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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


All students taking Part II HPS must write one primary source essay, as a piece of submitted coursework. These sources are supported by seminars (running in weeks 1–4 of Michaelmas Term) and supervisions. To ensure equity and quality in primary source choices, there is a limit of eight students per primary source. If a source is oversubscribed, places will be allocated through a random procedure.

In weeks 1–2 of Michaelmas Term, you should attend seminars for four of the primary sources on offer. On the Wednesday of week 2, you will have to submit a list of the three primary sources, in rank order of preference, which you hope to write on. We will then ensure that students are allocated places as fairly as possible.

Primary source seminars

The essay counts for 20% of the overall mark – the same as one exam paper.

The examiners expect the primary source essay 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.


Students can expect to receive three supervisions for the essay. The seminar leaders will explain how to arrange supervisions.

Format and submission

The essay should have numbered pages, footnotes and a bibliography. It should be no more than 5,000 words in length, including footnotes but excluding the bibliography.


You should upload the essay 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.
  • The following file formats are accepted: DOC, DOCX, PDF, RTF.
  • The essay will be marked anonymously, so it is important that your name does not appear anywhere on it.

Please note that the Department will retain a copy of your essay and may make it 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

Request to add an appendix

An essay should be self-contained, including or citing all information needed for an examiner to follow its argument.

The word limit normally includes text and footnotes but not the bibliography. However, in certain cases permission may be obtained for materials strictly relevant to the argument of the essay to be appended for the information of the examiners, with such materials not contributing to the word count. Materials falling into this category may include primary source materials that are not readily accessible, translations, questionnaire responses, statistical tables, descriptions of objects and analytical bibliographies and formal proofs.

Normally material included in the word count should mainly consist of the student's own discussion and analysis. Exceptionally, when a critical edition or translation, an analytical bibliography, or a technical description of objects and their provenances is based on substantial original scholarship and is central to the argument of an essay, permission may be obtained for its inclusion within the body of the essay, hence contributing to the word count. Normally no more than one third of an essay should consist of such material.

Applications for such permissions should normally be sought, in consultation with the supervisor, from the HPS Board prior to submission of the essay.

Appendix request form