think about a range of authors from different periods, and to consider how questions concerning editing, resources, paratexts, bibliographic practices, and notions of authorship look different at different moments in literary culture as well as having been given the opportunity to specialise in the pursuit of research methodologies appropriate to your particular fields or periods of interest. The unit provides the methodological scaffolding that underpins the majority of the dissertation projects submitted at the end of the programme.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit a successful student will be able to;

1. recognise and respond to some of the problems and questions surrounding textual editing. (For example: Should older literary texts be modernised, in spelling, punctuation, etc.? How should an editor handle a literary work that exists in more than one version? What should an editor do with a work that is collaborative, or which contains interventions by hands other than those of the author?)

2. organise strategies for the confident practice of literary research, both in terms of using different methodologies critics employ and in terms of accessing the various resources and databases which are available.

3. demonstrate a greater awareness of how our understanding of texts is shaped by the way that they are presented, taking into account such things as paratexts, editing, and the physical aspects of how the work is presented.

4. develop existing skills through independent reading and research on specific texts and topics as well as honing an appropriate style of critical writing for the discussion and analysis of literary texts.

How you will learn

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

How you will be assessed

Tasks which count towards your unit mark (summative):

1000 word book review (20%)

3000 word essay (70%)

1000 word bibliographical assignment (10%)

When assessment does not go to plan

When required by the Board of Examiners, you will normally complete reassessments in the same formats as those outlined above. However, the Board reserves the right to modify the format or number of reassessments required. Details of reassessments are confirmed by the School shortly after the notification of your results at the end of the year


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ENGLM3029).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.