Oral History for Social Scientists ESH4086

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will familiarise social science honours students with oral history practice and theory. The course will examine the role of oral history in democratising and decolonising academic debates and social science historical curricula. It emphasises the development of oral history practice and theory in dialogue with insights from related methods such as ethnography and in response to criticisms from social scientists. Both the dynamics of power that shape oral history encounters and the ethical responsibilities of practitioners are at the forefront of this course. Students will engage in discussion over the value of oral history methods, as well as in-seminar tasks and assessments that challenge them to record their own oral histories and/or produce original outputs using existing testimonies. The course assessments will enable students to: engage with varied perspectives on the strengths and value of oral history, in academic and non-academic contexts; show their learning by identifying an area of research where oral history would be valuable; and then undertake a group mini-project using oral history testimonies.



Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses

HIST4089: Oral History Theory and Methods




There are three assessments, the first two of which are designed to 'feed forward' into those which follow. Feedback from the literature assessment will inform the Project Design; feedback from the Project Design will inform the Oral History Mini-Project


Literature Assessment (30%) (individual assessment)


Contrast two pieces of scholarly literature that use oral history to reflect on similarities and differences between approaches. Consider why it is that scholars of particular events, time periods, or topics have chosen to use oral history, what it provides that alternative sources would not, as well as the potential limitations or challenges of the authors' approaches. (1,000 words)


Project Design (30%) (individual assessment)


Identify an area where an oral history project would be valuable and consider how the research would be designed and implemented, taking care to identify practical issues and ethical concerns.


Oral History Mini-Project (40%) (group assessment)


Undertake a mini-oral history project, on a specific theme, and create a 15 minute presentation or a creative output (e.g. a podcast or video of circa 15 minutes).

Course Aims

To introduce and develop an understanding of oral history methods within the social sciences.


To familiarise students with topics that have been the subject of social science research using oral history methods.


To develop practically focused oral history research project skills.


To assess the potential for using oral history in contexts beyond academic research.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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


Assess the value and ethical problems of using oral history methods, particularly to access subaltern and overlooked perspectives


Discuss the interdisciplinary applications of oral history within the social sciences.


Design and complete an oral history research project.


Evaluate oral history's value and potential use in academic and non-academic settings.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

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