Programme information Research MA

Programme information Research MA


Objective of the research master’s programme is to prepare students for an academic or semi-academic career, within or outside the university. The programme will therefore be aimed at shaping students into independent, creative and critical researchers who are able to conduct innovative research successfully and to produce a well-written thesis.
The two-year study programme will provide ample opportunities to acquire general disciplinary knowledge and skills at master’s degree level as well as specific research skills. Much attention will be paid to the development of theories on historical processes, argumentation, historiography and methodology of historical research. The research master’s thesis should provide the basic components for a future PhD-thesis.


The research master’s programme is founded on the fields of research which are well represented in Leiden. The research programme of the Department of History consists of several specialisations, each representing a specific approach to the study of history and has its specific historiographical traditions and methodological problems and possibilities.

For an overview of the specialisations within the research master's programme, see the e-Prospectus.

Components of the Research MA History

  • Literature Seminar (10 EC)
    The introductory course of the research master is taught in the form of an intensive literature seminar, in which you will be given an outline of issues relevant to your specialisation. You will use secondary literature sources.
  • Research Seminar (20 EC)
    You will follow two research seminars where you will carry out research on the basis of original source materials or published documents. Objective of this seminar is enhanced performance in the following areas: research skills, presentation skills, composition skills, and ability to evaluate the findings of other researchers. Each research seminar is worth 10 EC.
  • Historical Theory (10 EC)
    This course discusses major problems in historical methodology and philosophy of history through close readings of relevant texts. Topics that will be addressed include explanations, models, intentions, representations, narratives, paradigms, comparisons, objectivity and irony.
  • Tutorial (10 EC)
    The tutorial is meant to carefully plan and prepare the student to write his/her thesis, which has to be completed in the second year. During the tutorial you will explore the field and determine the subject and research question of your thesis. The tutorial is the mainstay of the research master’s as it offers intensive, eye-to-eye discussions with one of Leiden’s many specialists.
  • Courses Research Schools (10 EC)
    The national Research Schools (Landelijke Onderzoeksscholen) offer courses on both methodology and area specific knowledge. Many researchers in the Faculty of Humanities are members of a research school related to their area of expertise. Research Schools aim at collaboration of researchers from different faculties in the same university (interfaculty schools) or in different universities (interuniversity schools).
  • Research Skills (10 EC)
    This course will focus on the development of your research skills. You will learn how to arrange academic research, from initial research question to publication/research proposal. Senior researchers will guide you through this trajectory, using their own ongoing research projects as guideline.
  • Optional courses (20 EC)

    Students have two possibilities to fill in the optional course space: MA courses may be followed or a research internship abroad for 20 EC. For those students not going abroad it will be obligatory to fill 10 EC of the optional course space with the course Classics. Next to this all courses offered at level 500 and up can be taken as ‘Optional Course’. These include the courses offered by the Department for History (subject to availability of space), but also may comprise MA-courses of other departments and universities. In many cases it is advisable to follow these courses abroad or to do an internship.

  • Classics (10 EC)
    This course introduces students to a number of influential historians and social theorists, who have had a great impact on the study of history. You will analyse in what ways these classics are incorporated in current research and explore their relevancy for your own field of research.

  • Thesis and exam (30 EC)
    The Research Master’s Programme will be concluded by a thesis which will be based on original source research. The Research Master’s thesis plus examination is 30 EC. The level of the thesis will have to meet high standards. In principle, the (shortened) thesis will have to be worthy of publication in an academic journal. During the examination the student will have the opportunity to present his or her research results in ca. 10 minutes. On this thesis and on required reading, the student will then enter into a 40-minute debate with an examination committee consisting of the supervising professor and at least one other lecturer of the Institute for History with examination authority.
    A student has to ask a thesis supervisor in the field of his/her specialisation. In the overview of staff, divided by specialisation, possible supervisors can be found.

Programme schedule

See the study diagram below for an overview of the Research MA programme:

Research MA History

Your Individual Study Plan will be set up in consultation with the coordinator of studies, Mrs. Esther Buizer-Janssen

Studying abroad and internships

Studying abroad
Studying abroad is an option during your Research Master History. If you wish to take optional courses and/or write your thesis abroad, take a look at the options (information in Dutch) for studying at other universities. For detailed information, contact the coordinator for studying abroad of the Faculty of Humanities, Karin Aalderink.

Since 2013 Research Master students can participate in the Europeaum Vaclav Havel Programme. An initiative of Leiden University in cooperation with the Sorbonne (Paris) and Charles University in Prague leading to a separate additional master certificate in European Society and Politics issued by the Europaeum Association of leading European Universities.

An internship during your Research Master is also a possibility. Check the website of the 'Loopbaanservice Geesteswetenschappen' (in Dutch, some information in English) for information on internships. Please note that your internship should be ca. 560 hours for 20 EC (ca. 70 days). The internship could be fulltime or part time. In case of a part time internship we advise a minimum of 24 hours/ 3 days a week. You will have to ask someone from the staff of the History department to supervise your internship.

Please contact the Study advisor of the Research Master History to make sure your plans for studying abroad or doing an internship are possible within the programme of the Research Master History.

Last Modified: 21-10-2016