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Primary sources

Students write two extended essays (up to 3,000 words), each based on a primary source. Each of the primary sources is relevant to at least one of the Part II papers.

During Michaelmas Term there will be six series of primary source seminars, with each series consisting of four seminars. Students should attend four series of seminars.

Primary source seminars

All students write essays on two of these primary sources. The two essays together count for 20% of the overall mark – the same as one exam paper.

All students should list, in order of preference, four primary sources on which they wish to write essays. Send this list to the Department office before 28 October. As far as possible, students will be assigned to their top two preferred primary sources. But this may not always be possible if too many students choose a particular primary source. Option A students should note that it is an advantage to give a high preference on this list to primary sources that are relevant to the papers they are taking.

The examiners expect all primary source essays to display close engagement with the source. They recognise that a wide range of different approaches to any primary source is appropriate. Different approaches may include (among others) historical contexualisation of the source; a comparative study of the source; questions concerning the reception of the source; an approach addressing a single passage from a source in great depth; the literary and rhetorical analysis of a source; and a close philosophical analysis of the argument in the source.


You can expect to receive two supervisions for each essay. The seminar leaders will tell you how to arrange supervisions.

Format and submission

The essays should have numbered pages, footnotes and a bibliography. Each essay should be no more than 3,000 words in length, including footnotes but excluding the bibliography.


You should upload the essays to the 'HPS Part II Coursework' site on Moodle before 12noon on the day of the deadline. Paper copies are not required.

Please note:

  • You cannot upload more than one file per essay.
  • The following file formats are accepted: DOC, DOCX, PDF, RTF.
  • The essays will be marked anonymously, so it is important that your name does not appear anywhere on them.

Please note that the Department will retain a copy of your essays and may make them available to future students unless you make a written request to the contrary to the Departmental Administrator.


The University and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science take plagiarism very seriously. Please read our advice about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Plagiarism guidelines

The Department uses the text-matching software Turnitin UK to blanket screen all student work submitted in Moodle.

Use of Turnitin UK