'Oral History Theory and Methods' HIST4089

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This module will expose students to the theory and practice of oral history, including the potential benefits and limitations of using oral sources, particularly life histories, to understand how people make sense of the past. We will begin by evaluating classic texts and articles on oral history theory and methods, particularly as they relate to practitioners' efforts to document people's life histories. In the second part of the course, it will become more practical as students will gain experience designing and implementing a mini oral history project, from creating a research design and applying for ethics approval to conducting, transcribing and analysing an interview. Training will be provided through a combination of lectures, seminars, and workshops, attendance at which is mandatory.


1x1hr lectures; 1x1hr seminars and workshops over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





1. Reading responses - 20%  

2. Research design and ethics approval - 30%

3. Reflective essay - (50%)


Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The course aims to:

■ Develop the intellectual interests and analytical skills acquired by students during their first two years.

■ Introduce students to previously unfamiliar methodological approaches, chronological periods and geographical areas by offering a wide and flexible choice of options.

■ Offer the opportunity to develop skills in historical computing.

■ Nurture familiarity with complex historical debates and interpretations.

■ Develop skills in interpreting primary sources where appropriate, and to inform these discussions with new ideas derived from the lecturers' current research

■ Develop transferable skills by fostering individual initiative, personal choice, group discussion and, where appropriate, problem-solving teamwork.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Gain a wide knowledge of oral history theory and practice, including its strengths and limitations;

■ Develop skills in the critical analysis of historical and oral historical sources;

■ Acquire first-hand experience in producing their own source material by recruiting an interviewee, conducting an interview and transcribing and analysing the results;

■ Develop skills related to evaluating oral sources in light of existing historiography on a topic; 

■ Explore the potential of oral history for educating and engaging the public;

■ Improve their written and analytical skills via class discussion and submission of formal assessed work.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components of the course's summative assessment.