VA7029 - Research Methods

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will be equipped with a range of core skills essential to research in the arts, as well as specific methodologies appropriate to your specialist field of enquiry (as historian, critic or theoretician). There are four key elements to the module: identifying the key issues and methodologies appropriate to your subject; identifying and retrieving appropriate data and sources; understanding ways to evaluate and employ these sources, and the implications of doing so; and developing and a practicable appreciation of how theory, research methods and practice mutually inform the creation of knowledge in the arts.
On completing the module you will have an enhanced awareness of how the choice of methodologies can fundamentally influence the direction of your research, and be able to: Understand and employ a range of advanced research skills, methods and critical approaches necessary to conduct a major academic research project in the arts; exhibit enhanced skills in the identification and evaluation of research sources relevant to your specific project and articulate a strategy for retrieving and utilising those sources; understand the characteristics of research questions, and frame your specific research questions within a feasible and sustainable topic of enquiry, appropriate to available research materials; develop original responses to the historical and conceptual questions posed by the research topic and to be able to situate your research within the larger context of research in the arts; communicate complex arguments and methods in written, visual and verbal form in a clear and credible way.

How will I learn on this module?

The module is based around 11 seminars. You will initially be introduced to the considerations and implications of forming research questions in the visual arts, approaches to create a viable and sustainable topic of study in your specific area, and generic methodologies pertinent to all visual arts research. The individual focus and content of subsequent seminar sessions will be specifically tailored to reflect the explicit concerns, projects and strategies of your particular MRes Arts cohort. This enables you to shape the format and subject of discussion most relevant to your research (individually and collectively), and facilitates dynamic dialogue and active cross pollination of experiences, approaches and ideas.
Seminar structure is provided by module tutors and guest researchers (from within the Faculty as well as invited external arts practitioners), who will draw upon their own experience and exemplary case studies to show how advanced level practitioners go about the tasks of research that you are embarking upon, such as: identifying and utilising sources, database techniques, archival training, oral history and interviewing.
These subject specialist seminars will enable you and subject staff to fine-tune key issues and approaches in your particular subject. However it is also expected that you will draw upon extensive self-directed study, individual or group visits to relevant arts organisations, and the wide range of guest lectures, additional postgraduate seminars and debates provided within the Department’s research community to engage with key methodological issues in the wider field of the arts.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your research project will be supported by a supervisory team of two academic staff (a principle and second supervisor), drawn from across the faculty to ensure relevance to your specific research topic. It is expected that you will meet for an individual tutorial with your principle supervisor on a four-weekly basis to support the progress of your research and shape general or subject-specific training into a form which is directly useful for your own project. You will meet with both supervisors in the second half of your MRes. You will receive a tailored library tour at the beginning of the module, explaining the range of facilities available to support postgraduate research and how to access them. In addition you have access to a wide range of guest lectures, additional postgraduate seminars and debates provided within the Department’s research community, and individual or group visits to relevant arts organisations. To ensure smooth progress through the module there is a midway assessment point, for which you submit an evaluation of one chosen methodology for summative assessment. Written feedback will be provided within 20 working days of submission to guide you towards the second summative assessment at the conclusion of the module. In addition, you will be invited to give a (formatively assessed) presentation in the final seminar session, to demonstrate your understanding of relevant research methodologies and to hone your skills of visual and verbal communication in preparation for the HI0701 Research Development module in semester two.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. You will understand and be able to employ a range of advanced research skills and critical approaches.
2. You will be able to recognise and evaluate the validity of specific questions and problems in order to develop original responses to the historical and theoretical questions posed by the research in the visual arts.
3. You will be able to demonstrate your ability to judge the essential characteristics of research questions and to frame sustained responses.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

4. You will be able to demonstrate enhanced skills of judgment, select a significant and appropriate topic for research, with feasible parameters for study at Master’s level, recognising its essential considerations and what may be tangential to its focus.
5. You will exhibit advanced problem solving skills, framing your research questions in regard to available source materials and practicable methodologies, and demonstrating the ability to handle difficult, ambiguous, or defective sources.

How will I be assessed?

Written summative assessment is in two parts. However you are also required to present your progress and ideas to the seminar group for formative assessment and feedback in weeks 9 and 10.

Assessment One (40%)
An evaluation of one method or approach directly relevant to your research project. This is a 2500 word essay engaging with one specific method. This encourages you to isolate and examine a particular method. Linked to this is a presentation during which the robustness of chosen methods will be tested and formatively assessed in a seminar setting in front of staff and peers, providing an early opportunity to make public presentations and to test the validity of arguments.

Assessment Two (60%)
A comprehensive plan of the dissertation. This comprises of a dissertation plan of 3000 words vividly outlining the progression and ambitions of the project. This assessment encourages you to think seriously about your specific project, in terms of timeline, possible chapters / elements / works, specific methodologies, and to realise, in semester 1, the full extent of what your research entails.

Feedback will be provided in writing within 20 working days for all summative assessments, and verbally for the presentation.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

Credits 30

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year full-time
1 other options available

Department Northumbria School of Design

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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